Home Outreach Leaders Why Christians Should Care About Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB)

Why Christians Should Care About Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB)

While these approaches to DEIB are necessary, treating the problem as if it’s a matter of training or policy fails to address the root issues. Like Jesus knew in his day, it has always been about our hearts. No matter how many policies we implement, trainings we offer, and HR protocols we put in place, until we allow the Holy Spirit to stir our hearts to new ways of thinking about and seeing the world, we will never reach the goal to for which should all strive—to see all those around us know they truly belong in the body of Christ. 

When someone recently asked me why I believed it would take multiple years for Young Life to become the diverse, equitable, and inclusive community we see in the Scriptures, where everyone feels, senses, and knows they belong, I responded: Because dissecting what we believe takes time, and heart work takes even more. 

In his book Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, Adam Grant points to our collective cognitive laziness as a significant factor. Specifically, he offered: 

Some psychologists point out that we’re mental misers: we often prefer the ease of hanging on to old views over the difficulty of grappling with new ones. Yet there are also deeper forces behind our resistance to rethinking. Questioning ourselves makes the world more unpredictable. It requires us to admit that the facts may have changed, that what was once right may now be wrong. Reconsidering something we believe deeply can threaten our identities, making it feel as if we’re losing a part of ourselves.

Simply put, it’s easier to stay put in our orthodoxy (how we think) and thus our orthopraxy (what we do) does not change. The problem is that the winds of change are in motion, and there’s no stopping them. And yet, God is inviting us to see our multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-ethnic, multi-generational, multi-gendered world as an invitation for engagement and an opportunity for mission!

Towards a Theology of Belonging

As we near the close of 2021, many—both Christians and non-Christians—are on a mission to break down the barriers of race, gender, socio-economic status, citizenship, immigrant status, and more that have divided us and marginalized others. This is honorable. But what the Christian has—what we have—is a critical element that others don’t. Namely, throughout history Christians the world-over have wielded a power to effect systemic change for good when we allow ourselves to follow God’s leading (e.g., education, civil rights, etc.).

These winds of change are filled with the Holy Spirit’s invitation to all people to be part of the family of God, one that comes from every tribe and tongue and nation. Just as our God is a communal creator and sustainer, so too must our efforts at diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging be. Let me share just three complementary concepts that can help move us toward a theology of belonging that enables others to know that they belong to God’s family too.

Inclusion + Belonging

The concept of inclusion is at the very heart of the gospel as we consider its wide-ranging implications. Inclusion is the intentional act, process, policy, and action of including people. Jesus was a master at this. He brought near the outcasts and the wounded. He noticed those excluded from the crowd and those who needed healing. And yet, Jesus went one step further. He wanted them not just to feel noticed, but he wanted them to follow him, experience God’s love and know that – as those created in God’s image—they belong to him. 

This is belonging. It’s our north star. As we experience in Young Life, and as we see in the church, people today need to belong before they can believe. Every act of DEIB is with the end goal that those who don’t fit would fit, that those who are different would feel embraced, and that those who have felt alone would find a home knowing that they are fully loved and belong in God’s Kingdom. DEIB isn’t about making our churches or organizations more attractive. And it’s surely not about bending to the whims of a changing culture. It’s about being on mission to embrace the diversity of people whom God himself created and be active participants in seeing God’s Kingdom come and his will done on earth as it is in heaven. 

Empathy + Compassion

In his book Emotions Revealed, Dr. Paul Ekman talks about “compassionate empathy.” Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Belinda Bauman talks in her book, Brave Souls, of empathy being “the place where I meet you—where souls intersect at the crossroads of love.” 

And yet, Ekman explains that compassionate empathy doesn’t stop with simply understanding. Rather, it ultimately provokes us to respond to aid others in their predicaments. The danger in stopping at empathy is that it can become about what we do—i.e., we are empathetic and understanding—centering us rather than those we are called to serve. 

This is where compassion closes the circle of belonging. Compassion is the feeling that is manifest when we come face-to-face with another’s suffering and we’re motivated to step in. We don’t just understand, we seek a solution. This is where true ally-ship comes in. When we combine empathy with compassion, we walk hand-in-hand, together, with those unlike us for the sake of a mission of belonging.