Meeting the Challenge of Deep Differences Part 2: Erasing Differences

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Part of a series of posts by Cameron McAllister examining the contemporary responses to deep differences. In part 1, Cameron looked at the ways in which key distinctions are often minimized or erased in order to accommodate competing worldviews. Today, in part 2, Cameron explores the stark reality of living in a post-9/11 world. "We need to talk about the deepest areas of division in our culture if we hope to move forward," Cameron says. "My aim here is to foster a serious but constructive conversation."

When Wheaton professor Larycia Hawkins donned a hijab to express solidarity with her Muslim neighbors, many of the latent cultural tensions surrounding the issue of diversity came to a head. Since Wheaton is widely considered to be the flagship Evangelical school, the loudest response came from the church. Some Christians took immediate umbrage, arguing that this gesture was an invitation for confusion, rather than compassion, especially for the impressionable young minds in Hawkins’s classroom. Others saw real merit in the gesture, believing it to be a profound expression of good will and neighborly love. The controversy swelled, however, when Hawkins published a Facebook post that contained clear implications that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.[2]

Understandably, a good deal of public scrutiny has since focused on the nature of Hawkins’s departure from Wheaton. However, the most telling feature of this incident remains largely overlooked—namely, the fact that Hawkins’s key strategy for dealing with the challenge of diversity involves its abolishment, or, at the very least, a minimization of key distinctions in favor of “common ground.”

Tellingly, the doctrine of the Trinity represents the sharpest point of division between Muslims and Christians. Any undermining of this fact, no matter how benign or well-intentioned does profound violence to both worldviews because it compromises their respective core doctrines. In sharp contrast to this cultural flattening of differences, the Trinity displays an embrace of unity and diversity that is as indissoluble as it is uncompromising, exposing the fact that secular culture’s ostensible championing of diversity is simply assimilation in disguise.

As laudable as such conciliar efforts are, I think it’s clear that we cannot answer the challenge posed by deep differences unless we take the differences seriously. Again, no conflict was ever solved by ignoring the source or nature of the conflict, and our response will need to take the real differences into account.

Cameron McAllister is an itinerant speaker and writer with RZIM and host of RZIM's weekly podcast Vital Signs.

[2] Ibid. Professor Hawkins is taking her cues from Miroslav Volf, Allah: A Christian Response (New York: HarperOne, 2011).

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