Early in the pastoring part of my career we studied the homogeneity principle—essentially that like attracts like. Folks with similar incomes, education, experience, ethnicity, and interests will be naturally drawn to each other. The more homogeneity, the more they congeal.
It wasn’t only church planters who followed this principle. We’ve lived through more than a generation of advertisers, business location services, urban planners, and political parties following the same direction. The polarization into societal tribes have been well fed!
When I first learned of this I served a small, urban congregation—a mix of Laotian and Chilean refugees, Africans, and those with Appalachian or Swiss-Mennonite roots. I thought we ran counter to homogeneity, but I learned that this was not true. All of us had the common experience of moving beyond our home communities, often through economic hardship or warfare. We all lived in the same city, shared the same faith, and were jointly involved in raising our families. We all also liked multi-ethnic dining! What we had in common, and developed in common, is what bound us rather than those things that defined us differently. We contributed to this common life from our differences and that is what enriched us and created our communal weave.
Yesterday my wife and I ate lunch in a NYC Poke bowl restaurant. It served mostly Korean foods, but other Asian influences were present. There were at least five nationalities in the place, and three apparent genders. Country music blared from the radio, with the servers (Hispanic and Asian) singing along. When one is not used to such diversity I’d think it would be jarring. And yet, looking more deeply, you once again begin to observe that everyone there was having a common experience. They were all New Yorkers after all, and everybody eats. Nothing strange here, sir. Please move along and get your napkins at the counter over there.
Whatever our enterprise; whatever our political views; whatever our faith or non-faith; whatever products we sell or service we render, we need to come to terms with those we find to be “other,” to look beneath, across, above, and around to find what is uniting and common, bringing our differences to build on the common. We need to bring our smiles and embraces rather than our cold shoulders. Our neighbors, co-workers, customers, and vendors need this from us. So do our children. And their children after them.