Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) are good things. But DEI is like trying to change the world through law. There’s a better way: love.
DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) is primarily about social justice. It’s exposing what older Christian traditions call “structural sin,” by which a society’s structures—distribution of wealth, laws and policies, informal networks of power—perpetuate inequality, injustice and racism. DEI seeks to combat this, especially on college campuses, where DEI has exploded in size. A review of 65 universities in the Power Five athletic conferences found that the typical institution has 45 DEI staff on its payroll. The University of Michigan (U-M) has more than quadrupled its DEI staff over two decades, from 40 in 2002 to 167 in 2021.
But something’s gone awry. We see it in surveys of all students (as well as of minority students). U-M for example has “a more culturally rigid campus, the kind of place where woke students and staff are forever on the lookout for offenses against the politically correct orthodoxy.” Doesn’t sound like Diversity, Equity, Inclusion to me.
Thoughtful Christians aren’t surprised by this cultural rigidity. They remember what the Apostle Paul wrote: “All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But sin didn’t, and doesn’t, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down.” Grace wins hands down because grace is love which is the fulfillment of the law.
This is in fact how Jesus described his work: the fulfillment of the law. Jesus is God and God is love. He fulfilled the law through love and grace. That’s missing in DEI. It’s about truth and law. But Christians are called to speak the truth in love, which doesn’t deny law but fulfills it. That’s why love wins hands down over law. I think love is UEE: Unity, Equality, and Exclusions.
Unity: Humankind shares a unity and dignity by virtue of being made in the image and likeness of God. Christians embrace Jesus as our peace, who “broke down the dividing wall of hostility” between Jews and the Gentiles through the cross, and, with the other apostles, spread the Gospel to diverse lands. Unity is love, winning hands down over diversity.
Equality: It’s enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. “All men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights.” Equality recognizes equal origins, equity is about equal outcomes. But equality wins hands down over equity for everyone is made in God’s image (equal origins) but Jesus said we don’t receive equal abilities. With differing levels of abilities, differing levels of equity (outcomes) are expected (Mt.25:14-30).
Exclusions: C. S. Lewis felt inclusion must surely involve exclusions. He noted this in a letter to his friend, Bede Griffiths. Griffiths was a Christian who’d written some wonderfully affirming things about Hinduism. Lewis appreciated this but in a 1956 letter to Griffiths he wrote, “Your Hindus certainly sound delightful. But what do they deny? That has always been my trouble with Indians—to find any proposition they wd. pronounce false. But truth must surely involve exclusions.” It does. All truth claims are exclusive—to affirm something is to deny something else. When I tell my wife Kathy I love you, I am excluding every other woman on earth from my marital love. Love elevates inclusion by including exclusions.
At the end of the day DEI is worthwhile. But it’s trying to change the world through law. The law is good and necessary, but scripture says the law serves as a tutor to something better: love. It’s why, if we’re trying to change the world, love wins hands down over law.
 W. H. Lewis (ed.), Letters of C. S. Lewis (Collins, 1966), 267.
Sadly, those on the right, try to regulate through law as much as those on the left. Christians must resist the urge to sanitize people externally using laws which only force sins into the shadows. We support laws we approve of but either ignore or flaunt breaking the laws we don’t support. (What is your attitude towards speeding?) The conundrum of this age is how to speak the truth in love without over emphasizing or under emphasizing love in order to get people to hear the truth.
Regarding my comment regarding telling Kathy, “I love you.” It might be better to say elevating the holiness of our shared marital love includes excluding the rest of the world’s population from our marital bed (“let the marital bed be undefiled,” Heb. 13:4). Thus is what Lewis meant in writing that inclusion requires some exclusions.
btw, this is why sacramental traditions exclude many from the Eucharist (i.e., closed communion), as Holy Communion is the renewal of the marriage covenant, “the marital bed,” or nuptial union when Christ our husband literally enters his Bride’s body. Elevating the holiness of this sacrament requires some deeply loving but rather stringent exclusions.
Thank you for expounding on the idea of exclusions. I am still going the ‘doggie head tilt’ as I consider the application of this concept in context, specifically a loving, thoughtful, intentional approach to community building and the more subtle personal paradigm shifts that will result in new mores. Exclusion in a covenantal community manifests itself as members focus on relationship building and need meeting primarily within the body. How would it look on a college campus, in the secular workplace, or in community involvement?
I think you misunderstand exclusion. What you describe is called separatism, which turns exclusion into an idol. On a college campus, exclusion–say, in the case of InterVarsity–would mean ministry leaders must profess (and practice if married) that marriage is defined as permanent, monogamous, heterosexual. All other professions are excluded from ministry leadership.