A couple of
months ago I was savaged on my campus on account of a title supplied
by one of my editors: “My
College Succumbed to the Totalitarian Diversity Cult.” I don't
know that Providence College has succumbed, but the next day somebody
had written on the blackboard of my class, “Diversity is not a
Well, of course it isn't. The sentence
“diversity is a cult” makes no sense. It is like saying that
“sweetness is a cult” or “studying French is a cult.” There
is nothing wrong with sweetness or studying French, or with
weight-lifting, watching baseball, breeding dogs, or a thousand other
things that people do. Anything good, however, can become the object
of a cult-like devotion. So some men and women devote their whole
lives to picking heavy things up and putting them down. Sexual
intercourse is a good thing, or else God would not have commanded
Adam and Eve in the beginning to be fruitful and multiply; but it is
also probably the single thing that has, all the world over and from
prehistoric times to our own day, most commonly been made the heart
of a cult.
might call man homo
fertile and febrile is that factory of idols, his imagination.
Chesterton had it right: the man who ceases to believe in God does
not then believe in nothing. He will believe in anything,
shower upon that object the devotion that is due only to the divine.
That includes his obedience. The man who will not obey the God whose
commands will set him free does not then go his own way. He can be
found straightaway bowing and scraping slave-like before a false god
a tricked-up political thug like Mao, a moronic and inhuman
ideology like Nazism, Mother Earth the womb and tomb of all,
anything; and will with a clear conscience offer up other people to
placate the deity.
But before I say, “Some people run
the danger of turning diversity
a false god,” I would like to know what we mean by the term.
Replace it with synonyms. I cannot imagine people crying out, “We
Or, “We want in a certain human group an appreciable variance from
the norm in some particular respect!” Put it in those ways and you
take all the emotion out of it; nobody is inspired to tears by
variety, or by an appreciable variance from the norm.
are standing on a corner, waiting for the bus, when a haggard man
with the goggle-eyes and the gruff voice of Christopher Lloyd accosts
you. “Variety!” he says. “Divergence! Deviation from the
mean, in all things, at all times, in all places! Only divergence
will save us!” You nod politely, and take out your cell phone.
There is nothing either good or bad about “variety,”
“divergence,” or “deviation from the mean” per
because without a subject the terms have no meaning. If you are
building a championship baseball team, you need players who possess a
visible diversity of skills and body-types; you cannot win with nine
shortstops. But “gender diversity”? Not if you want to win. It
is healthy for a man to have a variety of friends. It is not healthy
for him to have a variety of wives.
It is a harmless and
perfectly human thing for people who share the same interests or the
same accidents of birth or life to enjoy getting together: people who
play cribbage, or who were born in Duluth, or who speak Welsh. We
would not expect the Welsh Language Club to open its doors to people
who do not speak the language and do not want to learn it. That
linguistic “diversity” would end by undoing the Club itself. It
is not a harmless and perfectly human thing, however, for people in
an intellectual discipline to cordon themselves off from others who
are trained in that discipline but who approach its questions from a
point of view that diverges
You see, it all depends upon what we are talking
about. There is a name for a Catholic priest who diversifies the
objects of his devotion by including
elephant-god Ganesha or the Aztec man-eater Quetzalcoatl. He is
called a heretic
an infidel. There
is a name for a married man who diversifies the objects of his
devotion by including
neighbor's wife. He is called an adulterer.
contrast, there is a name for a social scientist who cries up
keeping his department intellectually monotone, excluding,
us say, someone who discusses political questions via the
old-fashioned conservatism of Burke.
name is Legion.
In the ensuing controversy, one professor
suggested in public that I obviously did not like to teach people who
were “not like” me. Again I do not know what the sentence is
supposed to mean. Perhaps there is somewhere a hidden city, emerging
to the light only once in a century, like Brigadoon, where everybody
is a Catholic, reads ten languages, doodles math problems and
baseball statistics, teaches and writes poetry, likes to hang around
working-class people but not fellow academics, is notoriously
absent-minded, pores over maps, lives in the summer in another
country among people whose first language is not English, and is a
fan of the Saint Louis Cardinals. Teach people who are not like me?
I have been doing that all my life. So too my colleague has been
teaching people who are not like him. In what respect are people to
be held like or not like one another? I have been teaching poetry to
people who want to become accountants. Is that what he means? He
has been teaching art to people who want to become doctors. Is that
what he means?
What is to be valued as diverse from what,
and for what purpose? Is it religious faith? I sometimes boast that
I enjoy Most Favored Catholic Status among protestant and evangelical
groups everywhere, and my family and I are avowed admirers of
observant Jews, our elder brothers in the faith, as Pope Benedict has
called them. My massive Hebrew-English lexicon is three feet away
from me as I write these words. Now, as a Catholic colleague of mine
once said, the most underrepresented people on our campus are
born-again evangelical Christians, of whatever race or ethnicity.
Some of them are poor, too, and plenty of them have been taught at
home with curricula that would incline them toward our program in the
Development of Western Civilization. They generally do not come from
New England. Do they or do they not diverge
the normal population of Providence College, if we are to think in
such terms? But they have no cheerleaders at our school.
What is left, then? No single human being can be called “diverse.”
That makes no sense. Diversity, like unity, amity, enmity, and so
forth, can logically be predicated only of a group. Is “diversity”
to be conceived only in ethnic and racial terms, with an added nod
toward people who are inclined toward violating in a currently
celebrated way the sexual part of the moral law? Is that it?
With regard to sexual morality, I have asked what the principle of
selection is supposed to be. A Catholic cannot celebrate mere
fornication after the pattern of our animal nature; and if that is
grave matter, then so must sodomy be, a
John and Mary are not permitted to couple, forget about John and
Martin. Change the field from sex to the ownership of property.
Imagine the proponent of “gender diversity” arguing with his auto
mechanic over the charges for his new transmission, and imagine that
the mechanic proposes “transactional diversity.”
have not cheated you,” says the mechanic. “It's just that I have
a more flexible view a view more tolerant of philosophical
differences as they apply in the never fully determined conditions of
our human interchangesof what it means to abide by the terms of
a contract. Surely,” says he, tilting his head and smiling
indulgently, like a professor of Biblical exegesis speaking to
someone who believes in Christ, “you do not expect me to take those
Is it culture, then? Do they long for cultural
our program of study? But it cannot be that, since our great
treasure-trove of cultural diversity is the past, not the
homogenizing present, and since my opponents, who mainly focus on the
present, have offered no rejoinder to my observation that, in the
very program they despise, we study quite a broad array of cultures,
vastly different from one another and from ours, supposing that we
still have a culture at all.
That leaves race and
ethnicity, and I have said, till I am weary of saying it, that a man
who believes that every human being is made in the image and likeness
of the eternal God cannot be expected to put much stake in the color
of someone's skin. I wonder whether people who do so really consider
how beautiful the
human face is, how expressive of a unique instantiation of the divine
likeness. Ten people in one roomthat is already as much
diversity as any person can bear if he is paying close attention,
regardless of who they are or where they come from or what shade of
peach or olive or wheat or coffee their flesh glows withal.
Racialism, for a Catholic, is like phrenology, the attempt to
characterize people according to the bumps on their heads. We have
more important things to concern ourselves with, like truth,
goodness, and beauty, and how to bring those to young people, all
without distinction or exception.
But perhaps, after all,
to a certain political project, adhered to with an intensity that
reminds one of crowds singing hymns at a revival. If so, regardless
of whether the project in question is just, my
colleagues should admit it, if for nothing else than to let us know
what they are talking about, and why they are so eager to take up an
inquisition against someone who declines to join.