Making the world safe for diversity

Pastoral Messages | January 26, 2017

Six months before his death, John F. Kennedy delivered a commencement address at American University:

“So let us not be blind to our differences, but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

While these seldom-referred-to words of JFK were spoken at the height of the cold war (which makes them all the more beautiful), they have enduring significance for our divided times. Let’s think of the implications of inhabiting this planet together. Not only do we breathe the same air that dinosaurs and Aristotle and Jesus breathed; we inhale and exhale the same air that people in California, China, and Mexico do.

As the most testy political issues in our country increasingly get tossed from federal oversight to individual states’ control – from environmental protection and healthcare reimbursement to concealed carry laws and voter registration requirements – I sometimes wonder if I should live out of my car. That would give me all kinds of flexibility for benefiting from states that have exactly what I want or need. When I want to live in the least segregated city, I move to Sacramento, California. When I decide that I want the greenest city in America, I move to Portland, Oregon. If certain labor laws matter to me most, I move to Texas. If I want death penalty laws on the books of my state – I don’t! – I consider moving from Iowa to Indiana.

How wonderful, though, if we could think of the states in this country as not being pitted against one another for citizens to locate what they need. Historian Gary Wills makes an interesting point. Prior to the Civil War, he notes, the “United States” was invariably a plural noun. “These United States are a free country.” After the Civil War, particularly after Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, the noun became singular. “The United States is a free country.” Lincoln leaned heavily on the concept that America was a single people dedicated to a common proposition.

As the world order experiences new vibrations every day, with international alliances coming under review, refugees wondering where next they will go, and America’s business community guessing about nations they will be discouraged from trading with, President Kennedy’s words are helpful. “At least we can help make the world safe for diversity.”

I take this not merely as an admonition for America’s citizens and elected leaders (though Kennedy most certainly intended that), but also as a particular call to Christian people. We are to help make the world safe for diversity. This requires some Jesus courage on our part. And a definite restlessness. Let us not rest until we know that the fear and worry of diverse peoples, especially the most marginalized among them, have been transformed into feelings of true safety.

Peter W. Marty, senior pastor

Copyright © 2017 Peter W. Marty. All rights reserved. Any use of this material must be attributed to Peter W. Marty. To reproduce this material in published format, please contact Peter.

4 Comments on “Making the world safe for diversity”

  • Suzanne Benson

    January 28, 2017 at 5:17 pm

    Thank you so much. Through my tears, I read this to Bob. We can pray that love for all mankind will prevail

  • David DeWit

    January 27, 2017 at 5:42 pm

    We’ll have to start by making our country safe for diversity. Maybe the world will follow.

  • John Tryon

    January 26, 2017 at 6:56 pm

    As a Christian and a conservative, I can now say I have enough optimism for the both of us!

  • Dick Moore

    January 26, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    Great thoughts Peter. Up to the present time in my life, most all of the past presidents would have echoed similar thoughts regarding diversity, et al. Unfortunately, that’s not what we have today. Let us all be grateful for a merciful God.

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Isaiah 53:4-12

4Surely our griefs He Himself bore,

And our sorrows He carried;

Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,

Smitten of God, and afflicted.

5But He was pierced through for our transgressions,

He was crushed for our iniquities;

The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,

And by His scourging we are healed.

6All of us like sheep have gone astray,

Each of us has turned to his own way;

But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all

To fall on Him.

7He was oppressed and He was afflicted,

Yet He did not open His mouth;

Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,

And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,

So He did not open His mouth.

8By oppression and judgment He was taken away;

And as for His generation, who considered

That He was cut off out of the land of the living

For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?

9His grave was assigned with wicked men,

Yet He was with a rich man in His death,

Because He had done no violence,

Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.

10But the LORD was pleased

To crush Him, putting Him to grief;

If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,

He will see His offspring,

He will prolong His days,

And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.

11As a result of the anguish of His soul,

He will see it and be satisfied;

By His knowledge the Righteous One,

My Servant, will justify the many,

As He will bear their iniquities.

12Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,

And He will divide the booty with the strong;

Because He poured out Himself to death,

And was numbered with the transgressors;

Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,

And interceded for the transgressors.

Psalm 91:9-16

9For you have made the LORD, my refuge,

Even the Most High, your dwelling place.

10No evil will befall you,

Nor will any plague come near your tent.

11For He will give His angels charge concerning you,

To guard you in all your ways.

12They will bear you up in their hands,

That you do not strike your foot against a stone.

13You will tread upon the lion and cobra,

The young lion and the serpent you will trample down.

14“Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;

I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.

15“He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;

I will be with him in trouble;

I will rescue him and honor him.

16“With a long life I will satisfy him

And let him see My salvation.”

Hebrews 5:1-10

The Perfect High Priest

1For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of men in things pertaining to God, in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins;2he can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since he himself also is beset with weakness;3and because of it he is obligated to offer sacrifices for sins, as for the people, so also for himself.4And no one takes the honor to himself, but receives it when he is called by God, even as Aaron was.

5So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him,



6just as He says also in another passage,



7In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety.8Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.9And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation,10being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Mark 10:35-45

35James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, *came up to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.”36And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?”37They said to Him, “Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.”38But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”39They said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.40“But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

41Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John.42Calling them to Himself, Jesus *said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them.43“But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant;44and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.45“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Bartimaeus Receives His Sight