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HEARTS OF THE CITY | Navigating the Real World

A rotating panel of experts from the worlds of ethics, psychology and religion offer their perspective on the dilemmas that come with living in Southern California.

September 25, 1996|K. CONNIE KANG, Times staff writer

Today's question: Diversity is a much discussed issue of the 1990s. Diversity encompasses many dimensions that make up who we are: race, culture, age, health, politics, economics, place of birth and sexual orientation, to name a few. What standards do you use to extend full humanity to those who are different from you? Can you recommend a helpful and practical community standard for Los Angeles?

Louke Van Wenszeen

Assistant professor of theological studies, Loyola Marymount University

Living in Los Angeles as a Dutch immigrant without a "Dutchtown," I experience difference on a daily basis. It used to make me depressed. Worse, I felt contempt, and in my anger, all Angelenos melted together into a big, homogenous "Them." Until I birthed and nursed two children. Suddenly I was stopped in my tracks by each person I saw. Some woman had suffered to bring this person into the world, and I felt for her! People had cared for, worried about, rejoiced in this person, and I felt with them! As my judgment melted away, a sense of kinship took its place, a solidarity of joy and suffering. This now is my standard.

Richard J. Mouw

President, Fuller Theological Seminary

Not all diversity is good. Some people are peace-loving, others are violence-prone--that is not a difference we ought to celebrate. But there are good differences, evidence that God dislikes dull sameness. I am glad that there are two genders, multiple ethnicities and diverse cultures. These good differences need to be seen against the background of our common humanness. When they aren't viewed that way, we run the risk of creating new versions of apartheid--a threat posed by much of our "multiculturalism" today. In a healthy diversity we will see our different backgrounds and experiences as providing us with gifts that we can share with others, and not as obstacles to communication and cooperation.

Ken Uyeda Fong

Pastor, Evergreen Baptist Church, Rosemead

America today is a country in search of another "grand story." Not long ago, our schools, churches and families told the story of e pluribus unum--out of many, one. That grand story pointed everyone in the same direction: common language, common identity, common heritage. Of course, people's unique elements were discarded in the quest for a homogeneity rooted in ideals that could be traced back to Western Europe. Today, the overwhelming diversity of our city cries out for a new grand story, one that both recognizes the innate value of all kinds of people and yet brings us together for the common good. We're all going to have to come together to pen this new version.

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