Can Diversity and Inclusion coexist with God?
Years before Saint Peter's historic NCAA run, it was known to many as St. Peter's college, the Jesuit college of New Jersey. It was during this time I enrolled in my first theology class. I thought it should be a breeze, easy A if you will, as I grew up going to bible study as a child of a Christian household. What more could be explained than Jesus was the Son of God, the holy trinity, and the commendations? There's a vast amount more; let's just say my teenage years took turns somewhere between "I think I'm grown" and skipping out on church before my grandmother noticed. She always witnessed a missed session; she simply gave me time before letting that Southern charm remind me that she neglected to see me the previous Sunday. Looking back, I realize that I was being given a choice -flexibility in finding my path to Christ. Perhaps she knew I'd always come back or prayed over me harder (faith).
Let's get back to class, shall we? Theology was a required study and one that I was grateful to have taken by the time it ended. It was more than Christianity, and the discussions were always debated amongst the different believers but respectfully. One topic that has been embedded in my memory bank is an open-ended [opinionated] question to students "do you think there is one God?"
Now would be a good time for me to add a disclaimer for anyone ready to interject, buckle up. My response was, "I think so." I didn't have the analogy of Dr. Strange’ s multiverse to reference at the time, but my answer was along those lines; to define God as constant in every universe, but our experience of God may differ. God has so many names that I couldn't possibly know them all. Given the three major religions and their interconnection, I continued by explaining the similarities in the Bible and Quran concerning the Old Testament. And for anyone who may consider themselves atheist or of no religion, I may have implied that mediation, some act of finding peace, or trying to do good would be their connection.
This was my learning experience and what I valued most was the opportunity to learn from others. It wasn't a class full of one type of people; there were Christians, Muslims, students unsure, who didn't believe and taking the course simply because it was a requirement to graduate -just people, just humans.
Fast forward a decade, and here I am. I have matured spiritually, and I've written my first children's book (Noah's Ark New Adventures). I'm ready to become a New York Times Bestseller and be added to the Scholastics book club; I want the works! My goal is to take my background as a Human Resources professional and experience to develop a composition that can be a fun learning experience for families. The mission of any successful workforce today involves pushing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). However, I've always questioned why we wait until someone joins a workforce to teach cultural acceptance and DEI?
So I set out on my quest. I started with Noah's school. I've seen books such as The Proudest Blue (highly recommend) teachers with company t-shirts to support PRIDE. From where I stand, this environment promotes diversity and inclusion, so my book should fit in perfectly.
Not exactly. After all the praises of reaching the finish line, "GOD" was the conundrum. Because I referenced God, they cannot display the book, but "we are so proud of you." Interesting was the tone that preceded my thank you. What was I missing? This organization prides itself on teaching diversity, equity, and inclusion. I went home and re-read the book to identify if I suggested that everyone must believe in the same God or if I attempted to influence anyone's beliefs. All I provided was my story. I would gladly elaborate on Christianity and my beliefs if someone asked with true intentions of learning, but I cannot force anything on anyone. History involves religion and should objectively be referenced to help understand the cultural identity of others.
The Noah's Ark series is created from the experiences of individuals willing to teach others about their culture, customs, and lives to share with the world. But it cannot be mentioned because of God; where is the empathy in that? Empathy forms understanding from experiences. But are there limitations to what can be considered empathic? Perhaps there is a standard to acknowledge if someone is diverse enough before we can include them? Does God need to be marketable or profitable to be accepted? Are people and companies genuinely seeking to diversify their lives/companies or only looking for something they can buy into?
Would it be more appropriate if I'd replace the word God with rainbows? Rainbows sell regardless of whether you believe in the biblical story of Noah's Ark, PRIDE, you like colors or refraction. That's diversity as I know it. Allowing people to express who they are, even if it differs from our own experience, and respecting them enough to let them see themselves in the world, as long as it doesn't harm others. It doesn't require us to conform to anyone's lifestyle but includes them to display peace in humankind.
This post is beyond me and the sales of my book. It would be effortless to change the words or title to appease the masses, but I did not want to compromise my beliefs for a buck. It is my art and having everyone appreciate it and find joy in the culture of people would be a "nice to have" however, I understand that the world doesn't work that way. As I met with parents who influenced the series, they enjoyed being a part of it, expressing that the books in schools do not always reflect their children and how refreshing it is to be seen. We have found our audience in the good in people. We simply need to engage with them to build a space that is truly for everyone. Our stories will continue with the hopes of allowing all children to see themselves in the world and it would be necessary for the world to create a natural space for them to explore.