Diversity Creates Harmony

Published: November 14, 2014

“Diversity creates harmony.”

These are the words of wisdom given to us on the evening of November 4th by environmental activist Vandana Shiva as she stressed the need for agricultural practices that strive to preserve biodiversity. These words were echoed the following Thursday by New Testament Professor Dr. Katherine Shaner as she emphasized how diversity in the Gospel stories have helped to harmonize Christian understanding and practice. Today, I will again echo these words in another context: the context of our individual ideologies that shape our cultural, political, and historical worldviews. Diversity creates harmony. In order to ensure our survival as a species, we cannot create monocultures, but instead must draw upon many cultures and ideologies to shape the narratives of our own lives, so that our stories will benefit not just ourselves but all lives.

As a first-year student at Wake Forest School of Divinity, I take pride in the fact that I am part of a program that recognizes the need for diversity and is active in the realization of creating that diversity by enrolling a diverse student body that challenges a cultural norm that limits the educational opportunities of non-Anglo Saxon, male-gendered individuals. I am also very proud to receive a truly ecumenical education that emphasizes and recognizes the value of creating discourse between different religions and denominations through comparative theology. The fact that this emphasis goes so far as to require the use of inclusive language in student academic writing portrays the depths of this school’s commitment to being inclusive when it comes to issues of race, gender, religious belief or sexual orientation.

In the wake of the recent midterm elections in North Carolina, and the news that $100 million was spent by both Senate candidates on campaign attack ads, it has become quite clear to me just how polarized our nation’s political ideologies have become. And yet, there is no clear cut formula that defines liberal from conservative, Republican from Democrat. I offer up my own experience as proof that diversity exists in politics. As a person who typically votes conservative, I can tell you that I care as much about reducing government spending as I do about the ever-increasing gap between rich and poor. I advocate for protecting life, but also for protecting women’s health and the right for all individuals to not have government make decisions regarding their bodies. My religious identity stems from Pentecostal and Evangelical roots, and yet when I fellowship, I am among many believers who advocate an open and affirming approach to issues of gender identity and sexual orientation.

Diversity can exist in politics when we cast aside the notion that there is only one way to be liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, and realize most problems will only be solved by individuals and groups coming together to find a solution. I believe bi-partisanship can happen at Wake Forest School of Divinity, even if it’s not happening in Washington, because we are a school that celebrates diversity. I offer a challenge to the students, faculty, and staff to fully embrace Vandana Shiva’s words by recognizing the harmonizing value of depolarizing the way we discuss our political beliefs. If we can do this, I believe we will truly live up to our ranking as one of the top seminaries responsible for changing the world.

sifugl14Gabriel Sifuentes
First Year

Gabriel completed his undergraduate studies in Creative Writing. He currently resides in North Carolina, but calls both Iowa and Florida home. After receiving his MDiv, Gabriel plans on pursuing doctoral work in the field of Biblical Theology and later pursuing a career in spiritual writing.