Dismantling “Normal”: A Better Path To An Equitable Future
Throughout the decades that I served with an evangelical Christian organization, there was a common narrative was very proudly centered:
“We believe in diversity of leadership, regardless of gender, race, or language!”
In many ways, it felt true. More than anywhere I had seen, this organization seemed to have a diverse leadership representation. While I acknowledge that when compared to the typical evangelical fare in North America, that is a relatively low bar, in this case, there seemed to be some beautiful expressions of diversity I had never seen before.
However, as the years passed and my own involvement in leadership progressed, I began to get a closer look at this “diversity”. Despite the genuine spectrum of leaders from different races, countries, genders, etc., in practice leadership looked largely the same, with very few exceptions. When I dug deeper, it became clear that there was an unspoken assumption that leadership functioned largely the same, holding to largely the same beliefs exercised in the same way.
At first, I didn’t recognize it for the problem it was because I had been conditioned to see those “norms” as “Biblical standards” that “transcended culture and difference”. And yet, when you scratched the thin veneer on that claim, it became clear that those “Biblical standards” just so happened to align with largely white, American, male-centered leadership. In other words, almost anyone could be in leadership, as long as it adhered to those standards.
I learned that it is when those norms are transgressed that resistance to “genuine diversity” (or more accurately, equitability) becomes fierce and unrelenting. I experienced this myself when I came out as bisexual:
Initially, I came out while also rejecting my own identity, thus not threatening the norm. In fact, I was celebrated as someone with a “powerful testimony”. Even then, limits were placed on what roles I could take. Later, while still holding to a so-called “traditional view” (aka not affirming), I began to advocate for greater compassion and understanding for LGBTQ+ folks, I was met with a mix of direct (and hostile) resistance and less subtle limits on my leadership…