Biblical Cultural Diversity

21st May – World Cultural Diversity Day

This post first appeared on on 20th May 2023

Photo by cottonbro studio on

Interestingly in planning for this something else popped up and I wrote a piece around King Charles’ coronation to do with cultural diversity. As a good detective says “there’s no such thing as coincidences” and my QEC practitioner is always saying how things come up for a reason that we need to explore. 

So what does come to mind when we talk about “cultural diversity”? What picture/image comes to mind?  And what does cultural diversity look like? 

Meaning according to 

  • the cultural variety and cultural differences that exist in the world, a society, or an institution: Dying languages and urbanization are threats to cultural diversity.
  • the inclusion of diverse people in a group or organization: to embrace cultural diversity in the workplace.

The Modern Cockney Festival looks at how the culture of Cockneys, which was originally a word used for those born within the sound of Bow Bells in London, has morphed and changed and come to embrace all those who feel they can relate to some of the cockney traditions. There are other events like this that are for people who feel they relate to those traditions, cultures or similar, that at one time certain races, genders or creeds may not have. 

There are differences in cultures that we need to recognise, honour and celebrate and I believe we are getting better and better are recognising the big differences, but what about the more subtle ones? 

I live in North Wales and when we moved here we did think that the only differences were between Welsh and English, but the longer we’ve lived here and the more people we have come to know we have found that there are much more subtleties within the land than we originally envisaged. Many of which can get lost within the bigger picture. We’ve had both Anglican church parish boundaries and electoral boundaries changed recently due to population density. But there is a major cultural difference between those who live on the coast and those who live in hills, those who live nearer the English border and those who live on the Western reaches, those who live in the large towns and those who live in isolated villages. Within a population of just over three million people there is a great range of diversities. 

I lived in Belfast in 1996-7 which gave me a feel there for the cultural diversity of the city and the surrounding countryside. I got to know people who were Protestant and Catholic, Unionist and Loyalist, who had moved to the city from a village where everyone knew each other and those who lived in the city but also knew each other. Belfast in the mid 1990s was like no city I’ve ever lived in before. I cannot comment about the rest of Northern Ireland because I never made it over to Londonderry or into the hinterland. The population of Northern Ireland is less than two million and yet so diverse. 

Having lived in both these places I have seen how especially government or media do not honour the diversity of these nations but make judgement calls about what they need as a whole, what they want as a whole, and even what these people think as a whole. There is no space for different wants and needs. 

I know too that I am guilty of this with Native American tribes, with people who live in India, Asia, and all those myriad of countries I have never visited and never had the time to really get to know. Yet Revelation 7:9 says 

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from EVERY nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands 

I think the reason the bible says “multitude” is because then no one can give an exact figure. I think this is because God understands and knows each different group of people however big or small, however diverse, and is going to make sure they are fully represented in heaven. 

Note the word EVERY in there. Not most, not a few of, not even the majority, but EVERY nation, tribe, people and language will be there whether here on earth they have been recognised at all. 

I believe that we need to stop lumping people into easier to handle homogeneous groups believing we know what they want or need or think but we all need to start listening to, talking to and really finding out how we can all fit together but still stay cultural diverse. 

I think we also all need to be true to our own cultural diversity and who we fit with. I’m working with people who are between 15 and 40 years younger than me. Even those who are 15 years younger than me are of a different generation, have different values, different tastes, remember different music and TV programs. I have to accept that even though I am friends with them I also have a different culture that I relate to and fit comfortably into. 

I do think too often we try to find a homogeneous whole that we can fit into instead of enjoying the over laps. There is nothing to be afraid of in being cultural different to someone whether they are in our street, town, workplace, country, or that we never meet at all. God says “EVERY nation, tribe, people and language” will be standing shoulder to shoulder praising. We’re not going to have to conform to a “holy homogeneous huddle” but will be able to enjoy our different hues, words, styles, etc in heaven. Maybe we could start doing it now.  But also realise how much overlap there is.

How many cultural groups do you belong to? 

gender presumption


No presumptions with this little dog. Photographed by myself near Moelfre April 2023

I was amazed at my own presumptions the other day. Husband brought back a handout from church around Luke 24:13-35, where the disciples meet Jesus on the road to Emmaus but don’t recognise him.

Lots of it is things I’d known or thought previously but it is Lorna Bradley’s opening line that I’ve been chewing over for weeks now

And their eyes were opened – the two disciples of Jesus – Cleopas and one unnamed and ungendered …..

UNGENDERED!! How many times have I presumed, without even thinking about it, that it was two men? And I’m sure that’s because the Bible says “disciples of Jesus” and for years we’ve been led to presume that ALL Jesus’ real disciples were men even though women are mentioned, but they are there in the supporting role.

Lorna doesn’t say if the other disciple was male, female, trans, non-binary, or whatever. She does not say if they were friends, siblings, parent/child, lovers, spouses. She actually just puts it out there, states, the fact that the other disciple is unnamed and ungendered, and then goes on to explore the piece.

It made me wonder if we would read this piece differently if they were homosexual partners, young unwed lovers, a father and daughter/son, even a married couple. To Luke these are just two disciples of Jesus who were out for a walk trying to piece together what had gone on over the last few days. One is named. One isn’t.

Interestingly the name Cleopas, which appears only in this story in the Bible means “Glory of the Father” or “Glory of Everything” and is either the male derivative of Cleopatra or a shortened version of Cleopatra or shortened version of Cleopatros. So it could be that the Cleopas we’ve always presumed to be male was in fact female as was their traveling companion.

It is the presumption that intrigues me. How many times do we all read things through our own lens of expectation, of prejudice, of culture, of lifestyle, of what we know? How often do we stop to realise what we have done?

But from our own presumptions and censoring and prejudices we tie organisations including religion into boxes, put people groups into boxes, put ourselves and those around us into boxes.

This does follow on from Cultural Diversity and will fit in with the post I am doing for 21st May. That person waving/not waving the Union Jack at the coronation is “obviously ….[fill in your own]. We make presumptions as to whether someone smiles/doesn’t smile at our cheery “good morning”, replies/doesn’t reply to our message, wears certain clothes and talks in a certain way.

And I don’t think God cares. Not that God doesn’t care for people. I believe God cares more than we could ever imagine. But God doesn’t care what gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, family background, education, etc someone has. I think this is why that story has someone in with no gender and the other person with ambiguous gender in it. And if you start looking there are many stories in the bible where once one lets go of one’s presumption then things could be more ambiguous than we’d presumed.

I wonder if I look harder how many stories I can find, where I presumed one thing and so pictured the story in my head a certain way, in fact actually are about “Glory in Everything” and especially “Glory to God” and not to gender, sexuality, orientation, or even belief.

Just this one phrase in Lorna Bradley’s piece has set me off on a whole new way of thinking. As Rick Rubin’s says in The Creative Act [and I paraphrase because I can’t find the actual quote in the book because I’ve underlined so much in there!] “sometimes we need to look at the minute to see the infinite”