The Most Uniform Landscape
This morning you will enter one of the most uniform landscapes in the world. You will gather together with those that are like you. You will enter row after row, and take your pew. You will shake hands, and possibly greet one another with a holy kiss. As you look around your ecosystem you will feel comfortable. The uniformity has become home. Hipsters with rimmed-glasses with hipsters with coffee cups; elderly who long for familiar hymns with elderly in their Sunday best, white families with white families, and black families with black families, Hispanics speaking Spanish with Hispanics speaking Spanish, orthodox with orthodox, liberal with liberal...the list of homogeneity could take up this page. It is our normal.
After an hour or so, we will leave our sanctuaries and head out into the "real world". The real world, or natural world, shows us little of this homogeneity. Every landscape is uniquely its own. Ecosystems are diverse. Species are diverse. Even, genes are diverse (Hunter & Gibbs, 2011). This natural world, created by GOD, is diverse. The places we deem beautiful and lovely are diverse (Fuller, Irvine, Devine-Wright, Warren, & Gaston, 2007).
The safety we feel in uniformity is false. In the natural world, nothing that stays homogeneous lasts. Without diversity, species and ecosystems do not persist (Hunter & Gibbs, 2011). In fact, heterogeneous genes rescue us from extinction. Genes that are different allow us to evolve to our ever changing landscapes and conditions (Ricklefs, 2011). Without these so-called outliers or black sheep, humans would have been extinct long ago. Secondly, as a natural ecosystem grows it becomes more diverse, stabilizing it's existence. The variety shelters more species rather than less, and the ecosystem becomes teeming with more and more life (think Amazon rain forest compared to the desert in Joshua Tree).
As I look throughout human history, I see a similar pattern to ecological history. Every time a society became overly uniform it crumbled (e.g. The Nazis, the Kremlin, the Monarchy). So, here is the charge to each of us this Sunday morning. Rise up! Speak out! This is the moment you have been training for. You have been told that one day you will be persecuted for being different, that you should welcome the stranger, that you should love your neighbors, that you should not judge, that you should have wide branches for the wild birds to rest in (Matthew 5 & 13, Romans 1 & 2, New American Standard Bible). This is the day that the LORD hath made, so speak up, get out, and be the black sheep.
Fuller, R. A., Irvine, K. N., Devine-Wright, P., Warren, P. H., & Gaston, K. J. (2007). Psychological benefits of greenspace increase with biodiversity. Biology Letters, 3(4), 390-394. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2007.0149
Hunter, M. L., & Gibbs, J. P. (2011). Fundamentals of conservation biology. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publ.
New American standard Bible. (1973). La Habra, CA: Foundation Press Publications, publisher for the Lockman Foundation.
Ricklefs, R. E. (2001). The economy of nature. New York: W.H. Freeman.