The diversity game



Joel Forster, Evangelical Focus

Photo AFP, Raul Arboleda

There are few concepts in today’s politics that are repeated more often than that of “diversity”. Personal and group identities are celebrated, and their unhindered expression is said to be defended at all costs.

After the monolithic Francoism that collapsed in the second half of the 1970s (‘one nation, one religion, one way of thinking’), Spain experienced a democratic transition in the 1980s that united communists and conservatives under the new Constitution, leading to a recognition of underlying identities. Among the most deeply rooted were Catalonia and the Basque Country: their own languages and culture had been persecuted, and finally, they had a place in the public space again.

Personal and group identities are celebrated, and their unhindered expression is said to be defended at all costs. Nowadays, the narrative of diversity in Spain today mixes a much wider range of concepts. Look at the case of religious plurality, for a moment. It is interesting that a religious minority such as the evangelical Christians (silenced until only 50 years ago) has in recent years been the subject of study in research departments of Madrid universities. Even more, a former vice-president of the Catalan government (2006-2010), a non-believer, has written the most exhaustive book on the history of Protestantism in the Catalan-speaking territories. Also, in Catalonia, an online game teaches teenagers to discover religious minorities. And in the south, the city of Seville sponsors a route through its streets where the Inquisition repressed Protestant heretics in the 16th century.


Beyond religion, this interest in visibilising diversity has led to the creation of the official “Observatory for equal treatment, non-discrimination and the prevention of hate crimes” in the region of Valencia. Its aim is to defend all those who are discriminated against for “reasons of sex, nationality, racial or ethnic origin, age, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, family group, sexual development, functional diversity or disability, religion or beliefs, political ideas, poverty, language, culture, illness, aesthetics or body”.

As the very long list above shows, the protection of “diversity” in a society can end up being a catch-all in which politicians can choose, according to their ideology, which group’s rights they will be prioritised.


Here is the problem: what if one individual’s freedom of religion clashes with another’s gender expression? Or if one group’s political views clash with another group’s freedom of worship?

Recent years have shown that the term “diversity” can become a weapon in the hands of rulers with clearly defined agendas and a willingness to impose their ideology. In Spain, the most recent example is the harassment launched by the national government against all those who have questioned the content and forms of the upcoming ‘Trans Law’ (to be voted very soon).

Feminist associations have said the law endangers women. Judges’ associations have warned about the legal insecurity it creates. Associations of psychiatrists warn about the harm it would cause to children. But all this legitimate and well-founded criticism has been labelled by government ministers simply as “homophobia”, “machismo”, “media manipulation” and “a fight against human rights”.

This is the dangerous side of the “diversity” talk. Using good-sounding words to silence those who dissent. And this surely is the challenge for religious minorities in many parts of Europe, including evangelical Christians. Holding on to their convictions and expressing them without fear in a public square that encourages diversity but increasingly restricts the topics on which we are allowed to freely.

This article was published by Evangelical Focus on December 16, 2022

Joel Forster, journalist and director of EvangelicalFocus.com, lives in Valencia (Spain).



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