In this April 19, 2019 file photo, a pride rainbow flag flies along with the U.S. flag in front of the Asbury United Methodist Church in Prairie Village, Kansas. Credit: Charlie Riedel / AP

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Rev. Gary W. Bagley is the pastor at Hammond Street Congregational Church, UCC in Bangor. 

Dr. Douglas LaBier in his article, “The Future of Diversity in America Today,” in Psychology Today, states, “American society is increasingly diverse. That’s a reality. This transition is generating a positive, welcoming embrace among some; and fear, even opposition and hatred, from others. Both responses have a direct impact on shaping political and social policy in all areas of society. That includes the workplace, the definition of ‘family,’ as well as social and cultural traditions. All of which can alter what we define as a ‘true’ American.”

What LaBier is pointing out is happening right here in the Bangor area. Many here are welcoming and embrace diversity, but fear, opposition and hatred are affecting people here as well. This can be seen in policies that are coming before our school boards and in other areas of society. Those who are fearful of what diversity might bring are seeking to put in place what they see as safeguards for children and others as they seek to impose their belief structure on society. I believe these safeguards serve not to protect but to divide society.

We have seen it throughout our nation and our state as people seek to ban books that they deem inappropriate for children and public readings that promote diversity because they are done by drag queens, which they have deemed inappropriate. Recently in our own area a local school district adopted a policy that allows for only the U.S. and Maine state flags to be displayed in classrooms. All other flags can only be displayed when related to the lesson, which means that pride flags would have to be removed from classrooms. Hearing the voices of an LGBTQ student and allies share how the presence of the pride flag made them feel safe and accepted made no difference. It did not fit into what is deemed appropriate.

As a Christian pastor I have taught throughout my ministry that “God Is Love,” and that we are commanded to “Love one another as God has loved us.” That love does not extend only to those who believe like me or those who look like me. The love of God extends to all people. There are no exceptions; if God’s love is for all, then my love is for all. The church where I pastor is open to and accepting of all persons and celebrates the diversity found in our community and nation. Our churches, schools, civil institutions and our communities should all be places where individuals feel safe and accepted regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender identity or sexual orientation.

Diversity in our nation and this area cannot and will not be stopped by adopting policies that ban symbols of diversity, books or reading programs on diversity. We need to educate our children about diversity and show them that we can all live together and celebrate our differences rather than live in fear of one another. 

We are all Americans and share the same rights under the Constitution. No one, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender identity or sexual orientation, should be treated as a second-class citizen or live in fear of those who oppose diversity. Together we are one nation, and we are stronger when we can celebrate our diversity and stand together as one. Fear only serves to divide and weaken us as a nation. So let us put fear behind us and stand as one, celebrating the beauty of our diversity.