Uniformity vs. Unity
Uniformity is defined as overall sameness; always the same, as in character or degree; unvarying; conforming to one principle, standard, or rule; consistent; being the same as or consonant with another or others; unvaried in texture, color, or design.
Unity is defined as the state or quality of being one; singleness; the state or quality of being in accord; harmony; the combination or arrangement of parts into a whole; unification; a combination or union thus formed; singleness or constancy of purpose or action; continuity.
So we see the basic difference is that uniformity requires all things to be the same; whereas unity requires that different things be combined into one. That’s a significant difference. With uniformity, you only get duplicates of one thing. With unity, you get a number of many different things. If we apply it to music, uniformity is everyone singing one note; whereas unity is many voices in harmony. If we apply it to food, uniformity is everyone having the same meal; whereas unity is a potluck and “a banquet of aged wine.” (Isaiah 25:6)
Uniformity allows for only one understanding of a matter and the rejection of all other viewpoints; whereas unity welcomes other viewpoints and seeks to harmonize them. An exercise in unity often reveals that the apparent opposing viewpoints are not really in conflict at all. Unity often reveals that such a dispute is really an expression of different ideas about one ideal. Let’s illustrate.
Two men are looking at an orange. One man says it’s a fruit, the other says it’s a sphere. Each offers evidence to support their position. They each are confident that they have the truth about the orange and are determined to prove the other wrong. Uniformity requires that one acquiesce to the other. Unity only requires an open mind. It asks the one to look at it and the other to taste it. When they do, they realize that they were only promoting different ideas about the ideal of the orange.
The application of unity leads not only to knowledge, but also to truth. Knowledge tells us that the orange is both a fruit and a sphere. But that’s not the truth of the orange; those are only facts about the orange. Truth is only known through personal experience. The purpose of the orange is not so that we can describe it. It is so that we can be nourished by it. It is not until both men digest the orange that they understand its truth, its purpose, its meaning. There is no need for further discussion.