Recently there was an important document drafted called An Open Letter from the Asian American Community to the Evangelical Church. Two of my good friends (one since childhood and the other pastors in the denomination I am proud to be part of – the EFCA) are signatories. What follows is a re-post from this summer and my two cents on the subject.
While it was very difficult (actually, almost impossible) to find an adequate header picture for this post, unfortunately, most of us have a very clear picture of what prejudice looks like. Vernacularized, prejudice is unfairly forming an opinion about someone. Almost certainly, we all know someone that fits this description. Maybe it’s a co-worker or neighbor. Sadly, many times it is a family member. It may even be you. Many I have spoken with this week about the issue of racism have pushed for (and rightly so), a deeper discussion on the topic. In my view, the reality and roots of prejudice are the heart of the issue.
The Reality of Prejudice
We need to go back to the heart of what it means to be prejudiced. Likely we do not need to redefine it… we just need to reapply the definition we already know. Let’s apply this to prejudice related to race. Racial slurs, ethnic jokes, negatively-connotated nicknames, assigning negative stereotypes to an individual without even knowing them… these are among the realities that prejudice has made unfortunately normal. And for the Christian, participation in such is nothing less than sin.
The Roots of Prejudice
Until we understand some of what is behind prejudice we may never get to the stranglehold that is needed to defeat this ugly beast. There is a mountain that has been formed by the reasons we prejudge. This will not be an exhaustive list… it can’t be. There are too many reasons. Let’s hit some of the recurring ones that seem to be the largest offenders:
- Fear. For some people their natural reaction to anyone or anything that is different from them is to be afraid. While there is nothing wrong with legitimate caution, we cannot allow our interactions with other to be driven by unsubstantiated fear that frankly leads us to often-horrible places in our treatment of someone who is different from us.
- Ignorance. In this case (and many like it), ignorance is not bliss. In fact, this ignorance may even be the greatest contributor to the discussion at hand. This also may be the worst excuse in the bunch. “I didn’t know”… is simply not acceptable.
- Education. Even though this trait seems to conflict with the one before it, we know it to be true. Whether our education is loud or silent, we have a history of lessons that are taught to us on this subject. It is not an excuse for how we behave, but often a factor in it.
- Pride. All of the above will be challenged by our own sense of entitlement… and that is precisely what pride is. When I make generalizations and stereotypes based on the color of someone’s skin or their geographic origin I am saying, “I’m better than you.”
A Better Way
If the way of Jesus means anything, it has to work in real time. Being a follower of Jesus demands that it impacts real world issues like prejudice. When we are part of a faith that is as the writer of Hebrews says, “living and active”, it must affect our prejudices. What part of this discussion within yourself do you need to attack with the power of the Gospel and the heart of Jesus? Maybe it’s something not even mentioned here that has caused you to pre-judge another based on the color of their skin. No matter what it is that has led you to that place, it’s time to confess it as sin and allow the very Spirit of God to heal that place in your heart.