Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Problem of Prejudice Within Christianity

In my opening post I asked

What are the biggest hurdles we as Christian's face? As I see it, prejudice is the greatest foe.

Merriam-Webster Online defines prejudice as:
1 : injury or damage resulting from some judgment or action of another in disregard of one's rights; especially : detriment to one's legal rights or claims
2 a (1) : preconceived judgment or opinion (2) : an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge b : an instance of such judgment or opinion c : an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics

Christianity as a whole, doesn't have the A+ report card on its lack of prejudice. As evidence towards such prejudice, critics would point to some major events in Christian history such as the Spanish Inquisition, The Crusades and witch burnings. These three areas have combined death tolls estimated at over a quarter million and perhaps as much as a million.

Most Christians in response to such would say that these people who committed such atrocities were not acting in the interests of Christ, but were rather misappropriating the name of Christ for unrighteousness.

It is an obvious, and in my opinion correct attempt at dissociating Christ with much of the unrighteousness that his been done in falsely in his glorious name. However, it does little to nullify the argument that people can do some things that are just flat wrong and still manage to convince themselves and others that Christ should get credit for it.

It is fairly apparent that Christians have made much progress in the area. Events of such mass injustice as those I posited are literally unheard of in this day and age in association with Christianity. There are still instances that arise though. Seems at least a few times a year, we hear of a church being burned, some faiths missionaries being injured, imprisoned or murdered.

However, prejudice amongst differing Christian sects still occurs in typically a much more subtle fashion. Things like... Don't buy from Bob he is an Evangelical. Don't invite those children to the party they Mormons. Don't hire Johnny, he's a Catholic.... I could go on. But hopefully you understand where I am going.

It is quite possible you yourself have been in a conversation, where religious jokes were passed around. Perhaps told them yourself. Or you were witness to the derision or ostracism of a person because they were a part of a different sect of Christianity.

I think back to Christ's parable of the Good Samaritan.
"A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead with no clothes. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, and he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, he too passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and looked after him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.' "Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise." NIV

The tale itself speaks of how a Samaritan was kind Jew, though he had been passed over by to Jewish holy men. I won't bother with detailed outlay as the story speaks for itself and I think most of understand that the Samaritans were people that the Jews held great prejudiced towards. Now I emphasized did emphasize Christ's question and the lawyers response. It has been posited, that the lawyer held a similar contempt for Samaritans and was unwilling to even name a Samaritan directly, but rather preferred a more ambiguous response.

It seems evident to me that Christ was making an appeal to the audience, that it is possible for people to conquer such prejudice and truly be neighbors to their fellow man even when they have vastly different views.

Also, it seems that in fact that two Jews, for whatever reason, failed to help a fellow brother. There was a rather blatant verbal barb to his audience. I imagine we could likely identify with all of the characters at some point in our lives.

Like them, I feel there have been times when I have passed along the other side.

I daresay there have been moments where I was more like those robbers. My blows may have been verbal but I think we know what Scripture tells us of the wounds we can leave with our own words. I may not have taken their possessions, but if I denied someone patronage of a business, or work, or just plain civility and the right to exist am I actually any less a thief?

There have been times as well, that I have felt similarly to fellow who was robbed.

This is the problem of prejudice within Christianity.

But how is it resolved?

I think there are a few easy steps we can take.

The simplest and easiest to implement is to refrain from prejudice ourselves and teach our families this as well.

When we the Lord affords us the opportunity to be the good Samaritan do so.

The next two are a bit tougher to implement, as it takes a bit more courage.

Be prepared to approach this situation when we confront it in social situations and at work in the spirit of Christian love. I am asking us to be more proactive here. Rather than being the Samaritan or simply not being a robber, I am suggesting we actually try to be the policemen on patrol.

Also, carry this same attitude into our own respective churches. It is sad to say, but this is likely the place where we will see the most opportunity and the most repercussion.

I welcome your thoughts and comments.


Mudcat Stew

1 comment:

  1. The biggest problem that I see is the tendency to judge all members of a certain group based of the worst example that a person knows of, from that group. This and a desire to keep others in a neat little box so we don't have to think too much. Terms like "He's a Jerk, loser, grouch, etc. This allows the person doing so to wrap the other person (or group) into a nice little package, thus releasing them from the responsibility to "look upon the inward man". So, in short, I agree with your comments.