Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Personal prejudice

Every person is born a bigot. That's my conclusion after reading history and the newspapers. [OK, here comes another controversial post. By now, most of you know that I think and puzzle through my life by writing. If you're in the mood to be offended today, feel free to quit reading. The rest of you, hang on and give me feedback if you like.]

My daughter, who is almost through her application for American citizenship, got tired of a friend's "anti-Canadian" jokes on a day when her body was exhausted and hurting. She let her guard down long enough to tell him it was "idiotic" to constantly yammer about Canucks, and really not that funny because it expressed his prejudice.

"I was only joking," he protested. 

"How would you like it if someone constantly made fun of you for being American?" she asked.

He expressed shock that other countries made fun of Americans. (This is in the deep South, mind you, and her friend has never traveled abroad.) He bugged her until she admitted that sometimes "non-Amis" found Americans annoying in their assumption that the USA is better than everyone else, as well as mistakenly thinking everyone would like to be American.

Her friend turned to her in genuine confusion, "Well, it's true. We are the best... and everyone DOES want to come here." K was so stunned she had nothing further to say.

Reading the news, we find every one of us thinks we are better than our neighbors, than the next country, or other people groups. Definitely our way of practicing faith is better than others' ways! Most of us won't admit our deeply rooted assumptions out loud. But even when economics, wars, or circumstances squeeze us from our hometown, we long for our own families and tribes. Our deep-down, unguarded selves prefer our own foods, our language, and our culture over every other one. 

Yesterday, I read an interesting comment by an AG historian about "Landesdeutsche," the Germans who farmed in Russia like my grandparents did. The writer was obviously annoyed and offended by the stinking German attitude of superiority. "Those people thought they were better than the Russians and never intermarried. When they came to North Dakota, they thought they were superior to the Dakotans. They kept to themselves, with their culture and language, and even joked that German was the language of heaven. They suspected the salvation of others." Well, duh. I laughed out loud. That's exactly how I was raised in church. (And an elder's wife cautioned me with that very thing. "Who knows if the English are really saved?" she said, wringing her hands, afraid for us when we changed churches.)

In Christ alone we find true equality of gender, race, and ethnicity. In God's love we experience complete equality and inclusion. Scripture affirms that God stamped his image on each person, regardless of our distortions, disabilities, or sinfulness. 

I instinctively react to ethnic or national pride because I grew up elsewhere with another identity; though we never would have thought to fly our national flag in church, the place of worship for all tribes and tongues, we sure didn't admit outsiders either. I react against patriarchal condescension in hierarchies because my dad taught me that gifting, not gender, mattered and I watched him treat women as equal partners.  Ugh, with hot tears for all of our prejudices that reflect our deformed, sinful hearts.

All peoples are protective of their upbringing and prejudiced against others. Yet how kind and generous God is as he opens his arms to each man, woman, and child he has created in every heritage. Oh, that my heart would be so like his that I would be color-blind, embracing every human who desires friendship and affirmation. Then others could say, "She has her Father's eyes, seeing the good in everyone." That's my prayer and hope for the day.

How do you show your bias toward those like you? How do you react to others who are different than you? Got any advice about what has helped you see others as God sees them? 

Read more:
*I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart; before the “gods” I will sing your praise. I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted. Psalm 138:1-3 NIV 

*Choose my instruction rather than silver, and knowledge rather than pure gold. For wisdom is far more valuable than rubies. Nothing you desire can compare with it. Proverbs 8:10–11 NLT 

*You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:26-28 NIV

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