bias, Bible, classism, devotional, fandom, fear, God, inspirational, Jesus, labeling, motivational, My Little Pony, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, New Testament, Old Testament, prejudgment, prejudice, racism, sexism, stereotype
Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Baby Cakes”
It’s only a brief moment in today’s episode, but it made me think of something that’s one of my “pet peeves” as a Christian, and what is likely the same for everyone regardless of religion, race, gender, or background. It’s the moment in which Pinkie Pie, feeling overwhelmed by suddenly having to babysit a pair of troublesome twins, calls in Twilight Sparkle for assistance. Yet it’s not long before she’s ushered right back out the front door again. The reason? She makes the insinuation that Pinkie’s own wild-and-crazy nature when it comes to parties and fun means she’ll naturally be too irresponsible and scatterbrained to care for children.
The interesting part is that Pinkie was willing to throw in the towel and admit defeat until that point, conceding that she wasn’t ready to handle the job of babysitting a pair of foals with no experience other than playing with them. Yet as soon as Twilight indicated that she was “the kind of pony” who naturally couldn’t handle it, the sheer offense and insinuation caused her to redouble her efforts; for better or for worse (for better in this case, but that’s besides the point).
This may not have been the full intention, but it illustrates a simple and yet powerful point: no one likes to be prejudged. No one likes a few choices they make, good, bad or even neutral, to determine how the world judges their worth as a whole. And certainly no one likes identifying with one group or another leading to a whole laundry list of prejudgments made about them.
The reality is that it’s simply unfair to individuals. One clear example is, of course, in racism. People see a skin color and immediately make assumptions about socio-economic background, demeanor, trustworthiness, etc. They believe that person will always vote a certain way, use a certain type of product, have a certain type of work ethic, come from a certain type of family background, and all because their skin color is one type. Sexism, of course, is another big culprit too. Applying one standard based on gender to an individual in regards to dress, behavior, toys and games such a person as a child is “allowed to play”, or even how much their life is worth as a soldier…all of which you would never apply to the other gender. Of course, those are only two big examples of discrimination based on stereotypes or type-casting. I could fill up a couple blog posts on all of the ways that are simply the ones you can bring suit against in a court of law.
However, there’s lots of smaller examples too which are no less infuriating and unfair. One of the reasons that standardized testing gets slammed is because it analyzes a low level of cognitive ability on the part of students, and then only in a limited circumstance (namely multiple-choice test-taking), and makes a judgment about a child’s entire ability to learn and/or intelligence based on that. Hitting a bit more pertinent to this particular blog series, people often assume that individuals who like “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” are childish or even deranged because it’s not entirely the “norm”. Then there’s political views…which can be absolutely frustrating.
Case in point: whenever I attended a rally or meeting in college that tended to attract a predominantly “leftist” crowd (such as a peace rally), I would get into the topic of my beliefs. In situations like that, I would occasionally let it out that I was anti-abortion. And on those occasions, usually someone of the pro-abortion mindset would come up to me and ask me if I was in favor of the death penalty. I know perfectly well why they were asking that; it’s because likely every Christian they ever encountered who was strongly pro-life was also in favor of the death penalty, because that’s the platform of the Republican party and most Christians in the country identify with Republicans. In other words…two prejudgments at once about me based on pro-life, and they planned to call me out on it for being a hypocrite.
Well…there’s usually a momentary pause on the individual’s part whenever I tell them that I am, in fact, against the death penalty. And I am. Seriously. There’s one study after another that shows how horrendously biased and flawed it is, and these continuous overturned convictions after 20-25 years in prison, which would have been killing innocent people if the inmate had been on death row and not serving a life sentence, is proof that it has become a cruel and unusual punishment. It makes logical sense as a Christian to be anti-death penalty to me. But because that’s not the position many, if not most, Christians share, individuals who ask me that actually have to pause for a moment to process it before, often, they admit “at least you’re consistent”.
I enjoy finding common ground with these people, but at the same time I’m a bit upset that they went ahead and assumed that right off the bat. Because they assumed that, they were automatically turned off to me when they met. And that’s not even a real “big deal”. Nothing like when a person has to worry about bias when pleading their case to an officer, or looking about a store and being accused of loitering, or trying to unlock a car that has keys stuck inside, or trying to get a job or get a loan. Those are things that impact one’s ability to advance in society or make a living. And that’s really serious.
Jesus was never someone who “lumped people into a category”. He always treated everyone as an individual by their own merits and not simply how society or norms said He should have treated them. This included tax collectors, prostitutes, and even non-Jews. In fact, He was actually disliked because He associated so freely with people who were stereotyped against by the religious community of the time. Likewise, one of the early tenets of the Church was emphasis about how all are equal regardless of how they are born or what background they have in the eyes of the Lord. In Romans 2:11, Paul echoes a similar lesson Peter learned in Acts 10:34, “For God shows no partiality.” This is elaborated a bit more in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
The thing is this isn’t necessarily limited to the New Testament either. There were verses in the Old Testament emphasizing treating all people equally as well. 2 Chronicles 19:7 reads, “Now then, let the fear of the Lord be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the Lord our God, or partiality or taking bribes.” Likewise, in Deuteronomy 10:17-19, it reads, “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”
The problem is not that this instruction is missing from the Bible, but that people are so loathe to apply it and so quick to make exceptions for it. People try to excuse themselves from holding to this teaching in the name of fear, or caution, or economy, or anything else that suits the situation…when the fact remains if the individual in question was more like themselves the same standard would likely not be applied. And unfortunately in some cases stereotypes or prejudgments are so lodged in our brains that even if we embrace a policy of being more loving or accepting of others, we’ll subconsciously endorse and act upon our private fears.
It is true that in God there is no partiality, and it is also true that people are flawed and liable to biased judgment. Yet it is further true that God desires truth in our inmost being and for us to aspire to become more like Lord Jesus, which includes purging our hearts and minds of our prejudices, stereotypes, and tendencies to lump people into categories. This may be difficult, but I don’t feel we can call ourselves true Christians unless we work toward it and make a conscious decision against bias every day of our lives.
One suggestion toward accomplishing that end is something I try myself that tends to work pretty well. If ever I find myself distrusting or anxious around someone of a different race, creed, gender, or sexual orientation, and I feel I’m about to make a decision based on it that I feel is logical, I try to pause and ask myself one more question: “Would I be making this same decision if the individual was my own skin color, demeanor, sexual orientation, and/or religion?” This goes a long way to helping me realize any subconscious bias I might be experiencing.
Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for the ‘wondrous variety’ you have placed in this world in not only the landscape, the weather, the plants, the animals, and the seasons, but also in the human race. Thank you for always seeing individuals as who they are and not based on who they belong to, and that in spite of who I am or what I have done you see into my inmost being and know the real me. Please forgive me for all the times I have failed to do the same to my ‘fellow servants’ and help me to do so from this day forth. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”