Does this picture influence your opinion of me? Does knowing I am a Chelsea supporter make you feel more or less kindly disposed towards me or do you just not care about football? One of the questions I wrestle with is “Are all human beings inherently prejudiced?” There have been a few news stories this week (and most weeks) that have strongly suggested that one faction of humanity thinks ill of another and the immense tragedy that arises out of this. While many of us do not act on some of the thoughts and feelings we have, I sometimes find that you don’t have to push people very hard to find that sometimes we think well of ourselves and ill of others. As much as there is to wonder at the positive capacity of humanity we seem to be hard wired to look out for ourselves and our own. But what is so unhelpful is the temptation and sometimes tendency to scapegoat individuals or groups and to talk about them and treat them as less than.
I am persuaded that we are all inherently prejudiced. It may not be about the big things that most often get raised such as racism or sexism but our first response when we see someone reading a particular newspaper or book, the labels on their clothes, the drink they order in the pub, their hairstyle, weight, height, pet, car etc. Because of the very strong reactions certain sorts of prejudice (rightly) gets it then becomes very difficult to own up to our own as it opens us up to judgement – so often a case of the speck and the log (Matthew 7.3-5).
It is helpful to be aware of our tendencies and weaknesses in our attitudes and reactions to others, it is then very difficult to delude ourselves that we are not inherently prejudiced. Once we can acknowledge this we can be constantly vigilant as to the temptations we face. Our God is a God of love and our attitudes and actions need to mediate that in a world which sometimes seems to be far from loving. Surely there must be a way in which to deal with that which threatens us and with which we disagree without either violence or violation being the consequence?