Rearranging our prejudices

Published 10:50 pm Friday, February 22, 2013

By Rev. Chris Surber

I wonder if you’ve ever met Ms. Racial Prejudice. Surely you have. She is the oldest child of Mr. and Mrs. Willfully Ignorant. She lives in the area and travels extensively. I see her all the time.

She’s subtler these days than she used to be, at least most of the time. She was once a loud and obnoxious lady, spewing her judgmental and hateful propaganda from every street corner and every rooftop. These days she is more refined. She lurks in parlors, veiling her half truths in pleasantries.

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She has shuffled her speech a bit, but her message is the same. Where she once used racial slurs openly, she now uses masked phrases privately. Where she once openly disgraced other races with her words, she now hardens her heart and passes judgment more discreetly. Instead of talking about that certain race over there, she talks about “those people” over there. She has traded open and obvious discrimination for a thinly veiled bigotry.

She is still around. She hasn’t changed anything in her heart, only in her words. She has always been a temptress of the badly informed and she still seduces masses.

Shifting our prejudices is not the same thing as becoming free from them. American psychologist William James said it this way: “A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.” Prejudice is a ridiculous venture, because if we would take the time to get to know most people on an individual level, we would find plenty of reasons to dislike them on an individual level. If we must dislike people, we should do so for good reasons, at least.

No two people are exactly alike. In fact, no two of anything God has created are exactly alike. I love tulips. If a person closely examines even a large garden of them, no two flowers will be exactly alike. Yet, they are all tulips, just as we are all part of one race of men.

In Deuteronomy 6:4 we read something important about God: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” God is not at war within Himself. He is whole.

This passage of Scripture directly speaks to the nature of God but it points to our nature as well. The God who is one, who is complete, whole, not at war within Himself, created humanity from one man, Adam, into whom He breathed life.

Even those theologians who struggle to affirm the literal nature of the account of Adam’s creation affirm that the highest principle of the Genesis creation account affirms the unity of man. We are all descendants of Adam. We have the same father. We are one. We ought not to be at war within ourselves as a race of men.

God affirms people, not our prejudices about people. Don’t rearrange your prejudices. Become free from them. Don’t veil ignorance in new words. Run into the arms of truth. Avoid Mr. and Mrs. Willfully Ignorant. Engage people as people on the basis of individual merit. Choose to look beyond manmade concepts about race.

There is one God, and there is one race of men.

Chris Surber is pastor of Cypress Chapel Christian Church in Suffolk. Visit his website at