bits from bob....

Overcoming Bigotry

by Robert J. Young
April 27, 2004
©, 2004, Robert J. Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

Few people want to bigoted, but if you live in the US the chances increase almost daily that you are. Preaching about tolerance has not made us more tolerant. As Nicholas Kristof recently observed, the left in our society seems to have more contempt than ever for the evangelical right. Those who carefully avoid racially sensitive statements and seek politically correct phrases have little problem mouthing criticisms of conservative Christians. Perhaps you have seen the T-shirt: "So Many Right-Wing Christians...So Few Lions." (Tulsa World, 4.27.04, A15)

On the other hand, we must concede that it is fair to question the views of the other side. In fact, we Christians generally encourage others to carefully examine our views. Kristof writes that religion is much too important an influence in our society to be avoided entirely. Mockery, unfeeling slurs, and purposeful ignorance serve to divide rather than unite. In fact, 75% of evangelicals believe the mass media is hostile to Christianity; almost half believe that most Americans look down on the Christian evangelical right.

Consider the lack of intellectual curiosity on the part of the left about the Christian right. Those on the left likely understand Islam better than Christianity, despite the fact that some popular Christian books and novels are among the best-sellers of our age. To be genuinely unbigoted, one should understand both Tibetan Buddhism and fervent Pentecostalism (ibid.).

Before you "Amen" too loudly, let me observe that what applies to one side applies to the other. Christianity has at times authorized bigotry in the name of doctrine. If you have doubts, reread the story of the Crusades or the Spanish Inquisition. We Christians will accomplish little with isolation, cultural wars that attempt to determine who can be most contemptuous of the other side, and ignorance. Perhaps there was a time when Christians could continue blithely along in their cocoon, but those days are past. In failing to understand and interact with the world in which we live, we do not protect ourselves, we rather lose any viable voice that hopes to proclaim God's answers to the world's problems.

Some in the church today seem content to fight straw men from decades past, to pursue isolation, and to rant when anyone dares present counter views. In the name of soundness, we grow more and more unhealthy as a movement, maintaining all along that we are healthy.

It's always easy to point out the intolerance and errors of others. It's much harder to see ourselves as others see us. Bigotry toward others based on what we think they believe is wrong-- regardless of which side of the doctrinal divide it comes from. The antidote to bigotry is education. For Christians, this means knowing the Book, knowing our world, discerning the times, and then, and only then, knowing what to do to advance kingdom things around the world. Some do not want to know what others think, and feel compelled to attack vehemently anything even slightly different. Such does not advance the cause of Christ, reflect the Spirit of Christ, nor speak well of those who so act. May God help us be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

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Last updated April 27, 2004.