Where we were raised, the economic values (both positive and negative) of our childhood, the diversity of cultures we were exposed to, the opinions of those closest to us toward those cultures, the religious or lack of religious influence of our family of origin… these all create a predisposed bias in each of us.
What is so challenging about our predisposed biases is that most of the time we are completely unaware of them. They are so ingrained into our psyche that they become a part of our operating assumption.
One of the most prevalent contemporary examples is young black men. We are all aware of the high profile cases of recent shootings of young, unarmed black males by police officers. But law enforcement is not the only group of people who have a certain predisposition towards young black men. The fact is that individuals in the African American community, the Latino Community, the Asian Community, the Native American Community, and the white community all have a predisposed assumption about young black males.
Here’s the thing… the same is true about males and females, young and old, rich and poor, from every culture and context. Each of us brings a scripting that creates this predisposition towards “others”. Again, most of the time we are completely unaware that we have this perspective of “others”, and that is why it is so challenging.
It takes very intentional work to take a deep dive into what our predisposed assumptions are and where they come from. And frankly, until we take on this level of prayerful introspection, we will never be able to fully embrace two of our key commitments of the Baptismal Covenant: To seek and serve Christ in all persons and To respect the dignity of every human being. We have to stop categorizing people – PERIOD. This needs to stop regardless of someone’s age, ethnicity, religious or cultural heritage, or anything else that replaces the unique child of God with our predisposed assumptions.
Nothing could be more at the heart of loving our neighbors as ourselves… and perhaps nothing could be more important during this Lenten season.