Jeopardy: “I’ll Take Assumption for $1000”

If you are a devoted Jeopardy fan or an Episcopal News Service junkie then you are well aware of the recent winning streak of David Sibley, priest serving at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Walla Walla, Washington. Knowing David, it was fun to see him on the ‘little screen’. It was in many respects even more fascinating to see the buzz surrounding both his appearance and his engagement with the game.

There was a whole stream first on why he wasn’t wearing a clergy collar, and then when he did, a whole other group of folks suggesting it was entirely inappropriate. In case you don’t know, the filming of the show happens in day-long blocks. As such, David, as I understand it, was actually on camera for one day. I mean seriously, how many changes of clothing do you bring to the shoot? One set of clothes and you look like you know you’re going to flame out early. Multiple changes of clothes and you appear arrogant. I haven’t asked him but it could very well have been that he brought two shirts, kept winning and the only clean shirt he had left was his clergy shirt!

Then there is how David actually played Jeopardy. Early on there was a lot of chatter about how impressed folks were with the depth of knowledge David had on a diverse number of topics. The clear assumption was that he would have a good understanding about religious / biblical matters but art or history, or science (his academic background) or pop culture would clearly be beyond his working knowledge. Likewise, there were folks who were shocked at some of the questions that David did not answer. Again, making an assumption because of his profession he should surely know certain things.

Honestly, none of this reaction surprises me. I have countless stories where folks have made assumptions based on my attire: “What is that shirt you’re wearing?” “Is that a new fashion trend?” (my favorite), or the time I was wearing a sweatshirt in Costco and a parishioner could not get over the fact I didn’t always wear a clergy shirt!

Then there was the occasion I was asked to serve on a community board exploring how to respond to an increase in youth violence and there was no expectation for me to contribute anything except the invocation. Or the time I was asked at a gathering what book I was reading to which I responded Patrick Lencioni‘s The Advantage. It was clear I shocked some people that I read something besides ‘religious’ books.

In my experience we often make assumptions based on appearances or occupations or some other box we can easily put people in. The real danger in doing this is that we quickly create a narrative based solely on assumption (and all the bias that comes with it) and not actual fact. To really get to know another person involves moving from assumption to intentionally learning about that particular person. It is at the core of what it means to respect the dignity of every human being. And, like many learned watching David on Jeopardy, he is so much more than whatever assumption one has about a parish priest. He, like the rest of us, is multi dimensional with a whole variety of interests and experiences.

“I’ll take Intentionally Getting to Know the Person for $1000” – It’s the Daily Double!

3 thoughts on “Jeopardy: “I’ll Take Assumption for $1000””

  1. Making assumptions about our neighbors is another form of judging, whether positive or negative….and we are not respecting the dignity either way. So, so difficult! By saying this, I am also judging….

  2. Well said. All of us have different lives and experiences from birth to present. Priests are humans too.

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