Discrimination and prejudice

With all the hate-filled rhetoric filling the airwaves this week, I found myself thinking about prejudice and hate and bias and discrimination. I grew up with extremely prejudiced parents; and I have my own biases because of them. But I have spent a large part of my adult life fighting against my own prejudices.  I don’t subscribe to the mindset that people should be treated differently because their skin is a different color; their religion isn’t the same as mine; their culture does things I don’t agree with.  But it’s a daily struggle. I know people who will take the actions of a few to represent the whole religion/culture and tar everyone with that same brush. And I think that’s wrong. Imagine if all Christians were thought to be like Fred Phelps or Terry Jones.  (And there are some who think that!) Is this how we want Christians to be seen?

When I was growing up, I heard my parents belittling recent immigrants who lived across the street from us. According to my mother, they lived 20 people to an apartment and ate cat food. To my young, impressionable mind, that was disgusting. Later in life I discovered they had that many people living together because that’s what they were used to, and they didn’t know there was any other way to live. And because people didn’t want to rent to them because they were different. And because they were saving money to start businesses where they all worked together as a family. I might not agree with some of the tenets of their religion, but I admire the fact that they were willing to make sacrifices to get what they wanted.

I believe there is good in everyone. Sometimes we don’t see it, or don’t want to see it, because we are blinded by prejudice.

We hate some persons because we do not know them; and will not know them because we hate them. ~Charles Caleb Colton

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Civility

When did civility and manners disappear from our lives? I can remember a time when people could sit and discuss their differences without resorting to name calling, or refusing to listen to what another person had to say, or telling someone they were wrong just because they didn’t agree with one’s own beliefs and opinions. I mourn for the death of civility and manners.

People seem to be so polarized that they won’t read, or listen to, a different point of view. Is it the proliferation of talk radio? Is it the fact that anyone can post on a web site and gain a following? Is it because the political arena has become so mean and nasty? Is it because the far right and the far left are gaining most of the attention?

I don’t have the answers. All I know is that things are so twisted that it’s impossible to have a rational conversation about much of anything any more. People are angry, and rightfully so, but I think a lot of the anger is being misdirected. And there are people out there who are taking advantage of the anger by directing their followers to hate anybody who disagrees with them. Why?

Religion is also playing a big part in the hate and anger. For example, in a few communities where Muslims have been living for years, the townspeople are up in arms because they want to build a new mosque. I don’t know a lot about Islam, but I do know that it, like Christianity or Judaism, can be perverted into extremism. There are people of all faiths who will take to the extremes, or focus on only one part of their religion’s sacred text to justify what they do. Should we hate all Baptists because Fred Phelps is an extremist? Should we hate all Muslims because a few hate us? Should we hate all Jews because Jesus was spurned by them? We live in a country where we are free to practice any religion or none, so why are we against all non-Christians?

I think much of the hate comes from ignorance of what we hate; and it comes from misguided people whipping others into a frenzy; the mob mentality, if you will.

I don’t remember hearing hate taught in Church when I was growing up. I don’t remember hate being taught in Sunday School. I do remember being taught to love all of God’s children, whether they were Christian or not. Where did that go?