In the last couple of years, the discussion of bigotry has become very prevalent…bigotry being defined as anyone that doesn’t like a person or group of people because of a particular trait that they have in common. The trait can be anything but the most commonly associated trait with bigotry seems to be skin color. Many times, bigotry is associated with religious beliefs or lifestyles as well…not liking Christians, Muslims, “hippies,” or homosexuals simply based on those particular identifying characteristics. The thing that I find the most interesting in this discussion is this ubiquitous statement that keeps popping up: “children aren’t born with hate…it has to be taught.”
As I have considered this statement…I have come to believe something…I believe this entire line of reasoning is a huge part of the problem…
When I was a child I remember making friends with a young man at school. As we began to become more and more acquainted, he eventually invited me over to his house to spend the night. I went over and met his family and then…well…things got uncomfortable for me. Nothing bad happened…it was just that they were much different than I was. Their family dynamic was much different. Things they held to be important and ways they interacted…perhaps even their clothing choices…all of it…I didn’t like it. I didn’t act any differently at the time. I enjoyed my stay and we played and then one of my parents picked me up the next day. I got in the car and they asked me if I had fun. I said, “It was okay, but I don’t think I’ll come back.” Of course, that was quite alarming for a parent so they wanted to know what happened…and my honest response was that nothing happened…and truly nothing did. I was pressed on the issue and I think I said something along the lines of, “I just didn’t like being there…not sure about that family…they’re different.” I couldn’t really have told you what was going on but what I do remember is that I didn’t like them. “They” were different from me in some ways that I didn’t like…some ways that made me uncomfortable…yet not in any way that was inappropriate or threatening. Ultimately, I didn’t like them because I chose not to like them…and my choice wasn’t based on any actions or any offenses. It was based on simple characteristics of “them.”
The logic behind the idea that children aren’t born with bigotry in their heart is flawed because it denies a central truth that EVERY single person I’ve ever asked about it agrees upon. That truth is that the world we live in is a broken place…full of things that are wrong…call it what you want…many call it imperfection…Christians use a word that sometimes we don’t even know the meaning of: sin. We live in a “fallen” existence. Things go wrong for no apparent reason…and even the laws of physics have accepted this reality. With that being said…we need to address the problem of the human heart. The problem with the human heart is seen in the fact that children at a very young age will not dislike each other for skin color or anything else of the like. However, as they grow older…they will begin to exhibit human fallenness in these exact ways. We will choose to dislike each other for any reason we can find. Hair color…skin color…right-handed…left-handed…tall…short…and the list goes on and on.
Here’s the truth: Humanity has inherent darkness and we’ve got to face that reality.
I will agree that certain forms of prejudice have been taught…but having the tendency for it…well…unfortunately that’s part of being human. We may be taught at a young age not to like certain people due to skin color…but the truth is that if we weren’t taught to do that…we would simply begin to dislike people for other reasons.
Humanity is born with sin…or brokenness…or imperfection…whatever you wish to call it. People don’t have to be taught to do bad things. We never had to teach our children to rebel or to be selfish.
The reason this is important is that in our society we seem to think that if we simply don’t teach our children to be prejudiced then they won’t be. That’s a silly notion that time has proven untrue. We must not teach prejudice, but we must also go a step further and look for the symptoms of it in our children and teach them that this is part of our fallenness. We’ve got to be vigilant and intentional…and most of all…if we’re truly going to get anywhere…we must stop thinking that humanity is good until taught to be bad.
I’m a bigot and God is always helping me to see that…and I see new areas all the time that are areas of prejudice in my life. It has nothing to do with a flag, and it has nothing to do with a religion. It’s simply because I’m broken…
It can only change when I embrace the truth…reality…and stop trying to fix the wrong problem. In my life, I can testify to the absolute reality that the only way I have experienced any true change regarding my love for my fellow man has been through the working of my living Savior. Yes. I’m that weak. And I’m okay with that. If I’m a fool, then I’m okay with that as well. All I know is that He’s the only One that has repeatedly spoken into my soul the truth that all people…of all colors…of all lifestyles…of all religions…of the entire world…are made in His Image…and need to know of His love for them.
All of us are bigots…even those of us that can’t stand bigots…how many of us are willing to humble ourselves and face that reality…so we can then begin to change…
*Image taken from: http://www.thecommentator.com/system/articles/inner_pictures/000/005/112/original/Bigots.jpg?1406209565