The Face of Prejudice

by Rayola Kelley

One of the main injustices we hear much about in society is something called prejudice. But, what is prejudice? After all, in most cases it is associated with racial bias. However, prejudice has to do with the intention to injure or damage someone based on judgments. In other words, because you do not agree with someone about a moral, political or religious issues or practice does not make you prejudiced. It simply means you have a different value system. But, when you set out to deny someone of his or her basic right, due to nationality, status or gender, to function within a society in a constructive matter in regards to the quality of life, it is considered prejudice.

This prejudice can clearly be seen in issues such as whether a person based on race should be able to live in a certain neighborhood. Another example of prejudice is determining a person’s place in society based on his or her race, culture or gender, rather than their intelligence and abilities. We could go on, but prejudice is best described as oppression that strikes at the spirit, dignity and rights of a person to function, compete on equal footing, and be afforded the opportunities to prove his or her abilities without being stopped at the point of race, culture or gender.

The real issue of prejudice comes from a point of bias that has to do with a distortion of judgment. In other words, judgment that is perverted and incapable of operating in the realm of truth. Ultimately, such justice is prejudicial in its approach to a matter.

Most bias is related to a person’s race or religious preference. However, prejudice can be found in every arena of society. The reason for this is that wherever pride exists, prejudice is not far behind. We take pride in our nationalities, cultures, practices, states, cities, education, status, religion, and gender. For example, the other night, I was talking to a man from Boston. We were talking about the word “smart.” Jokingly, he stated that no one could say the word “smart” in the right way except a Bostonian. Sometimes it is amazing as to what people can take pride in, allowing such pride to become a breeding ground for harsh judgments.

Whenever we take pride in a matter, we can become superior. In this superiority, we will judge from the basis of accomplishments, differences and personal standards. It is from this platform that bias can take root. Sadly, we will justify and condone it as being justifiable.

Over the years, I have discovered such bias in my own perspective as well as personally tasted the bitterness of it. I had to guard my heart as I experienced prejudice in the Church Jesus died for.

Prejudice is something that is contrary to the spirit and truth of real Christianity. It does not find its basis in differences, but in wrong attitudes. Sadly, the wrong attitude that justifies prejudice can run rampant among Christians if it is not properly dealt with by godly examples and Scriptural teachings. As a result, I will deal with this subject from two different perspectives. The first perspective has to do with how prejudice actually gains a foothold in a person’s perception. The second perspective will entail God’s attitude towards such bias.

There are three avenues in which prejudice works within man’s perspective. They are ignorance, fear and superiority.

I never saw myself as having any real prejudice. However, when I was in the military, a seminar on prejudice clearly revealed prejudice existed in my way of thinking. It was during this time that I was exposed to the different faces of prejudice. One of the greatest faces of this injustice is that prejudice hides behind prejudice. In fact, those who often chant the injustices of prejudice sometimes harbor greater prejudice. For example, in the military seminar, we were versed on how we were to address African Americans, but the African Americans were never confronted about their attitude. I had an innocent encounter with an angry African American who promptly called me a “honky.” This is where I learned that if one does not guard his or her heart, prejudice will serve as a breeding ground for greater prejudices.

In my struggle with my prejudice, I discovered that it operated from the basis of ignorance. In other words, I was ignorant that I had any such prejudice. I never realized that associations were often made according to race or culture. For example, if I witnessed or encountered a problem with someone of a different race or culture, I associated the problem to their difference, rather than the fact that they were acting according to the fallen human race. Granted, culture can influence attitudes and practices, but people are people no matter their race, culture or influence. The reality of all people is that the Adamic disposition exists in every person, regardless of his or her race, culture and gender (Romans 5:12-15).

The next avenue in which prejudice operates is fear. We fear what we do not understand. This often points to the unknown. We do not know where a matter or situation will lead us. If people have a different culture or custom, we may fear such differences. This fear will cause a biased viewpoint or prejudice to take root. In fact, fear tactics are an effective tool in spreading prejudice. For example, the Jews have been referred to as Christ-killers. They have been accused of various international conspiracies over the years. This has caused fear in many people’s hearts that quickly escalates into anger, hatred and persecution.

Most fear operates from the basis of ignorance, which becomes a source of speculations and deception. First of all, the Jews did not kill Jesus. Jesus stated that no man would take His life from Him, rather He would lay it down on our behalf (John 10:18). Notice how this prejudice directed towards the Jews is based on a lie, but it has caused destruction and judgment.

The final arena of prejudice is hatred. Hatred finds its basis in fear, anger and superiority. Hate must always have a target and a reason. However, we often hate what we cannot control and what will not bow down and serve our logic and our way of thinking. In fact, if something dares to run contrary to our way of thinking, being and acting, we think it to be rude or stupid. Rudeness is considered a point of disrespect, and stupidity is considered a point of inferiority. Bitterness and resentment that are expressed in hatred are often the response to such rudeness or stupidity. In most cases, the “so-called” rudeness and stupidity are associated with a person’s differences, rather than the personal heart attitude of the one who has become offended (1 Peter 4:8).

Scripture shows us that ignorance is a matter of superstition, due to the fact that people do not know the real character of God (Acts 17:22-31; Romans 10:2-3). As Hosea 4:6tells us, people will perish in such ignorance.

Fear is a form of unbelief that ends in worship. People bow down to fear as it robs them of power to overcome, of love that will cast it out, and of a sound mind that is able to come to just conclusions (2 Timothy 1:7; James 1:8; 1 John 4:17-19).

Hatred simply means a person is walking in complete darkness. This individual has no idea where he or she is going because of spiritual blindness. However, such people operate in lies because they refuse to face their own hatred. They possess a perverted sense of life and will prove to be a murderer at heart. Hatred is a manifestation of Satan, and implies people who possess it are devoid of the Son of God and His gift of eternal life (1 John 2:8-11; 3:8-18; 4:20-21).

How does God look at prejudice? Acts 10:34-35 sets up the premise in which God regards all people: “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God isno respecter of persons. But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”  (Emphasis added.)

God does not possess any prejudices. He confirmed this in 1 Samuel 16:7 after Samuel considered the appearance of Eliab and thought him to be the next king. The Lord put Samuel’s judgment in this perspective: “Look not on the countenance, or on the height of his stature, because I have refused him; for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.”

Clearly, people judge the outward appearance of man, concluding that a person’s character, worth or purpose is determined by their race, culture or gender, rather than his or her heart attitude. God proves this to be man’s way of judging, but it is superficial and biased. God looks on the heart of people, for this is what determines a person’s character and spiritual condition. The Apostle Paul brings this out in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29. God chooses the foolish, weak, base, and the despised things of this world. Such choices run contrary to the world’s idea of who should be exalted. It should be those who appear noble, mighty and capable of accomplishing great feats. However, God will not share His glory with such people. He alone will receive the just glory He deserves (1 Corinthians 1:29-31).

The Apostle Paul made this statement in Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” Note, in God’s kingdom, He does not make distinction between nationalities, status or gender. If God made such a distinction, He would be biased. After all, you cannot blame a person for being born in Africa or Mexico, enslaved to poverty, or being male or female. For God to hold anyone responsible for that which is beyond his or her control would make Him unfair.

However, this is what many people do. They unfairly hold people responsible for being born in the wrong place, in a particular social class and with the wrong gender. It is as though they calculate that they must be special because they were born in America, into what is considered a more honorable class, and of course, if they are very special, they are born male. This arrogance is in line with the New Age belief of Karma, which believes people’s present state is the product of their past life. In short, people have bad lives because of their bad karma from their previous life. Obviously, this belief is not in line with the Spirit and truth of God’s character or Word. What such people forget is that those who have been entrusted with much, such as those who are born in America and have benefited from the privileges of this nation, have a greater responsibility to be good stewards and godly in how they handle such blessings (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 16:10-12).

God makes people responsible for the choices they make in their particular situations, not for that which is beyond their control. Granted, we are each being tested in how we handle our particular situation, but God is not punishing us because those who are biased about such matters do not consider us the “right” nationality, color, status, or gender.

The Apostle Paul made this statement: “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us (Ephesians 2:12-14) If there is any partition or wall of prejudice separating believers, it exists in the heart of Christians and not in the order, plan or will of God. It is time the Church Jesus died for considers their attitude in light of God’s character and His Words. Prejudice in any arena must be exposed, considered wicked, and repented of by those who harbor, maintain or condone it in their own attitude. The partitions need to come down so that the Body of Christ can stand distinct in attitude, practices and lifestyles in the midst of this dark, chaotic, sinful world.