Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 8, 1959
NUMBER 35, PAGE 8-9a

Prejudice: A Factor In Spiritual Retardation

Roger M. Hendricks, Dayton, Ohio

"My mind is made up; don't confuse me with facts." Perhaps this statement sounds amusing to you. But amusing and ridiculous as the statement may appear to be, it strikes at the very tap-root of much of the turmoil within the religious world generally and the Lord's church specifically. This statement can be summarized in just one word — prejudice!

Whether we appreciate being confronted with the fact or not, all men are prejudiced to varying degrees. This is true of Christians as well as non-Christians. Prejudice can be detected within the church as well as without. And so long as it dwells within the hearts of men, it will stand firmly as a mental barrier to learning, understanding, development, and unity. While it is true that the Master's kingdom has prospered through the years with prejudice being harbored within its framework, this development has been in spite of it rather than because of it. Prejudice contributes nothing to the development of Christian character but, rather, is an important factor involved in spiritual retardation.

The Term Defined

Webster defines the term under consideration as "preconceived judgment or opinion" Also, "an opinion . . . adverse to anything without just grounds ..." Prejudice is derived from the Latin words "Prae" (before and "judicium" (judgment). Actually, it refers to an attitude which is formed toward a specific object or situation before gaining a sufficient knowledge of the situation or object. Or, it can refer to an attitude which is formed toward a specific object or situation in disregard to the facts concerning the situation or object. It is certainly the precise opposite to attitudes which are founded on science and knowledge. Prejudice is the lazy and/or dishonest man's method of reaching a conclusion. Bias and preconception are words which are closely akin to prejudice.

Perhaps we should point out here that not all prejudices are harmful. Most people are prejudiced toward certain foods, colors, etc. Although such prejudices can become harmful, such do not generally result in any type of misfortune. On the other hand, some prejudices can be quite harmful. The prejudicial attitudes maintained by many toward the colored race has resulted in much harm of recent and not-so-recent years. Even more disastrous is the prejudicial attitudes held by many regarding the Bible. Many never examine the Word of God candidly. They have chosen to reject the Bible, before gaining a knowledge of the facts and all of their study of the Scriptures is with a view to exposition (as fraudulent).

Why Is Man Prejudiced?

The tiny neonate is born free of any prejudices. Prejudices are neither hereditary nor instinctive. There is nothing about man's biological makeup which transmits from parents to children specific prejudices. (It would be about as reasonable to argue that prejudices are inherited, however, as to argue that sins are hereditary.)

Man's prejudices come from many places. We are sure that we do not know of all of them. But we are able to name a few.

1. Many of our prejudices are derived from our early experiences and impressions. This is no less true of the spiritually young than of the physically young. Early experiences play a great role in molding our ideas, ideals, and attitudes. The babe in Christ who is born into the family of God is very similar to the new born child of the human family. If his "older" brothers and sisters are indifferent and lukewarm, he may tend to be indifferent and lukewarm also.

2. The culture in which we live contributes to our prejudices. This can have much bearing on our religious attitudes as well as social, economical, etc.

3. A third factor involved in forming our prejudices is our associates. Young people, especially, need to be warned about the dangers involved in choosing improper associates. Much wisdom and caution should be exercised in choosing our companions. We should be aware of the fact that our associates influence our formation of attitudes and beliefs. Here lies great danger! Christians, young and old, should take care lest they become mere parrots of other brethren's attitudes, beliefs, etc.

4. Another contributing factor involved in creating prejudices is that of false generalizations. Let us suppose that a professed Christian is guilty of cheating a non-Christian. The professed Christian we shall designate as "Mr. A"; the non-Christian as "Mr. B." A faithful child of God, "Mr. C," approaches "Mr. B" about visiting the assemblings. "Oh, no," says Mr. B, "Those people are all a bunch of thieves." Such is an example of false generalization. False generalization can be detected in the current disputes among brethren. Many of our more liberal-minded brethren are opposed to good strong gospel preaching. The preaching done by these brethren is usually a watered-down, weak-kneed type. But even though this be true, I cannot properly conclude that all of our liberal-minded brethren are like this. Many of us have been labeled with the unsavory epithet of "Sommerite." What is the reason for this? We believe that such is due, in part, to the process of false generalization.

It seems to me that, of these causative factors enumerated, associates and false generalizations are the most prevalent forces producing prejudices within the church (especially as regards current controversies). The minds of many brethren have become prejudiced by these two forces.

Prejudice Within The Church?

Unlike some undesirable traits, prejudice is almost impossible to hide. No matter how hard one trys to cover his prejudice, it continues to evince itself in various ways. Sometimes it can be detected in one's speech; his actions; his very looks or facial expressions. Sometimes the best method of revealing prejudice is by asking questions of the individual suspected of such.

Why do we oppose the use of mechanical instrumental music in worship? Can we give intelligent and valid reasons for such opposition? Many cannot! They are prejudiced! True, their prejudice in this case leans toward truth. But when man relies upon his prejudices rather than upon facts, he is far more likely to err than when he reaches a decision based upon an examination of facts. Christians accept the Bible as being the Word of Almighty God. Why? Is it because we have investigated the facts? Remember that, although prejudice will many times lead us in the paths of truth and light, it more often will lead in the pathways of error and darkness.

Why do some oppose the church support of the human benevolent institutions "among us"? Why do some endorse such? Can we actually give valid reasons? Why are some preachers classified by others as "hobby riders," "antis," etc.? Are they truly such or are we so prejudiced against them that we so label them? Why are others denominated "digressives," "modernists," etc.? Are they really digressives and modernists or are we merely allowing our prejudices to manifest themselves? (This is not to deny the existence of such in the church but is designed to cause each of us to examine the facts before applying such appellations.)

Whom Does Prejudice Affect?

1. The victim, if the object be a person. He may become bitter or disillusioned. This usually results in aggressiveness. This has happened of recent years in the church. Perhaps he will adopt a policy of appeasement which could result in a compromise or complete rejection of his convictions. He may make an insincere "confession" of his "errors." The victim may be lead to really accept what is said about him. Then, even though such is not true, he begins an attempt to remedy such.

2. The subject, one who is prejudiced, is also affected. His bias blinds him to truth. Real solutions to problems become practically impossible. We believe this to be the reason why no amicable solution to present problems confronting the church can be decided upon. Also, the subject of prejudice is hindered from development. His growth is retarded.

3. Others are affected. No man lives completely alone. This being true, we see that the object and subject of prejudice are not the only ones affected by it. Others who come in contact with the situation are influenced. One prejudiced mind can produce hundreds, even thousands, of other prejudiced minds. Thus, we need to realize that our prejudices can result in harm to all who come in contact with us in any way.

What Can Be Done?

Prejudices can be changed, reduced, and even completely eradicated. But such cannot be accomplished without sincere and diligent effort. Let each individual consider the following outline:

1. Recognize that all have prejudices.

2. Desire to rid self of all harmful prejudices.

3. Recognize one's own harmful prejudices. Make a clear distinction between prejudice and decisions based on carefully considered facts.

4. Attempt to eradicate or, at least, reduce our prejudices. This can be accomplished by arming ourselves with facts. But be sure not to disregard the facts. Truth is of little or no value if disregarded!

5. Until our prejudices have been removed, refuse to act on them.

6. Strive to influence your associates to war against their prejudices.

"Prejudices are one of the most obstinate barriers blocking attempts to cope with... problems." There is far too much of it within the church. It can be destroyed but we are the ones who must bring about the destruction.