V. The Healing of Bias

This is the final post on this subject. We have stated that bias is a normal consequence of human finitude. This statement contradicts all those who teach "values training" in government and corporate seminars. What they are really doing is imposing their values on those subject to them. It is a form of bullying against those who lack the power of the presenters, because there are sanctions against those who object to the "training." As such, all forms of diversity training need to be considered as an elementary form of brainwashing. The goal is conformity to the group, or more accurately, to the will of the Leader. Group values predominate over personal beliefs. One is required to attend, to participate, and to sign a document of agreement, and so on. Personal freedoms are subject to the permission of the corporate or governmental entity.

But we are not concerned here with the political resolution of bias through intimidation, coercion and cooption. We have stated that bias is God-ordained, in that it is part of the natural condition of mankind. We have even pointed out examples of Jesus' expression of ethnic and gender bias. Now we turn to the Biblical means of resolving bias.

While it is true that the natural man is subject to bias, and always will be, the Christian is called to live in a higher dimension. Bias is our starting point, but not our destination. The originating impulse of the Gospel was to bring into the circle the very people whom the old regime excluded as inferior -- Gentiles, mixed-blood, lepers, women.

"for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise" Gal 3:27-29.

Jesus "graduated" from the role of national Messiah to universal Savior by his death on the cross. This transition is shown most clearly just before his ascension: he who had once told the disciples not to go preach to the Samaritans now launched the worldwide missionary task:

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations..."

And Paul, the repentant segregationist, declared "we have received the ministry of reconciliation." Christ "has broken down the dividing wall of hostility" (Eph 2:14).

The overcoming of bias in Christianity has nothing to do with cultural relativity, diversity, or mutual tolerance. Instead it is rooted in the death of Christ, which crucified the sin of man against God and removed his separation from God. It did the same in the human dimension for those who are "in Christ" -- crucifying the sins of injustice and ending the alienation of hostile groups. In the Cross, we see four things as regards prejudice and injustice: 1. "the wall" between humans is acknowledged as evil. 2. the divisions among mankind are condemned and put to death -- that is, the very principle of human rivalry and group competition. 3. the sins of bigoted attitudes and actions are forgiven through the shed blood. 4. a new principle of unity is established among previously alienated classes, and that is "oneness in Spirit," or being "one body." This new spiritual community supersedes and abolishes the old order of friction and hostility -- but only among fellow believers.

Note -- one element that the Cross does NOT solve is the problem of human finitude. As Paul reminds us, "we see through a glass darkly." Our perceptions, our experiences, our capacities, our knowledge are "in part," and all pass away -- except love. As long as there is finitude, there will be the problem of bias.

The primary demonstration and proof of the overcoming of sexual and racial alienation are the sacraments of Baptism and Communion. These are public signs to one another and to the unbelieving world of the reality of God's Kingdom on earth. It is in baptism that human hostility is put to death, and one is received into membership in God's family. It is in the sharing of the body and blood of Jesus that believers acknowledge their essential unity and equality, and the obliteration of all worldly categories of distinction and comparison. To subsequently allow division in the congregation along lines of gender or ethnicity is to spurn the sacrifice of Christ. Jesus explicitly warns his disciples about this spirit of rivalry and domination:

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave" (Mat 20:25-27).

This is an amazing verse in that it simultaneously expresses ethnic stereotypes (about Gentiles) and denounces the basic motivation of bigotry ("lord it over" another group). Again this shows -- bias is not bigotry. And instead of conquest and enslavement of the other party, the Spirit of Christ evokes an attitude of self-sacrifice and submission.

Ultimately, the social fact of bias cannot be overcome by legislative mandate on the part of educational and governmental regulators. Their actions are examples of "lording it over" that Jesus warns his followers not to practice. Bias is not overcome by coercion, but is sublimated when conflicting parties commit themselves to a greater whole. As we just quoted Paul:

"There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female,..."

Of course these categories still exist as ethnic, social and biological categories, but they dissolve in the transcendent reality of Christian faith:

"for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

It is in the apprehension of this oneness and its practical outworking in relationships that bias is overcome. The theological statement is not enough in itself. Just as bigotry must be actively demonstrated to be effective, so Christian unity must express itself in crossing boundaries. "The ministry of reconciliation" is given, not to those who just nod their heads at this Bible verse, but to those who actively build relationships on the basis of joint fellowship in Christ.