The Healing of Prejudice
Prejudice is a two-edged sword, cutting both giver and receiver. Often we try to soothe the wounds of prejudice by being more fiercely loyal to our own people – expecting the protection of the group in exchange for our loyalty. But loyalty to people, instead of to God, is what incites prejudice in the first place. Even people who don’t actively participate in violent acts support those deeds by their silent loyalty, because loyalty to people or institutions forces us to say “We’re better than they are. They don’t deserve to share in the good.”
I have vivid childhood memories of remarks by adults around me, of the slang terms describing different ethnic and religious groups, or people who migrated to California in search of opportunity. Implicit in these ugly monikers were judgments: greedy, ignorant, corrupt, lazy, good-for-nothing. Being born into one group meant stature and respect, while being born into another group meant shame and worthlessness. Now I know in my heart that no one ever starts out wanting to be wrong. But sometimes we pick up the wrong ideas as we go along. From what I heard as a child, I picked up some nasty prejudices. But they lay beneath my awareness, until events forced them to the surface.
I was a working professional, looking forward to working with someone whom I had grown to respect very much. I had admired this woman for her tireless good work and her ability to express herself so beautifully with the written word. We had never met or communicated except by writing. I had a lovely image of her. Then, some weeks before our first meeting, I had a chance to see her on a television broadcast.
Seeing the woman and hearing her speak, I suddenly attached to her all of the ugly beliefs I had learned as a child. Here was someone whose works and strength of character I respected and admired deeply. I wanted very much to be like her. Yet there was a hideous disdain welling up in me. I had been taught to react this way; to a person I respected and loved more than anyone in the world. I was ashamed.
The Bible tells us that each individual is God’s honored offspring. Nothing can take away God’s love and acceptance and respect. Nothing. God’s love is impartial and indivisible. God could never have created the idea of gradations of respect. It was not God’s idea that some should feel a great deal of support and closeness and others should feel cut off from love.
This enabled me to detach myself from the prejudice that had become ingrained in my attitude. I knew I could be healed. I saw that I needed a right sense of allegiance and respect.
The prophet Isaiah spoke of the qualities of the Messiah, or Christ, this way, “. . . he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears.” (Isa 11:3) If I, on the other hand, judged people for how they looked or sounded, I was not honoring God and God’s offspring.
Christ Jesus knew with certainty that God was the only Father and Mother anyone ever had, and the only one worthy of allegiance. Jesus loved God perfectly and he loved his neighbor as himself. He had a pure, spiritual understanding of how God values the real man as His full, perfect likeness. Jesus’ loyalty allowed him to acknowledge only what God truly made. He rebuked all evil as baseless and not of God. This was how he honored God, with this perfect, holy thought that brought healing and redemption.
The Christ, Truth is what speaks to us of our real natures and this is the only thing we can really honor in ourselves and others. This is the only true judgment we undergo. Jesus once said, “… the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.” (John 5:22, 23)
God did not intend for us to grade each by outward appearances, and then give honor, or withhold it. That would be judging wrongly. Jesus instead teaches us, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” (John 7:24) All my life I had been drawing lines of distinction, saying, “Yes, I can love and respect you . . . but not you, because . . . .” I saw that I had to honor the truth of being about each individual. I had to start being loyal to God.
Instead of categorizing and grading people, I was to see the reality of God’s spiritual creation, where there is only one version of man. This man is the image and likeness of God. This man is ever pure and at the point of perfection. I realized I was not to judge anyone by what they looked like or how they spoke, by their race, gender, class. I was instead to see that they reflect the perfect beauty of Love, that the sound they make is the sweet music of God’s communication, which is spiritual.
The woman whom I admired so much expressed grace and beauty in her writing. I learned to recognize that same loveliness in her spoken expression. I did that by praying to understand that grace and beauty are spiritual qualities that each individual expresses. This helped me to see beyond physical appearance to the loveliness that’s spiritual. I found I could “judge righteous judgment.”
I have learned something else through my prayer. When I see injustices being done by one group against another, I know I have two choices. I can feel outrage and choose a side to support. Or I can be loyal to God and judge righteously. I can know that there is one side, really; it’s God’s side and we are all on that side. The spiritual reality of any situation is that there is no underdog and no one whose dignity has been trampled or abused. No one has a need to control or belittle. God is Love, and every individual of God’s creating knows and feels that love, always.
The one perfect and holy allegiance we all have is to the heart of divine Love. God values us and protects us forever. Because the Christly perception is inherent in each of us, we can really only see each other as God sees us.
Isaiah saw the end of hurtful prejudices. He saw us all seeing each other as God sees us. He wrote, “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (Isa. 11:9)
We can take the necessary footsteps to shift our loyalty to God alone. Being loyal as Jesus was loyal is the most powerful thing we can do to lift the burden of wrong.