I’ve bumped into the notion of assumptions a lot lately. Paul Merrill wrote about chairs. Dick Foth talked about categories. And whenever I encounter the same idea a bunch of times, I figure perhaps God’s trying to get my attention.
What I assume about you tells me a little about the manner in which I view the world. It tells me something about the category into which I place you and about my laziness, because it’s easier to simply assume you’re like all the people who share the single characteristic I used to categorize you.
People who use wheelchairs-they’re helpless, right? Or perhaps they should all be able to ride a handcycle 1500 miles?
What I assume about you reveals a lot about me, but absolutely nothing about you.
I wrote about this a while back (The Problem Of Them). I called it otherizing: the process of discerning and accentuating differences between people so it’s apparent one group is clearly not like us.
Categorizing, otherizing, whatever we call it, it’s the first step to dehumanizing individuals so we can discount them.
Jesus said, “Love your neighbor.” One person at a time. I love Dick Foth’s suggestion for avoiding the tendency to otherize.
The next time someone asks, “What do you think about those people?” try this simple response:
# # #
I have a dear friend who’s a committed atheist. Because I write a lot about my faith, I think he wonders if I view him as one of the others.
I hope he knows that when I think of him I never think of a category. I always think of an individual about whom I care a great deal.
People aren’t their ideas, languages, skin colors, cultures, accomplishments, mistakes, beliefs, bank accounts, or nationalities. Jesus sees none of those. When He’s asked what He thinks of all those categories that matter so much to us, He smiles and looks at individuals.
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