Sunday, February 18, 2007

Race, Stereotyping and Racism

Race relations is an issue - whether you're in the United States, Middle East or even Malaysia. It's an inescapable fact of increasing pluralistic communities that form the basis of modern urban life across the world.

As I've asserted in a prior post on Every Square Inch, how Christians think and respond to racism is strategic to contextualizing the gospel. Unfortunately, there are precious few voices that speak biblically and faithfully on this topic. Hence, we miss the opportunity to communicate the gospel as glorious good news to an area of life that "the world" cares deeply about but cannot fix.

One compelling, insightful voice is that of John Piper. In the article, Stereotypes, Generalizations and Racism, he offers three exhortations to Christians.
  • Christians should not simply reflect the morality of their era but the morality of the Bible.
  • Christians should not be guilty of stereotyping groups, recognizing that stereotyping is different from the just and loving use of generalizations
  • Christians should use generalizations justly and lovingly to form true and helpful judgments about people and life.
I think Piper's analysis, differentiating between generalizations and stereotyping is particularly helpful here. In his article, he defines generalization is the method by which we derive principles, laws and understand standard behavior. Generalization carries no moral or ethical component. On the other hand, he defines stereotyping as unjustified and uncharitable generalizations. He also goes on to define how uncharitable generalizations and stereotyping can lead us to racism.

How does this stack up against real life issues pertaining to race relations? In view of these exhortations, can racial profiling ever be justified?

Dave: Thanks Andre for a great and relevant topic. Looking at some churches in US, i realise how intentional they have integrated ethnic diversity in the worship service. Malaysians have a lot to learn.. Here are some recommended readings too on ethnic identity in Christ, racial harmony and interracial marriage, reconciliation

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