No Room for Bias

Read James 2:1-13

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged” (Matthew 7:1-2 NLT).

I have always been a huge American Football fan. For my American readers, you might be wondering why I didn’t just say football; however, truth be told, the majority of the world calls soccer, “Football”. More truth coming at you, Soccer is far more “foot” ball than American Football, which is more or less Handball with a little foot action.

Of course, there can be no greater game to watch for an NFL fan than the Super Bowl! The whole season comes down to the two best teams in the NFL, going head-to-head in an all out battle on the football field. What’s more, the game is filled with entertainment galore. From patriotic songs, to the USA National Anthem, to the Half-Time show, there is much to get excited about for sports fanns and music fans alike.

In Super Bowl LVI, the Half Time show gained extra attention as West Coast OGs (Original Gangstas) Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, 50 Cent, Kendrick Lamar, and Eminem took the stage. I am fully aware that some who read this may not know, let alone have heard, these artists before, so I will explain why there was extra attention. These artists are some of the most influential hip hop and rap artists of all time and, for the first time in NFL Super Bowl History, the entire Half Time Show was centered on black, inner city, hip hop and urban culture and music.

Much of the attention was good; however, with good attention always comes the bad. First, these rappers made their names by expressing their reality in the inner city. All of them except for Eminem are black people from the inner-city neighborhoods of Compton, Long Beach, Oakland and other places. Eminem, on the other hand, was a white kid who grew up in the “white trash” section of Detroit and spent his time hanging out and rap battling in black neighborhoods, until he was discovered by Dr. Dre.

So, these are people who had rough lives growing up and who ended up with the opportunity to rap and sing about the woes and hardships of inner-city life. In particular, these folks often rap and sing about gangbanging, pimping, drug dealing and other such inner-city realities. The language in their songs are often violent, hypersexual, and profanity-laden. Thus, some people, predominantly white people of Baby Boomer and older generations, found the music and the sexualized dancing to be offensive.

I saw Christians, especially, complain on social media about the sexual nature of the NFL performance. Honestly, I loved the performance and thought it to be profoundly family-friendly (relatively speaking) compared to the content that these artists typically sing/rap about. As for the sexual dancing and themes, they were far more tasteful than in previous years.

So, why the big brouhaha over the OGs performance? Because, in an era where the fight for racial justice and equity is righteously ramping up, it is noteworthy to see the pushback against black music and culture, especially coming from predominantly white people. These same people objected to Shakira’s sensual Brazilian dancing, and to Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction, yet were mysteriously silent during the half-naked Red Hot Chili Pepper’s performance, Lady Gaga’s revealing clothes or the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger romping around half-naked on stage.

Rather than revealing anything about the performers, each of whom are flawed, sinful individuals just like the rest of us, the complaints against performers of color and their culture reveal a bias that lies in the heart of the individuals complaining. Much of it is ignorance of course, meaning that they don’t know black culture apart from their own white culture and then everything is seen and judged unintentionally though the eyes of their own world view. Such people are ignorant of the issues that plague black and brown communities, and they are ignorant that not everyone has the same shot as they do.

Of course, there are manny forms of racism and some are far more explicit and transparent than others. In the case of bias, the individual may not harbor any hatred toward other cultures or races; however, they favor their own culture more than others. This leads people, especially people in the majority, to resist outside influences and to spread fear and misinformation for the sake of keeping such cultures at a distance.

In Christianity we are taught that there is NO ROOM FOR BIAS. In God’s eyes, we are all equal and God has commanded that we be equitable as well. Jesus Christ did not just come for a specific people, but for the WHOLE WORLD, and bias never leads us closer to sharing the love of Christ with others.

We are called to see people through God’s eyes, not through the eyes of the world or society. That means that before we can judge, we must see the big picture of who the people we are judging are. We need to see their hearts, their circumstances, their struggles, their successes, their hopes, their dreams…all of it. The same is true when we judge a culture. What this means that in order to judge we must BE GOD…and we are NOT.

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t call out bad morals and whatnot, but before we do we had better understand the best way to do so and to be very careful not to let our own biases inform our reasons or our words. In other words, if we are cool with white people strutting on stage, we might want to stay out of dissing people of color doing the same thing. God is watching, and consistency or lack thereof is noted, as Jesus rightly reminded us at the beginning of Matthew 7. Let us avoid bias and cling to our loving, equitable and merciful God.

There is NO ROOM FOR BIAS in the Christian life.

Lord, help me avoid my own biases and give me an ear to listen to and the heart to love people of other cultures than me. Amen.

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