Stereotypes, Prejudice and Other Judgments

“Judge not that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Matthew 7:1,2).
The late afternoons are a favorite time for the staff and students of Khulna Bible College to sit in the lawn and on the concrete benches by our pond and enjoy a cool, relaxing time of day. It is also the time for the big fruit bats to come in and roost in the tree overhanging the pond. These are huge (for bats) with bodies the size of crows and wingspans close to twice as long. At first exposure they are rather ominous, mostly because of the reputation of bats.
You know, bats are predatory nocturnal mammals, prone to drink blood and carry disease, flying around at night, and because of their blindness, prone to bump into people and cause all kinds of nastiness. They are, if not evil, at least nasty, undesirable animals.
The truth is that the “badur” of Bangladesh are day-time feeders who sleep at night. They eat fruit, which hardly endears them to farmers and orchard-keepers, but certainly disqualifies them as “bloodthirsty predators.” They see very well, and seem to pose no threat to any other living animals. They are actually quite beautiful creatures, extremely graceful in flight. Most visitors to KBC soon come to look forward to seeing them at close range and enjoy them as campus residents.
We are prone to judge according to incomplete and often inaccurate information. Many of our opinions and prejudices are based on rumor, folklore, and first impression. Too often we do not delay judgment until we have all the facts, or even very many of them. Our attitude towards bats may not be too important, but when we use the same criteria for forming opinions about other people, the consequences are far more serious.
History is filled with horrible incidents of genocide, racial (and ethnic) discrimination and severe oppression, often contributed to by simple prejudice. There is often no real basis for the fears, hatreds, and bias we direct towards one another ?- just false judgments based on wrong information.
Jesus’ warning against judging others is far more than a simple religious precept. It addresses the causes of war and hatred as experienced over thousands of years of human history. If all would refrain from harsh judgment and bias against others, much wrong-doing would simply disappear.
To return to the animal world for illustration, remember those creatures that have been exterminated, or nearly so, because of fear and suspicion — from snakes, wolves, spiders and, yes, bats, to many other now-extinct species. In some cases there was some evidence or reason for fear and dislike, but rarely did the evidence justify the wholesale slaughter that resulted. In many other cases it was simply rumor and myth upon which our hatred was based. Our treatment of other people is often no better justified.
Let us be more disciplined and more Christ-like, holding our opinions until we have real reasons to form them. Let us also give our fellow humans some “benefit of the doubt,” allowing time and opportunity for truth to be found. And let us be merciful and charitable, knowing that we will receive these blessings in exactly the same proportion that we show them toward others.

Let us hold our opinions until we have real reason to form them.

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