The prejudice of me

I’m not one who can evaluate anything while it’s going on; not until I’ve had some time to look back on it. And what I mean by evaluating the thing I’m looking back on is putting it into words.

This past year I’ve had something going on, and a lot of related somethings, and there are still a billion more somethings I can glimpse up ahead. So it’s difficult to put any of it into words. But some of the somethings are in hindsight coming clearer into focus. Thus another stab at vocabulariness.

One of the Orthodox prayers includes this phrase: “Dispel the prejudice of the nations.” When I take time to reflect, those words blow me away. What an amazing thing to ask for. Of course it’s impossible. An impossibility for men, for the human race, the fleshly nature. But, wow, wouldn’t it be something? What if…

(I’ll insert here a thought I had last month or thereabouts regarding prayer. Praying in the Orthodox Christian context has led me to conclude that, perhaps, prayer is simply speaking truth and asking for a blessing. This fits what I have seen in the past, as I was being tutored in how to learn ultimate concepts. This fits what I now see, hear, handle, breathe, and speak. It’s the pattern in Orthodoxy; it is how you pray. Scripture is woven throughout Orthodox prayers, as it is within the services. Also the New Testament, according to Orthodoxy, is sprinkled with earliest prayers — benedictions and so on — of the Church.)

Back to the question I started above. What if prejudice could be dispelled?  What I’ve seen so far regarding prejudice, as it's dawning on me these days, is that prejudice doesn’t come down to me from lofty, political positions. It doesn’t seep over to me, either, from small-minded family traditions in backwoods communities. The prejudice I need to have dispelled comes from within myself.

It involves assumptions. Maybe assumptions are the bricks that stack themselves precisely, solidly, into barracks of prejudice. Yet assumptions aren’t the evil deal. The evil comes from my choices to remain blind and asleep. This is where Jesus’s words can become wrecking balls, or a surgeon’s blade. Pain is the result (at least for a space in the commencement of healing). Fortunately, Jesus only seems to wish to wreck the wrong-headed assumptions of men, rather than to crush the personalities of people; the nature of persons.

It takes travel to another land to grasp the ephemeral possibility of my own prejudice. It would require immersion in another culture to begin to believe heretofore unknown things. Relatedly, I have surprised myself by saying, “Oh. Jesus wasn’t an American.” Duh.

People, of course, being themselves everywhere, salt and pepper one another with prejudice, then gobble one another up; this has happened throughout Church history, on every side, in every quadrant. But, even so, I am unable anymore to escape my prejudice, that now I think I held in the past when I believed this statement someone else has made: “The history of Christianity is the history of a steady drift away from the gospel message of Jesus.” (There is a context for this statement; it’s a good, loving, well-meant context.)

I want to speak the truth and ask for a blessing. I want to continue to learn, in honesty, and from the most original sources.

The church denomination I grew up in, which good-naturedly hoped to eliminate confusing traditions of men about God, has a history dating from the 1800s. That same century brought us The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and The Watchtower Society, both groups containing folks weary of what sounded, from man’s traditions, like nonsense about God. That same century some Roman Catholics decided that their Pope was infallible and that the Virgin Mary was immaculately conceived.

Three hundred years before them, in response to horrendous gobblings by powerful people, bloodshed that lasted a century and more commenced in the name and cause of Reformation. All of these people responded to the reality of error being in their midst. Perhaps they, like myself, were prejudiced against the idea that many Christians have been sundered from the original gathering of the disciples. Not, per se, from certain objects or phrases or practices, but from the meaning. From the apostolic kernel of truth. From sound doctrine given by Jesus and maintained via the work of the Holy Spirit.

(The Reformers eliminated books of Scripture, in a twist, maybe, on the Pharisees’ habit of adding more and more practice so as to narrow their chances of error. They longed, as I have longed, to master the truth. To say, there. I’m done. I’ve got it. Here you go.)