A few weeks ago I was told that I am a bigot. I was told this by a person who was responding to a newspaper article which I had linked to my Facebook page. I have never met my critic, and he has never met me.
I suppose that there are two kinds of bigots.
There are those who have never engaged with or encountered the persons or ideas which they scorn. These bigots have simply absorbed the atmosphere of bigotry in which they live – home, work, church, community, and have never questioned what they have learned. Perhaps this is “a bigotry of ignorance” – rooted in the lack of the ability or desire to challenge what has been learned “by osmosis”, so to speak.
Then there are those who know that there is no evidence to support their bigoted views, and indeed there is much evidence against their beliefs, but choose to hold on to them “come what may”. We could call this “a bigotry of choice”.
As you might imagine, I did not do cartwheels when I was pegged as a bigot.
But I know that I can be racially prejudiced.
That’s an easy confession to make, and it is much more honest that all the wailings of “but I am not racist” which arise as various stars, celebrities, sports men/women, politicians make their public mea culpas, after various “slips of the tongue”.
I can be, have been, and sometimes am racially prejudiced.
And in that “confession” there is hope.
For as I face my prejudices and neither ignore or deny them, I am (by the faith of Jesus) moved into encounter with that “other” about which I am prejudiced.
The encounter with the “other” is scary and always difficult. But it is also liberating and life giving.
It liberates my sight, so that I can begin to see the world with eyes other than my own.
It liberates my mind, so that I can begin to think thoughts that are not original to me.
It liberates my actions, so that I can begin to act with those who are entirely unlike me - and allow them to “act” upon me.
Most of all, it liberates my soul from its lonely and isolating cell, into the joy of dancing new steps, and singing new songs.