Pastor, Author, and Theologian John Piper sent out an e-mail today to his mailing list titled Stereotypes, Generalizations, and Racism. In light of the hateful rhetoric so popular today in some circles, particularly in regard to other nationalities and/or religions, it would benefit all of us to read Piper’s exhortations on this issue.
One of his points is “Christians should use generalizations justly and lovingly to form true and helpful judgments about people and life.” After quoting Matthew 7:12 (So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.) and defining generalizations, Piper says this:
So the tough question is: When is a generalization about a group racist? I am using the word racist as something sinful, and the following answers move toward a definition. The following uses of generalization would be wrong (racist):
- When you want a person to fit a negative generalization that you have formed about a group (even if the generalization statistically is true).
- When you assume that a statistically true negative generalization is true of a particular person in the face of individual evidence to the contrary.
- When you treat all the members of a group as if all must be characterized by a negative generalization.
- When you speak disparagingly of an entire group on the basis of a negative generalization without any regard for those in the group who don’t fit the generalization. Or: When you speak negatively of a group based on a generalization without giving any evidence that you acknowledge and appreciate the exceptions. (I assume that Jesus’ generalizations about the Pharisees [Matthew 23] and Paul’s generalization about the Cretans [Titus 1:12] are not sinful because they did have such regard and did appreciate the exceptions.)
Implication for Christians: While realizing that life is not livable without generalizations, beware that pride does not lead you to use statistical generalizations in loving ways.
Read the rest of Piper’s thoughts on this issue here.