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MOMENTS WITH THE MINISTER: What is prejudice?

By Homer McQueen
Special to the Herald Democrat
Homer McQueen

Prejudice is a word associated with politically incorrect attitudes and behaviors.  If we would be honest, we must all confess personal prejudices.  This is because our minds are wired for prejudice as a mental shortcut for making decisions, sometimes because the facts are not available, sometimes because we do not have the wisdom to use the facts that are available.  This is one of the consequences of the original sin, a tendency that must be overcome if we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, as Christ commanded.

   My wife and I frequently drove through a town that had a reputation of extreme racism, celebrated through much of the twentieth century with a banner that hung over its Main Street that read “...the blackest land, the whitest people.  We were not white; so, if we had to stop there, it would be for no more than a few minutes.  This time, our car broke down.  It was late in the day; and, we did not know where to turn for help.

   We coasted into a convenience store parking lot.  I set the emergency brake and went into the store to explain why the car might be there overnight.

  The manager was a young white man who assured me that he knew someone who could tow the car and repair it. He invited us to make ourselves comfortable at one of the booths.  Then, he told his staff to give us whatever we needed at no charge.  We nervously limited our request to a cup of water. 

   The car was towed away, and we began to imagine whether we would be charged an exorbitant price to reclaim our freedom, or be taken into the woods and lynched.  A couple of hours later, the black mechanic returned with our car and collected a reasonable fee.  And, we were on our way.

   The next time we were passing through that town, we deliberately stopped at the convenience store.  It apparently had changed ownership, and the booths were gone.  But, the actions of the people we had encountered on our last trip had been sufficient to change our perception of the town, of people in general, and of ourselves.

   If you are going through life with a holier-than-thou attitude, do not be surprised if God humbles you.  He does that because He loves you, and He loves the people whose lives you impact.

   Judge nothing before the appropriate time, when God will bring to light what is hidden in the darkness.  It is inappropriate to judge a person by the misdeeds of someone to whom he is demographically related.  Even the perpetrator may have had a change of heart.  After all, the “whitest people” sign had been removed years ago.

   I have never seen society as polarized as we are now.  Loving our neighbor is not just nice; it could be life-saving.  As I write this piece, storekeepers are boarding windows; law enforcement agencies are on high alert; citizens are stocking up on ammunition.

   We may or may not know the winner of the election this week; but, our government officials, whoever they are, are supposed to represent the needs of the people.  We are told to pray for our rulers.  We should also pray for ourselves, that the Lord will humble us to listen to His voice.  If we get past blue or red, Democrat or Republican, socialist or capitalist, and look to Jesus for wisdom,  Second Chronicles 7:14 says, God will make America great.

Homer McQueen serves as assistant pastor of Mt. Carmel Church of God in Christ, secretary at In His Shadow Outreach Ministries, chaplain for the Sherman District Parole Office, ministry volunteer for the Texas Youth Commission and Texas Department of Criminal Justice, a part-time pharmacist, and a full-time husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.