“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:43-48, NASB).
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:254, NASB)
THE INCREASINGLY COMMON PRACTICE OF EXHIBITING GROUP PREJUDICE
The intense hatred and divisiveness that is commonly seen whenever checking the news or conversing through social media is harrowing. Much of it seems driven by group prejudices towards various classes and ideologies. Regardless of our race, ethnicity, gender, social class, educational background, or ideological worldview, we’re all susceptible to prejudicial thought and behavior.
None of us are immune.
My current belief is that arrogance and ignorance are two prominent drivers for the adoption of many group prejudices—particularly ideological ones. Further, I believe that traditional and social media platforms function to fan the flames of prejudice within our society. The following will provide my rationale for these beliefs; concluding with strategic recommendations for combating group prejudice practices.
IDEOLOGICAL PREJUDICE: DIVISIVE ARROGANCE THAT ENCOURAGES IGNORANCE
As I’ve aged, and based on my experiences, I struggle to believe that any ideological worldview is completely correct. Conversely, I exhibit reservations when anyone claims that any ideological worldview to be completely incorrect. To me, it appears that many individuals are succumbing to what C.S. Lewis refers to as errors of opposite pairs:
“I feel a strong desire to tell you—and I expect you feel a strong desire to tell me—which of these two errors is worse. That is the devil getting at us. He always sends errors into the world in pairs—pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking about which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors. We have no other concern with that than either of them.”
Let’s consider Lewis’ error concept using American ideology for context. The chart below shares Gallup poll results for Americans’ self-identified ideology over the past 23 years. Directly beneath it, the most recent results are enlarged and presented along a spectrum.
In too many instances, it seems that those who associate as either conservative or liberal are unwilling to consider the merits of the other group’s positions. The visible resistance by these two groups to engage in thoughtful discourse with one another is promulgating serious intergroup hostilities. Why the resistance and hostility?
Ideological arrogance is likely a contributing factor. It occurs when individuals of a particular ideology believe that their decisions represent the irrefutable, best course of action. Often possessing high-cognitive ability, these individuals may rarely have others question their logic; thereby, encouraging them to eventually replace well-founded confidence with unnecessary—and at times, unfounded—cockiness. Those who stumble into this arrogance-driven mindset are prone, if not certain, to disregard alternative options that are constructed from any ideological underpinnings not their own. Their logic: Why consider alternatives when the best option has already been stated, right?
Outright disregard for alternative, ideological perspectives is likely to engender sensitivities among those individuals deeply identifying with them. If blatant disregard for their perspectives continue, their increasing frustration may boil over into contempt. Eventually, it’s likely those whose perspectives encounter such disregard from others will find it akin to personal disrespect. As these types of interactions become more common between individuals of certain ideological groups, irrepressible group prejudices may manifest. By always anticipating hostilities from others who profess certain ideological allegiances, they’re ensuring such outcomes through negatively positioned, self-fulfilling prophecies.
What About Moderates? Self-identified moderates may possess some perspectives that align with conservative thought, and other perspectives aligning with liberal thought. Therefore, moderates who share any conservative perspectives within a predominantly liberal environment are likely to be labeled “conservatives” and incur hostilities—and vice versa; considering each group’s prejudicial norms for the other.
While cultural norms now encourage individuals to voice their opinions, moderates may be more selective in how they communicate theirs. They may only share certain perspectives within those social environments which affirm them. This behavior, however, may unintentionally develop echo chambers within many social forums.
ECHO CHAMBERS: EMBRACED IGNORANCE THAT ENCOURAGES ARROGANCE
With approximately one-third of the United States population self-identifying as moderates, why do traditional and social media platforms seem so strongly positioned towards either liberal or conservative ideologies? Where are moderate voices to serve as—get this—moderators; facilitating discourse between the two ideological foils?
Chiefly, the concept of a moderate ideology is problematic. Those self-identifying as “moderates” represent many ideological groups, rather than any specific one. For instance, moderates may represent individuals who, in certain contexts, possess views that align with conservatism, while possessing other views that align with liberalism. In other words, moderates often represent an ideological mixed-bag of conservative and liberal predispositions. Self-identifying moderates may also include ideological “fence sitters” who generally possess non-committal predispositions. How can there exist a unified moderate “voice” when those who individually identify as being “moderate” do not possess any collective, ideological group identity?
With no collective identity, moderates are unable to maintain self-identities that align with their “moderate” group affiliation; whereas, conservatives and liberals tend to maintain self-identities that strongly-align to their respective group affiliations. This helps explain why media platforms turn into ideologically-charged echo chambers.
An echo chamber is an enclosed space for producing reverberation of sound. When referring to the term from a media socialization context, the following definition applies:
“an echo chamber is a metaphorical description of a situation in which information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by transmission and repetition inside an enclosed system” (Wikipedia, 2016).
Social identity theory suggests that individuals desire to maintain positive distinctiveness towards groups in which they self-identify (i.e.”ingroups”). Accordingly, conservatives and liberals would be expected to watch news sources that positively portray their respective, ideological ingroups. This explains why mass media outlets generally target conservative or liberal markets. Marketing towards these groups increases the likelihood of a highly-invested and loyal (see “ingroup favoritism“) viewership.
Based on the underlying assumptions of social identity theory, moderates may be less passionate about politics than their more ideologically-aligned counterparts. Inherently non-committal politically, moderates are more likely to consider several perspectives on an issue; regardless of their ideological underpinnings. Pertaining to news viewership, moderates would be expected to alternate between conservative and liberal news outlets based on:
- The current events or issues that are most salient to them, and
- Their ideological leanings relative to those events and issues
Basically, in their own pursuit for positive distinctiveness, self-identifying moderates will identify in that moment as either conservatives or liberals; depending on how they associate with the personally salient event or issue. Therefore, a reasonable argument could be made that when focusing on salient events or issues, individuals are either conservatives or liberals—even the moderates!
Echo Chambers Are Everywhere! While we’re exposed to thousands of messages daily, we continue to both acquire greater influence and control as to which messages we’re being exposed to. In the past, companies would pay for their ads to reach specific target markets. These target markets would be identified based on traditional demographics (race, ethnicity, gender, age, education, etc). Now, with companies tracking our every online movement, most online ad placements are based on logarithms that analyze our actual behaviors and preferences. The ads that that we’re seeing are more consistently pitching products or services that interest us, and that we may actually purchase!
There are also many services that allow us to block or cover over online advertisements, and social media platforms are always increasing ways for us to filter communications. For instance, instead of “defriending” people that we sometimes enjoy, but on other occasions annoy us, Facebook allows us to now “unfollow” them. Moreover, there are so many options for restricting who sees our posts. If so inclined, we can proactively prevent anticipated confrontations to content (e.g. cat memes) we’re sharing. And yes, many of us are inclined 😛
Hence, we create personalized echo chambers. Over time, however, we confuse our fantasy worlds for reality—a simulacra that transitions into a hyperreality; being “more real than real.” The confusion is brought about by our own subconscious desire for our controlled, online worlds to represent the physical worlds in which we reside. Why? Because we all seek to view ourselves and the groups with whom we associate positively (i.e. positive distinctiveness).
Makes sense, right?
So, is embracing our echo chamber hyperreality all that bad?
The Problem With Echo Chambers. Echo chambers restrict our access to information that we don’t want to receive. There are all sorts of reasons for why we may want to filter out certain information. Not all of these reasons, however, are necessarily good; though, we’d likely prefer that to be the case. In many situations, we’re likely embracing an intentional ignorance.
One way for us to maintain positive distinctiveness for our ingroups (i.e. “to perceive the groups with whom we associate positively”) is to engage in outgroup bias (i.e. “to treat those who we don’t associate to be part of our crowd negatively”). Some may ask: Well, if we treat such groups negatively, wouldn’t it just be better if we avoided them? While that would seem a reasonable conclusion, it’s not the right one.
When we distance ourselves from those we perceive to be different than us, we begin to lose sight of their humanity. They become a conceptual abstraction rather than a person. Consider this: If we rarely interact with individuals from our self-perceived outgroups, we may exhibit a more intensely-focused, negative bias towards them when interactions do occur.
This dehumanizing abstraction of others can occur as we derogate (i.e. “to diminish value”) their outgroups in the safety of our ingroups. Regularly I see posts on Facebook that derogates others self-perceived outgroups. The below was posted on a liberal friend’s timeline:
The Republicans (just like the Democrats) have their share of failures, but I would hesitate to place complete responsibility on them for the stock market crash that initiated the Great Depression or 9/11. Comments in response to my friend’s post only continued to reinforce outgroup derogation. And such derogation occurs in both directions of an intergroup dyad. The following meme was posted on a conservative friend’s timeline:
While many may claim such memes to be lighthearted jabs, the comments that often accompany such messages suggest otherwise. They promote unjustified blanket-statements, which reinforce negative stereotypes. See the process that forms?
- Ignorance leads to arrogance
- Arrogance leads to derogation (prejudice)
- Derogation leads to dehumanization (more prejudice)
- Dehumanization leads to hostility (prejudicial violence)
We all need to stop the:
But again, we’ve placed ourselves in echo chambers, so who is going to call us out on our prejudice? An opinion piece in the New York Times (DiFonzo, 2011) highlights challenges in holding ourselves accountable:
The answer lies in the increasingly disconnected ideological echo chambers that are distrustful of one another, and of official information sources…
…In my research, when Republicans and Democrats were put in separate groups and each group was asked to discuss a derogatory rumor about the other party (e.g., “Republicans are uneducated;” “Democrats give less to charity”) beliefs in these rumors polarized in predictable directions. When the discussion groups were mixed, this did not happen.
Among like-minded people, it’s hard to come up with arguments that challenge the group consensus, which means group members keep hearing arguments only in one direction. When we hear a rumor denigrating someone in the opposing political party, we are far more likely to send it to friends — typically members of our own party — whom we think would enjoy hearing that rumor. Yet most people are far less likely to challenge false rumors about the opposing party, because that might be considered a social faux pas among their friends.
In addition, most people tend to get “evidence” to substantiate rumors from friends or sources of information that they trust. The fact is, Americans across the political spectrum tend to trust the news media (and “facts” provided by the media) less than their own social group…
Maybe the most challenging aspect about combating prejudice is that it’s pervasive in all societies. We’ve all engaged in prejudicial behavior towards others. While engaging in such behavior, we may even be unaware of its prejudicial origins due to blatant ignorance or blinding arrogance. Can we educate our society about prejudice? Of course. Does educating people about prejudice function as a deterrent? The answer is probably a mixed response of yes and no.
Education may deter one type of prejudice, while being unintentionally dismissive of another.
INTERGROUP BEHAVIOR’S BI-DIRECTIONAL, PREJUDICIAL NATURE
A few days ago, I read a recently published study (Brandt & Crawford, 2016) that examines the relationship between group prejudice and cognitive ability.
Group prejudice is defined in the study as: a negative evaluation of a group or of an individual on the basis of group membership, with it being typified by an individual’s ability to choose their group membership. The two types of group prejudice the study examines are:
- Non-arbitrary (e.g. race, ethnicity, gender, age, etc.)
- Arbitrary (e.g. ideology, religion, organizational affiliation, etc.)
Cognitive ability is assessed by using the wordsum, a measure of verbal ability (i.e. 10-item vocabulary test) that has proven in past studies to be a strong indicator of general intelligence.
Findings from the study suggest that—relative to their ingroup-outgroup affiliations—individuals with low-cognitive ability are more prone to exhibit prejudice towards individuals within non-arbitrary outgroups; whereas, individuals with high-cognitive ability more commonly exhibit prejudicial behavior towards individuals possessing arbitrary outgroup affiliations. More specifically, based on results from the study, the researchers suggest that:
“lower levels of cognitive ability are associated with prejudice toward groups perceived as liberal/unconventional and as having less choice over their group membership. At the same time, the data also suggests that higher levels of cognitive ability are associated with prejudice towards groups perceived as conservative/conventional and as having more choice over their group membership” (Brandt & Crawford, 2016, p. 5).
We can see these relationships from the partial correlations (Figure A) that are presented below:
The study’s conclusions regarding prejudice towards conservative and arbitrary (i.e. high-choice) groups are both unusual and interesting. With near consensus, earlier studies have found prejudice towards more liberal and non-arbitrary (i.e. low-choice) groups, but never towards conservative and arbitrary groups. Moreover, their findings suggest that “a single [psychological] process may be at work for people higher and lower in cognitive ability” (Brandt & Crawford, 2016, p. 6-7).
Without making any explicit assertions, the researchers subtly imply that designs for earlier prejudice studies may [narrowly] focus on what the study’s researchers intend to find. Could it be possible that these prior studies apply designs that—whether intended—reflect researchers’ prejudices?
Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? A Roman poet and satirist during the 1st/2nd century, Juvenal is credited with the Latin phrase “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” The phrase’s literal translation reads, “Who will guard the guards themselves?”
In many respects, those working in higher education functions as the custodians (i.e. “guardians”) of knowledge. Universities constantly push for thought diversity, yet higher education—from an ideological perspective—is known for being a bastion for liberal thought. Information from the Higher Education Research Institute suggests that liberal adherents within colleges and universities are increasingly prevalent:
This trend should concern anyone who wishes for academic thought diversity. Dennis Prager, a well-known conservative commentator, perceives liberal intellectuals to reside in academic echo chambers, hypocrites to their own calls for thought diversity:
“Left-wing academics live in this bubble. There is no greater uniformity of thought than at our universities; their much-ballyhooed commitment to diversity is about race and ethnicity, not about ideas” (Prager, 2012).
First (to address any liberal defensiveness), Prager’s words likely carry some bias. The man makes a living by sharing his conservative, ideological perspectives to conservatives. Regardless, he may have an argument; considering that as professors have become more liberal, an ideological gap has widened between them, their students, and the general public. As mentioned earlier: 37 percent of Americans identify as conservative; whereas, 24 percent identify as liberal. While college students are generally more liberal than the public at large, professors are nearly thirty percentage points more likely to identify as liberal than the college freshmen they teach:
Even a self-professed liberal, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, has expressed concerns that mirror Prager’s. In a recent Op-Ed, “A Confession of Liberal Intolerance,” Kristof writes the following:
This bias on campuses creates liberal privilege. A friend is studying for the Law School Admission Test, and the test preparation company she is using offers test-takers a tip: Reading comprehension questions will typically have a liberal slant and a liberal answer.
Some liberals think that right-wingers self-select away from academic paths in part because they are money-grubbers who prefer more lucrative professions. But that doesn’t explain why there are conservative math professors but not many right-wing anthropologists.
It’s also liberal poppycock that there aren’t smart conservatives or evangelicals. Richard Posner is a more-or-less conservative who is the most cited legal scholar of all time. With her experience and intellect, Condoleezza Rice would enhance any political science department. Francis Collins is an evangelical Christian and famed geneticist who has led the Human Genome Project and the National Institutes of Health. And if you’re saying that conservatives may be tolerable, but evangelical Christians aren’t — well, are you really saying you would have discriminated against the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.?
Jonathan Haidt, a centrist social psychologist at New York University, cites data suggesting that the share of conservatives in academia has plunged, and he has started a website, Heterodox Academy, to champion ideological diversity on campuses.
“Universities are unlike other institutions in that they absolutely require that people challenge each other so that the truth can emerge from limited, biased, flawed individuals,” he says. “If they lose intellectual diversity, or if they develop norms of ‘safety’ that trump challenge, they die. And this is what has been happening since the 1990s” (Kristof, 2016, p. SR1).
The Proliferation of Higher Education Prejudices. While higher education has long skewed towards liberal ideology, the dramatic spike that starts in the mid-90s appears, to me, to be causal. The question—one, in which I don’t have a definitive answer—is, what’s the cause? My thought is that this shift is related, in some capacity, to the following factors/events:
- The economic prosperity/low unemployment during the 1990s
- The 9/11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center (2001)
- The bursting of the dot.com bubble (2003)
- The federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina devastation (2005)
The nineties were a prosperous time for Americans. From 1992 to 1999, the U.S. economy grew by an average of 4 percent annually. Where, since 2000, the country has averaged 850,000 new jobs per year, that annual job creation average was 1.7 million during the nineties. The economic strength of that period ensured that anyone who wanted work could find something—even high school students. The decade concluded with a federal budget surplus, and a dramatic reduction in the national murder rate—a 41 percent decrease! Then, however, came a procession of major, negative events from which the country hasn’t yet fully recovered.
In March, 2001—five months before the events of 9/11—there was a recession. During that first quarter, the economy had contracted 1.3 percent; though rebounded in the second quarter with a 2.7 percent increase. But the 9/11 attacks extended the recession, with the economy again contracting—this time, by 1.1 percent in the third quarter. After being closed for four trading days (i.e. six days total) following the attacks, the DOW opened with a thud; promptly falling by 7.13 percent. The markets continued to struggle in the years following, with unemployment reaching a high of 6 percent in June, 2003. Then, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina decimated the city of New Orleans, and all the emergency entities involved—especially federal entities—fell under heavy criticism. President George W. Bush’s well-deserved reputation for poor public speaking skills rarely helped positively position public perceptions regarding his administration’s performance on any issue.
Throughout this period—from the mid-nineties until recently—undergraduate enrollment grew substantially. Between 1996 and 2011, undergraduate enrollment at research universities nearly doubled, with similar enrollment increases at other higher education institutions. During the Clinton presidency, Democrats streamlined the student loan process; making it easier for students to budget for college, even though prices were (and are still) skyrocketing. When considering common rhetoric regarding party interests—that Democrats worship education and Republicans worship the market—the prejudice narrative for liberals to lambaste their conservative counterparts writes itself:
“When times were good, Democrats ran the country. During the nineties, they fostered an educational renaissance and created white-collar jobs. As soon as the Republicans took office, the nation fell apart. The Republicans loosened regulations [but did they?] on corporations; focusing on their beloved open-market interests, which ultimately led to a recession. The Republican idiot of a President, George W. Bush—who would be challenged to take your order correctly at the drive-thru—was unequipped to run the country. Furthermore, Bush’s war on terror instituted a national paranoia from which we’ve never fully recovered. Republicans promise economic prosperity, and constantly fail to deliver. And in trying to obtain wealth, they ignore the society’s needs. Fortunately, despite Republican incompetence and their socioeconomic prejudice, the nation’s best and brightest have been able to further their educations—the legacy of Democratic leadership. The biggest problem with Republicans is that they’re too ignorant to see their stupidity.
Those who possess intelligence and receive a good education will come to see liberal logic—correct logic. Where Republicans struggle to address complex, societal issues, we’re capable of understanding the contextual nuances necessary for making the world better. If conservatives would stop holding us back with their primitive worldviews, this country would be much better than what it is currently.”
The above is an example of ignorant, dichotomous thinking when groups isolate themselves into groups of like-minded individuals: its members often, if not always, succumb to groupthink. Research by Janis (1972: 1982) identifies eight characteristics of the phenomenon:
- Illusion of invulnerability (i.e. excessive optimism; encouraging risks)
- Collective rationalization (i.e. do not reconsider their assumptions)
- Belief in inherent morality (i.e. believe right; ignore ethical/moral consequences)
- Stereotyped views of out-groups (e.g. “idiots, narrow-minded”)
- Direct pressure on dissenters (i.e. criticized when expressing non-group view)
- Self-censorship (i.e. do not express opinions that contradict group consensus)
- Illusion of unanimity (i.e. views are assumed to be unanimous)
- Self-appointed ‘mindguards’ (i.e. Members protect against problematic info)
Are my concerns about liberal groupthink in higher education over-stated? Consider that Kristof felt it necessary to write a response piece to the strong, liberal reader dissent regarding his Op-Ed that I excerpted earlier, “A Confession of Liberal Intolerance“:
In a column a few weeks ago, I offered “a confession of liberal intolerance,” criticizing my fellow progressives for promoting all kinds of diversity on campuses — except ideological. I argued that universities risk becoming liberal echo chambers and hostile environments for conservatives, and especially for evangelical Christians.
As I see it, we are hypocritical: We welcome people who don’t look like us, as long as they think like us.
It’s rare for a column to inspire widespread agreement, but that one led to a consensus: Almost every liberal agreed that I was dead wrong.
“You don’t diversify with idiots,” asserted the reader comment on The Times’s website that was most recommended by readers (1,099 of them). Another: Conservatives “are narrow-minded and are sure they have the right answers.”
Many groupthink characteristics are easily identifiable within the above excerpt: collective rationalization; belief in inherent morality; stereotyped views of out-groups; and direct pressure on dissenters. The article is written by a liberal author, working for a news media source (i.e. New York Times) preferred by liberals—a relatively closed system. An ideologically-closed system similar to that feared to exist in higher education. So yes, I believe that concern is warranted, just as I’d consider it warranted if the converse situation ever exists with conservatives. Groupthink is groupthink.
And groupthink is absolutely the last thing that we should want from those who conduct research. Assumptions and hypotheses when designing studies matter; regardless of whether the studies are quantitative or qualitative. The new findings produced from the earlier mentioned prejudice study (Brandt & Crawford, 2016) were discovered because its authors made assumptions that expanded the interpretation of prejudice in the study’s design. Prior studies implemented narrower foci. Again, whether it’s intended—I’d emphatically suggest that it’s not—groupthink could create blindspots in research streams.
In two previous posts, I’ve shared concerns regarding the findings from a cultural study intending to understand the American evangelical’s relationship with God—but its author adopted interpretative assumptions directly conflicting with the beliefs of the population which she studied. These same topical, assumptive concerns are corroborated by Christian Smith in a New York Post article below:
Christian Smith, a professor of sociology at Notre Dame, has spent a career trying to combat the groupthink of academia. In his new book, “The Sacred Project of American Sociology,” Smith offers a scathing indictment of his discipline.
In his field of study, the sociology of religion, most professors begin with the assumption that “ordinary people’s naïve experiences of religious faith and sacred practice ought not to be taken seriously on their own terms,” but are better understood through the concepts of “status struggles, coping mechanisms, gender inequalities, class interests, social control, etc.”
In other words, religion is the opiate of the masses. End of argument.
If that’s where you start, it’s pretty clear where you’re going to end up. The only way to combat the production of academic research that simply confirms what liberal academics already believe is by having someone there to question these assumptions.
As Smith tells me, “Knowledge is advanced through the clash of rival interpretations of the evidence” (Riley, 2014).
With quantitative studies, data analysis functions best when the data possess a normal distribution. When that assumption is violated, the ability to interpret the findings are often compromised to some degree. Wouldn’t this be as true with our thoughts as it is with our data? (And, in some cases, aren’t they the same thing?)
Closed-systems of thinking promote prejudice, and prejudice eventually begets hypocrisy. How can higher education admonish cultures that institutionalize prejudice, when condoning such behavior selectively in its own? Moreover, given its current ideological composition, how would educational institutions function as guardians against ideological prejudice? Not too well, in all likelihood.
But Let’s Not Confuse the Real Issue. Now, it’s important to provide some clarification, and restate my intentions, as they should neither be construed nor applied to encourage prejudicial behavior. Higher education’s predominantly liberal composition is used as an example for demonstrating how individuals who associate with any closed-system group—either through exclusion of non-arbitrary (race, gender, etc.) or arbitrary (ideology, religion, etc.) outgroups—are prone to exhibit prejudicial behaviors towards those it excludes. There is a significant amount of statistical information and commentary regarding the current ideological composition of education; making it easier to examine than, say, corporate America (note: I did try—though, unsuccessfully—to obtain this information).
Moreover, higher education is an extremely influential environment, where a plethora of thoughts are attributed power—and professors serve as both stewards and discoverers of knowledge. If a possible, prejudicial “blind spot” can be shown in higher education (particularly ideologically!), then a justifiable argument can be made about prejudicial “blind spots” occurring in any environment.
With societal influence, however, comes societal responsibility and accountability. And thought diversity serves as the bedrock of higher education. Those who are educators, should ensure that they don’t allow their own ideological convictions—whatever they may be—to exclude or discredit the thoughts of others with differing ideologies. None of us should exhibit prejudice towards others. Therefore, like education’s ongoing efforts to further race, ethnicity, and gender diversity—there should be active encouragement for ideological diversity.
“The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.” ~Abraham Lincoln
And I personally don’t have a problem with there being a liberal majority in higher education—even as a self-identifying, conservatively leaning moderate. It makes sense that those in academia would be more likely to follow a liberal, ideological perspective. A liberal ideological perspective is inherently more change-oriented than its conservative counterpart. Considering that higher education pursues to both discover and disseminate knowledge, many interested in pursuing an academic path will be less-inclined to embrace “tradition,” and more inclined to seek societal advances (i.e. “non-traditional” change). Further, they’d be more likely to actively (i.e. personally) contribute towards, and promote these advances.
We should be careful, however, that we don’t “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” For those of us who are more change-oriented, let’s not permit ourselves to become arrogant regarding our abilities to institute “positive” societal or economic changes. With change comes risk. And good intentions can backfire. As the saying goes, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” Having more traditional and change-averse conservatives in higher education may help channel “advancement” with “practical application” and help “pace” worthwhile endeavors. They are more likely to encourage caution when instituting “advancements.”
“To build may have to be the slow and laborious task of years. To destroy can be the thoughtless act of a single day.” ~Winston Churchill
Alternatively, if conservatives were the predominant ideological group in higher education, we could expect a more “grounded” (i.e. slow and deliberate) process for instituting changes. However, opportunities for “advancement” could often be thwarted by a conservative mindset of “if it ain’t broke, why fix it?”–even in situations where something is “broken.” Maybe some advancements will never occur because there’s no “push” for them. Liberals, rarely being satisfied with current circumstances, are more attuned at identifying opportunities for societal change and suggesting plans of action to achieve them.
“The best thing you can do is the right thing; the next best thing you can do is the wrong thing; the worst thing you can do is nothing.” ~Theodore Roosevelt
In summary, there is always a need to challenge the status quo with outside the box thinking—and healthy resistance to such challenges. Resistance, however, should not be confused with refusal. And change should not be assumed to be synonymous with advancement.
Both ideologies offer something for future societies. Arrogantly ignoring options from either end of the ideological spectrum when making decisions promotes folly. Which is why we shouldn’t find our identity in our ideological preferences or leanings.
Can’t we all just get along? ~Steve Urkel
The Real Issue is Self-Identification. Intergroup behavior research, which examines relationships between ingroups (i.e. the groups in which we identify ourselves) and outgroups (i.e. the groups in which we don’t identify ourselves), asserts that individuals will—in some form—engage in outgroup prejudice and ingroup favoritism. Additionally, as groups distance themselves from each other (i.e. closed systems), prejudice towards their outgroups intensify:
Therefore, the logical strategy to combat prejudice between groups is to instead promote inclusivity. This is one of the (many) reasons why there’s a constant call for diversity in liberal forums. Basically, we need to see ourselves as one group. Feasible, right?
Maybe. The challenge is that for us to establish positive distinctiveness, individuals must also establish a negative for comparison—an outgroup. Moreover, Americans represent the most heterogeneous collection of human beings in the world. We are the “melting pot.” Unfortunately, our ingredients don’t always seem to coalesce. Sometime what’s cooking in our pot boils over.
This “boiling over” often occurs when we—as part of a specific group—want to be perceived as the same, but treated differently; demanding privilege. It’s a paradoxical conundrum created by the many different group associations in which individuals can choose to find their identity.
Currently, there’s no consensus core identity. We’re not one group. For as much as we make claims to want solidarity—we don’t. Otherwise, we’d all cease to associate ourselves into these various, differing groups.
AN IDENTITY ACCEPTING UNIVERSAL MORALITY AND ENDING PREJUDICE
To eliminate prejudice, there would need to be universal acceptance of a core identity. This identity would need to establish a universal morality. But, what if I suggested that there’s already one? Furthermore, what if I told you that there is one identity—and One alone—in which we’d be in accordance to this moral standard (Ephesians 4:3-6; 2 Corinthians 5)? I believe that finding our identity in Christ is the only answer for ending prejudice—along with all other evils. I have presented a thorough account of my reasoning in a prior post: “Identity (In Christ).”
Attempting to find our core identity in anything else—even humanity—will fail in bringing us together. We cannot find a core identity by focusing on our humanity, because we’d all conceptualize humanity much differently from one another. It’s too broad a psychological abstraction to establish a consensus core identity. Subsequently, our behaviors wouldn’t have a moral basis of agreement. To establish (or identify) that moral standard would require that our identities be modeled after a specific person (note: not to be confused with self-projecting characterizations of an actual person). The only person who has ever lived a sinless life is Christ (Acts 4:12).
The behaviors that reflect Christ’s perfect being can be seen in the lives of His followers whenever they choose to find their identities in Him (Matthew 5:43-48). As a Christian, I believe that if we’re perfectly aligned through faith to Christ’s identity, with our thoughts and behaviors mirroring His (Galatians 2:20), then we’re found sinless (i.e. perfect) in the eyes of God (i.e. because of forgiveness for our past sins). No longer, in such situations, are we compelled to engage in evil behavior (e.g. prejudice). Rather, we’d be spurred on to love others and perform good deeds. This perfect state of being is referred to as glorification.
Based on my understanding, we’re incapable of reaching a glorified state while residing in this fallen world, but that is our end game nonetheless. That’s the target that we’re aiming for (1 Corinthians 11:1). When people seek Christ, and more consistently find their identity in Him, there are noticeable changes—positive changes (Ephesians 2:10)—in their character. The ongoing process for becoming more like Christ is called sanctification. The process starts when Christ offers us relationship with Him, and we accept (Luke 9:23; 11: 13; Revelation 3:20).
AVOIDING PRIDE & ARROGANCE SNARES: HUMILITY, ACCOUNTABILITY & LOVE
Once we accept relationship with Christ, we change; regardless of where our hearts and minds are currently residing (Colossians 1:21-22). Again, the more we resemble Christ, the more love and humility (Ephesians 4:2) we should exhibit towards others—even our enemies (Luke 6:35). Christ uses imperfect people to share His Word, and bring others into loving community with Him and fellow believers (1 John 3:2-23; Romans 1:16; Hebrew 10:24-25). Being an imperfect person, I find this as good news indeed 🙂
When we can no longer understand the perspectives of other people, we’re blinding ourselves to what may be truth. Through our relationship with Christ, we’re provided a model that we’re to follow that fosters healthy relationships with one another. We must let go of our prejudices; replacing our prideful arrogance and stubborn ignorance with humility and love:
From a Christian worldview, when following Christ’s teaching, the issue of intergroup bias is not ignored; but rather, specifically addressed. Christ commands us to treat our enemies with love. That doesn’t mean that we’re to necessarily agree with them, but that we care about them; desiring for them to know the love that we experience from our personal relationships with Christ. We’re to welcome anyone who wishes to follow Christ into the body of believers (i.e. the collective “Church”).
In following our faith, we must stay true to the universal morality that has been modeled for us by our Lord, through His life. With servant hearts, we’re to put the needs of others ahead of ourselves—yes, even when inconvenient. We’re to encourage one another to live in loving deed and truth (1 John 3:18). We’re to speak truth at all times, sharing the Gospel without hesitation (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 10:34-38; Romans 10:12-15).
Paul, in his letter to the Romans, describes appropriate Christian behavior:
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12, NASB).
There’s a reason why Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven was for those that were like a child. As we look to our Heavenly Father, we are to exhibit the humility and love that can often be seen in younger children. Consider the transformations of Paul and Peter after their conversions. Paul went from a murderer to a missionary. The people for whom he held intense contempt and prejudice were now the people whom he called brother and sisters in Christ. Peter exhibited prejudice towards non-Jews. Prior to receiving the Holy Spirit he was headstrong and often acted foolishly. Later, as a church leader, he (eventually) ate with Gentiles—and, oh yeah, he stopped cutting peoples’ ears off 😛
As ambassadors for Christ, both men exhibited humility and compassion towards others with no expectation of anything in return. Ultimately both died for their faith.
As it pertains to navigating our current world, please be aware of our environments. We are all afforded the ability to have a voice through the resources available (e.g. social media). So is everyone else. Let’s make sure that we represent Christ when we use those resources. If we have ideological leanings in one direction or the other, let’s be aware of our prejudices. I’d encourage us not to entertain these prejudices, or communicate in a manner that encourages those with similar prejudicial tendencies to embrace theirs. For example, avoid posting a meme, video, or article that warrants the hashtag, #echochambergarbage. Nothing productive comes from posting such things. And may we consider leaving open the channels of communication with those who think differently than us.
Lastly, remember that we’re not required to respond to everything that crosses our path on the information superhighway. Whether online or in-person, may we exhibit wisdom whenever we choose to engage in debates. And we should never place ourselves in the middle of prejudicial crossfire solely from a compulsion to offer a response:
Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16, NASB).
May we avoid becoming arrogant in our beliefs; resting fully in our Lord. May we exhibit humility in all our interactions, so that we don’t engage in any rash behaviors as a result of ignorance. Let’s not think dichotomously in circumstances that are far from being that simple. May we serve others with gentle spirits, loving others and speaking Truth whenever the opportunities are presented. May we please God and give Him glory with how we live; loving both Him and others (collectively). Amen.
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