By Vicar Lisa
I had an interesting conversation with a friend last week. She was talking about different church communities (not ours!) and how some members can make you feel like they are better than you. Then, she realized that she was judging other Christians and caught herself. And then she pointed out that in all reality, she had no idea what those people really thought or felt, and she was going down a slippery slope judging others based on the idea that they were judging her. Great catch!
It reminded me of an article I had read a while back written by Nadia Bolz-Weber. She had realized that many of her opinions, especially the opinions she formed about things she read on-line or heard about from friends, are often the result, not of a logical assessment of all the facts, but of a kind of cognitive bias.
She pointed out that when she sees or hears a story, she will have a REACTION to that story. Then, she went on to create a more fully formed OPINION by scanning the horizon for whatever she can find that supports said opinion. As such, any facts or information that was in opposition to her initial reaction is summarily dismissed as irrelevant or wrong. In fact, she stated that she has realized that in the past 10 years, her opinions were formed more by what she read online than by actual experiences she has had herself or with others.
She is not alone; we all experience cognitive bias. It is a well-studied phenomenon in humans. We watch the news channel that skews the news in the way we believe to be true. We read books and watch documentaries, usually not to expand our minds, but in order to reinforce what we already believe to be true. In a lecture, theologian Simeon Zahl of Cambridge claimed “that much of what we call cognitive bias is in fact a scientific language for empirically verifiable, hardwired biological facts of human selfishness and irrationality. In other words, sin.” Ouch.
The question that Pastor Nadia asked is “how do we hold onto our convictions while also maintaining even just a shred of humility when making proclamations about people and events which we will always have limited information about?” Great question and one we should ask ourselves. We will never truly know the mind of another, even those we are the closest to. And certainly, not someone who randomly passes by or sits next to us in church. But we all do it and we should try really hard not to. Because of cognitive bias, we will continue to pass possibly false judgement repeatedly towards others and may never get to know the truth about that person.
The Bible contains some great passages on passing judgement on others, Matthew 7: 1-5, Luke 6:37 – 42, and John 8:1-8 for example. It is so easy to pass judgement based on something that someone may have said or the way they look or their race or sexual preference or social status or denomination of choice. But let us not be too hard on our fellow image-bearers of God. As Jesus said in John 8:7, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.” So be kind. Don't pass judgement. And give your fellow humans a chance to prove your bias wrong!
10th Sunday after Pentecost, August 6, 2023
10 a.m. Outdoor Worship (weather permitting) with Holy Communion
E-formation - Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, August 6. 2023
In the gospel reading for this coming Sunday, Jesus feeds the multitude with only a little bread. He is still doing this: come to worship, to hear this blessing and to eat the food that our Savior gives to us.
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
For several weeks now, Matthew’s theme of judgment gives over to his stories of divine mercy. Later in the fall the theme of judgment returns.
Christians have seen the stories of the feeding of the multitude as pictures of both the proclamation of the word, by which God’s people thrive, and holy communion, in which the blessing of Jesus creates continuous food for his people. The miracle takes place each Sunday.
Already heard at this year’s Easter Vigil as a picture of the resurrection, this Sunday the sixth-century poem in Second Isaiah presents the metaphor of food as background to the narrative of the feeding of the five thousand. The Old Testament includes both many poems with the metaphor of food and many narratives of God’s miraculous feedings.
Centuries of Christian teaching that only Christians can be saved stand in contrast to Paul’s confidence that God’s promises to the Jews continue. Paul assumes that both Jews and Gentiles are being fed by God on the mountain.
Zion's Lutheran Church