The #ReimagineFORUM @ Discipleship.Network

Equipping Your Reimagine Journey

The Danger of a Homogeneous Blindspot
 
Phil Miglioratti @ The http://Reimagne.Network
 
WHAT - is homogeneity?
SO WHAT - does that have to do with my faith? Or those I disciple?
NOW WHAT ...?
 
This quote in an email from 2012 appeared while I was digging for explanations of why we all have blindspots that are obvious to others but not ourselves.
"Embedded within our self-definition, we build relationships, institutions, cities, systems, and cultures that, in reaffirming our values, blind us to alternatives." "Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril" by Margaret Heffernan
 
The simple truth is every human being is a composite of a myriad of influences, many of which control us without our conscious knowledge.
 
That composite is, in my opinion, the result of our drive to belong with, to be validated by, people who have a sameness with us; our values, interests, preferences, beliefs, Even our weaknesses and fears. We are drawn to what appears to us to be a homogeneous context. Familiar. Safe. A verification of who we are and what we believe.
Homogeneous: "of the same or a similar kindnature or class; of uniform structure or composition throughout a culturally homogeneous neighborhood or a group marked by common characteristics." "The quality or state of being all the same or all of the same kind." (Dictionary)
 
Our search for homogeneity is inherent in our:
  • Identity: Self-image is the search (and often, struggle) to know who we are and discover our purpose in life
  • Family: We cannot choose our brith family but not all birth-families are healthy; some seek "family" with others who suit/affirm their mind-set or value-system
  • Ethnicity: Ancestoy.com has exploded with millions searching for their biological relatives
  • Community: Neighborhoods, schools, churches, shape (and stunt) worldview, behaviors
  • Geography: Terrain impacts life experience (mountains, desert, plains, tropics):
  • Nationality: For most of history, ethnicity and nationality were close to synonymous; now we have Italian-Americans, African-Americans plus mass migration
  • Society: The segment of society we live in or identify with can shut us off from what life is like in other social environments
  • Economy: Financial status funnels us into a "class" and each class has a different experience with/access to the systems/institutions of society
  • Affinity: We gravitate toward certain groups, jobs, or activities based on personal interests, lifestyles, past experiences (divorce, for example)
  • History :Everyone is affected by a limited (and sometimes inaccurate) view of history, which is often communicated to define/defend a particular group 

Homogeneity is both beneficial and (potentially) destructive. Beneficial as it binds together persons of l interests, values, skills, with the potential of bringing happiness, peace, progress from their partnership and cooperative endeavors. Destructive when the worldview of that homogeneous group affirms or demands bad behavior.

"A blind spot is a very small gap in the visual field of each eye—an area of your relatively nearby surroundings that you can't see. It may sound like a physical defect, but everyone has a small natural blind spot (physiological blind spot), and it's not usually noticeable. (VeryWell Health)

 "An area in which one fails to exercise judgment or discrimination." (Dictionary)

As I write this, the Taliban (a homogeneous group bonded in their drive to create a nation based totally upon their fundamentalist version of the Islamic religion) has taken control of Afghanistan, threatening women and Christians, education and modern progress. While this is an obvious example of the dangers of myopic thinking, the blindspot of unexamined homogeneous thinking can infect clubs, churches, political parties, schools, and businesses.
 
When Jesus taught us to love our neighbor, pray for our enemies and to welcome strangers, he was opening our eyes to the negative effects of a homogeneous worldview. To ignore someone because of their ethnicity (not a Jew) or nationality (Samaritan) or social class (a socially powerless women who had been divorced by 5 husbands) is a sin produced by a prejudiced viewpoint.
Homogeneous thinking simply, and strategically, seeks people, places, things and ideas that are identical to the current parameters and preferences of the controlling culture. The objective is to protect the status quo. Things visible (appearance, fashion, architecture) and invisible (values, attitudes). Assimilation protocols. Insider language. Life-style boundaries Societal systems (justice, education). National songs and stories.
 
Throughout history, homogeneity has been vital to survival within families and between nations. Speaking the same language was critical to every aspect of culture, from commerce to courts, education to entertainment. Traditions passed on forms and functions from one generation to the next. Wisdom spoken through storytelling. "Our" history was described in song. 
 
Homogeneity produces a consensus worldview indoctrinated from birth through teachings of belief and behavioral norms. Ignoring cultural protocols (dress codes, music style), advocating counter-cultural mores ("the fixed morally binding customs of a particular group;": Webster), resisting or redefining class boundaries were met with resistance, even violence.
 
Homogeneity, while protecting current beliefs-behaviors-boundaries, is unable to distinguish between what remains essential and valuable and which narratives, value-systems, and-mind-sets-will benefit from review and possible revision or replacement. A thriving culture must encourage both the foundation of conservatism and the fresh scaffolding of liberal thought.
 
SO WHAT...?
 
Jesus, knew a self-protective and passionate homogeneity preserves and serves the kingdom of this world but not the kingdom of God. He exhorts us to repent;  a radical change of thinking that is necessary to see and live this kingdom lifestyle.

Jesus began to preach, saying,
“Change your hearts and lives, because the kingdom of heaven is near.”
Matthew 4:7
 
That radical change of thinking must be lived out in every level or relationships; individuals, families, affinities,  ethnicities.
 
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemies.
 But I say to you, love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you.
If you do this, you will be true children of your Father in heaven.
He causes the sun to rise on good people and on evil people,
and he sends rain to those who do right and to those who do wrong.
 If you love only the people who love you, you will get no reward.
Even the tax collectors do that. And if you are nice only to your friends,
you are no better than other people.
Even those who don’t know God are nice to their friends. Matthew 5:42-47
 
His message? Love beyond. Beyond economic classification which creates isolated and under resourced communities.. Beyond ethnic differences of skin color, language, type and volume of music, food aroma and taste, greeting protocols. Beyond social customs and political perspectives.
 
 And we no longer see each other in our former state—Jew or non-Jew, rich or poor, (slave or free),male or female—
because we’re all one through our union with Jesus Christ.  Galatians 3:28
 
As followers of Christ we are not required to reject our family or ethnicity nor are we all to adopt a single cultural identity. We have freedom of thought regarding the issues and ideas of our society. We have freedom of choice to select what we believe to be best. But we are required to discern between our personal preferences (what makes us feel respected and safe) and the prescriptions and principles of the Kingdom of God. The former must be judged by the latter.
 
This is a struggle for every believer, regardless of leaning left or to the right. Homogeneity makes it easy to believe we hold to liberal ideas because we see liberty in Scripture, or that we champion conservative causes because we see a law and order God in the Bible. Preferences become prejudices (and worse) when they preclude anything outside our sphere of reference.
 
We apply our Lord's instruction (Matthew 4 and 5) to one-on-one relationships but seldom think of "neighbor" as the family next door or a group of people who share an affinity or the ethnicity of refugees or immigrants. Rather than responding in/with love, we are much more prone to judge, dismiss, disagree, or assume our own superiority.
 
Self-Centeredness is a clue to an individual who believes their personality is the best basis of behavior for everyone they meet.They judge others by their own thinking and behavior.
  • Ethnocentrism extends that worldview to other families and nationalities.
  • Nationalism is the product of the homogeneous perspective applied to the policies and traditions of a society or nation.
#ItSeemsToMe…much of the dissension within the Evangelical movement across America is based on a lack of considering homogeneity as a contributing source to our often radically varied opinions.
 
I truly believe we have an inerrancy-complex. We have become so secure in our belief of the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture that we unconsciously begin to over-trust our interpretations and applications of the biblical text,  Homogeneous teaching and preaching, even when faithful to the Scripture-statement, interprets and applies the text within a bounded set of circumstance related to the homogeneity of the audience. Those applications are not necessarily false but they may be inadequate to expand the worldview of the listeners.
 
The homogeneous blindspot causes us to automatically consider differences as a threat or heresy to "biblical" truth (read, our group's doctrinal statement). Thinking we are speaking up for Godwe are actually reacting to a perceived peril to the equilibrium of our culture or limited worldview. Reimagining justice, for example, threatens the historical narrative of the United States that has been taught and sung  and celebrated since our inception. Treatment of the First Nations tribes or the kidnapped African slaves is described from the vantage point of the homogeneity of the majority-culture (whites or persons wholly assimilated to white culture). Reviewing and revising our view of national history must not be considered an assault on Christianity when it is actually an honest attempt to correct a false description or definition of what actually took place.

The resistance to change that may result in loss of control over cultural forms and functionstifles the work of the Holy Spirit to convict us of national sin, God's definition of a  righteous nation, and deadens the fear of God judging that sin. Recently, I had the privilege of contributing to a book of daly prayers prompted by Jesus' prayer in John 17. A biblical, Christian response to the issue of racism, it is designed to open the heart of the reader to experience inner healing, repent, where needed, and move toward heart-transformation ... but also a cry for God to bring healing over the evil of racism in our nation ... a prophetic voice declaring we cannot turn a blind eye to this issue any longer ... includes short stories by people of color ... written by national leaders of multiple ethnicities. The book was ignored by the largely majority-culture customer base of the publisher because it was clearly dealing with a view of social justice that, though thoroughly biblical, was outside the scope of their homogeneous sensibilities. The  homogeneity of majority-culture American evangelical congregations is a breeding ground for prejudice (stereotyping, discriminating), as unintentional as it may be.
 
NOW WHAT...?
 
Let's pray daring prayers...for ourselves ... for our leaders ...for our congregations...
  • ASK...the Holy Spirit to reveal our blindspots and convict us of any sin associated with our limited perspective
  • SEEK...the leading of our Lord Jesus to a new, biblical-sized, perspective on God's Kingdom
  • KNOCK...carefully and prayerfully on closed doors: explore different perspectives, extend grace to people you've avoided or feared, expect to be changed for good and for God (Romans 12:2)
  • CONFESS...any mis-take or sin the Spirit brings to mind
    • Contrition is the recognition of the need for change (Romans 12:2)
    • Convince yourself you need to reassess
    • Confess ("say the same thing") to God
    • Confess to others you can trust to help you into a Spirit-led, Scripture-fed reassessment
    • Continue to Ask - Seek - Knock...
Scripture is infallible. I am not.
 
Phil Miglioratti @ The http://Reimagne.Network
 
Related articles:
How Cultural-Political Perspectives Can Blindspot Your Ministry

Views: 127

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Requested Reply from Adam Shields -


Homogeneity is one of those long words that I do not use a lot but has some value. There is nothing wrong with seeing ourselves in others and forming bonds around those similar aspects. Every relationship at some level has an acceptance of, ‘oh, you too’ that allows us to bond. However, every relationship, no matter how close, also has an aspect of difference. Identical twins have different preferences. Couples that have decades of marriage still have disagreements.

 

A word that I use much more often than homogeneity is normative. The Oxford definition is “establishing, relating to, or deriving from a standard or norm, especially of behavior.”  The critical part of that is the ‘standard or norm.’ When we are in primarily homogenous environments, it is easy to assume that others have the same standards or norms. Without experience in other cultures or settings, our cultural preferences take on a level of normativity and harden into rules instead of remaining preferences.

Richard Beck, in his book Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Mortality, uses his background in psychology to reflect on how we use hardened lines of normativity to enforce cultural norms or mores. Beck suggests that this is rooted in the universal psychological feeling of disgust. For example, disgust protects us when we see spoiled food. But when that feeling of disgust is applied to people, we have the same response that Peter had in Acts 10. In a vision (verse 15), God told Peter, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” As Christians, our problem is not that we identify with others and create relationships where we see bonds; our problem is that we see other humans, created in the image of God, as outsiders.

In 1990, Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop wrote the essay “Mirrors, Windows and Sliding Glass Doors” to promote the importance of diverse books in children’s literature. Literature allows children to see themselves (mirrors) and can give them glimpses into the experience of others (windows). The key to the metaphor is that simply seeing through a window does not mean that we do the work to see people as Imago Dei outside of the literature setting. We have the opportunity to walk through the sliding glass door, but we have to open up the door and make the effort.

Recognizing that we live in a homogenous world is essential. Understanding ways that we harden cultural preferences into normative rules is also important. But without doing the work to move that theory into practical actions and authentic relationships, and to break down the ways that our churches and schools, and other institutions are inhospitable to those outside of our normative systems, we are not doing the work that is required to help build Christ’s kingdom into one that can truly reach the whole world.

Requested Reply from Ken Oliver -

I have been thinking about this subject (homogeneity) recently.  I want to give you an alternative view:

 

Prior to the 21st century, most people lived in what seemed to be homogeneous communities.  Same race, same income level, same housing style; we attended the same church and socialized with friends who appeared similar.  However, below that surface homogeneity was a great deal of diversity.  You would have friends and neighbors who were Republicans and Democrats, holding a variety of opinions.  Even in the typical white suburban church there was a diversity of a ideas.  We learned to navigate those differences and often moderated our own opinion to become more accommodating to those who held other ideas.  In other words, the social pressure of our homogenous group was toward moderation.

 

What changed was social media.  Facebook, etc allowed us to live in a world were moderation was completely unnecessary; neither was politeness or even common courtesy.  We entered a system where outrage was rewarded with clicks or “likes,” and the post that got the most views and the most comments rose to the top of our view screen.  Instead of the old pressure to moderate in social settings, we had virtual settings where the pressure was in the other direction.  About the same time, the news programs discovered that they would get more viewers if they followed the same outrage style of news reporting. 

 

One of the results of this is that we have become socially disconnected from those who we oppose or insult on the internet.  We don’t know them and have no reason to be nice.  They are disembodied “other.”  That they are part of some conspiracy or even not really American (or Christian) is not farfetched.  The other result is that we have no reason to have our blindspots challenged.  The whole system is simply self-reinforcing.  

Requested Reply from Neil Cox -

  • As the speed of life accelerates, not unlike Nascar drivers, we ALL need Spotters in our lives... who have a good vantage point from which to communicate to us our blindspots.  That is, to help us “sharpen one another”.

  • I give minority groups more leeway in the homogeneous principle than my majority friends. Given the pressures by the majority, I realize the need for some ‘safe’ spheres, for example the black church.  But at the same time, I exhort our majority churches to help rid the world of those pressures.

  • In fact, let me extend that a bit further and paraphrase an African American pastor friend:  “If majority folks truly want a multi-cultural church, the math says that really isn’t possible but inviting minorities to come join your majority churches. There’s simply not enough of us.  Instead, come be a part of a minority church.”

  • Homogeneity, in my opinion, is part of OT Israel’s failure to carry out the Great Commission/Commandment seen in the promise to Abraham to impact the whole world.  And closely related, our NT reading of OT ‘Israel’ as just the homogeneous Jewish group primarily holed-up in the recognized country/nation of ‘Israel’... it doubles-down on a short-sighted nationalistic view of God’s people.

  • Hospitality is a very opposite concept, one demanded of TheChurch -- not only in Romans12 where we’re all called to practice hospitality, but importantly, an identifiable hallmark of those who would serve as Elders.

  • Paul called out Peter for his homogeneous practice at one point, calling it “not in conformity with the gospel”. (Gal.2) 

  • Giftedness within the Church is an asset -- ie, a Holy Spirit gifted ability to impact one another, coming from very different ways of seeing the world, God’s mission in it, and our particular perspective.  It’s trinitarian-like unity and diversity together.

  • Bottom line:  #preference vs. #deference -- it’s the counter-intuitive essence of the Good News message:  That the Almighty God in Jesus deferred His power and riches, to be incarnate in our world, in a manger no less, and consummately demonstrated as self-sacrifice on the cross... on our behalf.  Inviting us into His peace, eternally.

  • I fully recommend reading "Divided by Faith", a classic by Michael Emerson.  Then its sequel:  "United by Faith".  You'll be glad you did.  I was.

These problems also involve how a society treats diversity.

 

There are many who want society to embrace diversity.

 

There are many in society who are willing to tolerate diversity.

 

Those who want society to embrace diversity tolerate nothing less.

 

Those who are willing to tolerate diversity embrace nothing more.

 

#ItSeemsToMe that this is more than a blind spot in the eye.

 

American society has turned a blind eye on God's concept of America.

 

IMHO, the actual intent of the originators concept of America was life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for the a predominately white-male culture.

Minorities have had to fight to be heard and have access to positions of power.

Richard H. Skiba, Jr. said:

These problems also involve how a society treats diversity.

 

There are many who want society to embrace diversity.

 

There are many in society who are willing to tolerate diversity.

 

Those who want society to embrace diversity tolerate nothing less.

 

Those who are willing to tolerate diversity embrace nothing more.

 

#ItSeemsToMe that this is more than a blind spot in the eye.

 

American society has turned a blind eye on God's concept of America.

 


P.S. to my commentary-

Homogeneous thinking breeds pre-judging, stereotyping, and racism. Each can exist unknown to the person if they fail to interact with persons or ideas outside of their homogeneous context.

Many majority-culture individuals react strongly to the designation/accusation of white supremacy because they are unable to comprehend a worldview or mind-set other than their own. In the course of American history, ethnic groups that assimilated to the majority-white culture became accepted .

Racism can be overtly expressed through violence (destroying First Nations culture) or enslavement but also covertly through marginalization. This is achieved systematically by limiting access to voting, education, exclusion from certain neighborhoods or communities.

True.  But what was God's Conception?

How patient is God in Realizing His Conception?

What Process, uncomfortable to humans, would He Use?

.  

Network Creator / Coordinator said:

IMHO, the actual intent of the originators concept of America was life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for the a predominately white-male culture.

Minorities have had to fight to be heard and have access to positions of power.

Richard H. Skiba, Jr. said:

These problems also involve how a society treats diversity.

 

There are many who want society to embrace diversity.

 

There are many in society who are willing to tolerate diversity.

 

Those who want society to embrace diversity tolerate nothing less.

 

Those who are willing to tolerate diversity embrace nothing more.

 

#ItSeemsToMe that this is more than a blind spot in the eye.

 

American society has turned a blind eye on God's concept of America.

 

Christianity seems to require homogeneous thinking, at least denominationally.  What, if anything, does that breed?
.  
Network Creator / Coordinator said:

P.S. to my commentary-

Homogeneous thinking breeds pre-judging, stereotyping, and racism. Each can exist unknown to the person if they fail to interact with persons or ideas outside of their homogeneous context.

Many majority-culture individuals react strongly to the designation/accusation of white supremacy because they are unable to comprehend how outsiders would not want to be inside their culture club.

Reply from a network member - 

I read several of these articles and was encouraged by them to embrace how to be open to a deeper understanding of how I view with Biblical perspective and how to engage with those who do not yet know Christ.
With all the articles I've read from many Christians even on their perspective of what might be our blindspots, it really hit me that everyone has a tendency to "categorize" nearly everything to each person's detriment.  Where I think we would like to be "whole" and transformed by the renewing of our minds.

Reading or learning from the classics in Christian literature and thought is really adding to the wisdom I long for, and not just to be in a responsive position to what is happening in our culture.
Reimagining Prayer, Evangelism and Discipleship seems to be a really great focus as you have identified and much needed.
Thank you for sharing the vision God is giving you.
Cathy

I won’t even attempt to match the coherence of Phil’s thoughts here but will attempt to string together some responses to what he wrote.

One of the things I struggle with here is the whole idea of homogeneity. It’s hard to pin down how it comes about (and thus if it even exists), particularly when the origin of values and mind-set remain undefined. Do we really seek out likeness, or are most of us born into likeness with people with whom we share practically all our genes? I assume we also replicate our parents fairly faithfully psychically until we learn to generate identity.

So I find it very telling that Jesus chose to teach love by using the illustration of neighbors. Although one’s household is closer, one does have the bonds of matrimony and oxytocin to motivate the utmost effort. But one’s neighbor is the closest outsider that one didn’t pick, is not obligated to love, and invariably exhibits noxious behaviors that must be confronted, preferably over a five-foot fence. What usually happens is that one eventually negotiates a common ground, like I would rake up the leaves from my trees when they reached a depth of several inches in my neighbor’s yard, ‘cause I knew they bugged him.

So, in Phil’s examples, I did not find homogeneity but alliances of heterogenous people. The Taliban, for example, were successful coming out on top in Afghanistan TWICE precisely because, unlike competing groups, they opened up to non-Pashtuns – Uzbekis and Tajikis – and were trained in and supported by a foreign country (Pakistan) in their fights against invading Russians and Americans. Similarly, Jesus fought not homogeneous Jewishness but several distinct groups of thought: mainly the secular, Greek-influenced Sadducees (which included most priests and scribes) and the fundamentalist, reformer Pharisees (sound familiar?).

Indeed, many of the world’s great movements were similar alliances. The Mongols adopted the bureaucracy of ancient China, abandoned Christianity for whatever religion they found in conquered provinces (mostly Islam), and appropriated the best military tactics and inventions (not to mention armies) of scores of peoples to build the largest empire ever, even in places it was assumed their feared cavalry could not operate (the deep forests of Russia, for example). Similarly, in the U.S. today very disparate interest groups (some quite extreme) have discovered the political power of heterogenous common ground.

But, getting back to Jesus: when he says, “scribes and Pharisees,” he is not warning about joining a homogeneity but actually against adhering to either of what would have been thought of as opposite poles. He was advocating God’s way, which is in an altogether ‘nother place completely off the two-pole yin/yang or good/evil spectrum we humans love to reduce to. When Phil writes, “As followers of Christ we are not required to reject our family or ethnicity,” I feel he’s understating mightily. That’s technically true, for Jesus never required anything of his followers, but read what he said about families in the Kingdom. My reading informs me that he called us to a radical break with our contexts, even the most basic. Rebirth by definition causes recitizenship; it results in a new (heavenly) citizenship that transcends earthly homogeneities. One is dipped below the baptismal water as American; one is raised an ambassador to America (Paul’s word picture, not mine).

As one may suspect, this ought to completely upend the groups whose values I should feel kinship with. I should feel more at home with fellow ambassadors, even from poor or non-white American communities or Haiti, Guatemala, or Palestine, than I should with other Americans of whatever group. Judah or Greece are not countries from heaven; therefore there is neither Jew nor Greek. And, no, there is no dual citizenship, because America is not Heaven. But Phil covered that.

To conclude, I will observe that Jesus repeatedly rejected conservatism. See what he says about “traditions of men” (as borrowed from Isaiah). He made fun of what is written before daring those that follow what is written to cast the first stone. His illustration of the wineskin was in particular response to religious traditions of prayer and fasting (although elsewhere he assumes one fasts and prays). He even warms about our culture wars: “no one that tastes the old wine will think the new wine is any good!”

This is a huge challenge to us, the reborn, who are in the midst of metanoia, mind-change, transformation from the old to the new. We are challenged to see the new as the sinners’ dinners Jesus loved to attend. As ambassadors, we have to learn the real Good News: God is overjoyed, through Jesus’ coming, and in Jesus’ way, to embrace the world again.

Reply to Discussion

RSS

Videos

  • Add Videos
  • View All

Blog Posts

Count Your Blessings Daily

Posted by Margie Williamson on November 3, 2011 at 10:33am — 39 Comments

Understanding Discipleship

Posted by Margie Williamson on October 23, 2010 at 2:30pm — 16 Comments

Prayer. Care. Share!

Equip them into the PRAYER-CARE-SHARE LIFE

Disciples of Jesus

Who Make disciples

Who Make Disciples

Who Love God

&

Love Neighbors

© 2021   Created by Network Creator / Coordinator.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service