THE BLANKET: YOU ARE NOT WHERE YOU COME FROM

“Americans are irreverent.”

“Nigerians are scammers”.

“Arabs are cheats.”

These comments (or things like them) are said about people of specific nationalities and ethnicities on the daily. And for the most part, this sort of labeling passes unchallenged, because it’s more frequently done in group conversations involving people who actually believe that individual behavior can be put down to the purported tendencies of the societies from which they originate.

Interestingly, many of these people will resist attempts from others to slap the same sort of negative group labels on them. They will claim exceptions for their own individuality, perhaps even reject derogatory descriptions of members of their group.

A lot of us have done these things at some point in our lives. Some of us still actively identify the behavior of individuals with popular stereotypes of their countries or cities of origin.

If you’re reading this right now, your default response might be to “condemn negative stereotypes” and “encourage us to see one another as unique in ourselves.”

Of course, there are irreverent people, scammers, and cheats in every ethnic group, country, or race. In any case, there’s next to no empirical evidence that any specific nationalities are more given to doing bad things than others.

The problem with blanket statements, positive or negative, is that they significantly distort reality. They tell us that things are as they are not. And these distortions have serious consequences.

There’s one obvious example. Young children don’t seem to mind about the colour of their friend’s skin or where they are from, until they get exposed to negative social ideas about race and their parent’s take on geopolitics.  As they grow, they pick these ideas up. By adulthood, they have acquired a full set of stereotypes which they’re ready to slap on to the next available target.

That’s a very easy takedown.

But what about positive cultural stereotypes then? Do we give those a pass?

We suggest not. Claiming that the Chinese are accommodating by default simply glosses over a sizeable number of instances in which Chinese people have treated strangers badly.

But there are consequences for so-called positive stereotypes as well. When we say that an ethnic group has some fantastically good qualities just by virtue of their being that ethnic group, we’re claiming that ‘goodness’ is expected of people of that group by default. In reality, it’s wishful thinking (and even dangerous) to trust that ethnic identity will confer positive traits by themselves.

It’s wishful thinking because selfishness, the default human tendency, eventually rears its head even among the most ‘pleasant’ people, if we hang around them long enough. It’s dangerous because it sets us up to be disappointed, to lose the trust we have invested in people, and to despise them for disappointing us.

In the end, we are individuals, with a capacity for both good and evil. Our expressions of these things may vary according to our environments (and some stereotypes may be drawn from characters that actually exist). But this doesn’t change our individuality. It doesn’t make us any less human in God’s eyes.

This rings true for Christians, united as we are by our faith in Jesus. As the apostle Paul says in Galatians 3:28,

There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.

 

Ikenna Nwachukwu & Ezeonyeka Godswill.

THE BLANKET: THE BIG SIN DILEMMA

Once in a while some “new” social vice steps onto the scene that seems to rock the very moral core of the world. Whenever this happens, the church has been known to be very damning in their judgment of whatever it is, giving the world the notion that though God hates sin, He hates some sins more than the others.

Of course, this is laughable for anyone who has actually studied the Bible. In theory, it is clearly stated that in God’s eyes a rebellious person is as bad as a murderer. The thing that creates these distinctions is our own moral bias and since we are somewhat afraid to own up to them, we just slap our God on it and hope that everyone accepts it without question.

The only problem with this is God only backs up his word, not yours. So, if and when the inconsistency is found in your judgment of some “big sin”, your sense of judgement called to question. But the God you claim told you that is also called to question. Making the world doubt the sovereignty of God’s wisdom and stray farther from salvation.

Another problem with this dilemma is the way a blanket is thrown over anyone struggling with such vices or tendencies. This happens because once you put the spotlight on a character flaw, a single story begins to manifest and sure as day it is slapped on every individual with even an inkling of a trait close to the said character flaw. Popular instances are, “All smokers are wife beaters”, “All serial killers are loners”, “All homosexuals come from broken homes” etc.

These look harmless and probably justifiable on the surface but if you look deeper, it is hurting more people than we realize. A very big reason for this is when people build their lives on such a premise, it does cave in and when it does, they lose trust and begin to question everything. It is just like the proverbial hole covered with a blanket and throne set on it as told in African folklore. We are setting a trap for ourselves when we proliferate these stereotypes. Even when we do so in goodwill.

The human character is perhaps the most dynamic phenom on the planet. It may look like the same trait, but it frequently changes in its expression. This tells us that to help anyone with a character flaw, an individualistic approach is the best way. An approach that considers the human in question and their specific experience with the said struggle.

Also, take off the veil over the act. Every sinful act is sinful before God and Jesus died for them all. Once we give one priority over the other, we inadvertently give power to a sinful act; which should not be so. No matter how horrendous it may seem, it is no different from what we may call ‘everyday’ sin and it is a product of man’s inordinate desire to control his own destiny. The way out is always to surrender to the Lordship of Jesus and let the Holy Spirit guide you.

Sin is quite the topic in the Christian sphere, but that is about it. There are no big sins. And no matter what it is you and I are struggling with, the fact remains, it is wrong, and God wants to help us with it. Go to God in prayer, change your focus from yourself to God, get all the help you need and see God save you as He has promised.

 

Grace.

Ikenna Nwachukwu & Ezeonyeka Godswill.