Stereotyping seems to be the way of the world these days. Perhaps it's been the way of the world all the way back to Adam and Eve; blaming, scapegoating and hiding all seem to be elements of stereotyping.
Of course, the ways of the world aren't necessarily God's ways. The gospel is full of Jesus' teaching that serve as correctives to the stereotyping ways of the world. Jesus instructed his disciples to "let the children come to me" at a time when children were stereotyped as sub-humans. The same goes for woman in Jesus' time. When Martha complained that Mary was sitting at Jesus' feet, she wasn't just complaining that Mary wasn't "carrying her load" to welcome guests, she was living within the parameters of female stereotyping that prohibited women from sitting at the feet of a teacher. To us all, Jesus commands, "Judge not, less you be judged."
Yet, we all stereotype. When the Pastor's Class began its study of Islam a few months back, I must confess that my mind swirled with stereotypes regarding Muslims. Though I attempt to follow Jesus' teachings, my fears and bias often stirred my boat. I can remember standing next to a woman in a black burka in the lobby of a hotel a few years ago and I feared her intent, even though we were both there due to a fire alarm.
One goal of our class was to confront our stereotypes and the past two weeks, our two presenters did just that. In the past, the name Mubarak would conjure a stereotype in my mind. But since I became a neighbor to Mubarak Chouhdry, that name now conjures up this image:
When I would see a woman in a head scarf my mind would conjure up an Islamic woman stereotype. But now I see Noor.
Noor is the Arabic name meaning inner light. For anyone whom heard Noor speak about women in Islam, she certainly shined a new light to break limiting stereotypes.
As Christians, may God's light help us see past our stereotypes in order to see God's love for humanity.
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, your Son taught us to judge not! Help us to see beyond our stereotypes less we miss the goodness of the people you place in our lives. Amen.