News and Tribune

January 17, 2013

MAY: Pride and prejudice

By TOM MAY
Local columnist

— William James, an American philosopher and psychologist who lived in the late 1800s, wrote “Many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.” Frederick the Great said “The greatest and noblest pleasure that men can have in this world is to discover new truths; and the next is to shake off old prejudices.” W. C. Fields quipped, “I’m free of all prejudices. I hate all equally.”

Groucho Marx often felt the prejudice against the Jewish race. He once remarked, “I don’t care to belong to a club that would have people like me as members,” but in reality he was often hurt by the spirit of people. He tells the story of taking his youngest daughter to an exclusive club in New York City to swim one hot summer afternoon. The attendant reminded the comic, “I am sorry Mr. Marx, this is a restricted swimming club.” “I understand,” retorted Groucho, “but my daughter is only half-Jewish. Can she go in up to her waist?”

Prejudice has a long history on the earth. At this time of year, we pause to honor Martin Luther King Jr. for having the courage to dream of a day that was free of the slavery that prejudice promotes. It might surprise you to know that even in the days of Jesus, there were strong prejudices separating peoples. When people first heard where Jesus was from, many asked “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” 

Now, if you’re speaking of a relatively obscure rock group of the ’70s who still believe it’s a good thing to tour today, the answer is obviously “No.” But if you are speaking of an even more obscure village in Galilee at the time of Jesus, everyone would have answered with a resounding, “No!” 

Nazareth was the run-down trailer park of its day. Obscure. Podunk. One stop light. No Starbucks. One couldn’t trust Jesus because he came from the other side of the tracks.

Do you have any prejudices when it comes to religion and faith? 

One prejudice of sorts that must be overcome is the attitude that family had toward faith. If your family made light of the importance of the religion, it will be very difficult for you to overcome that influence. If your family displayed faithfulness consistently, your commitment to God will come much easier.

One of the strongest prejudices in America today is seen against older people. That same prejudice can creep in as we look at religion today. How could ancient religions know anything of our era? How can I relate in any way to someone who lived 2,000 years ago? After all, it’s been said that a child born in 1900 has more in common with Moses than with a child born today.

Perhaps your prejudice comes from science. There isn’t a way that the authors of a religious book could have known about the items of science that are available to us today. Maybe accepting things of faith is difficult because you are used to taking things out and examining them. 

“Can anything good come from Nazareth — are you from Galilee too?” 

Yeah. And proud of it.