We all necessarily inherit cultural bias through the process of being born, growing up, becoming educated and enduring rites of passage. Unless we question attitudes we inherited and adopt our own attitudes we will remain slaves to our childhood. The process of becoming our own person is called ‘individuation’.
Whoever you hate, or whoever you respect, these attitudes came from your childhood when you were impressionable. Maybe you were trained in a certain religion and you broke away from it. Maybe you were taught to hate people of a certain race or nationality. Maybe you were taught to disrespect people of the other gender. Cultural bias is simply those attitudes and perceptions you brought to your adulthood from your childhood.
The individuation process leads one ever closer to the person he/she is meant to be, with both a sense of awareness and a sense of wholeness. Anyone who has individuated has suffered the pains of rebirth as they broke from their cultural umbilical chord. Without individuation, you cannot truly be free to be yourself and fulfill your destiny. Overcoming cultural bias is part of the process of individuation.
An analogy of the process of individuation can be likened to the Exodus of the Children of Israel from Egypt. The first step is to separate yourself from the hindering influences of your childhood. That process can be scary and often requires a struggle. Then there is the process of denouncing your false gods. Then there is the ‘forty years in the wilderness’ where you acclimate to your new condition. Finally you come out of the desert into the ‘promised land’ and are able to return to your cultural roots as an individuated person and can now withstand the forces against you.
Prejudice against people
There are many ways to exhibit prejudice against certain classes of people. Prejudice is the most insidious form of cultural bias. It is found in all cultures.There are religious prejudice, racial prejudice, nationalistic prejudice, gender prejudice, sexual orientation prejudice, caste prejudice, class prejudice, political party prejudice. All prejudice against classes of people stem from hatred and fear of others.
Hatred against women
Hatred against women is a cultural bias that degrades nearly half the population. It crosses cultures, generations and geography. It is often justified throughout history by religious authorities. Tertullian was a particularly prolific advocate of hatred against women.
Nearly all current biblical interpretation begins with patriarchal roots and assumes hatred against women. The fact that women are not allotted equal status in most religions perpetuates this attitude through the logical fallacy of ‘appeal to antiquity / tradition‘.
But let’s not get sidetracked into protesting and political activism. The main point is to realize this cultural bias and overcome it within yourself on your way to individuation.
My point is that all biblical interpretation must be re-considered through the filter of gender neutrality or gender universality.
Jesus Christ was a revolutionary when it comes to promoting gender universality. He often spoke to women, healed them, and was admonished by the religious authorities for mixing with women, sinners and publicans. His gospel, or good news was a universal message to men and women alike.
His most vocal and prolific apostle, Paul often wrote about how this gospel crosses all boundaries of class, sex, and status.
Galatians 3:28 New International Version (NIV)
28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Abraham and Sarah
Going back to the patriarchs, we know that Abraham lived in a society in which women were of a very low status. Most genealogies even did not mention the mother. However, if we put on the glasses of gender universality while remembering the universal gospel of Jesus Christ, we can safely say that Abraham and Sarah were equal partners in the covenant. God must have held their hands in both of his as he walked along with them. So everything said about Abraham can also be said of Sarah.
This point will become more important in future articles as we learn to walk in the footsteps of Abraham (and Sarah).