Remember that old saying?
“When you assume you make an ass out of you and me.”
Ok, not really clever, but it sure does hit the nail on the head.
Actually, no, it doesn’t.
Sure, assuming negative things about people without having any substantial facts to back it up can make you look like a real horse’s patoot, but frankly, it only makes an ass out of me if I let it. And, I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to let anybody have that kind of power over me.
As a Christian, it is particularly important to me that I neither make false assumptions about people nor allow other people to make me feel bad about myself. There’s lots of ways to frame why that should be the approach Christians take, but the one that rings most true to me toady is, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Love them. Love yourself.
That “love” thing is a sticky little wicket.
Practicing it as fully as we are called to practice it can mean overriding things that sometimes seem like very core human emotions: fear, judgement, pride, self-importance – just to name a few.
Yet, that’s what we are called to do.
Making negative assumptions about people? That’s not a very loving things to do.
Possibly the kind of assuming that bothers me the most is “normalizing.” It’s when we think this way: I am [insert category of people here] and I believe [insert belief here], therefore all [insert category of people] believe [insert belief].
Ex.: I am a Christian and I believe Donald Trump will suffer in the fiery pits of hell because he has small hands and wears what seems to be an endangered species on his head, therefore all Christians believe Donald Trump will suffer in the fiery pits of hell because he has small hands and wears what seems to be an endangered species on his head.
We can all see how absolutely ridiculous that is. (I mean, c’mon, frighteningly, that’s his real hair!).
Seriously, though, it really is just bad logic. Yet, we do it all the time.
Here’s a small sample of some of the ways we do it to other Christians.
In a series I wrote last year, “This Collar Is Too Tight: Heresies From a Southern Minister,” I make the argument that Christianity needs a bigger tent. Far too many Christians try to “normalize” to their own personal beliefs what makes a person a Christian rather than recognizing that the greatest theological minds in history have constantly disagreed on what does and doesn’t equate to being Christian.
So, rather than “normalizing” people to your beliefs and assuming negative things about them, why don’t we just agree to default to love?
If you do, you’ll find you end up with a lot more friends and the diversity of thought, opinion, and culture it opens you up to will create a much fuller and enlivening personal world than you ever imagined.