Chapter 01: What is a Stereotype? – Excerpt 1

Chapter 01: What is a Stereotype?

I’ve started writing a book about Changing the Face of Christianity. I’ll post excerpts here as I go in order to get your feedback before the book is published. 

Stereotypes are all around us. We generalize and group people together, and draw conclusions about people before we really get to know them. In a way, stereotypes help us make sense of this world, by being able to predict people’s behavior based on group affiliation or other common denominator such as race, sex, etc. No matter how hard we might try, Stereotypes can’t be escaped.

I say they can’t be escaped because it’s impossible to keep people from forming judgments about one another. However, this doesn’t mean stereotypes can’t be molded or changed over time. Consider a few stereotype examples you are likely familiar with.

No matter how hard we might try, Stereotypes can’t be escaped

What image comes to mind when you hear the word “Politician”? What about “Teenager”? What about “Used Car Salesperson”? What about “Christian”?

Each of these people-groups carries a crystal clear image of what that person or group of people is like. And that image can be positive or negative. Although more often than not, the image is unflattering. That’s a stereotype.

[…this chapter will be continued in the next post…]

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  1. Starr says

    People, in general, like things to be simple. A stereotype is a sort of shorthand, a way to describe a person in one word instead of many, but in a cartoonish sort of way. It crams a person into a neat, well-defined box, but people don’t fit into boxes well. We have too many rounded parts and protuberances. Stereotypes turn a spectrum of shades of gray into distinct blocks of black and white. It’s not the real world but an illusion. People say, “Republicans (or Democrats) are …” or “Christians are …” as if we were all cloned from the same cell. It’s like the strawman. You paint a distorted picture of a group, one worthy of derision by any sensible person, and then you can tear down any member of that group without really looking at the individual, without paying attention to facts. It’s dishonest. It’s cheating. And yet we still feel good about ourselves, because such a vile group deserves it. That seems to be the way most people operate. Fear or mistrust of the “other.” I see this over and over in the “comments” section of many internet articles. People don’t communicate; they talk “at” each other. They don’t respond; they react. It’s like we’ve become so polarized that we can’t see those who disagree with us, the dreaded “them,” as anything other than a category, a thing. I get really frustrated, and I’ve actually pointed this out in comments under several Yahoo articles, get a lot of “thumbs up” for it, but nothing changes. Is it possible to change a negative stereotype to a positive one? Maybe in some peoples’ minds, But a lot of people don’t seem too concerned with truth or facts. It’s so much easier to buy the lie.

  2. Marci says

    Starr’s comments are so “spot on.” I couldn’t agree with this more. I, too, get very frustrated with comments of individuals who feel the need to put others into boxes or categories, who refuse to put forth an effort to, if nothing else, give some thought to understanding where others might be coming from. Part of the answer can be found in education, both biblical and secular, but again, not a lot of people are concerned with truth or facts. I remember, during John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign (and even after he was elected) many evangelicals, including my own grandmother, felt he was the anti-Christ. Although this wasn’t the case, and she eventually conceded to the fact that Catholics, as individuals, could be good Christians, the historical importance of such a belief still exists, to some degree. JFK was elected over 50 years ago, yet prejudices for beliefs that don’t agree with out own still flourish. What MIGHT help, to some degree, would be to use your book as a platform to talk about the biblical truths pertaining to discernment. I’m sure a lot of folks won’t “get it,” partly because they don’t want to but, at that point you will have conveyed God’s Truth and His opinion, which is all we can do.

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