Bias, Perspective Taking, Outrage, Diversity - Christena Cleveland & Mike Erre
Mike Erre and Christena Cleveland discuss Bias, Perspective Taking, Outrage, Diversity.
I’m definitely seein’ some common threads, and I wanted to identify some of those, and give you guys an opportunity to talk to each other a little bit about it. And two of those are [laughing]
You’ve got like a little.
This one spot right here?
Interviewer: Yeah, you’re good. Two of those are–
Do you know sweat is a sign of being in shape? [laughing]
Interviewer: That’s good.
I’ve read that. So.
Interviewer: We need some,
We need some evidence, I think.
Yeah. You’re lookin’ at it. [laughing]
Bias is a good place to pick up from there. [laughing] Bias and judgment are factoring in both of your talks, and I wanted to see what’s going on there, because there’s all sorts of cognitive biases that we live with. You told us just about one study, Christina. And, I want to know from both of you, do you see any connections between internal cognitive biases, and our susceptibility to judgment?
Probably, I mean, I think of… Who do I talk to, you or them?
Interviewer: All of us.
Okay. [laughs] I think that typically we have, we come up with ideology to explain our behaviors. So, if the bias exists, then we want to come up with a reason to justify that bias. And so, that’s where I think judgment would come into play. Where it’s like if I’m in my neighborhood, and I’m thinking like…
You know, I might be biased towards the way someone looks. Saying, “Oh, they might not be clean,” or “They might not be industrious people.” Then I will come up with a judgment to justify that. And sometimes those judgments come from scripture, or from [laughing] you know, within sort of our Christian way of thinking.
Mike, what do you think about this? But, in light of–
Couldn’t agree more.
I think she said it beautifully.
You’re supposed to disagree, respectfully. [laughing]
No, no, I’m not supposed to disagree
I thought we queued you.
respectfully. I wanna turn over a table, and get a whip out now, ’cause I feel like that’s–
Some righteous anger coming from over here.
No, I mean, that is exactly and precisely the way that it works. And, many of you, well, some of you, if you’ve heard me speak before, we have a little boy with Down syndrome. And so we see this in an interesting way. I love that you spoke of mental ability as a place of power, because we see that with our little dude.
And so, it’s just fascinating to see what he draws out of people as he just is himself. And what you’ve gotta then do in your mind to justify whatever he drew out of you. And so, I couldn’t agree more. But I think the spiritualized way that we think we are called to condemn each other in the world. And so we look at the prophets, and we look at John the Baptist, and we think that’s the model for the apologetic of the 21st century. And I just, I think what Jesus has done, has been to call all of that the former age.
That the kingdom age is a bit different in its emphasis. And so how covenant people then are addressed, and called, and invited. Yes, there are times there’s incivility, there are prophetic moments, no question about it. But there is this, I mean, to be the father, to be the son or daughter of a father meant that was your defining characteristic. And so when he identifies as mercy, would anyone in America identify the church as merciful? Not one, I mean, nobody, nobody would say that. So, I just…
Christina, you brought up, I think, perspective taking, in a way. Learning someone else’s reality.
I wanted to just have you say a little bit more about that, because, this I think will come up again, in due course, over the conference. But that seems like a skill. That seems like a presence or a habit of mind that just sort of comes along with certain kinds of people, and we know them when we meet them, because they have a way of understanding us. Can you say a little bit about how we can cultivate that kind of empathy,
or that kind of perspective taking?
Yeah. I appreciate Father Greg Boyle’s thinking on the Beatitudes around this, because he talks about how the Beatitudes are really more about geography than anything else. And he says like, you know, switch out the word “blessed is,” and switch like, and put in, “you’re in the right place when.” Because he was saying like, where we’re geographically situated says more about that kingdom, or kindom of God, than what our actual individual spirituality is.
And the reason why I bring that up is because, I think for people who are in this room, people who are probably more powerful than not, it’s hard to share brain space, and take perspectives, engage in perspective taking. Which is why I think it’s so important to be geographically situated around. It’s very intentional. Everything in our lives, and I’ve said this a couple times. Everything in our life’s designed for us to basically hang out with people who are just like us. It’s just the natural way that our society is designed. Even like last year, two years ago now, Microsoft came out with the like, Avoid the Ghetto App. Which is like a GPS app, that is designed, like you put in, it works like a regular GPS. You put in the address, but it goes around, it navigates you so that you avoid high crime neighborhoods.
And so, it’s this very like, there are all these tools in our lives to help us not share brain space, not be geographically located to people. And I would argue, and this is one reason why it’s really important for me to live in the neighborhood that I live in. I would argue there’s only so much you can learn from documentaries and books. [laughing]
Like, I’m really glad you saw Selma, but, that still doesn’t let you know much about what it’s like to be a 15 year old in my neighborhood. And so, I do think part of that is actually standing with people. Which is simple, but costly. Yeah.
And really, there’s only so much you can learn from a conference. And so, one of the things I wanted to ask both of you to do, Mike, starting with you. What are some of the biblical habits, practices that people can take from this conversation? In the context of judgment, of pride, and moving from those vices toward [laughing] a life that looks more like Jesus.
We can stop being outraged by everything. I mean, when you assume [laughs] that you’re the worst sinner in the room, I tell you, that’s changed so much of how I relate to people. And I’m not perfect, I’m still sinnin’. Regarding myself the worst sinner in the room. But, that practice has been utterly liberating. The practice of rendering the only verdict about another that I can genuinely and biblically render, which is simply that they’re of unsurpassable worth, created in God’s image, and worth dying for, evidently.
And that until I’ve died for such a person, there’s still room to grow. Those sorts of practices. To me, hospitality is the key to life. And placing yourself in situations where you are the person who is the outsider. And I’ve learned to do that in some very specific ways. We got a small group together, and the first thing we did was went to go see an art exhibit in favor of gay marriage. And these were people who were not engaged in that conversation, or happy to have that conversation. And so we went, and the goal was just, okay, let’s just go and see what it’s like to be in someone else’s physical space, where there’s an agenda.
And maybe we get a glimpse of what it’s like for people to come onto our church campus, you know? And so, it was just really powerful, because, the responses were all over the map. So, those are the kinds of things that most obviously come to mind.
Christina? Do you have any ideas about practices that we can–
Oh. Certainly that, you know, I think getting off your turf is huge. I think, intentionally, I think prioritizing the voices of them, of people who are marginalized in society. I think in our wannabe egalitarian society, our value is that everyone gets an equal voice, like that’s this big value in America. And that’s not a bad value, it just, unfortunately, isn’t true.
And so, when we go into these situations, I would say, some of the voices that already have a platform. I mean, if you could only read 10 books in a year, 20 books in a year, make most of them books of people who don’t normally have a platform in your culture. And I would say, even in the context of disagreement, prioritize the voices that have been marginalized. Which I think is really difficult for people to do. I know it’s hard for me to do sometimes. Yeah.
I’m wondering if either of you have personal stories of where you experienced something that really did induce change, when it came to taking another person’s perspective. You shared about your neighbor, Christina.
Mike, have any ideas about that?
Many. I grew up in Ohio, [audience cheers] and– [laughing] Can I get an amen?
And, Ohio is known for its great diversity, and– [laughing] and,
You’re supposed to laugh at that?
And its anti-racist society
Oh, totally, totally, just,
there’s no white privilege there at all. So, coming to Los Angeles in Orange County was quite the experience. But, the thing that’s been most transforming has been my son. I remember, we found out three months before he was born that he had Down syndrome. We found out 92% of folks abort at that moment.
And that the number of live Downs births are decreasing, dramatically. And so all of a sudden, we were at Disney World, or Disneyland, and we were in the handicapped section, with all of the screamers, and the groaners, and the wheelchair people, and the droolers, and diapers on adults.
And we’re sitting there, and I just start weeping. Because this wasn’t the dream I had for my family, right? And this isn’t what’s valued in our world and culture. And I’m sitting there, and, I mean, I remember the moment, it was during one of the parades. And the Lord just does what he, he did what he does so beautifully. And he called out in me the death of my judgments about what was happening around me, and invited me into something richer and deeper. And so, those kind of moments, seeing life through my son, has opened up every other avenue of inclination, or natural tendencies I have.
Because that world is one of the few remaining pockets where it really is out of sight and out of mind. You just shove those folks over into a corner. And so it’s been very good for me, because I come from a place of no such awareness.
One more question for both of you.
You look like George Lucas. I’ve just been thinking about it. You just kind of, creator of Star Wars.
This is the Star Wars
You just kinda–
thing coming out again.
Yeah, I’m sorry.
I saw one of the movies.
One of the six. It was like, the first–
Was it, the first, was it the early ones? ‘Cause the latest ones, those were horrible.
I think I saw the first of the second batch.
Oh, okay, no, no.
And I was like, why? [laughing]
So you haven’t even seen it. You haven’t seen it. You haven’t seen Star Wars yet. You haven’t even seen it.
I’m okay with that.
No. I’m gonna–
The church is
I’m gonna just leave.
obviously a culture of judgment. And, this is where I wanna land here, is, what’s news worthy, besides Star Wars, is–
Mike: That’s right.
is being obnoxious, it’s outrage, it’s a presence of anxiety to culture. Did you hear what just happened? And, what I’m gonna ask is, is walking that line between a humble, sort of nothing can shock me attitude, and a prophetic presence for the church, and really the tension that follows from that. Words of wisdom? Help?
I get to cheat a little bit because I get to go through the texts. And, as the texts both comfort and conflict, I get to find my way in there. I do think there are times, I totally agree with Christina, that there are times to flip over tables, and drive out animals. And prophetic actions, to gain any momentum in our world, have to be noticeable, and sometimes, very blatant, and uncivilized.
I was thinking about that, that yes, that’s true. But if they come from a place of anger, I mean, this is where, you know, Dallas Willard has this great line, and Greg, you’ll be thrilled I’m quoting St. Dallas, but… [laughing] “Anything done in anger can be done better without it.” And so, even in the turning over, if I’m not the worst sinner in that room, it’s a death, it’s now, and now it’s pride, and now it’s power, now it’s the bad kind of judgment. And so, for me, I work very hard at not to be outraged. Because it’s so easily done, and media does saturate us with those images.
And so, if there were two or three things if I could be outraged at, what would those things be? Well, none of the things that are currently in my Twitter feed are those. And so, that kind of perspective has helped.
Interviewer: Yeah. Christina?
Yeah, I think I would echo some of those thoughts, and say, certainly, we live in a culture where outrage is like a, it’s like a commodity, like it’s currency.
I would probably argue that anger can be really helpful. I think I’m a fan of anger. And I think I’m okay with people acting out of anger, particularly people who identify with oppressed groups. Because that anger is real, and it says something, it’s authentic. I think that for those of us who have power, we need to think differently about how we act in anger. But I certainly wouldn’t want to censor, or tone police the anger of others, or even my own anger, ’cause it’s saying something about, even, the heart of God. I think God gets angry at some of the things that are happening in our world.
And Jesus did.
Yeah, no question.
Yeah, those are my favorite times, when Jesus did that. [laughing]
So, but I would also, I think power plays a huge role in how we even think about the question that you asked. I think that, when it comes to cross-cultural advocacy, cross-cultural solidarity, we need to rev it up. Because we can act as allies for people who don’t have a voice. And if I’m making a lot of noise about something that’s going on in my neighborhood, people are gonna listen to me. But I think that when it comes to my own issues, or my own things that drive me crazy, maybe I need to think differently about that.
And I would also add, really quickly, that in our culture, we often associate being prophetic with riling people up. But I think it’s so prophetic, also, to be the voice of grace, and calm, and peace, too.
Yeah. That was great.
Thank you both. Can we thank them? [applauding]