Give it Up: Lent 1 (Outgroup Homogeneity)

Giving Up Outgroup Homogeneity

Give-up what?    Let me explain.

You and your friends, and people like you are your “ingroup”, we all have one.

People you do not associate with, who are dissimilar in belief, politics, maybe even age and geography are our “outgroup”.

Homogeneity is the quality or state of being similar.   Outgroup Homogeneity is the perception that people not like you are pretty much the same.

Now I didn’t come up with with this on my own.  It is a often studied social phenomenon.  In “Disunity in Christ” by Christena Cleveland PhD. explains that it is a near universal human perception and comes with the reverse correlation “Ingroup Heterogeneity”

Dr Cleveland explains the problem which then arises:

“Once we reach this conclusion (and we do so quite swiftly), we are no longer motivated to interact with and learn more about the outgroup.  We think we already know everything there is to know about them.”

Let me give you some examples and explain why for Lent, and hopefully for life I want to give this up.

Outgroup Homogeneity is at work when a single term is used to group people and assume they all basically think or act the same.  You’ve heard these at work, maybe read these on Facebook and possibly have even used them, if even in only your mind (as I know I have.)

Liberals think that….         Conservatives are so….      Women are… unnamed     Men are…        Right-Wingers don’t…        The Left is…         Gays are…       Muslims have….        Christians act like….     White People think that…       Blacks just…        City people are….        Country folks are….

You can fill in the ellipses,  You know what gets said.  The above statements get made by a person who identifies with the opposite group and feels qualified to lump all of those in the “other” group with one sweeping generalization.    In their mind all the members of the “out group” are pretty much the same.

  • – they  all are lazy leaches who depend on Government Support
  • – they all are redneck racists who hate everyone not like them
  • -they are murderous extremists
  • – they are hypocritical and judgmental

But while viewing others as “predictably the same,”  People maintain Ingroup Heterogeneity – believing the people like me are “…oh so unique and different.”

“My group are all unique individuals – but that group is all predictable and the same.”   As Dr. Cleveland stated once we reach that position – we don’t need to listen to other positions – we can reject it with a word, and toss it away as a pail of dirty water we have no need of.

So I’ll do my best to not dismiss the thoughts or position of others (the baby)  by throwing them into the category I believe is unwarranted (bathwater).   To dismiss a person and their thoughts, just because of their religious, political, or racial category IS ignorant.

I plan to give it up for lent, and hopefully beyond, please join me in this and perhaps we can meet some interesting new people.  People who we THOUGHT we knew but who we never REALLY understood.

I believe that Jesus rejected Outgroup Homogeneity.  He  surprised his disciples as he stopped to talk to a sick women, journeyed through Samaria, listened to people others ignored.  He demonstrated that each person is unique and no one should be rejected as insignificant with the toss of a label.   The ability to move past this human tendency is to begin to embrace and journey into the Beloved Community.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Matthew 7: 1-2  

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