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by Al Maxey

Issue #730 ------- September 2, 2017
The mind of the bigot is like the pupil
of the eye; the more light you pour
upon it, the more it will contract.

Oliver Wendell Holmes [1841-1935]

Man With A Mustache
Reflecting on the Sin of Bigotry

In the year 1790, George Washington (1732-1799) sent a letter to a Jewish congregation in Newport, Rhode Island in which he made this declaration: "Happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support." The term "demean," by the way, was used in Washington's day to mean "to conduct or behave oneself in a particular manner" (a meaning somewhat obsolete today, although the related word "demeanor" still conveys the original thought). Few would argue with the principle conveyed in our Founder's advice to this Jewish community. There is no place in civilized society for bigotry, or the persecution of those with whom one may differ. Those who govern should act swiftly and firmly against all such attitudes and actions (and against those who display them), for a failure to do so can very quickly destroy the stability of a nation.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) rightly observed, "There is nothing more dangerous than the conscience of a bigot." When allowed free rein, it can destroy lives, relationships and communities. A "bigot" is generally regarded to be "One who is strongly partial to one's own group, religion, race or politics, and is intolerant of those who differ in any way" [American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th edition]. In Roget's International Thesaurus the word "bigot" appears under the heading "Narrow-Mindedness" = "Noun: intolerant, little person; opinionist; fanatic. Verb: close one's mind, shut the eyes of one's mind; view with a jaundiced eye, not see beyond one's nose or an inch beyond one's nose, see but one side of the question" [3rd edition].

The etymology (which is the study of word origins and development) of the word "bigot" is rather uncertain, and there are a number of fascinating theories that have been proposed over the years. Although the ultimate origin of the word is unknown, one of the earliest known uses and appearances of this word is found in the Old French, and was an insulting term employed against the Normans. The Normans were originally Vikings (or Norsemen) from Scandinavia, but at the beginning of the 10th century they settled in a region of France now known as Normandy. The French had a strong dislike for these "intruders," and had little love for them. It is assumed by some scholars that the term "bigot" came from the frequent use by the Normans of the Germanic/Teutonic oath "bi Got" (by God). A Norse chieftain by the name of Rolf, when urged to bow and kiss the foot of Charles III, refused to do so, saying, "No se, bi Got" ("No, by God"). Some scholars suggest this term "bigot" was later applied by the French to anyone who was "obstinately set in his opinions, beliefs and/or mode of life." As the word developed, it came to refer less and less to the Normans, and was used instead to characterize a religiously intolerant person. In the 17th century, the English borrowed this word to describe a religious hypocrite. Certainly, the Pharisees of our Lord's day would fall under this umbrella of "bigotry" and religious hypocrisy (as per Christ's characterization of them in Matthew 23). Late in the 17th century its usage was "extended to other than religious opinions" [Online Etymology Dictionary]. Today, "bigot" is generally understood to be a reference to anyone who is extremely intolerant of all those with whom he/she may differ (regardless of the issue, although religion, race, nationality, politics, and social status are the primary areas where bigotry is evidenced). A "bigot," then, is "a person who has strong, unreasonable beliefs, and who does not like other people who have different beliefs or a different way of life" [The Cambridge Dictionary].

Although there are a number of other theories as to the possible origin of the word "bigot," I was especially intrigued by the view that it may have had a Spanish origin as well, which may have paralleled the ones mentioned above. The above mentioned Etymology Dictionary, after examining a number of origin and development theories, states, "At the end, not much is left standing except the Spanish 'bigote' = 'mustache,' which has also been proposed as the origin of the word. ... The chief virtue of this theory is the lack of evidence for or against it." Those who favor this view point to the Spanish phrases "hombre del bigote" ("mustache man") and "hombre con bigote" ("man with a mustache"). "This is rooted in the South American gaucho masculine viewpoint of what a real man is all about. The dictionary goes on to say that it 'refers to a person of spirit, firm character, and conviction'" [John Clayton, "Is Christianity a Religion of Bigots?," an article in his periodical "Does God Exist?," vol. 44, #3, third quarter, 2017, p. 8]. There are some interesting sociological studies done on how people tend to perceive men with and without facial hair (beard, mustache, stubble, or some combination thereof). In a 2014 study titled "Facial Hair and Societal Perception," researchers found that the majority of people perceived those men with facial hair as being dominant and aggressive, while those without facial hair were generally viewed to be far more sociable and compliant. In the study, this observation was made: "A man whose brain is telling him that he's 'manly' is more likely to act in an assertive and dominant manner than one whose brain isn't receiving that signal. So yes, sporting facial hair can affect your behavior. If you're feeling like you need a little boost to your self-confidence and your assertiveness, a beard or mustache might be the way to go. Similarly, if you're struggling with anger management, a shave might be in order." It is not that great a leap, therefore, to see how some might have come to associate "a man with a mustache" with traits common to bigotry. This is just one example of how words have a tendency to develop and evolve over time in interesting ways in various cultures (i.e., "bigote" to "bigot," and, as previously noted: "bi Got" to "bigot").

Regardless of the actual origin of the term, the traits of those who are bigots are well-documented and wide-spread. Bigots may be found in every culture, both ancient and modern, among all peoples and nations, and in every religious and political group. Bigotry is an "equal opportunistic" sin; it is not unique to any one group. There are white bigots, and there are black bigots; Asian bigots, Hispanic bigots, Native American bigots, Jewish bigots, etc. There are Christian bigots, and there are Muslim bigots; Catholic bigots and Protestant bigots; Church of Christ bigots and Baptist bigots; male bigots and female bigots; gay bigots and straight bigots; Democrat bigots and Republican bigots; and on and on the list could go. My point?: NO particular group of people (in spite of what some may say) has a monopoly on bigotry; there is plenty to go around. Bigotry is a heart condition, and since we all have one, we are all susceptible to this evil. In our own society, here in the USA, in just the last few weeks, we have seen the ugly head of bigotry raised again in a powerful and destructive way. Fingers are pointed back and forth between groups and individuals, each accusing the other of being the bigot. Anger reigns, harsh words are shouted, punches are thrown, weapons are employed, and the result is total chaos. Every such encounter in society is somewhat unique, and in every such event some bear more guilt than others for the destruction that ensues. We should be willing to call out and mark those persons and groups creating the havoc, but we should also be brave enough to acknowledge that extremists exist in all parties involved, and the group that may not have been the primary initiator in this event, may well be in the next, or may have been in a past event. Some of our leaders dared to state the obvious truth that there are extremists and bigots on all sides who need to be called out and reprimanded, and yet these leaders were called bigots for saying this! I recently made the comment that Jesus forever settled the matter of which lives matter when He went to the cross, for He died for all men. For stating what Scripture itself states, I was called a bigot and racist. Friends, please hear me: we don't have a race problem, we don't have a gender problem, we don't have a political problem ... we have a heart problem!! All these other areas are just symptomatic. Treating the symptoms won't cure the disease!

John Clayton, in the above referenced article from his periodical, lists four major characteristics of bigots. #1 - Bigots refuse to sit down and reason together with those who do not share their views. They are not interested in respectful dialogue, they are instead committed to hateful diatribe. #2 - Bigots do not tolerate or see any good in opposing views. In Acts 17, the Bereans were willing to sit down and examine Paul's teaching in light of Scripture to determine if it was true, while the Thessalonicans were not willing to do so. In fact, the latter hounded him from city to city trying to silence him. #3 - Bigots wish to harm those who oppose them. They seek to silence, if possible, the voice of all who differ with them; failing in that, they will seek to destroy them in any way they can, either by death or by defamation. #4 - Bigots cannot disagree without being disagreeable. I am sure each of us could give numerous examples of this kind of behavior acted out not only in society, but also in the church. It is shameful, and it shames our God, who is Father of all men, not just the ones we might favor (because they agree with us or look like us)!!

Bigotry takes many forms, and is directed toward a host of "issues." There is no shortage of bigots in all areas of life. Racial, political and religious bigotry is alive and thriving all around us, and the news is filled daily with examples of the destructive nature of this disease of the heart. Even within my own faith-heritage (that wing of the Stone-Campbell Movement denominated "Churches of Christ") there have been, and continue to be, examples of extremism. Just by way of a singular example, one of our movement's leaders (within the ultra-conservative, legalistic wing of Churches of Christ) was Foy E. Wallace, Jr. (1896-1979). This man was born in the deep south, and thus was raised during times of racial segregation. He, like many others, was impacted by this negative view of an entire race of people, and this racial bigotry even carried over into his teachings in the church. In the March, 1941 issue of his publication "Bible Banner," Wallace condemned the efforts of some to bring racial integration into Churches of Christ. He felt strongly that the blacks should remain apart "with their own kind," and that the whites should do the same. In that issue of his paper he wrote an article titled "Negro Meetings for White People" (which you may read in its entirety by Clicking Here). In this article he bemoaned the fact that whites were attending black church meetings, and by doing so were "lowering" themselves in the sight of God and men. Notice a few excerpts from that article:

I hope each of you who read this are just as appalled as I am over this godless belief and behavior!! It is a shocking case of bigotry, and yet not all that uncommon for that time (and, sadly, far too common still). My father-in-law, Don Cavasos, served as an elder together with a dear black brother named Robert Hall in Albuquerque, NM years ago (both men are now deceased). Robert told me of an incident where he and his family were vacationing in the deep south, and on a Sunday morning they went to one of the Church of Christ buildings to worship with them, but were refused entrance. However, the leaders of that congregation told them they could stand outside on the porch and they would hand the communion trays out to them after the white members there had been served. How on earth can such people call themselves followers of Jesus Christ?!! It is disgusting! Let's be frank here: our societal ills have not arisen overnight, nor are they as simply defined or healed as some might profess. However, a key to the healing we all long for may well lie in each of us taking a step back, taking a deep breath, and making an honest effort to look beyond the externals of both people and circumstances. Others should not be defined by their outward characteristics, but by their inward character. If we can accept that principle, and begin applying it, we have taken a huge step toward healing. "For God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).

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Readers' Reflections

From David P. Brown in Texas:
(Editor of Contending for the Faith)

Al Maxey, who is an illegal, fizzles again. Good old pragmatic Maxey. He has never seen a commandment from God that he would not break if he felt like it, especially when the end in his mind justifies the means. So it seems with most of the illegals passing themselves off as those who are faithful to God.

From an Elder in New Mexico:

Al, you are very special. Among the best Bible scholars in this world. I really appreciate you, dear brother. Please keep writing!! One more important fact: In John 3:16 we are told God loved the world enough to save us. Not just some privileged group, but ALL of us! The only criterion is belief. It's not what one must do to be saved, but what one must believe. Hebrews 11:6 clarifies: one must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who seek Him. It is up to God whom He will save; Jesus having paid the ultimate price. His sacrifice is all-sufficient, even covering the sins of many who have never heard of Him. Note again the criteria: Belief in God, and belief that He rewards those who seek Him. As I have said before, my stepladder isn't tall enough to look over His shoulder into the Book of Life so as to know more (who is saved, who is lost). The price has been paid in full, and He is thereby free to save whomever He wills.

From a Reader in Houston, Texas:

Al, I saw a post you placed on your Facebook page about relief efforts going on where you are on behalf of those all around me in the Houston area. I thank you for your prayers and concerns! I had an odd thought a couple of days ago, though. As I watch friends and neighbors take on water in their homes and businesses, and suffer losses that I'm not sure how I would handle, I find myself almost feeling guilty for having had continual power, internet, TV, and no water flooding my house. There has to be something in this, but being blessed so much when so many around me are suffering is difficult on the thinking! We have all asked at times why bad things happen to good people, but how many times do we ask, "Why have I been spared when so many around me are suffering?!"

From a Minister in New Zealand:

Thank you, Al, for your great article on adoption: "Our Adoption by God the Father: The Apostle Paul's Eschatological Intent in a Soteriological Statement to the Saints in Rome" (Reflections #729). You have excelled yourself (and I say this respectfully). To me, it is Paul simply giving us the complete picture from eternity to eternity, from foreknowing to glorification: the master plan with nothing left out and no imperfections. Romans 8 is so positive and fulfilling; it not only tells us what we have in Christ, but who we are: more than conquerors! God bless you, brother.

From a Reader in Barbados:

Your latest Reflections is really instructive, as well as reassuring, particularly at a time when many in Christendom are not sure concerning what the Bible teaches about our adoption by God. I really like the analogies you used to make your point (i.e., a pregnant mother, the Jewish betrothal system, and our present day adoption process). Very reassuring too is the idea of our expectation culminating in the realization of our redemptive bodies. Now we have the deposit; then and for all eternity we will access the entire inheritance! Thanks, Al.

From a Reader in Georgia:

Just read "Our Adoption by God the Father." Well done! Nothing like good coffee with a good Reflections. As you noted, it seems that God likes using a process: the creation, drawing one to Himself, sanctification, adoption, redemption ... nothing is "quick" with God. And yet we, as humans, want everything "quick" (right now!!). We want immediate results: drive-thru fast food, overnight health improvement, teens who mature in their thinking by the time they graduate high school, etc. Maybe we should slow down and enjoy the journey; take some time to teach through the process. At least, that's where I ended up after reading your study ... although, I had to get out my dictionary just to get started reading this Reflections! (LOL) You get pretty sophisticated in your writing for an old ".50 cal" guy!!

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