I’ve worn corrective lenses of one kind or another since the 4th grade. Until the age of 16, I wore glasses. Oh, what an image of me with wildly poofy hair, big brown-framed glasses and braces – the awkward years, to say the least. From the age of 16 until now, I have experienced the corrective joy of contact lenses. Contacts stay cleaner than glass lenses, at least in the sense that they don’t get fingerprints all over them. Even with disposable lenses designed to wear overnight, I always choose to disinfect them overnight, every night. It just seems like a smarter option for a long-time wearer like me.
Although it may not be obvious, we all look through lenses of one sort or another. A lot of folks are not conscious on any level of the lenses through which they see the world. For the most part, people assume that everyone sees the world as they do. Or if it becomes clear that someone else does not, then that person is considered either inappropriate, uneducated, or just plain wrong. The funny thing is, that person may make the same judgment about the first person. You see, we all think our vision is the most correct one.
What we fail to see so often is that our lenses cause us to make mistakes in our interpretations. Our lenses develop from early childhood and are shaped by many, many biases – most often unquestioned and unchallenged biases – that create a sort of shorthand for us as we age. Once we learn in childhood, for example, that women are inferior beings because Eve ate the “apple”, or that another race of people is morally inferior because of what this parent or that relative taught us either in words or in actions, then later in life when we encounter a situation where women are being abused or a person of another race is experiencing discrimination, our lenses help us jump to a justifying conclusion. “Oh yeah, that is happening because this subconscious message engraved in my lenses must be true.” But, many times – many times – it isn’t true.
I am studying now about the attitude of Jewish men, particularly other rabbis, during the time Jesus walked the earth. Every day, it was their habit to thank God they were not born as Gentiles (heathens), as women, or as unlearned men. If you say that every day, you can’t help but to be convinced that women, other races, and the uneducated/poor are less human and less deserving than you are. I can’t help but equate that attitude with attitudes I have encountered throughout life from other White Americans about what it means to be born White in America and the ingrained, automatic biases against anyone who isn’t White. Honestly, most folks are not aware how covered in bias their own lenses have become.
Jesus was really good at showing the folks in his day how dirty their lenses were. He did it by blowing their minds with what they considered to be outrageous behavior for a rabbi. He taught women! He spoke to them in public! Jesus spent time loving and befriending and healing people with whom “righteous” men were not supposed to contaminate themselves. He was radical in that regard, and the “holy men” hated him for it.
As a Jesus-follower, I hope to some day blow people’s minds by revealing years of grimy bias. We all should hope to do that. But, in order to reveal dirty lenses, we first have to consistently examine and clean our own.