Why We Have a Hard Time Thinking Clearly:  I Blame Psychologists and Scientists from the 1950s.  And Adam.

I was a computer science major my first year in college.  My students think this is hilarious, because of what happens when I use computers in class.   My power point crashes, regularly.   A file I saved to a drive mysteriously disappears.   The sound doesn’t come through on a video clip and I frantically check six different volume controls in the system to try to recover it.  They might think this is all incompetence on my part.  I tell them that there is an e-conspiracy against me by advanced technology.

Whatever the source of my current conflicts with computer systems, it is certainly true that I didn’t really have good judgment when I thought computer science would be my thing.  I could do the work, but I wasn’t very good at it.  Nor did I get much satisfaction or joy from it.  As it turned out, history was a much better major for me.

I didn’t see myself very clearly.  But why is that?  Of all the things we try to understand in this world, we ought to understand ourselves better than anything.  Right?

Well, no.

My problems in seeing myself clearly are connected to themes I have been blogging about lately.  That’s why I told my embarrassing grad school story.  And why I argued that we have blind spots about race, we have blind spots about religion, we think we are better at being wise than other people, and we have difficulty in thinking clearly about Islam and politics and football.

Why?  Sin affects our thinking.

We often don’t think about how sin affects our thinking because….well, sin affects out thinking.  In our pride, we don’t want to admit that we are wrong.   We don’t want to admit that we might be misguided in our convictions for what ails the health care system, our boss, the Cleveland Browns, or the stupid traffic light system up on Maple Street here in North Canton, Ohio.  (Don’t get me started).  We cherish our sense that we have it figured out.

That’s where I blame Adam (the one who hung out with Eve).

But American culture exacerbates this problem by encouraging us to believe that we really do see clearly.

Take, for instance, certain developments in psychology in the 1950s.  Carl Rogers, perhaps the most popular and influential psychologist of the era, promoted what he called “client-centered therapy.” Rogers held great optimism in the ability of humans to make choices that were good, true and in the terminology of the time, “self-actualizing.”  In other words, trust yourself.

That's right Calvin.  You see everything clearly.

That’s right Calvin. You see everything clearly.

Boy, what great news that is!  Of course I am correct about the health care system, the Cleveland Browns, my boss, and the stupid traffic light system up on Maple Street.  And while I’m at it, let me tell you what’s wrong with Islam, racist policemen, the Democratic party, Fox News, NPR and AT & T.  I can see it all, clearly.

 

 

And then I’ll blog about it.  (Why is the joke so often on me, anyway?)

This therapeutic turn towards trusting our “self” gained authority in the 1950s and 60s because Rogers and others like him argued this methodology was scientific.  As he explained, his client-centered therapy stemmed from a discipline with a “genius for operational definitions, for objective measurement, its insistence upon scientific method, and the necessity of submitting all hypotheses to a process of objective verification or disproof.”  How can you argue against that?  Rogers’ psychological analysis for why we should trust ourselves carried the authority of science.

That’s where the scientists (and those who thought they were scientists) come in.  Most intellectuals of the 1950s (including those professors who taught everyone in college) held a faith that scientific methodology would help us all see clearly.  Science had enabled humans to produce jet airplanes, television and the polio vaccine, had it not?  Scientific advances in the realm of psychology should produce “self-actualized” persons as well, should it not?

In some ways, this was not new.  Faith in this version of scientific thinking had been since the Enlightenment.  And faith in the individuals who trusted themselves had been around since the nineteenth-century Transcendentalists.  But as George Marsden points out in The Twilight of the American Enlightenment, this doesn’t mean the two are actually compatible.   After all, scientific methodology is designed to determine truth by the study of objective realities while faith in the self looks inward, subjectively, for truth.

Z(By the way, Marsden’s book, which is geared for non-academics, is a very accessible, clear, and compelling read if you want to learn more about the development of intellectual ideas in America in the 1950s and how it led to the culture war of the 1980s.  You don’t have to be a professor or a pointy-headed intellectual to understand or enjoy it).

As Marsden also points out, there is one more significant difference between thinkers of the 1950s and those of the Enlightenment:  Enlightenment thinkers believed in a Creator who established moral laws, while psychologists and scientists alike in the 1950s believed that moral laws were produced by humans as they evolved over time.

In other words, psychologists and scientists alike by the 1950s believed humans created morality.  By implication, they placed a great deal of faith in the ability of humans to see clearly, apart from any reference or guidance from God.  God was irrelevant because He may or may not exist, anyway.  Instead, the scientific examination of the outward objective world and the psychological examination of the inward subjective world would help us see more clearly.  This was communicated to Americans through universities, popular magazines, TV shows and movies.

50 million copies sold.  That's a lot of kid.

50 million copies sold. That’s a lot of kids.

The best selling expert on child care, Dr. Benjamin Spock, made this point explicitly in his opening line to parents in The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care:  “Trust yourself.”  He told parents that “your baby is born to be a reasonable, friendly human being.”  The Baby Boomer generation grew up with this message.

And if we can trust ourselves, and if our babies are going to naturally be reasonable, and if we have this on the authority of scientists and psychologists, then we all must really think clearly, don’t we?

Of course, the idea of sin is long gone by this time.  Let alone the idea that sin affects our thinking.

And that makes it even harder to see, let alone admit, that our thinking may be distorted.

Christians Killed in Libya: Natural and Unnatural Reactions

You may have been aware of the news that an ISIS-affiliated group in Libya recently beheaded twenty-one Egyptian Coptic Christians.

It doesn’t surprise me if we react to this news with anger, dismay and anxiety about the actions of Islamic extremists.  Those would be natural reactions.

My daughter, Brenna, who is working alongside Coptic Christians in Egypt this year explains how her Coptic Christian community has reacted:  by grieving, by praying for those who persecute them, and by trying to love their enemies.

There is something unnatural about the praying and loving part.  It is unnatural because it is not normal or natural to pray for our enemies or to love them.  We need the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit to do this.

Yet this is what Coptic Christians at Anafora are doing – or struggling to do.

As we all should.  And if we are unable to love our enemies –since it really is unnatural–we might start by mourning for the deaths of these Christians.

You can read Brenna’s post here.

 

A Christian Historian speaks about Obama, Islam and the National Prayer Breakfast. Consternation ensues.

In keeping with the themes of a few of my last few posts, I thought I should direct you to an interesting blog post by a friend of mine, John Fea, who is a professor of history at Messiah College.  John was commenting on Obama’s speech at the National Prayer Breakfast.

John’s post was picked up by the Religious News Service and an edited version by the Washington Post.

John has gotten some criticism from fellow Christians for his post, which is not surprising because it involves Islam, politics and some criticism of Christians in history.  The post is primarily about humility, dependence upon God, and using history to help us think more clearly, but those sort of things can get overlooked when we get all riled up reading about, well, Islam, politics, and criticism of Christians in history.  That’s how we are, sometimes.

 

 

 

 

 

The Challenge of Being a Religious Minority. And Majority.

This is the wall on the back part of the property, with a mosque just beyond it.

The wall on the back part of the property, and a mosque just beyond it.

The accompanying picture is of a wall on the back portion of the property of Anafora, a retreat center in Egypt run by the Coptic Church.  If you look closely, you will notice a building beyond the wall.  That’s a mosque.  There are actually three mosques bordering the property of this facility, which is located out in a farming area south of Cairo.  Therein lies a story.  Or an observation, at least.

In early January, my wife and I returned from a week in Egypt, where we visited my daughter Brenna, who is working for a year at Anafora.  Actually, Anafora is more than a retreat center.  It is also a monastery/farm/conference center/school/commune/counseling center/biblical exhibit/oasis kind of thing.  You know.

Interior of the Coptic church at Anafora.

Interior of the Coptic church at Anafora.

Anyway, the church purchased the land about thirty years ago and began building on it about fifteen years ago.  Among the structures they built, the Coptic Christians, unsurprisingly, erected a church.  After that happened, three mosques were built at different places around the edges of the property.  A couple of Coptic Christians told me that whenever a church is built in Egypt, Muslims will build a mosque as close to it as they can.  One Coptic Christian laughed a bit in explaining this, saying, “They like to keep us company.”

As Brenna gave us a tour of the Anafora property (which I estimate to cover about 85 acres, a good size for a monastery/farm/conference center/school/commune/ counseling center/biblical exhibit/oasis kind of thing), we walked along the back edge and looked at the mosque beyond the wall.  That’s when I noticed a speaker, one speaker, up high on the tower and pointed directly at the Anafora property.

Keeping the Christians at the retreat center company.

Keeping the Christians at the retreat center company.

And the purpose of the speaker?  The Islamic call to prayer.  Five times a day, mosques in Egypt broadcast a chant in Egypt that is the call to prayer.  You hear it everywhere in Cairo.  You also hear it at the Christian retreat center of Anafora, as I did at 6 a.m. when I was turning over in my sleep.  (Many Muslims get up earlier than I do, apparently).  It is not even clear that anyone attends the call to prayer at the mosque at the back of the Anafora property, which is out in the middle of a bunch of irrigated fields.  One story, unverified but probably true, is that somebody investigated the mosque during the call to prayer.  They not only did not find any Muslims engaged in prayer, but did not even find a muezzin there singing the prayer.  The prayer floating out over Anafora seemed to be just a recording.

I’m not sure, exactly, what motivates the Egyptian Muslims to aim that speaker right into the Christian retreat center.  It might stem from a desire to harass and intimidate.  It might be a desire to constantly remind the Christians that Egypt is an Islamic nation.  It might stem from an anxiety that Christians pose a threat to an Islamic society. It might even be a pretty bad attempt at evangelism.  And it might be some sort of combination of these things.

Whatever it is, I would not call it a good thing, even though I wouldn’t put it in the category of religious persecution.  Harassment, maybe.

Here is my main observation:  it is at this point that we Christians (and other non-Muslims) are tempted to shake our heads at this behavior and file the situation away in our mind as another example of the problems with Islam.  I know I am tempted that way.

I use the word “tempted” because there is a danger here that sin would distort our thinking.  I’m not saying these particular Muslims are innocent of bad behavior.  I’m saying that the flip side of the “problem with Islam” way of thinking is that it subconsciously and conveniently assumes that a “Christian” or “secular” society (take your pick) does not have the same problem.  In other words, we are tempted, even in an unconscious way, to think, “I’m sure glad we aren’t that way.”

A colleague of mine, Steve Moroney, identifies this sort of things as a “self-serving comparison.”  Moroney published an interesting study which drew upon social psychology and theology to explain how sin affects our thinking.   Simply put, when we are considering a trait that is socially desirable, most of us report that we are better than average.

Of course, it is impossible for a majority of people to be better than average.  (Do the math).  But consider that most Americans consider themselves to be safer drivers than other Americans.  Most business executives consider themselves to be more ethical than the average business executive.  78% of Australians consider themselves to be better parents than average. When high school students were asked to rate how well they got along with others, all rated themselves as at least average, 60% considered themselves to be in the top tenth of this trait and 25% thought they were in the top 1% of those with the ability to get along with others.

Ah, those funny business executives, Australians, and high school students just can’t see themselves as clearly as, say, professors.  After all, it is our job as professors is to think clearly.  Right?  Well, 88% of all professors think their teaching is above average.  10% rate their teaching as average.  Only 2% consider themselves to be below average, which just goes to show you that just about every college class produces great teaching that is well above average.

Of course, Jesus understood all of this two thousand years ago, when he asked, “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?”

A question to ask, then, is how do we treat Muslims in the United States?  Do we have our own version of speakers blaring into their retreat centers which, I should say again, is a very bad method of evangelism?  Maybe we do a better job, but we should not assume we do.  Instead of assuming that obnoxious or bad behavior is a “problem with Islam,” we should probably ask different questions, individually and as a society, as to whether we might have blind spots in this area and how we would find out if we did.  We need to get better at recognizing our own blind spots.

A friend of mine told me that he once heard a lady walking out of his church one Sunday morning saying, “I’m sure glad we Quakers don’t stereotype other people like the Baptists do.”

And I’m sure glad I’m getting better than that Quaker lady at recognizing my own blind spots.

Uh….oops.

Thinking Clearly, or not, about Football, War and Bell Towers

(Blogger note:  This blog has fallen into a period of inactivity lately.  Last semester was a particularly heavy semester for me and something had to give.  That something was the blog.  But I’m going to try to get it up and running again.)

It is hard to think clearly when one feels threatened, angry or anxious.  Some of the stupidest things I’ve said in my life have come in the midst of Notre Dame football games. Consider, also, what war does to our thinking.

During the Civil War, it was common to find sermons like that from a northern evangelical minister who proclaimed that the conflict was between “the rebellion of a proud, luxurious, lascivious, unprincipled, murderous Absalom, against his noble, unsuspecting, too affectionate and over-indulgent father, David.”  For their side, southern ministers preached messages such as, “the fall of Sumter…was a signal gun from the battlements of heaven, announcing from God to every Southern State this cause is mine.”  Yep.  Ministers were pretty clear about what God was up to, weren’t they?

Germans.  A threat to the American home since the 3rd century.

Germans. A threat to the American home since the 3rd century.

During World War I, Americans did not simply shun German culture by changing the names of “frankfurters” to “liberty sausages” or towns (like mine) from “New Berlin” to “North Canton.”  War anxiety also led Americans into darker behaviors.  A German immigrant in St. Louis was lynched.  The US government depicted the Germans (these people who had produced Beethoven, Kant, and Einstein, to name a few) as barbaric “Huns” who were out to destroy civilization. Americans also eliminated German language instruction from thousands of schools because, apparently, if kids learn to speak German they’ll develop an irresistible urge to invade Belgium.

Of course, we all know that during World War II Americans became so anxious and fearful of Japanese-Americans that they were placed in internment camps.  As a governmental official in California explained in justifying this policy, “the very fact that no sabotage has taken place to date is a disturbing and confirming indication that such action will be taken.”  Right.  And the fact that Ecuador has not invaded us to date is disturbing confirmation that they will.

We need to understand this about ourselves.  Anxiety, fear and anger lead us to think in muddled ways that then lead to damaging behavior.

This is just as true today, when we feel anxiety, fear and anger over the recent terrorist attacks in Paris.  Radical Islamists pose a real threat, of course.  But just as Americans made sweeping stereotypes of enemies in the Civil War, WWI and WWII that led to unjust actions, we need to remember that we can do the same.

That is why I bring up the comments of fellow evangelical, Franklin Graham.  Now, Graham does great work with Samaritan’s Purse and elsewhere, but I’m concerned about recent proclamation he has made.

They grew from a dispute at Duke University, when the institution decided to broadcast the Muslim call to prayer from the campus bell tower.  There is a valid issue about whether or not it was wise or good for an occasionally Christian chapel at a formerly Christian university to do this. A healthy discussion could be given on that, but that is not what I am concerned about here.

Franklin Graham said this: “As Christianity is being excluded from the public square and followers of Islam are raping, butchering, and beheading Christians, Jews, and anyone who doesn’t submit to their Sharia Islamic law, Duke is promoting this in the name of religious pluralism.”

Here is the problem:  Graham lumped millions upon millions of Muslims into one category of “raping, butchering and beheading.”  The overwhelming majority of Muslims around the world (and in the United States) are not radical extremists.  Most Muslims believe, theologically, that these terrorists are not true Muslims and that Osama bin Laden is in hell right now.  It is true that most segments of Islam have a problem with the modern idea of religious freedom, and that is worth discussing.  But to lump all Muslims together with terrorist groups because these groups claim to speak for Allah is the same as lumping all white Christians together with the Ku Klux Klan because they claimed to be defending the Bible and burn crosses in people’s yards.

This calls for clearer thinking and a more humble approach to this difficult and complicated situation.  I understand that many Americans do not understand Islam very well, meaning it is easy to draw hasty conclusions from news bites and media stereotypes.  It’s a problem for many Americans and many Christians.  I’m saddened that Graham has fallen into this line of thinking.

Graham, I’m guessing, feels threatened from two directions.  Like many evangelicals, he probably feels threatened by those who would like to sweep the public square of any religious references or who would like to try to relativize all religions in such a way as to depict them as essentially the same.  Those are valid points.  Like many people in the US, Europe and the Middle East, he probably also feels threatened by the horrendous actions of the extremist Islamic terrorist groups.  That is a valid threat as well.

The really difficult part?  Christians are commanded, by the grace of God, to love those they disagree with and those they consider their enemies.  Prejudicial stereotyping comes from the anxious and sinful parts of our nature (a nature I share as well) not from the grace that has been given to us.

Realize also that I am not saying Islam and Christianity are the same.  I would like to see Muslims come to Christ, just as I would like to see all people in the world come to a deep, full union with Christ.  But the practice of lumping all Muslims together as terrorists is not only a really, really bad way to evangelize, it makes the work of evangelicals working with Muslims much more difficult.  Unfortunately, statements like those made by Franklin Graham work against the evangelistic goals that his father represented in his life.

So, let us start by asking God to give us the grace to love better.  The first step in loving somebody who is unfamiliar to us is to try to get to understand them better, which includes trying to see matters from their shoes.  The Muslims I know about in northeast Ohio feel threatened and besieged and misunderstood in the aftermath of every terrorist attack that hits the news.  Evangelicals ought to know what it feels like to be misrepresented in the media.  From there, we might be able to better figure out what to do about such a complicated issue as Islamic prayers in the Duke bell tower.

Ebola, the Media and Christianity

A little analysis from our favorite media giant with the Big Religious Blind Spot, The New York Times, from an article on October 10:

“The first to respond to the Ebola crisis in West Africa, Doctors Without Borders remains the primary international medical aid group battling the disease there.  As local health systems have all but collapsed and most outside institutions, including the United States military, have yet to fulfill all their pledges of help, the charity has erected six treatment centers in West Africa, with plans for more.”

So, Doctors Without Borders was the first organization to respond the Ebola crisis.

Uh, not quite.  When Doctors Without Borders arrived in Liberia to battle Ebola they collaborated with Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical missionary agency.  Samaritan’s Purse has had medical care in Liberia since 2010, so they were right there when Ebola first broke out.  They were, in fact, trying to alert the world to the Ebola problem before it became a big news item in the West.  In July, an official of Samaritan’s Purse declared:

“We need them all to help us in the fight against this dreadful disease…I call on the international community and the donor governments of the world, particularly in Europe and the United States, to step in and recognize the very limited capacities of the ministries of health in West Africa and to help them contain this disease.”

And where does one find this declaration from Samaritan’s Purse, an organization fighting Ebola in Liberia along with Doctor’s Without Borders?

A New York Times blog.

Don’t these reporters read their own paper?

A picture from the Times in July, showing Kent Brantly treating Ebola patients in Liberia.  Any further comments I would make at this point about this would be way too snarky and disrespectful.

A picture from the Times in July, showing Kent Brantly treating Ebola patients in Liberia. Any further comments I would make at this point about this would be way too snarky and disrespectful.

That article even carried a picture of Kent Brantly working on Ebola patients.  Brantly, as you may know, is the doctor from Samaritan’s Purse who later made international news as the first American to contract Ebola.

So why does The New York Times say that Doctors Without Borders (which is an excellent organization, by the way) was pretty much the only organization in West Africa working on this?  Why do they fail to mention the work of an organization like Samaritan’s Purse?

Another blind spot.  And it is a blind spot connected to the reality that missionary organizations make some secular people uncomfortable.

You don’t have to take my word for it.  Slate writer, Brian Palmer, who declares himself to be an atheist, makes the very point that missionaries are overlooked in the whole Ebola crisis.  Palmer explains how he was recently at an international conference discussing Ebola and the control of infectious diseases and somebody made the point that Doctors Without Borders were the “only group on the ground” dealing with this problem.

Palmer, however, wrote in the Slate article (he doesn’t mention whether he said anything at the conference) that missionaries have long been on the ground dealing with these issues.  He also indicated that missionary doctors and nurses actually have long-term commitments, don’t just parachute in during a crisis, and do not profit economically from their work.

Of course, this is not news to any of us who are familiar with missionaries.

But it is news – uncomfortable news – for certain kinds of secular Americans. Palmer gives reasons why secular people are uncomfortable with missionaries — and why he himself, in fact, is uncomfortable with them.  (The subtitle of his article is  “Should we worry that so many of the doctors treating Ebola in Africa are missionaries?”)  There’s nothing new there — those arguments he gives have been around for more than a century, as Palmer points out himself.

I give Palmer a great deal of credit, however, for bringing to light the good work done by a group with which he has serious disagreements.  That is a difficult step to take.  It is so difficult that The New York Times can’t seem to pull it off.

Now before I end up out of line in my snarky comments about the Times, (I might already have crossed that line, actually) I better point out that I am often not able to pull that off, either.  We Christians, who ought to know something about humility, respect, and loving those with whom we disagree, ought to be able to regularly point out good work done by people with whom we have serious disagreements.

Do we?

 

(My thanks to my friend and colleague, Scott Waalkes, who brought the Slate article to my attention and understands evangelicals and missionaries, even though he grew up amidst Calvinists in Grand Rapids.)

 

NPR Has Discovered Christians in Hong Kong, and Boy, Are They Surprised

Maybe there is a little progress being made on the religion in the news media thing.  NPR, which in my estimation has had something of a blind spot for religion, has reported that the Christian faith is an important part of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong — as well as some Christians who are voicing criticism.

NPRNPR is surprised by this, but I’m not surprised they are surprised.

Will The New York Times finally start to see what others are seeing?  There is still no sign that the light is dawning there.  They did mention the Catholic church and other “non-governmental organizations” like Amnesty International in a story about groups that Chinese officials are worried about.  The Chinese government is worried about Catholics?  Hmm.  Why would that be?  (Hint.  Hint.)

(My thanks go out to my daughter Brenna, who tipped me off to the NPR story.  You might might be interested in reading her blog – she’s a better writer than I am — about her work in Egypt.  She is serving in a one-year program established by the Mennonite Central Committee that places Christians in service work with other Christians around the world.  She’s working at a retreat center run by the Coptic Church.)

 

 

Is this News to You? The New York Times has a Blind Spot with Religion.

In the last couple of weeks, pro-democracy protests have been surging through Hong Kong.  Evangelical Christians are playing a significant role in the organization and leadership of the Umbrella Movement leading the protests.

Yet, in its extensive coverage of these developments, the New York Times doesn’t  discuss religion.

Are you surprised by this?

I am not.

An example:  The Times ran a front page story last week (October 2) about Joshua Wong, who is leading the pro-democracy student protests.  The paper ran the headline, “At 17, Leading Protests That Rattle Hong Kong.”  Several pages later the story continued with a second headline, “Student at Forefront of Hong Kong Democracy Movement is Unlikely Agitator.”

Joshua Wong

Joshua Wong

What makes him unlikely?  Well, he is young.  We find out that Wong started protests of government curriculum in his school three years ago.  And we learn that he represents an idealistic culture of protest.  We also learn that his university entrance exam scores were middling.

What else is unlikely?  It would be unlikely for the Times to recognize that Joshua Wong has been shaped by evangelical Christianity.  The article did mention that Wong’s parents were “Protestants who kindled a concern for social justice,” but that is the only mention of religion in any of the articles the Times reported.

It is not just Wong.  A disproportionate number of protesters in Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement are Christian.  The same goes for the Scholarism movement that Wong founded several years ago.  Two of the three leaders of the Occupy Central with Love and Peace movement are Christian.   And interestingly, some of the criticism of the movement, as well, comes from Christian leaders.  One of the most vocal critics in Hong Kong is an Anglican bishop.  The Times does not mention any of this.

I’m not surprised because, as I mentioned in my last post, the Times has a blind spot when it comes to religion.  Now, I should mention that I subscribe to The New York Times.  It’s a good way for me to get relatively deep coverage of world events.  That is, the coverage is good unless religion (particularly Christianity) is a significant factor in the story.  It appears to me that the people in power at that newspaper just don’t understand religion or have a good sense for how it could motivate modern people, particularly in public ways.

The Times is not alone in that regard.  A lot of the news media has a blind spot when it comes to religion, Christianity and evangelicalism.  Much of the rest of our news media is just like the Times in this regard.  That is one reason why many American Christians argue that there is a liberal bias in the media.

But the problem of blind spots is not just with “liberal media.”  The “conservative media” has its own blind spots.  (See Bill O’Reilly on race, for instance).

The problem with blind spots is us.  By “us” I mean those individuals who breathe and think and have desires, a demographic that covers a remarkably high percentage of people.

I have blind spots.  So do you.  We don’t know what they are, because we are “blind” to them.  Get it?

Every now and then, our eyes are opened, at least a little bit.  That was the point of my embarrassing story about my exchange with the post-modern feminist on my dissertation committee.  You might recall that she asked rather pointedly how I could claim to provide a solid analysis of the evangelical missionary movement and not consider women, since women made up a majority of missionaries.

I wonder, then, what would happen if were able to ask the editors of The New York Times how they could claim to be investigating the causes of this pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong and not consider the role Christianity plays, since Christians make up a good deal of the leadership?  Of course, people like me don’t have the ear of the Times editors.  And even when our blind spots are pointed out, we often don’t truly believe that they exist.  So we don’t see them.  I doubt I could convince the Times editors that they have a blind spot.

But the point here is not to tweak the noses of The New York Times.  (Well, OK, I have to confess that I do actually want to tweak the noses of The New York Times.)

My point is that we need to realize that all of us have blind spots and we need to be aware that they exist, even if we don’t know what, exactly, they are.