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While We Are Combating Bias…

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So back in June the Justice Department announced:

…that more than 33,000 federal agents and prosecutors will receive training aimed at preventing unconscious bias from influencing their law enforcement decisions.

The official term in use is “implicit bias:”

In a memo to Justice Department employees, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said the program targets “implicit biases” – subtle, unconscious stereotypes or characterizations nearly everyone makes about certain groups of people.

“But implicit bias also presents unique challenges to effective law enforcement, because it can alter where investigators and prosecutors look for evidence and how they analyze it without their awareness or ability to compensate,” Yates said in the memo.

I find this fascinating.  There might be bias in how we look for and analyze evidence!  I wonder if that works somewhere else, like I don’t know, climate science say.

I don’t want to get into the tall grass here (my eyes start to glaze over and I actually am a scientist), but it seems to me that any “science” that considers itself “settled” and talks of “deniers” is going to have a pretty hard time looking for and analyzing evidence.  So on the one hand we seem to want to eliminate even a hint of bias.  On the other hand we seem to want to discourage the sort of questioning that could eliminate bias.  Seems to be pretty inconsistent to me.  And isn’t that the definition of bias, where the outcome or conclusion matters more than the process to get there?

What do you think Jesus was talking about when He said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them?”  Well, in point of fact, volumes have been written on that very subject – way more than can be explored in a blog post.  But one way to look at it that I can summarize here is that He came to eliminate bias in the application of the Law and the Prophets.

We try to eliminate bias by process.  Understanding our natural tendencies to move things towards a desired outcome, we design processes that at least assure the same outcome given the same circumstance.  This is not entirely unbiased, but it is consistent and therefore should be considered “fair.”  But what Jesus witnessed in officialdom all around him, both governmental and religious,  was that such a process based approach could be perverted – as we see in the juxtaposition of the very concept of bias in the cases of criminal justice and climate science.   Jesus knew that something much more radical was needed than just reinventing the processes.

The fulfillment that Jesus spoke of was about changing each of us, individually and therefore corporately, into people who were no longer self-centered thus eliminating the tendency to work towards a desired outcome.  That is truly and deeply radical.

It should also be noted that He offered this fulfillment not by new words or new laws, but by sacrifice and resurrection, by sacrifice and supernatural action.  For us that means that if we are to get there we have to sacrifice to supernatural action.  Supernatural action is not within our ability, but it is within God’s grace if we will but submit (sacrifice) to it.

Without sacrifice there will always be bias.


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Friends and Allies of Rome