[media-credit id=314 align=”alignright” width=”186″][/media-credit]Listening to the Jewish shopkeeper go on and on about his dislike of the Palestinians in Jerusalem, I wondered why this man had so much hatred in his heart. What kind of personal experience had led this man to have such strong opposing views against the people that live just miles from his home? The conflict has existed for centuries. Since before the time of Christ, the Jews and the Palestinians have been fighting.
As I got to know and visit with both the Palestinian and the Jewish people living in this crowded historical land, I learned to love both sides. I saw beautiful scenes of devout Jews dancing in the Sabbath and praising their Lord, and kind Palestinian women working in a run-down hospital amongst premature babies.
So why, when there is so much good to be found on both sides do they hate each other so much? There is no simple answer to this question. Graduate students and professors alike spend years studying and discussing this topic, but I believe there is a base answer to this question: they have been taught since birth to hate each other.
The recent events in Libya and across Europe have the world talking about hate crimes. As Americans, we watch the news and it makes us sad to see the events going on around the world. But then we turn off the TV, or finish reading the article, and we think it doesn’t apply to us. But it does.
We were all raised with certain prejudices regardless of where we were born. As I was thinking about this topic, I started to examine what cultural ideas some of us have been raised with in the Mormon culture. Let’s take the issue that has been raised recently about caffeine on campus. There is a wide range of opinions about whether or not caffeine is OK to drink in the Mormon culture. Some children are raised in families that think it is a sin to drink caffeine, and some families think it is perfectly fine. Now while I am not saying that caffeine is the best thing for you to drink, as proven by the recent press release by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we as a Church do not have an official stance on this issue. The problem with this issue comes in Mormon culture when those that have been raised to believe that drinking caffeine is wrong judge others for making the choice to drink it.
Another issue that is a hot topic in the states right now is gay rights. Whether or not many people recognize the source of their feelings or not, it is obvious that the public has strong feelings for and against this topic. Some people are raised to abhor even the idea of homosexuality so much that they inherently hate the person struggling with the issue. While I am not condoning the practice of homosexuality, and we are clearly taught in the Church that “marriage is ordained of God” and between “a man and a woman,” problems come when we cannot separate in our minds the sin from the person.
The Savior taught that we are not to judge but to love others.
As I stated before, although these examples may or may not be a prejudice that we are personally struggling with, they are examples of common prejudices that people struggle with in our culture.
It is up to us to distinguish between what we truly believe and what we have just been taught to believe. Part of the issue that resides in the Middle East between the Palestinians and the Jews is that sometimes they don’t even understand why they hate each other. It was something they have been taught to believe for centuries.
As we are taught in the scriptures, sometimes traditions passed down from the father’s can be righteous and good and we should follow in their footsteps. However, we need to decide for ourselves whether or not those traditions are righteous, and then choose how to become the best we can be.
The basis of prejudice comes when people don’t understand one another. We should stick by our morals and what we believe to be right, but also attempt to refrain from judging others and distinguish between what we truly believe and what we have just been taught to believe.