Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 1 (Winter 2015) - Page 34

THE PREEMINENCE OF CHRIST IN US - Cleveland consider to include the outgroup. Perspective divergence begins when group members adopt polarized views on an issue and surround themselves with like-minded ingroup members. As a result, they begin to conceive of a prototypical group member who embodies all of the traits and values of the ingroup that is then projected onto the larger community. In other words, the ingroup members begin to believe that the traits and values of the ingroup are the gold standard—not only for the specific ingroup, but for all people, including the outgroup. However, the outgroup has projected its own prototypical group member onto the superordinate group and believes that its traits and values are the gold standard for all people. Consequently, any ensuing intergroup interactions are rife with misunderstanding because the groups do not have a common frame of reference; one group is operating under the laws of its “alternate universe” and the opposing group is operating under the laws of its “alternate universe.” Indeed, studies show that perspective divergence contributes to intergroup divisions in real-world groups. For example, one study demonstrated that motorcyclists exhibit signs of perspective divergence, and that this causes misunderstanding between groups of motorcyclists. Sports bikers perceive their group as more prototypical for the larger group of motorcyclists than chopper bikers, and vice versa.23 Due to the fact that the chopper bikers inaccurately believe that they best represent the larger group of bikers, they also believe that sports bikers are not model group members, and that their perspective and needs are not relevant. As a result, sports bikers become marginalized group members who are typically disrespected, devalued, and kept at bay, and vice versa. It is relatively easy to see how perspective divergence contributes to intergroup misunderstanding and division between members of the body of Christ today. I recently worked with two pastors—a black man who pastored a predominantly black urban church and a white man who pastored a predominantly white suburban church—who had recently failed to lead their churches in working together on a project at the black urban church. The joint venture began well but soon ended quite poorly, leaving behind a trail of distrust, negative emotions, and bruised egos. After hearing each pastor’s perception of the situation, it became clear to me that both pastors were guilty of engaging in perspective divergence, particularly when it came to leadership ideals. Each pastor possessed very different ideals about what a leader does and does not do, and each pastor projected his ideals onto the 23. Sven Waldzus et al., “Of Bikers, Teachers and Germans: Groups’ Diverging Views about Their Prototypicality,” British Journal of Social Psychology 43, no. 3 (2004): 385–400. 33