Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 1 (Winter 2015) - Page 41

VOLUME 11, NUMBER 1 A JOURNAL FOR THE THEOLOGY OF CULTURE self and maintain positive self-esteem. One way in which group members engage in group-serving biases is by choosing to participate in situations and tasks in which the group can shine. Additionally, group members tend to make group-serving attributions. For example, they often overestimate group contributions to successful projects and underestimate group contributions to unsuccessful projects. If several church groups work together to put on a successful conference, each group will tend to think that the conference success is primarily due to their efforts and capability. If the conference goes poorly, each group will tend to blame it on the other group. Another way in which groups engage in group-serving biases is by choosing to engage in comparison processes that reflect highly upon themselves. For example, a small multiethnic church might favorably compare itself to the neighboring all-white church because it is basing its evaluation on multiethnic church success rather than size or community impact; and the all-white church might favorably compare itself to the small multiethnic church for the opposite reason. By carefully choosing the comparison dimension, one’s church is always compared favorably. Group members will even go to great lengths to interpret ambiguous situations in ways that reflect positively on the ingroup and negatively on the outgroup.39 The American church’s tendency to do this was on spectacular display last year when Christians heard of Rob Bell’s controversial book Love Wins40 and swiftly sided with either Rob Bell or his critics. A cursory analysis of the ensuing blog posts suggests that this contest was also characterized by rough, foul play as each side launched powerful, hurtful, and divisive verbal attacks at the other. However, neither side was willing to take responsibility for its contribution to the disrespectful conflict. Armed with the belief that their perspective was entirely right, each side easily came up with reasons why other perspectives were not valuable and why dissenting voices should be extinguished. A humble appreciation for different perspectives was conspicuously absent from the conversation. Rather than giving serious, respectful thought to the viewpoint with which they disagreed, they dug their heels even deeper into the ground of their preexisting theological beliefs, unwilling to consider other ideas. An event that should have triggered respectful conversation across theological lines led to divisions that are even more dogmatic and deaf than before! Based on 39. For a classic example, see Albert H. Hastorf and Hadley Cantril, “They Saw a Game: A Case Study,” Journal of Abnormal and S ocial Psychology 49, no. 1 (1954): 129–134. 40. Rob Bell, Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived (New York: HarperCollins, 2012). 40