Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 1 (Winter 2015) - Page 47

VOLUME 11, NUMBER 1 A JOURNAL FOR THE THEOLOGY OF CULTURE the body of Christ. Each group in the church is distinct and holds a unique perspective of the head, Christ. However, each distinct group is subordinate to the larger group, the body. Toward a Solution How then do we begin to engage our superordinate identity as members of the body of Christ? The answer is both simple and difficult: we engage in prolonged, meaningful, interpersonal interactions with each other. In an attempt to improve intergroup relations and reduce prejudice between competing racial and ethnic groups during the 1950s, Gordon Allport proposed the contact hypothesis, which states that under certain conditions, direct contact between members of rival groups will reduce stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination.51 The contact hypothesis, now the contact theory, has been validated in hundreds of studies.52 The contact theory has also been successfully applied to a variety of different groups other than the racial and ethnic groups for which it was intended.53 More recently, intergroup contact has been associated with increased positive attitudes toward the outgroup, increased trust toward the outgroup, increased guilt and forgiveness for past deeds and atrocities, and increased empathy for the outgroup.54 Research on the contact theory has shown that mere proximity between groups does not have any clear effects on identity and attitudes and can 51. George W. Allport, The Nature of Prejudice (Cambridge, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1954). 52. For a review and meta-analysis, see Thomas F. Pettigrew and Linda R. Tropp, “A Meta-analytic Test of Intergroup Contact Theory,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 90, no. 5 (2006): 751–783. 53. Ibid. 54. Eliot R.Smith, “Social Identity and Social Emotions: Toward New Conceptualizations of Prejudice,” in Affect, Cognition, and Stereotyping, ed. Diane M. Mackie and David Lewis Hamilton (San Diego: Academic Press, 1993), 297– 315; Bertjan Doosje et al., “Guilty by Association: When One’s Group Has a Negative History,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 75, no. 4 (1998): 872–886; Walter G. Stephan and Krystina Finlay, “The Role of Empathy in Improving Intergroup Relations,” Journal of Social Issues 55, no. 4 (1999): 729–743. 46