Hasty Generalization: A much overlooked sin!

Have you ever been a victim of a hasty Generalization?  Let me explain what I’m talking about with an illustration.  (Disclaimer: All characters appearing in this illustration are fictitious.)

John and Thomas had been friends for some time and they were seriously thinking of partnering together on a mission project.  One day, Joshua, an older person known to both of them, calls up John on the phone and says, “Hey John, how are you doing”

John replies, “I’m fine, thanks! How about yourself? It’s been some time since we’ve talked.  Is everything ok?”

Joshua says, “Well, recently someone one told me that you and Thomas are planning to work together on a mission project.   The idea is a good one…but I’ve got to tell you…Thomas is an X (referring to a particular ethnic group).  I just want you to be careful.  I’ve worked with those people and they are known to use others and then dump them.  So just be careful about working on a project with an X.”

With that warning, Joshua hung up the phone.  John couldn’t believe the irony that such words had come from Joshua who is a Bible teacher and preacher of the Gospel!

Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.

Now…let’s talk about the issue.  Perhaps in the past, Joshua had had some unfortunate experiences with one or two people of the community to which Thomas belongs to. But to judge everyone within the racial group on the basis of his own past experience is a hasty generalization.

We’ve all heard prejudicial remarks:  “All people from that nation are greedy.”  Or “All people of that ethnic group are racists.”  Or “You can’t trust from that background.” When we judge an entire race, nationality, community or group based on the actions of just a few of them, it is nothing but hasty generalization.

Some time back, a friend of mine told me, “All boys with the name Kevin are mischievous.” The idea had its origin in the movie ‘Home Alone’. As parents of a son named Kevin, it was a notice to me and my wife!

In logic, hasty generalization is called the “fallacy of composition.”  It arises when one infers that something is true of the whole (an entire group or race) from the fact that something is true of some part of the whole (an individual).   Logically, that is wrong.  But the Bible goes further and calls this a sin. The Scriptures never tell us not to judge people but they do warn us against making wrong or biased judgments (Matthew 7:1-5, James 4:11-12).  John 7:24 says, “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”  First Corinthians 4:5 says, “Do not judge ahead of time…”

To pass judgment on a person’s character merely on the basis of one’s race, color, stature, background, language or ethnicity is an unacceptable behavior according to God’s word. May God deliver us from victimizing others through hasty generalization!

Sam K John – Guest Contributor

Sam K John is a brethren evangelist based in Bangalore. He holds graduate degrees in History of Christianity, and Religion and Philosophy. He has been involved in itinerant preaching and teaching ministry since 1998.