Tuesday 29th October 2013

Why are there suddenly so many yellow cars?

Did you know yellow and pink are amongst the least popular car colours in the world? Although white, silver and black cars are the most popular, if you’re thinking of buying a yellow one, something called ‘confirmatory’ or ‘myside’ bias kicks in and makes your brain favour information that confirms your belief that its a good idea; you see what you want to see! Bias causes us to gather and remember things selectively, test ideas in a one-sided way and focus on one possibility whilst ignoring alternatives. Rather than investigate objectively, fear of being wrong drives us – excuse the pun! The danger of overconfidence in one’s beliefs in the face of opposing evidence is that it can lead to poor decisions, like buying a yellow car (or worse)! The opposite of seeing what isn’t there, is not seeing what is there – we call this blind spots. Johnson (2007) explains:


“The retina of the eye is made up of photoreceptors known as rods and cones. The retina is found on the inner surface of the back of the eye. One area of the retina where the optic nerve and blood vessels are found to lack these photoreceptors – this area is known as the blind spot.” Spot the link with slavery?

On 29th Oct, a year since Soul Action’s Rachel and Phil Bowyer began to meet monthly to pray with others about trafficking in Durban, they gathered the whole Network to explore bias and blind spots in relation to the modern slavery we ignore or aren’t aware of.


I (Phil) shared from Luke 10, the Good Samaritan, focusing on the ‘expert’ who asks, “…who is my neighbour?” Jesus goes on to tell a story that’s apt for a relatively separated South Africa, since He shatters racial and religious boundaries that were preventing the expert from fulfilling God’s law fully. The way Samaritans [read homosexuals, Muslims, women, in our society] were treated by some God followers prevented them from loving their neighbour and thus from inheriting eternal life.

Note: rather than the after-life, the ‘life’ in question here is a Greek word zóé – literally ‘all life’, physical and spiritual.

If the expert wants to live a God-type life now, on earth, Jesus challenges him to love Samaritans as he loves God – totally!!! Perhaps as a result of the expert’s bias or blind spots, he may never have seen the need to.  Soul Action’s challenge to the Network, was how do bias and blind spots affect the Christian stance on slavery?luther

Historical bias

Bias and blind spots are all over church history; even amongst highly regarded theologians, e.g. Jerome (347 – 420), who’s best known for translating the Bible into Latin, and Luther (1483 – 1546), of Protestant Reformation fame, were apparently oblivious to the evils of slavery; often using Scripture to perpetuate and justify it. Motlhabi (2000:33) says:

“The Church is a pilgrimage of believers who are only human and, therefore, always open to error. Fortunate are those who acknowledge this kind of fallibility on the part of the Church and its leaders; who acknowledge and confess: Ecclesia semper reformanda – the Church is always open to reform“

Time to make a stand

Thank God that reform did come through the likes of Wesley (1703-1791), Equiano (1745-1797), Wilberforce (1759-1883), et al, whose persistence saw to it that slavery became unlawful by the mid/late 1800’s. Unlawful, but with +/- 29 million slaves in the world today, un-over! After discussing why slavery exists in our contexts, we listened to God, and inspired by Soul Action UK’s short film WILL YOU STAND, we each shared how we felt God was calling us to make a stand (visit our facebook page for more photos).


To finish, we all stood together to sing an unaccompanied version of ex-slave trader John Newton’s Amazing Grace – who once had ‘blind’ spots himself. It was quite possibly one of the most emotionally charged and powerful endings to a Network Gathering ever!

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