Some of you may be familiar with the story, of the “Hippie and the Old Man.” The infamous tale has been used in many sermons over the years and become a staple illustration of God’s love for his people at their core. The message in the story is much more important than whether this event actually took place. This story provides a parabolic example of Christian leadership.
The Hippie and the Old Man
There was a young, intelligent university student named Bill. Bill was what some people call a “free spirit” or “hippie.” He had wild long hair, and always wore the same torn T-shirt, jeans, and no shoes Across the street from the university campus was a conservative church. The people there were rich, older, and well-dressed. They wanted to help the university students nearby, but they did not know exactly how to do it.
One day Bill decided to go visit this church near his university. As usual, he went wearing his only jeans, his torn T-shirt, and dirty long hair. The church service had already started and was full, so Bill walked down the center aisle looking for a seat. People were getting more and more uncomfortable as they watched this wild-looking young man. Finally, Bill got to the front and saw there were no more empty seats, so he just sat down on the floor right in front of the preacher. No one had ever done that in this church before. By now, everyone was upset and distracted.
Then, a respected old church deacon got up and started toward the front. Everyone was thinking: “You can’t blame the deacon, he really should correct this disrespectful young man.” Everyone was watching. Even the preacher stopped his sermon when the old man finally got to the front. Then, they were all completely surprised to see the old deacon drop his walking stick and very slowly sit down on the floor next to this young man. He did not want this gentleman to sit alone and feel unaccepted. The people in the church were moved to tears. Finally, the preacher said: “What I am preaching about today you will probably never remember. But what you have just witnessed today, you will never forget!”
Sway: Unravelling Unconscious Bias
The book “Sway: Unraveling Unconscious Bias” by Pragya Agarwal is a crucial resource for Christian leaders seeking to comprehend and tackle unconscious bias within their organizations. This in-depth guide delves into the topic of unconscious bias, exploring its history and its effects on our lives today. It provides a framework to assist in identifying and managing biases that can negatively impact decision-making, or “stigmatic” processes within organizations. The book also gives practical advice on how Christian leaders can use this understanding to create more inclusive environments where everyone feels valued and respected regardless of their gender, race, or other differences. By comprehending how our beliefs shape our perception of others, readers can better equip themselves with the necessary tools to create a more equitable workplace culture that allows for everyone’s voice to be heard without judgment or discrimination.
The Conscious “Bias” of Jesus
Agarwal unpacks unconscious bias, also referred to as implicit bias, as a form of social cognition that takes place when individuals make decisions or judgments unconsciously, based on their biases. She examines bias “from a multidisciplinary perspective to develop a more integrated framework for understanding and tackling it.” It refers to the attitudes and stereotypes that we hold about certain groups unintentionally. She makes a point to note that these biases may not always be negative, but rather they reflect the values and beliefs held by society at large and expose stereotypes “that are deeply entrenched in society and the norms against which everyone is judged.”
Although Sway does not use the Hippie and the Old Man in her book, I believe her goal is to recognize the unconscious perspective of the congregation. Even when the consensus is considered acceptable by many, the awareness and humbleness of the Spirit-led “old man” is the movement and behavior that is grounded in the same love and acceptance that we witness in the life of Jesus. He befriended and served the sinners, the weary, and the outcasts. His judgments were not based on appearance, profession, education, or past. He offered his Spirit to those who followed him and he offers each one of us the very same thing. “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” 
As Christians, we strive to live out our faith in a way that honors God and brings glory to His name. We are called to love one another as ourselves, yet our unconscious biases can often lead us astray from this ideal. I think the book, Sway, provides an insightful look into how such biases can influence the beliefs and actions of Christian leaders in areas such as church leadership, mission work, discipleship, and acceptance; thus, impacting the entire Christian community at large.
 Agarwal, Pragya, Sway, 42
 Agarwal, Pragya, Sway, 11
 Luke 5:32, ESV