Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Why we should intentionally be aware of Biases and the resulting Irrationality.

Written by: on March 13, 2022

Dr Pragya Agarwal is a behavioral and data scientist and a freelance journalist, and has a PhD from the University of Nottingham. Agarwal shows us in her book, Sway: Unravelling Unconscious Bias that intrinsic or unconscious bias is learned and can therefore be unlearned.[1] According to her well researched and cogent book, unintentional or unconscious bias is shaped throughout a lifetime by the society, upbringing and the environment and is not as cognitively hardwired as previously believed, and can therefore be unlearned. Agarwal identifies a wide range of biases including aversive racism, left-handedness, ageism, sexism and many others. She uses research and theories from a wide range of disciplines including, social science; psychology; biology; and neuroscience, to show readers how these biases manifest and whether there is anything we can do about them. In the long and short, Agarwal shows how these biases are a time process of the assimilation of information that surrounds us. Accordingly, theses biases can be unlearned through training; change of attitudes; and the intentional addressing of systematic inequalities that have resulted from stereotypes. There are many harmful stereotypes that are the direct result of these unconscious biases that should be denigrated because they do enormous harm to society. It is important, to gain understanding of our unconscious bias and how they are shaped by our own upbringing and life experiences; to measure our implicit attitudes; to take time with our decisions to help us de-automize and activate our logical and rational thinking and actively bust any biases; parents and educators should act intentionally to stop transmitting these biases; and safe and non-judgemental spaces should be created in organizations and other appropriates forums, as the foundation for any meaningful interventions to eliminate the harmful stereotypes.

We are living in a time when race politics; gender issues like pay gaps, diversity and inclusivity in the workplace; ageism; and other issues dominate our conversations. Thinking, Understanding and evaluating how unconscious bias works among us is more important than ever if we are to rightly develop scientific and non-judgmental strategies to overcome the harmful effects of our intrinsic biases. There are many ways which that we believe that much progress has been made in tackling social justice and dismantling damaging prejudices but there are current events that point to the opposite direction and reveal disheartening deficits. The church should be ahead of all other institutions in issues social justice and in dismantling prejudices but my opinion is that the church is probably where these vices are more pronounced. It is true that the issues of race, gender, political partisanship and other divisive issues are as rife in the church as they are in the world and which can be attributed to these unconscious biases.

The Church is called to service of all and sundry and to represent Christ in the world. There are many ways in which vulnerability to these unconscious bias would hinder the church in accomplishing its great commission to go into all the world and make disciples of Christ. Christianity has been cited as having been used to facilitate the imperialistic colonization of Africa.[2] Christianity has also been directly associated with the exploitation and subjugation of Africans courtesy of racial discrimination. Chiwanza writes,

“Christianity was subtly intertwined with the agenda of the West. They viewed Africans as backward, barbaric and uncivilized. So their mission was to “civilize” the African. Something which they achieved with a great degree of success. Christianity was the religion of the Westerners. And it is obvious the missionaries had Western values embedded in them. So what happened was a situation where the Africans were taught to hate everything African and to accept the European way of living. The early Christian missionaries and missionaries worked hand in hand with the colonizers. At most times, the missionaries were sent to negotiate treaties that would put the Africans under subjugation. The Bible followed the gun. And thus, the influence of Christianity in the colonization process had a devastating effect on the Africans.”[3]

The same also applies to slavery where many Christians manipulated scriptures to justify owning slaves and putting Christianity to disrepute, to justify their negative bias towards Africans. Siliezar Writes. “In the modern era, Christianity and slavery are seen as oxymoronic. But for much of Christian history, many saw no conflict between keeping the faith and keeping or trading slaves. From the first century until the Civil War, the Bible itself was often used to justify slavery.”[4] Many self-seeking people will use their biases to justify social injustices and prejudices that are harmful to society and especially injurious to the course of Church in reconciling men to God. As Christian leaders, it should therefore be our determination to confront these very harmful stereotypes that result of these unconscious biases and intrinsic attitudes that eventually work against the course of righteousness that is the great Commission.

The question that comes to mind for me is whether the tendency for Churches to emphasize the preaching of the word from the pulpits and ignoring the need for social action is also informed by some unconscious bias against social action. The Bible is explicit on the care for the poor and the stranger as part of the mission of the church but the churches that embrace holistic ministry is by exception and not the rule. My research for the case for holistic ministry obtained one more are of research as to whether there is an unconscious bias that informs this trend in the church, and therefore add to the list of reasons why we should work towards unlearning the unconscious biases. I found this book by Agarwal very informative and it will become part of my library, and find its place in my research bibliography.



[1] Pragya Agarwal. Sway: Unravelling Unconscious Bias. (London, UK. Bloomsbury Sigma, 2020).

[2] Jean Comaroff, and John Comaroff. “Christianity and Colonialism in South Africa.” American Ethnologist 13, no. 1 (1986): 1–22. https://doi.org/10.1525/ae.1986.13.1.02a00010.

[3] Hillary Chiwanza. “How Christianity Was Used to Exploit Africans | The African Exponent.” The African Exponent. Accessed March 13, 2022. https://www.africanexponent.com/post/8572-christianity-was-used-to-exploit-africans-through-colonization.

[4] Siliezar, Juan. “A Harvard Exhibit on Christianity and Slavery.” Harvard Gazette (blog), January 7, 2019. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2019/01/a-harvard-exhibit-on-slavery-and-christianity/.

About the Author


Mary Kamau

Christ follower, Mother of 3 Biological children and one Foster daughter, Wife, Pastor, Executive Director of Institutional Development and Strategy in Missions of Hope International, www.mohiafrica.org.

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