Purdue News

June 29, 2006

New book encourages religious people to discuss prejudices

Sandra Barnes
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — While people may avoid talking about prejudices in general, and especially at church, a Purdue University sociologist's new book helps promote places of worship as important venues for engaging in such discussions.

"Talking about any form of prejudice is a very sensitive topic for many because people, especially Christians, are not supposed to hold prejudices," says Sandra Barnes, an associate professor of sociology and African American studies. "Church can be a good place for these discussions because it's a safe environment for many.

"I want to challenge people who harbor prejudices and help those heal who experience prejudices."

"Subverting the Power of Prejudice," (InterVarsity Press, $16) addresses the subject by examining a variety of prejudices including race, physical features, education, income levels and body size, and incorporates academic research and scripture in the practical examples. Barnes challenges readers to reflect, answer questions about their experiences with prejudices and heal. The book is designed for people to read individually or in groups.

Barnes, a non-denominational minister who attended seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, has been a minister for six years at the Word of Life Fellowship Church in Lafayette, Ind.

"As a minister and someone who has been involved in outreach in different cities, I have witnessed and experienced many forms of inequality," she says. "Insults, negative attitudes and prejudging others are not limited to racial differences."

One of Barnes' goals is to show that people with prejudices do not gain power by ignoring them or acting on them.

"Actually, they are disempowered because they are embracing attitudes and beliefs that lead them away from a peaceful quality of life," she says. "Prejudices prevent us from establishing genuine relationships, Christian or not. Prejudice is an attitude that often manifests in negative behavior. Many people use avoidance, and I don't think they realize the many benefits they are missing by doing so."

Barnes, who grew up in Gary, Ind., earned a doctorate in sociology from Georgia State University in 1999. In addition to her master's degree from the theological center, she also has a degree in operations research from Georgia Institute of Technology. Her bachelor's degree is in mathematics and economics from Fisk University in Nashville. Before entering academia, Barnes was employed as an engineer, statistician and consultant in the business arena.

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, (765) 494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu

Source: Sandra Barnes, sbarnes@purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


Note to Journalists: Journalists interested in review copies of "Subverting the Power of Prejudice" can contact Brooke Nolen, print publicity manager at InterVarsity Press, at (630) 734-4014.


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