by Annette Bridges. © 2008. All rights reserved.

I’ve come a long way, baby! I’m very happy to admit my vote for the next president of the United States will be without regard to race, gender, religion or age. Bias in regard to political party has never been my problem. This may be partly due to my family’s extreme one-sidedness in this respect. So, in my voting career — now some 32 years long — I love being able to say I’ve voted for so-called Independents, Republicans and Democrats.

There was a time, however, when I would have based my vote on race, gender, religion and/or age — for or against. But those days are gone, and I’m wondering: How did I get here?

It occurs to me that perhaps I’ve made some significant headway in my own personal fight against prejudice.

Prejudice can be defined as unreasonable opinions before sufficient knowledge is obtained. It can be irrational suspicion or hatred of a particular race, religion or group, including political party, and any person affiliated with a select party. And prejudice causes someone to judge prematurely, thereby unduly influencing decisions and actions.

I think this is what has caused me to endeavor to keep my viewpoints in check. I don’t want to be prevented from objective consideration of an issue or situation or presidential candidate. And prejudice always distorts and confuses reason and judgment.

Our world is filled with prejudice and intolerance. And it seems to me, if I am to believe global prejudice can be transformed into justice, respect and fairness, I need to begin with eliminating intolerance in my own attitudes, opinions and behavior.

I’ve not always succeeded in my personal fight against prejudice. But I have made progress, and this presidential primary season is proving this to me.

In Paul’s first epistle to Timothy, he instructed, “I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality” (1 Timothy 5:21). This sounds like good advice in how to give each presidential candidate his or her due consideration.

I read a poem several years ago that I’ve never forgotten. It was describing a scene featuring Jesus as the guest speaker on a local hillside. The poem was written in first person as if by a person in the audience that day.

As this attendee sat at the event, he criticized the clothes Jesus was wearing, complained about some of the word choices Jesus used, and then starting critiquing everyone else in attendance. He even griped about the weather, saying it was hot, dusty and the sun was in his eyes.

By the end of Jesus’ talk, this person acknowledged that others around him seemed inspired by what Jesus had to say and that some were actually healed, too. And he concluded by saying something I’m often reminded of: “I’m starting to think I might have missed something.”

Indeed! That poor person sitting at the feet of Jesus allowed prejudice to distract him from hearing what no doubt would have been a life-changing message.

Jesus, of course, was met by many prejudices against him during his three-year mission, and he certainly knew the effects of prejudice. He said, “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them” (Matthew 13:15).

Prejudice closes eyes and ears to the truth in any situation or about any person and can cause us to make careless and flippant decisions.

When I make my presidential selection in November, it will be an informed choice based upon as much information as I can gather and earnest consideration of the motives and merit of each candidate. Whether my candidate of choice wins the election or not, at least I can feel I’ve honored and celebrated this democracy of ours sincerely and completely. And I will support my next president in my daily prayers, whoever he or she may be.

In the meantime, I will keep my heart, eyes and ears as open and attentive as possible as I listen intently to every candidate — without prejudice.