As a psychologist reading the Bible I'm alert to emotions in the text. Recently, I was reading the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector:
Luke 18.9-14
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The emotion I noted in the very first sentence: "trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt."

Contempt is featured in both my books, Unclean and Stranger God. Unclean is primarily about interpersonal revulsion, but when I talk about disgust as a social emotion a lot of people don't see themselves in this description. They don't report feeling "revolted" or "disgusted" by people.

I could quibble with them. As I do in Chapter 8 of Stranger God--"Heart Triggers"--I bet I can mention a few different sorts of people and get you to display the classic disgust face, the quick, instinctive, microexpression of tilting your head back slightly, lifting your top lip, and wrinkling your nose. I mention vegans to Texans and they pull that face. I mention gun owners to Californians and they pull that face. Turns out, there are plenty of people we loathe.

Still, I don't want to spend a lot of time with audiences trying to convince them that they do experience interpersonal revulsion. So I take a different tack.

"How many of you, when you scroll through social media," I ask, "feel feelings of contempt or scorn? The feeling that the world is filled with idiots?"

Lots of heads nod at this point. While we might deny feelings of disgust, most of us admit experiencing feelings of contempt. Our feelings tell us that the world is full of awful, stupid people. Contempt may be the Number One feeling triggered by social media.

And as in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, contempt is regularly triggered by a judgment of moral superiority.

The sad thing is that contempt is very much related to the emotion of disgust. (Charles Darwin was one of the first who noted the connection.) And like disgust, contempt is a dehumanizing emotion. When we experience people as morally depraved or stupid we perceive them as less than fully human.

All that to say, while we might deny feeling revulsion toward people that doesn't mean we've escaped dehumanizing emotions.

You might not feel a lot of disgust, but odds are you have a lot of contempt for the world.

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