Why Racism Shouldn’t Exist

February 17, 2015 § 16 Comments

bb72cb34_2974754-dukes-of-hazzard-626Remember the General Lee? I spent too much of my grade school years watching The Dukes of Hazzard on CBS, which you probably know is about the antics of those Duke boys, a tiny but tubby crooked county commissioner, and other country hick-ish characters in fictional rural Hazzard County, Georgia. Well, it was really about the cool car. The General Lee was a customized ’69 Dodge Charger stock car detailed with a large confederate flag emblazoned on the roof.

Because of this show, my understanding of the confederate flag growing up was simply as an icon of southern pride, banjo music, NASCAR, and all that good ol’ stuff portrayed on the show. While I watched The General race around the country, I never thought about the racism in our country it helped to communicate. Even as an adult, after learning of the confederate flag’s origin during America’s Civil War, it never was for me a representation of the Southern States’ desire to keep slaves, which was of course one of the two questions the war resolved (the other being states’ rights). Of course, I was raised in a white middle class family in the midwest, and my ignorance about this was probably pretty common.

Currently, a “confederate flag” news search on the internet yields pages of stories about controversy over the uses, personal or official, of the flag that linger today in some southern states. A recent incident at the high school down the street (we live in Iowa, which many non-Iowans rightly recognize as not a southern state) made me see with a new light that many people still associate the confederate flag with our nation’s sad history with slavery and slavery’s root in racism. In the school, 3 fights broke out in one day over a Facebook selfie that included a confederate flag in the background. Some of the students offended and affected by that controversy were kids, both black and white, that also came to our church youth group, so I tried to pay attention. Obviously, people will see completely different things when they see a confederate flag. For too long I saw only stuff like cowboy boots and Gettysburg re-enactments (and of course the General Lee).

While our past national affinity for racism and slavery has been for the most part dealt with, it still lingers, like the remnants of every other sin that has had its hey-day. We can’t put our racist history to rest where it still pervades parts of the culture.

adam-eve-in-waterRacism is a problem in large part because of our thinking about the concept of race. From a Biblical perspective, there is only one race. All human beings are made in the image of God and are descendants of Adam and Eve (who can hardly be found depicted as anything other than a white couple—they were most likely a middle brown). We read about this racial singularity in Genesis chapter 1. By chapter 3, they both had sinned, and it wasn’t long before the sin of racism was conceived. That wasn’t part of the original plan, and it doesn’t make sense scientifically or rationally. There are no differences in the human genome that provide a basis for hierarchical ethnicity, no taxonomic distinction that says we should categorize people that way. Races are mankind’s invention and frankly classifications the Imago Dei can do without. We are all human beings. And we are all sinners, for “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) We have more in common than we might care to admit.

But doesn’t the Bible condone racism and slavery just as much as the South did? In short, no. This is a complex topic, but I’ll try to refute this briefly with two points.

First, there various definitions and different models of slavery, so we need to have a clear idea of what we’re talking about when we use the term. The type of Ancient Near East slavery most often seen in Scripture is closer to our idea of indentured servitude rather than the chattel slavery we most readily think of modeled in the New World (i.e. the African Slave Trade). Most servants entered the arrangement by choice in order to pay off a debt they couldn’t handle financially. At the same time, slaves in the Bible were generally considered property. Many people were forced into slavery, sometimes as a more favorable option over killing enemies captured in war, and sometimes in outright abuse.

Second, as in any other true account of history, the Bible records sinfulness. Nowhere in the Bible do we see God creating or condoning slavery, and it was clearly not the ideal. In fact, forcibly capturing innocent people and selling them was actually forbidden by God (Exodus 21:16) and harming or killing servants was likewise severely punishable under Hebrew law. God has tolerated various forms of slavery, as He does with a great number of sins, as an accommodation for sinful people who were bent on going our own way. God’s sovereignty and justice often comes as His leaving us to see our own consequences for our actions. This is often a kinder judgment. Where man insisted on making his neighbor his property, God regulated the practice for their protection.

People owning people was never a part of God’s good creation. In fact, the overarching message of the Bible is an invitation to freedom from sin that is described as slavery (See Romans 6). We see some examples of slavery in the Old Testament, but there is an entire book called Exodus describing God’s abolition of an entire nation held in bondage to Egypt for centuries. Paul reminds the church in Ephesians 5 to treat slaves with respect (Ephesians 6:5-9), so slavery was still a cultural reality in the New Testament. But Paul’s gospel message to all was that it was “for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1) The alignments of God’s Word is clearly against the concept of slavery, not for it.

WHM112034The Transatlantic Slave Trade from the 16th to the 19th centuries represents the development of slavery to an intolerable level. You might say God finally did to a large degree judge and eliminate slavery, as it was for the most part abolitionists like William Wilberforce and Abraham Lincoln, guided by Christian principals and the Imago Dei, who led the charge. Wilberforce wrote, “So enormous, so dreadful, so irremediable did the Trade’s wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for abolition.” Lincoln too thought it self-evident that “all men are created equal” and on this Biblical truth initiated an end to slavery in America that followed the Civil War. He concluded, “…he who would be no slave, must consent to have no slave. Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it.”

The confederate flag or “southern pride” should have never been symbols of racism because racism should never have existed. The apostle Paul made it clear that in God’s kingdom there is no room for it. On racism, sexism, or supremacism for that matter, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) We won’t see the complete end of racism on this side of eternity. Only then will every knee bow and accept the truth about who we are. Looking back to creation, we can see we are one race. Before we began enslaving each other, we fell and were enslaved to sin itself. Looking back to the sacrifice of God’s own Son for our sin on the cross brings full circle the freedom and redemption and oneness we have in Christ. “For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” (Ephesians 2:14) Amen?

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§ 16 Responses to Why Racism Shouldn’t Exist

  • Jam One says:

    Cripes, what an utterly banal commentary, which is so easily impeached by the very same book of fables you have referenced. According to the Bible, we, modern humans, are the descendants of Noah and his family. Noah’s three sons, Shem, Ham and Japeth are responsible for the different Human races. The Semitic race consider themselves to be the descendants of Shem. The Hamitic race, which has been declared to be all Africans, are supposed to be the descendants of Ham, and Japeth gave rise to everyone else, non-semitic Cauasians and Asians.

    The Judeo-Christian basis for racism can be directly traced back to Genesis 9:25, where a drunk Noah, cursed Canaan, the son of Ham, that his descendants be the slaves of the descendants of the other brothers.

    The “moral” basis for the African slave trade was debated, and in the end, the religious “powers” at the time, came up with the “Hamitic hypothesis”. In which they declared that the descendats of African slaves, were themselves to be slaves, because of Noah’s curse.

    This is the important distinction that Caucasians, such as yourself wish to gloss over. While many Caucasians travelled to the Americas as indentured servants, who could be sentenced to slavery, if they violated their contract. Their condition of slavery ONLY applied to them, AND NOT to their children. While Africans, who did not voluntarily travel to the Americas as indentured servants, were immediately sentenced to lifetime of slavery, with no hope of a reprieve, along with their future descendants. Those Africans who did not choose to procreate voluntarily, were forced to do so, like livestock.

    So, please get your head out of your self-righteous arse, the Judeo-Christian religion provided the moral basis for African slavery, because this form of slavery was the “life blood” of the European and American economies at the time, and the Judeo-Christian religions were only doing what the people who were filling their coffers wanted.

    • Hello again, Jam One, it’s good to hear from you. I know we’ve covered this ground before in this comment section: https://godneighbor.wordpress.com/2014/02/06/ken-ham-won-the-creation-debate-and-so-did-bill-nye/#comment-526. Basically, the Hamitic hypothesis is racist doctrine and just bad interpretation of Genesis 9. “Curse” can mean different things. Remember that Noah was a prophet, so this could have been a proclamation of knowledge Noah was given about the future descendants of Canaan. I’m also open to the idea that Noah was simply wrong in cursing Canaan. The curse didn’t come from God according to the text. Either way, there’s nothing there that says this caused Canaan’s descendants to turn black. As it turns out, many of them were killed or captive by Israel (the descendants of Shem) under Joshua’s leadership and Solomon’s reign. From that I’m inclined to think it was prophetic, but pointing to this incident as justification for the African slave trade is spurious. There is no good justification for it.

      • Jam One says:

        As is your style, you deflect. The statement as written in the Bible makes it unambigious that Noah cursed Canaan the son of Ham. While Noah can be considered to be a minor prophet by the Judeo-Christian standard, (modern day standard we medicate anyone who hears voices until the voices stop, and for good reasons), that he was a mediator between God and people regarding the flood.

        A drunken Noah however, had no voices from God telling him about any curse on Canaan. So, that curse was out of personal spite and nothing prophetic, the source of your current deflection. Regardless, why did the Catholic Church used this curse and the concept of the “African Hamite” as a justification for slavery. The Hamitic hypothesis even became a part of the religious canon in the Papal Bull, Romanum Pontiflex as early as 1455 to grant the Portuguese rights to begin trading in Africans?

        By the way, as a part of the Hamitic hypothesis, the descendants of Cush, Ham’s brother also were declared to be African and suffered the same enslavement, even though Noah never cursed Cush.

        So remove whatever “rose colored” lenses through which you view history, Christianity provided the “moral” basis for the African slave trade, and brutalized and murdered untold numbers of people all in the name of civilizing native peoples.

        I also notice how you have deflected regarding how Europeans who were enslaved for breaking their indentured servant contract, were treated so much differently than the African slaves. Where do you think that difference in behavior was rooted?

        • If Noah’s curse was personal without any direction from God, I don’t see how that changes anything. I said I was open to that idea too. If the pronouncement came from God, there is no specific directive for any future people to enslave the descendants of Canaan. If God had nothing to do with the curse, then He is even further removed from any implication in slavery. You seem to want me to defend the Catholic Church or others who have used Noah’s curse as a justification for slavery, but I don’t even hold their position. You would do better to take your argument to someone who is actually on the hook for it. As I’ve restated (something you call “deflection”), race is a social category (not biological). Slavery was not God’s purpose, and its implementation is not Biblical doctrine. Using the Bible to justify slavery is bad hermeneutics and just plain wrong; Christianity provides no moral basis for the slave trade. Freedom, yes, but not slavery.

          • Jam One says:

            “race is a social category (not biological)” – your utter stupidity continues to astound me. You should NOT comment on things you have NO idea about.

            FYI, the biological difference between races has very little to do with complexion. Indians from India are Caucasian by race, yet many are darker than Africans. So, why is their race Caucasian? Social reasons?

            There are definite biological differences between races, hence the need for the subject of PharmacoGenomics. I hesitated to mention this word, since you will look it up on Wikipedia, regurgitate what you think it said through your low intellect filter, and comeback with some flippant, utterly stupid and inappropriate comment.

            So, do us all a favor, don’t.

          • Re: “no moron, it is genotype. Trust me you DO NOT want to get into a discussion regarding Human Genetics, or Clinical medicine with me.” You equated “16 genotypes” to “16 shades of human expression” but a phenotype (the only place where “shades” of skin makes sense) is the observable expression (skin color) of the genotype, which is the genetic makeup of an individual (where “shades” doesn’t make sense).

            Re: “Indians from India are Caucasian by race, yet many are darker than Africans. So, why is their race Caucasian? Social reasons?” Caucasian refers to too many things to correspond to anything biological. It can means white, from European descent, white Americans, North Africa, SW Asia (India) and people from the Caucasus region (bordering the Middle East and Russia), so yes, it is far more of a social classification than anything else. Again you are missing the larger point, that there is no biological (or moral or otherwise) reason to regard “races” as inherently different people.

            re: “moron”, “utter stupidity”, etc. I put up with a great deal of arrogance and ignorance because there is often still hope for understanding and improvement, but when it declines to name-calling and personal attacks, that’s likely an indication that you’ve run out of anything helpful to say, or a device to replace an argument you apparently don’t have. Frankly it’s not worth your time or mine. If you can muster some civility, I’ll consider allowing your comments; otherwise don’t expect to see them here.

  • Jam One says:

    Another point, two “brown skinned” people cannot possibly be the fore parents of very dark people. The genetics of human complexion does not work that way. As Human Beings, we tend to “lose” our ability to express melanin rather than to over express it. So, if there really were two human beings who were the founding stock for all humans (which it isn’t by the way), those two human beings would necessarily need to be jet black Africans. The complexion of the other races, are the consequence of migration to places which had less sunlight than the “garden of Eden”. The lower available sunlight, required the human skin to become paler for proper Vitamin D metabolism. In short, it was a human physiological need to “evolve” paler complexions because of migration to temperate latitudes, and not the other way around.

    • I’m interested in this idea that we tend to lose rather than gain melanin genetically. Where did you read that? Skin color is determined by more than one pair of genes—I’ve read that it’s only 2 pairs, and I’ve read it could be more. For simplicity’s sake, let’s say it’s 2 pairs. If two middle-toned parents equipped with the full range contribute 1 dark trait (dominant expression in melanin production) from each, you should have darker offspring. Are you saying there is some barrier to the random donation of the darker trait? And are you sure this condition would have existed in the original humans?

      Not that it isn’t interesting discussion, but you’re hung up on something in parentheses here. My point is that we were not created as or intended to be separate classes of people.

      • Jam One says:

        You need to read more sources on the genetics of complexion, it is more than 2 genes. Simple math tells you that if 2 genes are involved, there are a total of 16 genotypes. Clearly there are more than 16 shades of human skin complexion. FYI, the gene for melanin is the same in all humans, including albinos, it is the genes that are involved in the regulation of the amount of melanin produced that are of issue. Melanin is an expensive pigment to create, after all the skin is the largest human organ, so, the evolutionary adaption is to produce as little melanin as necessary to maintain the healthy state.

        The general lack of scientific knowledge, and intellectual laziness when it comes to scientific issues by the “religious” among us, is what I am reacting to. Your rather idiotic statement about Adam and Eve, “they were most likely a middle brown”, as though “middle brown” (whatever the heck that might be) people, could give rise to very dark people, very light people and more “middle brown” people, reeks of racism borne out of pure ignorance. It becomes racist, since by your stupid statement, other intellectually lazy religious people would draw the conclusion that your fictional God must therefore be “middle brown”, and that is the beginning of the elevation of “middle brown” complexion people above the darker brown and the lighter complected people, since they don’t have Gods’ complexion.

        So, please refrain from making rather stupid statements like that, as it is based upon your erroneous belief structure which does not stand up to any physical scrutiny, and is harmful.

        Interestingly, this is why the Islamic religion has a Hadith against images of their Prophets especially Mohamed, to remove the issues of complexion from their adherents. Christianity should adopt such a stance, not that Jesus ever existed (he is a composite of other religious figures, especially figures from the Egyptian Book of the Dead), but the depictions of him as a Blonde Caucasian just reeks of the blatant racism in Christianity.

        • I think you mean 16 phenotypes. Genotype is the set of genes in the cell, phenotypes would be the physical or biochemical result of genotype and the environment, which is another factor (environment) in what “shade” we are and why there are much more than 16 possibilities in terms of skin complexion. And you haven’t explained why two individuals carrying, say, AaBb (Capital=genes coding for lots of melanin, lower case=small amounts) genes for melanin couldn’t produce children with a wide range of skin color (lighter or darker). If it’s more than 2 genes involved, even better.

          What you HAVE done is state that the idea of a middle-brown Adam and Eve is somehow racist, under a post outlining why racism is a non-sequiter no less, which is a bit ridiculous. God does not have a skin color. Being made in His image means we are in the likeness of His nature and way of thinking.

          Muslim hadiths forbid images of Allah and prophets over concerns about idolatry (borrowing from Exodus 20:4, the 2nd commandment), not racism. As far as Christianity’s “stance” on race, you are obviously confusing what Christianity teaches (“we are one race”) and what some have erroneously done (“blacks are inferior, let’s own them”) in the name of Christianity. These are two different things: The Bible, and man’s failure to follow it.

          • Jam One says:

            “I think you mean 16 phenotypes” – no moron, it is genotype. Trust me you DO NOT want to get into a discussion regarding Human Genetics, or Clinical medicine with me.

            Cutting and pasting from Wikipedia, just like staying overnight at a Holiday Inn Express, will not confer any understanding of the topic. At best you can only achieve rote knowledge.

            Read more than Wikipedia, learn the differences between genotype and phenotype before showing your complete ignorance, and arrogance.

          • re: “moron”, “utter stupidity”, etc. I put up with a great deal of arrogance and ignorance because there is often still hope for understanding and improvement, but when it declines to name-calling and personal attacks, that’s likely an indication that you’ve run out of anything helpful to say, or a device to replace an argument you apparently don’t have. Frankly it’s not worth your time or mine. If you can muster some civility, I’ll consider allowing your comments; otherwise don’t expect to see them here.

  • Ryan M. says:

    Well-written commentary. We are all one made in the image of God, despite our incessant need to define barriers based on race, sex, culture, etc. Only when we stop and fully realize the beauty that we were created in, and give full recognition and credit to God, can we then begin to potentially heal our divisions. We all fall short of the grace of God because of our sinful nature, but we still have a choice: do we let racism manifest perpetually, or do we, with the Lord’s help, work to overcome the man-made barriers?

  • Don Andersen says:

    I have a problem with the notion that someone can hold me accountable to everything the confederate flag means to THEM.
    God says he looks on what is in my heart, not what is showing on the outside, so I believe this means he only holds me accountable for what I see that the confederate flag means. And, to me it is merely a Southern Icon and stands for being a rebel.

    • I get that, and I feel the same way. Whether someone flies a confederate flag or not probably depends on individual conscience. A confederate flag doesn’t mean much to me either way, so personally I’d be inclined to not fly it so as to not bear false witness to my neighbor who may (depending where I live) think I’m a racist, even though their assumption is unreasonable. Someone who really likes to fly that flag for reasons you describe probably ought to take that into account because we’re not supposed to give the appearance of evil. But I’ll leave that up to the one flying it. 🙂

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