How should Christians think about race and racism?
With nearly 5200 articles on my site, it is rather surprising that up until now I have not really written entire pieces on the issue of race and racism – as far as I can recall. Yes, in the past I have looked at various radical leftist groups such as Black Lives Matter and Antifa which talk a lot about these matters but in a PC and revolutionary fashion.
And I have also done things like pen a two-part piece on the issue of reparations for slavery: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2019/06/15/reparations-for-slavery-social-and-political-considerations/
So I have done some writing on this, but more needs to be said on the matter of race and racism. As I just mentioned to someone the other day, the truth is, race was never an issue for me, and I assumed that all biblical Christians would feel the same. We know that God has made every single one of us in his image and likeness, that Christ died for us, and therefore we need to treat everyone with proper dignity and respect.
But I have not written much in terms of a biblical examination of the issue – till now. There are several reasons for this. One, the current round of race riots – as they are referred to – is a good reason to wade into the subject. Also, I recently took part in an online discussion on this matter. The social media debate involved one individual, but it would be reflective of many others.
In his case – and likely with many others – there was a fair degree of confusion about related but often quite different concepts and terms, such as race, nationality, ethnicity, culture, worldview, religion, and so on. So let me begin by offering a paraphrase of that recent discussion, and then look at some biblical and theological aspects to this.
A fellow had asked me if a lot of our current malaise is due to the “mixing of nations (races)”. I replied by saying that nations and races are not the same, and if what he meant was the failed policies of multiculturalism, then yes, that would be a cause.
He spoke of his native Scandinavia and how it is white, and asked about Indians in America. I said that some countries are more homogenous than others. I said that in the US you can have white Americans, black Americans, brown Americans, yellow Americans, etc. Failed multiculturalism is the real issue here, where different groups refuse to blend in and find common ground with others. I referred him to this article: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2010/01/25/whither-multiculturalism/
Then he said black people belong in African nations, white people in European nations, and so on. I said a short and simple ‘no’ – that is certainly not the biblical view, nor a true conservative view. He then mentioned again how places like Scandinavia are being transformed with Arabs and others coming in. I replied:
There are Arab Muslims and non-Arab Muslims. There are Arab Christians and non-Arab Christians. If an Arab Christian (or any other sort of Christian) moves into the West, generally speaking I have no problem with that. They share the same beliefs, values and worldviews as the West, for the most part.
However, if an Arab Muslim (or any other Muslim) moves into the West, that CAN be a problem, as they tend not to always share Western values, etc. In other words, race or skin colour has little or nothing to do with things. It is one’s beliefs and worldviews and values and so on that really matter.
He asked why God then created races, and said that he thought they should be kept separate. I said this: We are also made with two sexes – male and female. Do you think they should remain separate and apart as well? They are different but equal.
Races are different but equal as well. No Christian or conservative believes in the superiority or inferiority of races. Social Darwinists and others do, but not us. However, there may well be better and worse cultures, but that is an altogether different matter.
That was basically how that discussion went. But I did tell him I would need to pen a piece on race in which to offer further reflections on all this, especially looking at the biblical point of view on these issues. What follows is a very short look at this.
Biblical and theological considerations
A very brief and outline version of the biblical data would be something like the following:
-God created all human beings
-They are all made in his image
-There is just one race – the human race
-The Tower of Babel incident is where different “races” arose
-In Christ there is no difference between black or white or any others based on skin colour or ethnicity
-Our real problem is a sin problem, not a skin problem
Let me unpack some of this a bit further. In a sense, race is a sociological beat-up, not a biblical or even a scientific reality. We are all one race. The dispersion of peoples at the Tower of Babel did result in a diversity of people groups – that was God’s intention. Differences in skin colour can be traced back to this event as well.
As we read in Acts 17:26, “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.” We all come from our first parents, Adam and Eve, and after the flood, we all come from Noah and his family.
Christians are aware of the science here as well. As Batten, Ham, Sarfati, and Wieland remind us:
We all have the same colouring pigment in our skin, melanin. This is a dark-brownish pigment that is produced in different amounts in special cells in our skin. If we had none (as do people called albinos, who inherit a mutation-caused defect, and cannot produce melanin), then we would have a very white or pink skin colouring. If we produced a little melanin, we would be European white. If our skin produced a great deal of melanin, we would be a very dark black. And in between, of course, are all shades of brown. There are no other significant skin pigments.
So skin colour should be no reason for any kinds of separation. As to interracial marriage, I remember not long after I became a new Christian and went back home. My parents soon started going to church with me. One day my mom asked me about interracial marriage, saying it did not ‘feel right’ to her. I simply replied by saying there is no biblical or theological reason to oppose it.
American pastor and theologian John Piper who grew up in the south, and had to deal with, and repent of, his own personal problems with racism, has written much about race. In his book Taste and See he lists “eight biblical truths” about this matter, of which I offer some:
-God designed all ethnic groups from one human ancestor.
-Members of every ethnic group are made in the image of God.
-It is God’s purpose and command that we make disciples for Jesus Christ from every ethnic group in the world, without distinction.
-All believers in Jesus Christ, of every ethnic group, are united to each other not only in a common humanity in the image of God, but even more, as brothers and sisters in Christ and members of the same body.
-The Bible forbids intermarriage between believer and unbeliever but not between members of different ethnic groups.
-Therefore, against the rising spirit of indifference, alienation, and hostility in our land, we will embrace the supremacy of God’s love to take new steps personally and corporately toward racial reconciliation, expressed visibly in our community and in our church.
Much more can be said about this subject. One could also say more about the current protests going on, and the various radical groups involved. But see here for more on this: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2020/06/02/who-is-behind-the-american-rioting/
Let me finish with some quotes on whether Christians should align themselves with some of this radical leftism, or stick to biblical truth. I offer five quotes from black voices, and then one from a white commentator. Thomas Sowell said this: “Racism is not dead, but it is on life support – kept alive by politicians, race hustlers and people who get a sense of superiority by denouncing others as ‘racists’.”
John Perkins writes, “The truth is that there is no black race—and there is no white race. So the idea of ‘racial reconciliation’ is a false idea. It’s a lie. It implies that there is more than one race. This is absolutely false. God created only one race—the human race.”
Candace Owens says this: “For so long black conservatives have not been able to have a voice, people who have bi-racial children, people in bi-racial relationships, it has been so black and white. I blame Obama. His eight years in office did a lot of damage in terms of race relations in this country. Hillary didn’t help much when she kept calling everybody racist and sexist… it is time for us to do some healing.”
Tony Evans has said, “While not seeking to diminish the impact of racism upon a culture, I also want us to recognize that illegitimate or continual cries of racism are self-limiting and self-defeating. They simply foster a victim mentality that reinforces a pathology of dependency. Victimology can be defined as nurturing an unfocused strain of resentment rooted in a defeatist identity through which all realities are filtered, rather than viewing challenges as opportunities to overcome.”
In his 2014 book One Nation, Ben Carson says this:
The left wing secular progressives love to invoke the name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but only in their historical revision would his views be compatible with theirs. The last thing he would have wanted to see was the culture of dependency that has developed among the very people he fought so hard to free. A strong opponent of godless ideology, Dr. King also rejected the idea that human beings are not responsible for their actions, arguing, “One of the most common tendencies of human nature is that of placing responsibility on some external agency for sins we have committed or mistakes we have made.”
And Jonathan von Maren says this on not getting into bed with groups like BLM: “If Black Lives Matter was simply about seeking justice for George Floyd and Ahmoud Ahmary and Philando Castille, I would be happy to voice my support without qualification. But this movement is not simply about that. It is about remaking society and creating a progressive utopia out of the ashes of the society that we now inhabit. And that is why I cannot climb onto a bandwagon when folks with those beliefs are the ones driving it.” https://www.lifesitenews.com/blogs/why-christians-shouldnt-jump-on-bandwagon-of-progressive-groups-like-black-lives-matter
For further reading and viewing
On the issue of Christianity and race, there would be many books to choose from. Here are a few volumes well worth getting:
Evans, Tony, Oneness Embraced: Reconciliation, the Kingdom, and How We are Stronger Together. Moody, 2015.
Perkins, John, One Blood: Parting Words to the Church on Race and Love. Moody, 2018.
Piper, John, Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian. Crossway, 2011.
Wieland, Carl, One Human Family: The Bible, Science, Race and Culture. Creation Book Publishers, 2011.
Voddie Baucham has reminded us in “Irreconcilable Views of Reconciliation” that the concept of race is not biblical: we are one race. See his 54-minute talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qZdIseCkZc
A 2-minute excerpt of this is found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUyA8TeR1Yg
And a 48-minute sermon by John Piper is worth watching:https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/podcasts/word-of-the-week/from-bloodlines-to-bloodline/
On the broader questions about race and politics, public policy, economics, affirmative action, and so many other related matters, there would be so many titles to point you to. Let me simply mention two Black American economists who have spent their lives writing about such matters; Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams.
Anything they have written is well worth reading. As to Sowell, I have often written about him. Perhaps you might start with this article of mine: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2020/04/19/this-is-why-you-must-read-thomas-sowell/
And one of my pieces featuring Williams is this: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2019/06/15/reparations-for-slavery-biblical-and-theological-considerations/
Do you see the photo above that I used for this article? It comes from Sydney yesterday. Here is the story behind it: “Right before the protests were scheduled to start, a male counter-protester had his ‘all lives matter’ placard ripped from his hands before he was handcuffed and led away by police. The man was shouted down from the Town Hall building steps by demonstrators before he was detained.” https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-06-06/arrests-at-sydney-black-lives-matter-protests/12329066
So in Australia if you believe that all lives matter you will be arrested. I guess that is one way to promote harmony and reconciliation.