Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Common Objection #29- "Christianity is Racist."

For various reasons it has been claimed that Christianity is racist. Admittedly, in the past and present some have attempted to use Christianity to that end.  However, it has been wisely stated that we should not judge a philosophy or worldview by those who abuse it and in his book Exposing Myths About Christianity, Jeffrey Burton Russell argues that while Christians have certainly made mistakes in regard to race relations, Christianity itself is not racist:

"Jesus said, and the apostles confirmed, that the truth of Christianity were to be preached to all people of every nation.  The earliest Christians were mostly Near Easterners and Africans.  There is no evidence of racial discrimination against blacks or any other racial groups in early Christianity.  The Apostle Paul was firm: 'There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus' (Gal. 3:28). The New Testament does not mention the color of people's skin.

The bizarre idea that the Bible cursed black people dervies from tortured reading of the Old Testament texts such as Genesis 9:18-27, in which Noah curses his son Ham and Ham's son Canaan, decreeing their slavery to Ham's brothers.  In the nineteenth century, Christian racists made the connection Ham=slave=black, even though the Bible makes no mention of Ham's color.  Racists conflated this passage with Genesis 4:15, where the mark put on Cain by the Lord was believed, again without any evidence, to be black skin.  Such readings were nothing more than rationalizations for racism.  Christianity lacks reference to race: it regards Adam as the common ancestor of all humans and Christ the Savior of all humans."1

Russell goes on to explain how the raise of racism in the 18th and 19th centuries was rooted in both pseudo-Christianity and pseudo-science:

"During the nineteenth century, pseudo-Christian racism was eclipsed by pseudo-scientific racism. The bizarre term 'Caucasian' for white people was introduced by the German Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1752-1840) in about 1800.  He was followed by William Lawrence, who wrote Short System of Comparative Anatomy, published in 1807; South Carolinian Josiah Clarke Nott, On the Natural History of the Caucasian and Negro Races, 1844; and Robert Thomas Hulme, Elements of Medical Zoology, 1861.  There were allegedly three principal varieties of race.  Caucasian, Mongolian and Ethiopian.  This is why the current knowledge that all races sprang from the same African roots (monogenism) is so socially important: it affirms the unity of the human race and refutes previous scientific belief that different races had different origins (polygenism).

In the mid-nineteenth century, pictures showing the 'evolution' from ape to Anglo-Saxon were common.  Such ideas became common in America, providing pro-slavery and even moderate leaders with an excuse to condone the exploitation of African-Americans.  Even the celebrated moderate Stephen Douglas proclaimed in an 1858 debate with Abraham Lincoln that 'I positively deny that the [the Negro] is my brother or any kin to me whatever.'  So prevalent were such unchristian ideas in American society that they leached into Christianity.  Two rationalizations -the pseudo-Christian and the pseudo-scientific- reinforced one another.  The failure of Christians to recognize the full humanity of all races preceded the failure of scientists to do so; together they allowed the enslavement of Africans as well as the subjugation, exile, degradation and near extermination of Native Americans and Australian Aborigines.

After abolition, the next great struggle against racism began in the late 1950s: the civil rights movement.  Enlightenment ideas surrounding the rights of man had a role in the movement, and so did Christianity.  Most of the civil rights leaders were Christians and based their opposition to racism on Christians grounds.  There were more Christian marches for civil rights in the 1960s than secular ones."2

Surely there have been and are so-called Christians that have distorted the teachings of the faith to support their morally deplorable racism; however, racism is inconsistent with the teaches of Christianity.  This was made clear from the very beginning: "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them" (Genesis 1:27).  Regardless of our race, all of us are created in the image of God; therefore, we are all equal.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad

Related Posts

Does God Condone Slavery? by Amy Hall

Investigating Slavery in the Bible

Article: Why is the New Testament Silent on Slavery- or is it? by Paul Copan

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