Does Christianity Promote Racism?
A Popular Myth
There is a popular myth among critics of Christianity that the Bible promotes racism. Whether it be the fact that God chose one nation, Israel, to give a special blessing to or the reality that the Bible doesn't, on the surface, seem to condemn slavery, they say that the Christian religion is racist at heart.
It doesn't help that groups of Christians throughout history have taken passages out of context, or just plain misinterpreted them and have used the Bible to promote their own hate-filled agenda. Many of the owners of slaves before the Civil War claimed to be Christians and still denied freedom or even equality to many men, women, and children who served them throughout their lives.
Even fundamentalist organizations such as Bob Jones University proudly promoted racism for years until it was threatened by the IRS in 1971 that if it didn't integrate it would lose its tax-exempt status. It complied with the government by only admitting married blacks in order to discourage racial mixing. It wasn't until 2000, after much uproar from society, that it ended its policy of banning inter-racial dating.
Bob Jones Sr. , who was the founding president of the University, had this to say:
“White folks and colored folks, you listen to me. You cannot run over God’s plan and God’s established order without having trouble. God never meant to have one race. It was not His purpose at all. God has a purpose for each race.”
The truth is that, despite all of this, the Bible is not a racist book at all. It actually teaches just the opposite. We are all part of the human race and the Lord loves us all equally.
I. All Humanity Created in God's Image
If we go back to the creation of the heavens and the earth, the Bible says something quite astounding. Of all the creatures that God has made, only mankind is said to have been created in God's image. In Genesis 1:26,27 we read these words:
"Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created."
We can't say that some were created in the Lord's image and some weren't. The Bible plainly teaches that all of humanity came from one couple, Adam and Eve
Paul, in his speech to the Athenians on Mars Hill, wrote of this fact in telling them about God. The Scripture states:
While Paul was waiting for them in Athens (i.e. Silas and Timothy), he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.” (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.) Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. In the past, God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” At that, Paul left the Council." (Acts 17:16-33).
We can see from these passages that God's original plan was for all men to love and serve Him in unity and harmony as He loves them. But if that is true, why did God choose one nation out of all the nations on earth to bless and to give to them His promises of a land, and seed?
II. All Humanity to be Blessed by One Nation
Some would say that God was being prejudiced and racist when He chose Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees and decided to ignore the other nations and bless Him and his offspring.
First of all, we have to realize that the nation of Israel was not chosen because of their size or anything special on their part. It was simply because of His love and grace and to keep His covenant with their fathers (Deuteronomy 7:7-9).
We also need to see that the other nations weren't passed by because of racial issues. It had nothing to do with their skin color, their place of origin, the language that they spoke or anything else like that. It was because of their sinfulness. God had dealt with all of mankind prior to this. And we see that, before Noah's flood, the Lord made an assessment of the human race. The book of Genesis tells us:
"Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great upon the earth and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was altogether evil all the time. And the LORD regretted that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him in His heart." (Genesis 6:5,6).
We see in Genesis 6:1-10:32 that God could only find one righteous man, Noah, and chose to save him and his family from the great flood that He used to destroy the rest of sinful humanity.
Later, after the flood had decreased mankind to eight souls, they multiplied again. We then have the tower of Babel in which men tried to build a monument to their own abilities and enhance their own fame rather than give glory to God. The Lord had to confuse their language in order to keep them from this idolatry (Genesis 11:1-9).
It is only then that God chose one man and one nation upon which to set His blessings and to bring about His purposes. However, the Lord was not finished with all of humanity. Besides promising Abraham a land and a seed, his offspring were to bring about the blessing of all nations (Genesis 22:18).
Jesus Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of this because He became the author of salvation. He brings salvation from sin and death to all who believe in his name (John 3:16; 3:36). However, Israel herself was to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:6). They were to be a distinct people to point other nations to God and to His Messiah.
Israel mostly failed in their mission but Jesus, the Messiah, accomplished His mission of salvation.
III. All Humanity United in the Church
Now, according to Paul, Israel has temporarily been set aside because of unbelief (Romans 9-11). They rejected Jesus, their Messiah, and in their place has been put the Body of Christ, the Church. Paul calls it a mystery, never before revealed until this time. The mystery is that Jews and Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the Body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel (Ephesians 3:6).
Scripture breaks humanity into Jews and Gentiles. The Jews, of course, were God's chosen people. The Gentiles are everyone else. At this time there is no difference between the two. All humanity is united under one head, the Lord Jesus Christ. Here is what Paul says:
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28).
So, whether it be preaching the gospel to a lost world and winning it to Jesus Christ or having fellowship with members of the Body of Christ who are our brothers and sisters in the Lord, there is absolutely no room for racism in the Church and for the individual Christian either.
But that's not all! There is the unity that will come to the entire world in the New Heaven and the New Earth in which believers in Christ will all be living.
IV. All Humanity United in Eternity
When we are told of the eternal state, most people don't think about nations and people groups being there. We seem to get the feeling that we will all be of one color and one race, without national distinctions. However, if we have learned anything from living in this world, we have learned that God loves variety and color. What does the Bible actually say about the New Heaven and the New Earth?
In Revelation 21 it talks about this time where God shall dwell among men on the New Earth and in the New Jerusalem. God will wipe away every tear from the eyes of His people. And there shall be no more death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain. The first things will have passed away (3-4).
However, we don't usually read all of Revelation 21 where it gives a more complete understanding of the New Jerusalem from which Jesus Himself will reign over the entire world. Here is John's description:
"I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life." (22-27).
What this seems to indicate is that there will indeed be national distinctions and people groups. And for the first time since Adam and Eve fell in the Garden, we will all get along! And if God isn't going to wipe out the races and nations in the New order of things, maybe we need to learn to get along right now on this present earth in which we are living.
The old Star Trek television show always talked about current issues. And being on in the 1960's you know that it would tackle racism. Star Trek was about the Star Ship Enterprise traveling through space in the 23rd century. The show is best described by its weekly introduction by Captain Kirk himself. He said:
"Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before!"
In one episode, while traveling, they came across two humanoid aliens from the same planet called Cheron. Both were exactly alike, except one, whose name was Lokai, had a half white and half black body with the white on the right side. The other, called Bele, had a half white and half black body with white on the left.
The only other differences were that Bele represented a group with his same physical characteristics of black on the left side that had enslaved the other group with black on the right for generations because they thought that the color on the opposite side made the enslaved group inferior. And the other difference was that both Bele and Lokai hated each other and the group that each represented.
To make a long story short, Bele was trying to take Lokai back to his planet as a prisoner because Lokai had led a rebellion against the oppressors of his people. Lokai was seeking political asylum aboard the Enterprise. Throughout the show, the two aliens fought constantly, trying to kill each other.
In the end, the sad thing is that while all this was going on, ultimately they found out that everyone on the home planet had annihilated one another due to their hatred. But this didn't stop Bele and Lokai. They blamed each other for the destruction of Cheron and both were last seen on the show chasing and being chased by each other down to the dead planet's surface and trying to kill each other.
The fact of the matter is that all of the differences that we fight over in our racial divides on this earth are just as silly as these two humanoid aliens in Star Trek. God has made us all delightfully different in many ways, but at the same time, we are so much alike. The old childhood song tells us:
"Jesus loves the little children. All the children of the world. Red, and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world."
The Bible teaches us that if we say that we love God and yet hate our brother, then we are a liar (I John 4:20). Racism is a sin! We need to remove it from the Christian Church and from our individual lives. God loves people and God hates racism. Let us love what God loves and hate what God hates. And by this, we will make this present world a better place for all of us to live.
© 2018 Jeff Shirley