Ferguson, Charleston, and Minneapolis have become synonymous with racial strife and flashpoints for debate. To the shortsighted, racism has plagued America since its birth. According to these people, we walk on ground saturated with the blood of racial violence, and recent events continue to fertilize the fruits of racism. But these claims are simplistic and misleading.
Racism has dogged humanity since the tower of Babel. The division of languages forced separation and developed new cultures in isolated regions (Gen 11:9). These micro-societies continued new and diverse cultures where likeness and sameness were prized, and differences were eschewed. As a result, skin tone, originally variegated, became a mark of homogeneity within isolated cultures.
Exploration introduced people to other cultures and conflict quickly followed as people defended their culture. African tribal culture conflicted with tribal culture. Germanic barbarian culture upended Roman imperial culture. James once asked, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel” (Jas 4:1-2). He originally asked Christians why they fought each other, but his answers apply to all conflicts. Cultural passions clash with each other.
When refugees left the shores of Europe to settle in American, they brought their culture—including slavery. While some founding Americans were slave holders, most immigrants were not. In fact, many were indentured slaves themselves. The issue of slavery threatened the constitutional convention because several delegates desired to abolish it. Ultimately the founding principle that “all men are created equal” won the day. It took time and blood for the full impact of that statement to permeate the nation.
While racism lingers in some places in America, its influence is small and erratic. When black people are skeptical of white cops, that’s racism. When white people vilify black people, that’s racism. When any group oppresses, dismisses, abuses, or scorns another group because of their skin tone, racism thrives. Fortunately, the overwhelming majority of Americans despise racism.
What is God’s attitude toward race? God is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34; Rom 2:11). God does not choose people based upon outward characteristics like eye color, skin tone, or gender. God said, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). Godliness means judging on character and behavior, not race or gender.
God never distinguished based on skin color. In the Bible divisions are made by family, clan, tribe, and nation. Prior to the Tower of Babel people of all skin tones intermingled. Dividing culture based on skin color is a purely human invention.
Humanity shares one common ancestry, “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26). This means all the genetic diversity of humanity was found in the original couple—Adam and Eve. This is genetically possible because of dominance, co-dominance, and recessive gene interaction. Their offspring would have run the color gamut.
Race was not a factor in marriages. Moses a Jew, married Zipporah a Midianite (Exo 2:21). Joseph married an Egyptian named Asenath (Gen 41:45). The stigma against mixed-race marriage is another human invention.
Christians are commanded not to be prejudice against others, “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory” (James 2:1). Claiming Christ demands accepting all people regardless of their outward appearance. James went on to declare, “But if you show partiality, you are committing sin” (Jas 2:9).
God made one race with many colors. Man-made color an issue. As cultures divided people and homogenized skin tones, pride and selfishness turned color against color. By the mid-1800s, people began justifying the human imposed division. But God sees people with color—beautiful colors. Racism is based on an atheistic philosophy built on prejudice, opinion, and hate. Christians must demonstrate equality, love, and compassion to all people.