The Bible & Race

This is Martin Luther King Day, so our thoughts ought to go to the way we treat one another in the one race that is grounded in Biblical truth: the human race. Scripture offers confirmation of that perspective.

After the Great Flood in Noah’s day (yes, I’m one of those who see that event as history, not legend or myth), we have a genealogical chapter in Genesis that shows where all of Noah’s descendants dispersed. At the end of that accounting, we are told the following:

These are the families of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, by their nations; and out of these the nations were separated on the earth after the flood.

All physical distinctions among mankind developed from this one family. We all have a common ancestor (and I don’t mean what an evolutionist would mean by that). Consequently, any ideology that claims the superiority of one branch of humanity or the inferiority of another is profoundly unbiblical.

In the New Testament book of Acts, we see the apostle Paul speaking on Mars Hill in Athens to a gathering of philosophers (and would-be philosophers). In the midst of his address to them, he makes this comment:

He Himself [God] gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth . . . that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist.

First, this is a confirmation of the Genesis account as to the origin of mankind. Second, it is a clear affirmation of the doctrine that God wants all men, of whatever ethnic background and no matter what external differences one group may have with another, to be brought into His kingdom.

In his letters, Paul reiterates this doctrine, as in Galatians when he writes,

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.

Some people might be confused by Paul’s words here. Yes, there is a distinction still between Jews and Gentiles, between those living a life in slavery and those who are free, between men and women. What he’s getting at is simply that all of those distinctions make no difference to God when it comes to our standing before Him. When we come to Christ, we are equally part of His family no matter the external differences.

Paul returns to that theme in the book of Colossians:

Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him—a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.

What’s more important than what we see on the outside of people is what’s going on inside. Our hearts are being changed through Christ; we are being transformed into His image. And our “race” doesn’t matter.

In our nation, we look back on a history of slavery and segregation that never should have occurred. We do need a sense of proportion, though: slavery has existed throughout human history.

As a nation, we have taken steps to try to erase that blight in our treatment of our fellow humans. In my opinion, great progress has been made over the years. Others don’t see it that way at all. Unfortunately, some are more interested in hanging on to grievances and fomenting racial animosity—and that occurs on both sides of the divide.

Martin Luther King wanted a complete integration of man’s artificial racial classifications into the one race that has Biblical backing, the race that Jesus Christ died for, the race that includes all men and women regardless of those external differences so many want to emphasize.

We need to advance the Biblical perspective on the human race: we are all the descendants of one family, and we are all made in the image of God. It’s time to begin treating each other accordingly.

Selma & History

This weekend saw the commemoration of the Selma march in 1965. It was one of those pivotal moments in the struggle for civil rights for blacks in America. This is the kind of commemoration that should be free from modern-day politics, one in which all Americans can point to the positive changes that have been made in American society against racial animus.

That is the ideal. The practice was something else. First, it is a shame that Barack Obama should be the face of this commemoration. He has done more than anyone in the last six years to re-divide our nation along racial lines, turning every conceivable incident into a charge of racism.

I also watched a video of Obama giving a speech in 2007 in which he claimed that Selma is what gave rise to his father coming over from Kenya, marrying his mom, and giving birth to the man who would one day be president. There’s only one problem with that. Selma took place in 1965; Obama was born in 1961. I’ll let you figure out the problem.

There also has been a media theme that Republicans refused to take part in this commemoration. Not true. George Bush was prominent in Selma for this event. Here’s a picture showing his participation in the march.

Obama participates in a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama

You can see him and his wife, Laura, on the right. Yet when the vaunted New York Times, the supposed newspaper of record, put a photo of this re-created march on its front page, Bush was cropped out of the picture. Subtle hint?

Tim ScottBut Bush was not the only Republican representative there. One of the co-sponsors of the event was Republican senator Tim Scott of South Carolina. Scott is a conservative black senator, elected in a state that once was the cornerstone of slavery and racism in the country. Isn’t that called progress?

A Republican congresswoman from Alabama was another co-sponsor. Others, including Republican Majority Leader in the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, were also present. So the media theme is incorrect, and one can assume the inaccuracy was deliberate.

One also has to set aside history. The Republican Party began in 1854 as a result of disagreement with the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which opened the territories to the possibility of slavery. The Republican Party led the charge for the Reconstruction amendments to the Constitution that abolished slavery and opened up voting rights for blacks. Republican Theodore Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to have dinner with him in the White House, outraging Democrats everywhere. And the Republican Party supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in greater percentages than the Democrats. It was the Democrats who controlled the Southern states during the time of segregation. Probably the most racist American president was Democrat Woodrow Wilson.

But all of that is not relevant, I guess.

A couple more points to make about Obama’s participation. I can understand why he wants to be associated with this historic event, but let’s be honest. His mother was white and not subject to any racial animus. His father was from Kenya and had no real experience with American racism. His stepfather lived in Indonesia, again with no direct connection to the Civil Rights Movement. Obama himself grew up with all the privileges a young child could have—private school, scholarships to Columbia and Harvard. I doubt he faced any genuine persecution.

Alveda KingHow about a different face for this commemoration? How about the niece of Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Alveda King? She suffered racism in her younger days. She remembers her uncle personally, unlike Obama. She is quite articulate. There’s a problem, though. Alveda King is a strong pro-life conservative. She doesn’t fit the current narrative. Too bad. She is more a representative of the Civil Rights Movement than Barack Obama ever will be.

We have come a long way. It’s time for those who continue to stir up racial strife to stop using the problems of the past for political gain today.