On the night that Dylan Roof repaid love with hatred in Charleston, South Carolina, far more than 21 years of racial animus was suddenly put on display. Roof merely reflected a mindset that has permeated the thinking of far too many Americans, even Christians, since the founding of the republic. From the beginning, many Southern White Christians, and more than a few in the North, held to a belief of European superiority. Accordingly, because slaves lacked a European heritage, they were considered intellectually and socially inferior.
Amazingly, that point of view was defended as having a biblical foundation. Proponents quote the Apostle Paul who said in Ephesians 6:5, “slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling.” And in Titus 2:9 he wrote, “tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect.” In fact, we find many passages of Scripture that refer to slaves without a single prohibition against slavery.
Okay with God?
While God never ordained slavery, in allowing it He did give guidelines. The many Bible passages addressing slavery were not endorsements of the practice. Writing for about religion.com, Sam O’Neal has noted that far from affirming the slave trade in America, biblical references to slavery were intended to protect slaves from maltreatment by their owners. However, the absence of “thou shalt not own slaves” in Scripture, gave Christians in the South a very tenuous justification for supporting the ownership of slaves. Thus, throughout the nation’s history, Christians have endorsed slavery without even a slight twinge of conscience. Perhaps that explains why the irony of hate-filled Christianity is lost on so many professed believers.
Take for example members of the so-called “Christian Identity Movement (C.I.M.),” which has spawned the likes of the young Roof who, early in 2015, took the lives of nine precious souls at the Emmanuel A.M.E. Church. C.I.M. theology teaches that Black lives don’t matter. Their basic tenets include, “the White, Anglo-Saxon, Germanic … people are God’s true, literal Children of Israel,” according to kingidentity.com, a site dedicated to the movement. That such a twisted view of God’s Word could germinate in the heart of a troubled young man is not surprising. What is shocking however is just how readily Christians in America, from the nation’s inception until today, have embraced such distorted views of Scripture in order to justify not only the slave trade in the United States, but the tyranny of segregation as well. Equally shocking was the ease with which Southerners were able to visit upon people of color a social order of brutality, cruelty, and oppression—all in the name of the Almighty. And then they assembled to worship God in the belief that He condoned their conduct.
Incredibly, most Americans missed the irony in the collision of lofty principles and stark reality. True, there was talk of holding “these truths to be self-evident …” Yet in the midst of the celebration of liberties, non-Europeans were afforded few occasions for celebration. Institutional slavery gave way to de facto segregation, Jim Crow, racial intolerance, and systemic bigotry. Post Civil War America continued to use the Bible to buttress support of laws preventing descendants of slaves from living among, going to school with, or marrying those of European heritage. But does the Bible speak against such activity?
If any Scriptural passage drives a nail through the balloon of bigotry, John 3:16 certainly does: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son” (KJV). It would be difficult to find more inclusive words.
Christians who have attempted to use God’s Word to keep God’s people separated by skin color have totally missed the point of the birth of the Lamb of God. Paul says in Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (KJV). Paul reiterates this sense of oneness in Ephesians 2:9, “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (KJV)
The promise of redemption was made to no one race, but
to the human race. Acts 17:26 reminds us “And hath made
of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth” (KJV).
Although steeped in Judeo-Christian principles, America has nonetheless suffered from the sub-division of its population according to an artificial ethno-anthropological framework that perpetuates the myth of the superiority of one race over another. As a result, bigotry has become rooted in the national character. However, in the body of Christ there is no room for bigotry. Again, Paul makes the point in Romans 2:11, “There is no partiality with God” (KJV). In fact, it is apparent from the Word that bigotry is a sin before God. James 2:8, 9 states, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. . .but if you show partiality, you commit sin” (KJV).
The reality of God’s family has long been sung by children: “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and Yellow, Black and White all are precious in His sight.” When it comes to color, the primary concern for every child of God is neither Black nor White nor Brown. The only color that matters is the red blood of the Lamb of God that washes away our sins, and unifies us as the body of Christ. That’s the color of love.