With the rise of white supremacist groups, there has been an increased need for understanding the root reasons for this as well as what's causing the rise in racial tensions in general. Subscribers to far-left ideologies are also responsible since they propagate identity-based politics and policies based on the victimhood of minority ethnic groupings that exacerbate racial tensions by pitting one people group against another.
The fact that factions representing both the left and the right side of the political spectrum have triggered violence among the unstable within their groups has been exemplified by the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
Skin tone is now seen as so significant that you even have some white people apologizing because they were born white!
As we examine the Scriptures, we see that any prejudice based on skin color is folly, since the Bible tells us that we are all descended from one blood (see Acts 17:26).
Consequently, if I need a blood transfusion, I don't ask if the donor is black, white or Hispanic—since all human blood is compatible and sufficient to sustain my life.
I first came across color-based prejudice as a young man (probably as a 9-year-old) when my white friends noticed for the first time my mom was a POC (person of color) who looked different from their moms since she was of Puerto Rican descent. They started making fun of her and deriding me—which was the worst thing they could have done because I just gave it back to them five times harder, which shut them up for good! Hence, I did not allow myself to become a victim of bias, because I demonstrated to my friends that I would not allow myself to be subjugated by their derogatory rants.
After that. it was all good and our friendship continued for many more years to this very day!
As a (pre-Christian) young man. I thought that equating the worth of a person based on the tone of their skin was ludicrous. Once I even risked my well-being as a teenager by singlehandedly stepping in between a horde of enraged white kids and a petrified black teenager they accused of robbing somebody; thankfully, I was able to hold them off and give him a head start to run away. However, I was astonished in my late teens when I worked in a predominantly black neighborhood and observed as my black friends made fun of those within their circle who had the darkest skin color. (Also, I heard [a particular word used as a racial slur against African-Americans] more among my black friends than with any other ethnic group. As a non-African American teenager, I did not know how to process these experiences.)
Historically, bias because of skin color seems to be a more recent development that was catalyzed about 500 years ago during the advent of the European-African slave trade industry. To quote historian David Olusoga:
For much of the period from the 15th century till now, during which Europeans and Africans have been connected through trade, empire and migration, both forced and voluntary, Europe has viewed the people of Africa through the distorting veil of racism and racial theory. ... The men who set out to defend slavery assembled a vast arsenal of new claims and old theories about black people, which they then codified, refined and disseminated through books, pamphlets, cartoons and speeches.
Conversely, during early church history, we see believers of divergent skin tone working together in the Christian community to promulgate the gospel—illustrating that there was ethnic harmony and that Christianity was not viewed as a white man's religion.
Acts 13:1, 2 shows a leadership team in the church of Antioch that had at least two leaders from Africa (Simeon and Lucius).
Furthermore, early Christian history shows that a large percentage of the preeminent church fathers/theologians were from Africa—a list that includes: Tertullian, Minucius Felix, Cyprian, Lactantius, Optatus of Milevi, Origen, Athanasius and Augustine of Hippo. They were key leaders of the body of Christ of the first five centuries of the church.
In the early centuries of Christian history, slavery and economic injustice was not based on skin color but on which empire a person was born into and if a person was captured as a prisoner of war (or if a person was born into generational slavery).
In recent history, people have unscrupulously justified color-based racism based on misinterpreting certain passages like the one in Genesis 9:20-29 in which Noah cursed the sons of Ham and relegated them to slavery—which some used to justify American slavery.
To quote from a popular article I wrote:
Tony Evans aptly summarizes the biblical response: '[T]he Bible says that Canaan, Ham's son, was cursed, not Ham himself. Thus, only one of Ham's four sons, not all four, were cursed. How then could all black people everywhere be cursed?
... The Bible places limitations on curses—only three or four generations at most (Ex. 20:5).
... The curse on Canaan and his descendants—' Now there, you are cursed, and none of you shall be freed from being slaves"—finds its most obvious fulfillment in the ongoing defeat and subjugation of Canaan by Israel (Josh. 9:23; 1 Kings 9:20-21).
... The descendants of Ham's other sons—Cush, Mizraim and Put—have continued to this day as national peoples in Ethiopia (Cush), Egypt (Mizraim) and Libya (Put).
... God says that curses based on disobedience are reversed when people repent and turn again to obedience (Ex. 20:6). This is certainly sufficient to negate the Christian endorsement of the American enslavement of black Christians.
Furthermore, we see the biblical model played out in heaven when every tribe, nation and tongue is worshipping together before the throne of God (Rev. 7:9-10). Jesus taught us to pray for His Kingdom to come and His will to be done upon earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:6-9), which means that the biblical model for ethnic peoples is to be in unison as we praise and serve God.
The fact that some have also used this verse (Rev. 7:9,10) to say that the Bible teaches that the races of humans should be separate because in heaven ethnic peoples and nations still have their own distinctions is also erroneous since many of the nations in history are made up of various ethnic peoples who have intermarried. Thus, nations do not necessarily imply a so-called biologically pure ethnic breed—but a common culture, language, and allegiance to a set of values in a particular geographic region of the earth. As Christians, we are to derive our primary identity in Christ—not in our ethnicity.
Although God is not color blind and created different ethnic expressions of humanity—we are all children of God when we receive Christ, in which the dividing wall between ethnic groups has been torn down, and we are all one new man—regardless of skin color, gender and culture (Eph. 2:11-19; Gal. 3:28; 2 Cor. 5:17).
Unfortunately, there are even popular study Bibles with commentaries that some have interpreted to advance the false theory that biracial marriages are against God's will (for example, the Dakes Study Bible), which some have likely used to promote ethnic division and or white superiority.
In closing, the Scriptures cited above make it clear that the body of Christ is supposed to resemble Joseph's coat of many colors (see Gen.37:3), not a homogeneous construct that resembles whole milk.
May the Lord use the church to model the kingdom of God, which is made up of converted people from every nation and manifest the multi-varied wisdom of God to the ruling powers. (See Eph. 3:10, Rev. 22:22-27).
Dr. Joseph Mattera is an internationally known author, interpreter of culture and activist/theologian whose mission is to influence leaders who influence nations. He is renowned for addressing current events through the lense of Scripture by applying biblical truths and offering cogent defenses to today's postmodern culture. He leads several organizations, including The United Coalition of Apostolic Leaders (uscal.us). He also has a blog on Charisma News called "The Pulse." To order one of his books or to subscribe to his weekly newsletter go to josephmattera.org.
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