The Tragedy of Racism

By Wayne Jackson

No one with a modicum of awareness will deny that racism—the inclination to judge a person solely on the basis of his skin pigmentation or ethnic background—has been a human problem for centuries.

Paul addressed this problem before the haughty Greeks in Athens; there he affirmed that “God made of [out of] one [masculine – one man, an allusion to Adam] all men to dwell on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26). This ran counter to the ancient Greek notion that they were superior to others.

Many have been racist out of ignorance or weakness. Others, with a more ingrained disposition, have sought to defend it. Many past advocates of evolution were racist to the core. Charles Darwin’s, The Origin of Species (1859) was even subtitled “The Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life.” The notion of a “superior race”—that later was argued by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) and so brutally implemented by Adolf Hitler—clearly had Darwinian roots.

But many religionists—of all ethnic backgrounds—have been racist as well. An old rhyme that lacked as much in style as in ethics hatefully blurted: “Ham [the son of Noah], he was ‘cussed,’ and so ‘they’ [the dark-skinned] ain’t as good as us.”

This poetic (?!) “theology” has been all too prominent in American history—though it has no sanction at all in the Bible. The fact is, it was Canaan, the son of Ham, who was destined to be a “servant of servants” to his brothers (Genesis 9:25). This involved the Canaanites, but certainly not all of the offspring of Ham. It bears no relation to racial problems today.

There are, of course, black militant groups that are intensely racist also, as indeed there are racists in all ethnic segments of humanity.

Jesus, in his parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10), renders a death-blow to racist ideas.

Back in November (1999), Royce Money, president of Abilene Christian University (Texas), stood before a black audience and confessed the university’s past sins of practicing discrimination. He apologized and asked for forgiveness. We applaud Money for this acknowledgment.

When I read of this event I was reminded of a letter I wrote and which was published in The Christian Chronicle more than a third of a century ago (October 25, 1963). In part, I said:

I sincerely hope that your [recent] editorial on the “White-Negro Issue” will stimulate many to get off the “fence” and stand steadfastly for love among brethren [and] against ignorance and bias . . . Some of our . . . colleges refuse enrollment to Negros, fearing either social pressures or the withdrawal of funds, or perhaps both.

I vividly recall, when I was a student at David Lipscomb College in the mid ’50s, that Marshall Keeble would be invited to speak on occasion; yet all the black brethren would be required to sit in the balcony.

We’ve made a lot of progress since then. There is still prejudice, however, among all groups of the human family. But as the spirit of Jesus progressively invades our souls, racist attitudes must evaporate. Racism is morally wrong for the following reasons:

  1. It denies the basic unity of the human family as the offspring of God. Adam and Eve are the grandparents of us all (Genesis 3:20).
  2. The denigration of any human being, made in the image of God, is an assault upon the Creator himself (cf. Genesis 9:6).
  3. Since Christ died for all people (1 Timothy 2:5-6), any attempt to castigate a segment of humanity, suggesting its unworthiness, reflects upon the Savior’s sacrifice.
  4. Racism militates against one intended design of Jesus’ mission—to eradicate all ethnic barriers (Galatians 3:28).

May God help us be more like the little boy who, returning from his first day at school, joyfully told his mother, “Mamma, I’ve found a new friend.” “What color was he?” she inquired. His pure response was, “I forgot to ask.”

Note: we cannot but observe, however, that the president of ACU would have done the university a favor had he confessed some additional matters as well (e.g., the countenance and cover-up of the teaching of evolution on that campus—a controversy which stirred things mightily in Abilene in the late ’80s, and which has not, to this very day, been acknowledged in spite of the most overwhelming evidence of culpability).

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.