God, Conservatives and Race
I remember last December watching with great interest as Ward Connerly appeared as a guest on Fox News Sunday. He made a remark that in order to promote equality we would "have to move away from race and toward the natural". Since that time, I have heard him make similar comments to that effect. I think that Ward Connerly makes some very good points in his presentations on race relations but I have come to realize that he and many other conservatives - Black and White - avoid, ignore, and marginalize race to the point that they do not recognize its place in God's universal order. To them, race is not divine or "natural" but only serves to undermine patriotism and promote victimization.
I have always been impressed by the e-mails I receive from the conservatives who make up our wonderful viewing audience. Many of them are brilliant and have some outstanding insights to offer on our editorials. However, they, for the most part have little to no tolerance for a worldview that is Black-centered but not Black-exclusive. Now, of course, that is their prerogative. But we find it peculiar that they oppose our focus because it is potentially "divisive" or because it keeps us from all becoming "one America". Peculiar, because these same conservatives use their label(s) - "conservative" or "Republican" as much, if not more often than most Blacks use the term "Black".
And it was an election between a Democrat and a Republican that recently divided this country - not along racial lines - but along partisan lines, first and foremost.
In short, we think the conservative and Republican claim that race-consciousness among Blacks is bad because it "divides us" is superficial and fallacious. And we think that it is possible to make an even stronger case that today, the categorizations that most effectively keep people from seeing one another for the content of their character, are political in nature.
We simply do not accept the attitude that we should not say "Black" too much; while others are free to say "conservative" or "liberal" and "Democrat" and "Republican" all day long. Isn't a label a label? Why is racial labeling any worse than political labeling?
This is something that we all should consider.
But even deeper, at the root of this anxiety that conservatives have over race issues is an unwillingness to see a purpose for race and the origin of race in the mind of God. And this is especially revealing because so many conservatives style themselves as Christians who claim to believe in the Bible. Many even want the Bible taught in schools.
Are these conservatives willing to accept the Bible's position on race? We wonder. Far from the propaganda that "God does not recognize race" put out by many, students of the Bible and serious theologians are very much aware of the fact that the establishment of race and ethnicity was a primary undertaking of God.
This is a vast subject and one that we will only briefly touch on but the implications of the issue are enormous and are "political" in the deepest sense of the word - even deeper than the understandings of those who are viewed today as experts in American politics.
One of the best places to begin any discussion of race is with the 17th Chapter of the Book of Acts, verse 26. We look at it here from many different translations:
New International Version:
From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.
King James Version
And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;
New American Bible:
He made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth, and he fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions,
New King James Version:
And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings
The word translated in English, in most translations, as "nation" is a Greek word - ethnos, which refers to " a multitude, people, race, belonging and living together"
But notice that it is God, in these verses, Who from one man; or human being; or one "blood"; has made all other races or ethnic groups. Not only that, God also has appointed where these races or ethnicities should live and for how long.
The Old Testament verse which most theologians that deal with the question of race say connects with Acts 17:26, is Deuteronomy 32: 8 which reads:
New International Version:
When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided all mankind; he set up boundaries for the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel.
King James Version:
When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel
New American Bible:
When the Most High assigned the nations their heritage, when he parceled out the descendants of Adam, He set up the boundaries of the peoples after the number of the sons of God;
New King James Version
When the Most High divided their inheritance to the nations, When He separated the sons of Adam, He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the children of Israel.
Again, groups of people, nations, ethnicities are being divided and assigned different places on the earth with physical boundaries.
Allah, in the Holy Qur'an looks at the question of race in a similar way. Far from viewing race in terms of victimization or as an unnatural phenomenon, the Supreme Being takes responsibility for the concept and reveals His purpose for race.
In the Maulana Muhammad Ali translation:
O mankind, surely We have created you from a male and a female, and made you tribes and families that you may know each other. Surely the noblest of you with Allah is the most dutiful of you. Surely Allah is Knowing, Aware.
The Yusef Ali translation:
O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (Not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).
Elsewhere Allah says that He made human beings of all hues and colors that they may know one another.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with people identifying themselves in terms of race. And unlike Ward Connerly's assertion, such a process is natural. It is how we know one another - on a biological and natural level - with real cultural, economic and geopolitical implications..
According to scripture, The Supreme Being is the author of race and the separation of human beings according to their race, nationalities and ethnicities. He even sets up physical boundaries to achieve this purpose. And while many people would like to act otherwise, God, at times, through His prophets, has even warned against intermarriage among the races for a variety of reasons. For more on that read the 9th and 10th chapter of Ezra; Genesis 24: 3; Genesis 28:1; Exodus 34: 12-16; Deuteronomy 7:3-4; Joshua 23:12; Judges 3:6,7
God is very race-conscious.
In fact in Ezra, God did not want his people "contaminated" with other groups through intermarriage. Ezra, the prophet, refers to his people as the "holy race", as translated in a few versions of the Bible. In Ezra 9: 2 it reads
New Living Translation:
For the men of Israel have married women from these people and have taken them as wives for their sons. So the holy race has become polluted by these mixed marriages. To make matters worse, the officials and leaders are some of the worst offenders
New American Bible:
For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and thus they have desecrated the holy race with the peoples of the land. Furthermore, the leaders and rulers have taken a leading part in this apostasy!"
New International Version:
They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness."
The King James translation refers to God's people as the "holy seed", in Ezra 9:2:
For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass
And this is not a phenomenon in just the Old Testament. Jesus compared a Canaanite woman (an ethnic group that God wanted separate from his people) to a dog in Matthew 15: 21-26. Jesus, while he was among his disciples and prior to his crucifixion, also told his disciples to not go among Gentiles and Samaritans (another ethnic group that God warned his people from intermingling with) but only to a specific group of people. In Matthew 10:6 it reads,
"These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
And even Paul, who is credited with spreading the Gospel to other nations, made very clear distinctions, between Gentiles and Jews. Read Romans 11: 17-19, where Paul refers to Gentiles in one way, and Jews in another - in terms of nature.
All of this scriptural evidence should lead one to give the most serious consideration and the deepest thought to the reality that God does not just recognize race He, at times, has worked to preserve the races. He has not been an advocate of integration as has been commonly taught in America. Certainly God supports the unity of the human family but not in the manner that is expressed in American politics today - where individuals are castigated and shouted down for bringing up race and where people who attempt to unite people on the basis of race are accused of teaching and preaching hate.
The question for conservatives who believe in scripture and the Word of God, is : why is race a problem when Blacks in America bring it up? What is really at the root of the anxiety, irritation and we might even say intolerance, at times, projected by conservatives toward Blacks who seek to unite with other Blacks politically and economically?
Why can't conservatives respect Black unity like they do Democratic Party unity or liberal unity or ultimately their own conservative and Republican Party unity?
Could it be that race, more than any other issue, reveals the vulnerability, shortcomings and even hypocrisy in the political worldview of American conservatism - at its root?
And furthermore, is it possible that while many conservatives claim to believe in God, Jesus Christ and scripture, their real allegiance is to the United States of America? And because of the mistreatment of people in America, on the basis of skin-color, conservatives have no desire to discuss race or slavery - two subjects that dominate the scriptures?
Would God take the position of American conservatives in regards to race relations in America and the enslavement and discrimination of Blacks in this country for around 400 years?
If so, where is the harmony between the position of American conservatives on race and God's position on such, in the scriptures?
And lastly, why do we hear so little, if anything, from American conservatives regarding the position of the Jewish religion on race?
Certainly, if they are familiar with scriptures they are aware of it.
Sunday, April 1, 2001