Faith-Based Racism is an Ancient Tradition

Racial prejudice reflects wonderfully on your religious beliefs….if you are a religious racist! The fact is that one can, and … Continued

Racial prejudice reflects wonderfully on your religious beliefs….if you are a religious racist! The fact is that one can, and many have, articulated powerful religious systems that posited a divine preference for one race of human being over others. In fact, like many views which we now find repugnant, it was the norm for most of human history. The same can be said for other institutions, such as slavery, which were considered entirely consistent with “good faith” until relatively recently.

Personally, the basis of my faith which renders belief in God and racism mutually exclusive is found in the Genesis creation story. Whether historically accurate or not, I live by the truth that flows from a story which insists that we all share a common ancestor. We are all one family. So to hate one group of people is to actually hate a piece of myself and to deny the truth of that narrative. But of course, people have read that same story for a long time and reached very different conclusions.

Simply assuming that one can not be “genuinely religious” and a racist denies the lived faith experiences of millions. And it’s dangerous too. It makes us less able to address them and the sincerity of their positions, and therefore less successful at changing them – about which I have no compunctions.

We can judge religious racists to be wrong or improperly religious. But being shocked by their existence is like being shocked by people invoking the name of God before they pull a trigger. It’s horrible, but not surprising. In fact, when our shock replaces our engagement with such people, we find ourselves shouting things like “how can you do that”, when what we really mean is “stop”. And we know how effective that is.

But if we seriously inquired about how such people hold together multiple beliefs, some of which we experience as so good and others which seem so diametrically opposed, we might actually figure out how to help them see the wisdom of other, more humane positions. It really boils down to whether we want to wrap ourselves in “sacred shock and horror” or get over our own sanctimony and make real arguments in favor of that which we believe in ways that can be heard by those with other beliefs.

Brad Hirschfield
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  • worth

    “People” and “race” have 5000 different definitions per 5000 people asked to define them. Words are funny that way.

  • The Moderate

    In the beginning, religious cults were of particular tribes and ethnic groups. For example, the very idea of a “chosen people” is racist and exclusionary.In the beginning, slavery was a universal part of economic life.In the beginning torture was a commonplace in political and criminal discourse.From an anti-faith perspective we would say that religion is hopelessly contaminated with man’s inhumanity to man, racism, slavery, torture, and self justification and try to start with a clean slate based solely upon enlightenment and reason. From a faith perspective we might say that humankind was only able to hear a small part of God’s message. Early on it included the Golden Rule of caring for your neighbors as yourself, but his only applied to blood relatives in the tribe. Our task of millennia has been to broaden definition of neighbor to include “the alien among us”, Jew and Christian, slave or free, male and female, and even others who do not believe in our own partiular religions. In essence, that we are all the children of God together.I hope to see more of your thinking and views in the future.

  • The Moderate

    Hi Terra,”I have never figured out why or how a Christian could be racist. Now I am not a Christian, but was not the Queen of Sheba, who was Etheopian, in the direct line of Jesus?”Me neither. But all major human groups have been guilty of terrible crimes against fellow humans. It seems like it should be time to learn how to do better.Personally I am hopeful that the Obama candidacy is telling us that things are getting better. Iowa, for example, is about 95% white and put the Obama campaign on its way to victory in the nomination race.I wouldn’t worry too much about political professionals whose job it is to say nasty things about the other side. If it ain’t Karl Rove its MoveOn.org. These will always be with us.

  • D.W. Van Winkle

    Re: THE MODERATEI am not sure that the very idea of a chosen people is necessarily racist and exclusionary. It depends upon the purpose of the choice. A group might be chosen for service to all humanity instead of a privilege over the rest of humanity. There are parts of the Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a. Old Testament) which support this view (e.g. Genesis 12: 1-3, and IMHO more clearly in Isaiah 19:21-25, 56:1-8, 66:21).I believe the notion of a group being chosen for service instead of privilege also reflects the ethical system of Jesus (both the Canonical Jesus and the historical Jesus). I think that the parable of the Good Samaritan shows that Jesus believed that one’s neighbor was anyone in need. Paul also urged Christians to do good to all people, especially the household of faith. Justo González’s FAITH AND WEALTH: A HISTORY OF EARLY CHRISTIAN IDEAS ON THE ORIGIN, SIGNIFICANCE, AND USE OF MONEY demonstrates the prior to Constantine the church practiced this type of morality.Of course I am not defending the behavior of the post-Constantinian Church.Peace,

  • D.W. Van Winkle

    Anonymous:Sorry for not making myself clearer. I did not claim that there are no examples of racism and exclusion in the Scriptures. However, your example of ethnic cleansing is a good one for this purpose but it does not falsify my premise that the very idea of a chosen people is necessarily racist and exclusionary. It may argue that the Scriptures do not consistently uphold the idea of the elect being chosen for service but it does not of logical necessity demonstrate that the idea of a chosen people is inherently racist and exclusionary.

  • The Moderate

    Sorry for the accidental Anonymous post. That was me.I agree with your point that it is possible that a call to service is not by necessity racist and exclusionary. The practice around 1400 B.C. was, though. I think they could not hear the whole call of God then, just as we cannot now. I hope we progress over time, though, to hear more.All the bestThanks again to Brad for his essay.

  • D.W. Van Winkle

    The Moderate:Thanks for your post. I enjoyed our conversation. It is my hope that everyone who thinks he/she is God’s chosen come to recognize that God choice is always for service and never for privilege. As John Lennon said, “They may say I am a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” I also agree with his song “Working Class Hero” when he says, “Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV and you think you are so clever and classless and free….”Peace,

  • harold

    Tell me, are you a Midianite, Amalek, or Philistine. You sons of Belial, is your father providing you with what you want, need, or desire. Do you still worship the son of man, the lamb of god, the king of Sodom. Is the son of god, the king of Babylon still your god. How is your mother the serpent doing these days. Is your trinity of gods, the father, son, holy ghost providing you with all your spiritual your wants, needs, or desires for the eternal life. Job 29When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me:“When the ear heard me, then it blessed me”And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore.“Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much”Geber the son of Uri was in the country of Gilead, in the country of Sihon king of the Amorites, and of Og king of Bashan; and he was the only officer which was in the land.“in the land. Judah and Israel were many”Then Moses heard the people weep throughout their families, every man in the door of his tent: and the anger of the Lord was kindled greatly; Moses also was displeased.“Moses said unto the Lord”And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.“In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen”And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the east lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the sea side for multitude.“the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the east”Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel,“And Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, Let the Hebrews hear”

  • harold

    You can clearly see the LORD gave food and raiment to the stranger, this is the LOVE of the LORD. Israel does not receive the bread of the LORD from the hands of strangers. It is very very clear “the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you”. What did Isaac, Abimelech, Ahuzzath, Phichol do. “Let there be now an oath betwixt us” “and have sent thee away in peace: thou art now the blessed of the Lord”Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old.Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.Only the Lord had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day.“loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment”Neither from a stranger’s hand shall ye offer the bread of your God of any of these; because their corruption is in them, and blemishes be in them: they shall not be accepted for you.“Neither from a stranger’s hand shall ye offer the bread”And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him.“But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you”Then Abimelech went to him from Gerar, and Ahuzzath one of his friends, and Phichol the chief captain of his army.“We saw certainly that the Lord was with thee: and we said”And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran.“Jacob went out from Beersheba”And David sent out ten young men, and David said unto the young men, Get you up to Carmel, and go to Nabal, and greet him in my name:“David sent out ten young men”Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.“I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts”This is the path the so-called Christians choseTherefore saith the Lord, the Lord of hosts, the mighty One of Israel, Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies:

  • harold

    In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.FOR THEY SHALL BE ASHAMED OF THE OAKS WHICH YE HAVE DESIRED, AND YE SHALL BE CONFOUNDED FOR THE GARDENS THAT YE HAVE CHOSEN.Therefore saith the Lord, the Lord of hosts, the mighty One of Israel, Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies:And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens,

  • harold

    The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the Lord that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.This shall be written for the generation to come: and the people which shall be created shall praise the Lord.Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.Praise ye the Lord. Praise ye the Lord from the heavens: praise him in the heights.The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel;And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore.“Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much”“he spake also of beasts”But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee:“ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee” “he spake also of beasts”“In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind”These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens,“heavens and of the earth” “earth and the heavens”And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.“breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul”“there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon”

  • VICTORIA

    Human Equality in Islam “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).”[Quran 49:13]Commentary: It is based on this Islamic principle of equality between humanbeings, that racism is incomprehensible to Muslims and alien to Islam.This verse signifies equality of genders and equality of humanbeings from every corner of the world.Islam ties every human into a single family with Adam & Eve(peace be upon them both)as his/her parents.Consequently, the concept of superiority or inferiority simply does not arise out of someone’s colour,race or origin.The one who is superior infront of Allah(swt) is the one who obeys Allah(swt) most.

  • Anonymous

    The ModerateYes. I’ve always wondered when the Christians say they’re “God’s people.” What the hell does that mean?

  • Anonymous

    AnonymousWow! The NT? Believe in Jesus or be damned forever? Er, that sounds more like devolution from the OT.

  • Anonymous

    OOPS! Meant to write “degeneration from the OT.”NT, right. Believe in me or go to hell. My way or the hiway. Bad news.

  • harold

    I have clearly shown that those who claim to be of the faith of Abraham have sinned terribly. Some more than others, especially those who claim to be adopted. You can clearly see “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them” there is no eight day for circumcision. Look at the difference “the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created” “in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens” I ask you wise men how many generations are there of the LORD, how many days are there of the LORD. With God there is a beginning, so there must be an end. “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them” “the gathering together, great whale and the face of the deep”“Let the waters under the Heaven be gathered together unto one place”“the earth was without form, and void”LOOKAnd Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife’s sake.“she is the daughter of my father”“I will put a division between my people and thy people: to morrow shall this sign be”And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had said.“Say unto Aaron, Stretch out thy rod”And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,Remember, and forget not, how thou provokedst the Lord thy God to wrath in the wilderness: from the day that thou didst depart out of the land of Egypt, until ye came unto this place, ye have been rebellious against the Lord.“the Lord delivered unto me two tables of stone written with the finger of God”THIS IS THE FINGER OF GODAnd he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone.THIS IS THE TEN COMMANDANTS FROM MOSESIn the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.“the earth was without form, and void”And God said, Let the waters under the Heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.“Let the waters under the Heaven be gathered together unto one place”And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.“Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life”And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.“Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind”Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.“the heavens and the earth were finished”“Let the waters under the Heaven be gathered together unto one place”“the earth was without form, and void”These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens,“the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created”And if there be in the bald head, or bald forehead, a white reddish sore; it is a leprosy sprung up in his bald head, or his bald forehead.

  • harold

    Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.“tell this people”“But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return”And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,“So that I come again to my father’s house in peace”Moreover Job continued his parable, and said,When thou shalt beget children, and children’s children, and ye shall have remained long in the land, and shall corrupt yourselves, and make a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, and shall do evil in the sight of the Lord thy God, to provoke him to anger:“shall corrupt yourselves”So that thou shalt be mad for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see.“there shalt thou serve other gods, wood and stone.”And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone.“the Lord shall scatter thee among all people”And ye have seen their abominations, and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold, which were among them:“ye have seen their abominations”And the golden mice, according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both of fenced cities, and of country villages, even unto the great stone of Abel, whereon they set down the ark of the Lord: which stone remaineth unto this day in the field of Joshua, the Bethshemite.“the great stone of Abel”And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.“Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed”And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;“hast eaten of the tree”But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell.“But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you”The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.“The Angel which redeemed me from all evil”One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the Lord your God, he it is that fighteth for you, as he hath promised you.“One man of you shall chase a thousand”And an angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you.“an angel of the Lord came up”But the sons of Belial shall be all of them as thorns thrust away, because they cannot be taken with hands:“the sons of Belial shall be all of them as thorns thrust away”And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem.“they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand”So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem.“So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day”And there came an angel of the Lord, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites.“there came an angel of the Lord”Where the people of Israel were slain before the servants of David, and there was there a great slaughter that day of twenty thousand men.“the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured”And they took Absalom, and cast him into a great pit in the wood, and laid a very great heap of stones upon him: and all Israel fled every one to his tent.“they took Absalom”And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king’s dale.“the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer”And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.“blessed be the most high God”