Dear Catholic Exchange:
My Baptist friend says the Bible states that we shouldn't mix the races — non-whites marrying whites, etc. I didn't know what to say so I just kept quiet. I'd like to find it in the Bible or at least have a good way of answering her if she is mistaken. Would you please help me?
Falls Church, VA
Whew! I didn't know they still made Baptists like that. Your friend is espousing a theology that was coined to defend the American institution of chattel slavery of blacks and to prevent what the 19th Century called “miscegenation” or “mixing of the races” (which would have dangerously humanized a population which a slaveholding culture wished to regard as pack animals). It typically looked at passages like Genesis 9:25-26: “Cursed be Canaan; a slave of slaves shall he be to his brothers.” He also said, “Blessed by the Lord my God be Shem; and let Canaan be his slave.”
The claim here was that this somehow applied to African slaves in the US (even though, in the original context, it clearly applied to the inhabitants of the land of Canaan).
Other texts which are used to justify racism tend to run to the various passages in the Old Testament which forbid Jews to marry outside the covenant people and, particularly, to marry the inhabitants of Canaan. What is typically overlooked is the reason for those prohibitions: Namely, the need for the covenant people not to allow their faith in Yahweh to be adulterated with allegiance to Canaanite cults of Baal, Ashtoreth, and so forth. And, supremely, what is overlooked is that these prohibitions were temporary, so that the nation could be preserved till the coming of the Messiah.
In short, this appeal to Scripture to justify racism overlooks the fact that we are not ancient Israelites. We are baptized Christians who have been clearly told that “Here there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free man, but Christ is all, and in all” (Col 3:11). Race is no necessary impediment (though, of course, that does not mean that a mixed-race marriage is thereby guaranteed to be a success simply by virtue of being a mixed-race marriage). Many factors (different cultural expectations, prejudice from relatives and friends, language, etc.) can pose a challenge for mixed-race marriages.
But it is simply false to claim that the Bible “forbids” “mixing the races.” The Bible teaches that there is only one race: the human race. The Bible never speaks of the “white race,” and with good reason: none of its authors were what a modern Baptist American would call “white.”
But even if they had all been blue-eyed blondes, it would still not matter. For the really important distinction is not between the races, it is between those who share in the life of Christ and those who do not. And even then, the Church does not forbid marriage, though she counsels against it.
Senior Content Editor
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