Wednesday, May 21, 2008

culture shock

I had a disturbing conversation with Steph this morning that I felt the need to share. It started as an offhand discussion we had this weekend regarding race and marriage and whether or not it was acceptable for people of different races to marry each other.

Both Steph and I are from Minnesota, so I think our views of this are in general a little more accepting than maybe other parts of the country. Neither of us think that interracial marriage is inherently wrong. If two people love one another and they want to get married, then they should, regardless of what color their skin is.

Steph works outside of the city (Nashville) - that is to say, she works with a handful of true red-blooded Southerners. She decided to do a little investigation Monday and get their take on the whole interracial marriage bit. What she discovered really shocked me. I was naively living under the assumption that we've made great strides in overcoming racism over the past few decades in America. I was wrong. Here's a smattering of responses:
  • "My dad would kill me if I brought a black man home for dinner."
  • "My pastor taught us growing up that it was wrong to marry black people."
  • "If you spend too much time with black people you start to act and talk like them."
  • "The Bible says not to associate with people from different cultures."
  • "I don't want to hang around black people because I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea."
  • "There's a difference between black people and niggers. There are some good black people, but then niggers are like the black version of white-trash, and it's just not right to associate with those people."
  • "It's a sin for people of different races to marry."

Allow me to be very clear here: If you agree with any of these statements you are wrong and you disgust me.

I cannot believe that in 2008 we are still using the Bible to justify our cowardly selfish racist mindsets. That is absolutely utterly shocking to me. I'm sorry I was so naive to think that we had progressed beyond this sick and disgusting state. I also can't believe that I have to spend a blog post outlining why the above statements are the most ridiculous and stupid things I have ever heard.

Specifically my comments are aimed at white Christian Americans who find themselves agreeing with some semblance of the above statements:

God Does Not Operate On A Class System:
At the core of all these statements is this sentiment that one race is better than another - that somehow God has selected white American's as the preferred culture of people, and all other races are lesser and degraded forms of the above. Sounds like a Nazi propaganda if you ask me... while we're at it, should we weed out the blond haired, blue eyed folks and just do off with the rest of us?

When it comes to a "chosen" race in the eyes of God, I assure you it's not white Protestant Americans... it's the Jewish people of ancient Israel. This is a culture through which God first spoke and demonstrated his love - and wrath. What color do you think their skin was? The great thing for all races though is that he made His love accessible to all of us through the death and resurrection of Jesus... this is the reason we all get to share in the blessings of God. The Apostle Paul effectively tore down the barriers of race throughout his life and persistent ministry to those outside the Jewish culture. All are welcome at God's table.

It Is Not A Sin To Associate With Other Races:
I'm having trouble figuring this one out - where did this idea come from that white people aren't to associate with black people, or anyone else of another race? Since when are Christians isolationists? Weren't Christ's last words on earth "Go into all the world and preach the good news"? This doesn't sound like separation to me... rather, this sounds like a command to start making some diverse groups of friends. And no, I don't simply mean a four day mission trip to Columbia - the gospel of Christ is a genuine message of relationship that speaks to true lasting friendships and acceptance of people from all walks of life.

It Is Not A Sin To Marry Outside Your Race:
I understand that precedent and tradition have led to a general societal taboo of interracial marriages, and that is what it is. But it doesn't make these marriages wrong. For Christian's to take a verse like Genesis 28:1, "So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him and commanded him: 'Do not marry a Canaanite woman,'" and then improperly conclude that God has commanded Christians not to marry individuals of other races are incorrect in their interpretation.

This command, and ones like it, speak to spiritual matters - not racial matters. The Canaanite culture of the time was known for their blatant disregard of God, and as such, it would not be right for a Jewish person to be married to someone who did not share their worldview and belief set. Likewise, it would be unwise for a Christian to pledge their life to an individual who does not share their beliefs, but again I emphasize, this has nothing to do with race.

It really saddens and frustrates me that thoughts like the ones I listed above are prevalent in our culture - it really irritates me that I'm hearing these thoughts from a group of self-professed Christians. I'm certainly not trying to say that Christians are "morally better" than the rest of society, however, Christians have been given an example in the Bible as to how we should treat and interact with the people around us. We need to strive towards this and as a faith-group set a positive example of how to treat those around us with respect and without prejudice.

You tell me if you think I'm out of line here, but I think you'll be hard pressed to find an argument that holds water.

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