1. Christians should discuss race because it is an important issue that impact’s all aspects of the life of the believer and which demands the daily application of spiritual solutions.
For the majority of Black people race determines where you live, where you go to church, where you work, whether you work at all, whether you will advance on the job, how you are treated by the police, how you are treated in court, what school your children go to, what they are taught or not taught when they get there, what access your community will have to public services, whether you can vote and whether that vote will be counted, how you are portrayed in television, films, and the news: all of these things are directly impacted by race and more often than not the Black individual is the recipient of the short end in each of these situations. Race is an important issue and to deny it is in itself a demonstration of the evil power of racism.
Your ability to live an effective Christian life will be influenced by how you deal with the issue of race. Pretending that there is no issue or accepting the judgment of society that there is simply something wrong with Black people is the wrong way of dealing with the issue. In all of the matters of life, the bible must be brought to bear upon race and what it means to be a Black American.
2. Christians should discuss race because it is an issue that has been used by the devil in order to injure and divide believers.
Race has been used by the devil to spiritually cripple both Blacks and Whites. American churches are still among the most racially segregated places in the United States. We will show that oppression is one of the means by which Satan administers his earthly kingdom and that race is a component of that system. God is on the record in scripture regarding His attitude towards oppression, those who oppress and the oppressed themselves [Ps 9.9; 10.18; 72.4].
Psalm 103:6 (AV) The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed[i].
Christian doctrine has historically been compromised in order to justify various categories of oppression against specific races. This compromise has occurred in the biblical scholarship as well as the way in which the bible is applied to Blacks as opposed to other groups.
The American slave initially was denied the benefit of evangelism and bible teaching on many plantations[ii]. It was the legitimate fear of the slave industry, many participants of which were Christians, that bible teaching would render slavery unacceptable to a man. There was also the fear that Christian baptism would legally entitle a slave to freedom[iii]. The investors in slavery were eventually convinced that baptism would not entitle the slave to freedom[iv] and that the proper version of Christianity would not make the slave resentful of servitude, but more compliant and industrious in his role as wealth producer for his owner.
Thus began the development of two theologies: one for the slave and another for the free. The suggestion that slaves accept American slavery as the same thing as biblically regulated slavery and subject themselves to it as if it were the same required the development of a new theology since it was clear that these two institutions were not the same. Both White and Black believers were put in the position of treating crime [American slavery] as a divinely regulated institution, ignoring clear biblical statements regarding the proper regulation of slavery in the areas of kidnapping, violence and rape. Thus while Whites were free to disregard the bible with respect to the implementation and maintenance of the American version of slavery, Blacks were obligated to submit to the scriptures regarding slavery without question. The outcome was Christians enslaving both believers and unbelievers under a system that was criminal and immoral from top to bottom and demanding that it be responded to [by the slaves only] in the same way as the regulated form of slavery found in scripture.
There was and are today two theologies: one theology that taught the inherent supremacy of Whites and their right not only to heaven, but to inherit the earth today, and another theology that inculcated the natural inferiority of the Black and his need of a sponsor, the slave master, in order to live under limited freedom and limited manhood. The inalienable rights of one race did not accrue to the other. The constitutional rights of the slave owners were inalienable because the rights of life, liberty and happiness were provided by God to mankind. In denying these same rights to the African, there was imputed to the Black man in general and to the slave in particular a species of life somewhat less than human and therefore placed him in different relation to the rest of humanity, to the bible and to God. This theological and legal perversion was [and still is] enabled by the use of the same biblical texts in two different interpretations based upon the race of the one being taught. This is the basis of slave theology; the truths of the bible are inconsistently applied to Blacks versus other groups.
3. Christians should discuss race because pastors and bible scholars have had a great deal to say about the topic of race and it has been overwhelmingly false and detrimental to Black people. To the extent that today’s teaching contradicts the bible, what has been taught is not just inaccurate, it is false teaching. Examples of such false teaching includes the following:
- The teaching that curse of Cain is Blackness
- The teaching that Blacks have been cursed by Noah
- The teaching that Blacks as a group are identified in history as slaves, sinners and savages
- The practice by scholars of making Black nations White [or non-Black], such as the Egyptians, Phoenicians and Canaanites
Specific examples of Christian scholarship that has contributed to the perpetuation of incorrect notions about Black people can be found in Appendix 12, “Theologians on the Issue of Race.”
4. Christians should discuss race because we have yet to see what a generation of Black youth could accomplish with an accurate perception of their role in history and in the story of redemption.
Black young people are usually thoroughly demoralized after they have been exposed to a definition of Blackness received from the media, the public school system and the church[v]. For most, their main alternatives are to deny their identity as Black men and women (there are actually bible teachers that tell them that they are no longer Black people in Christ[vi]) or to live a life unconsciously responding to a deep frustration, anger and helplessness that they cannot comprehend. This anger produces suicides, homicides (Black on Black), chemical dependency, mental illness all because they cannot reconcile what they ought to be and what the world tells them that they are.
5. Christians should discuss race because God is the author of human diversity, while race is a satanically inspired, man-made concept.
Black Americans have historically been offered a self-concept suitable for a planned, limited participation in American life. This self-concept is entirely incompatible with effective spiritual discipleship. Spiritual growth requires a biblical self-concept.
The fact that race is not a biblical concept does not prevent it from being used by Satan, nor does it prevent God from addressing its effects upon mankind. God did not create murder or adultery, yet He addresses the effects of these evils upon humanity. Race as a concept is irrational; however it is an effective means of crippling the spiritual development of both Blacks and Whites. To the extent that the bible is used as the instrument of or the justification for racial oppression, we are dealing with an issue of false teaching. As such it is the obligation of the conscientious bible teacher to address it and especially those teachers who instruct Black people.
6. Christians should discuss race because you cannot grow to your spiritual potential until your mind is changed from that of a disadvantaged and inferior minority to the mind of Christ. These two minds cannot coexist, but this is precisely what many Black people are grappling with spiritually.
[Taken from the unpublished manuscript “Black Nations in Scripture” by Richard G. Walker Sr. copyright 2003]
[i] See Appendix 5 The Doctrine of Oppression
[ii] It was an intricate and powerful system of control that the slaveowners developed to maintain their labor supply and their way of life, a system both subtle and crude, involving every device that social orders employ for keeping power and wealth where it is. As Kenneth Stampp puts it:
A wise master did not take seriously the belief that Negroes were natural-born slaves. He knew better. He knew that Negroes freshly imported from Africa had to be broken into bondage; that each succeeding generation had to be carefully trained. This was no easy task, for the bondsman rarely submitted willingly. Moreover, he rarely submitted completely. In most cases there was no end to the need for control—at least not until old age reduced the slave to a condition of helplessness.
The system was psychological and physical at the same time. The slaves were taught discipline, were impressed again and again with the idea of their own inferiority to “know their place,” to see blackness as a sign of subordination, to be awed by the power of the master, to merge their interest with the master’s, destroying their own individual needs. To accomplish this there was the discipline of hard labor, the breakup of the slave family, the lulling effects of religion (which sometimes led to “great mischief,” as one slaveholder reported), the creation of disunity among slaves by separating them into field slaves and more privileged house slaves, and finally the power of law and the immediate power of the overseer to invoke whipping, burning, mutilation, and death. Dismemberment was provided for in the Virginia Code of 1705. Maryland passed a law in 1723 providing for cutting off the ears of blacks who struck whites, and that for certain serious crimes, slaves should be hanged and the body quartered and exposed.
Howard Zinn 1619-1741: Slavery and slave rebellion in the US] Pasted from http://libcom.org/history/1619-1741-slavery-slave-rebellion-us (Accessed 2/9/2014)
[iii] Stampp Kenneth M., The Peculiar Institution, Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South, (Vintage, New Your, 1956) 156
[iv] Virginia’s Act III: Baptism Does Not Exempt Slaves from Bondage
(1667) Commentary by MaryLou Walsh, College of Saint Rose
In 1667 in Jamestown, Virginia, the House of Burgesses approved a statute, Act III: Baptism Does Not Exempt Slaves from Bondage, that answered the following query: Does the conferring of the Christian sacrament of baptism in any way change the legal status of a slave? The legislators ruled that baptism did not alter a slave’s legal status. Their decision, when added to certain previous rulings made concerning the colony’s enslaved blacks, revealed a distinct pattern of behavior. Virginia’s House of Burgesses slowly, over a period of years, crafted a legal system that identified enslaved blacks and their descendants as a permanent source of cheap labor. Through that process, British colonials sowed the seeds of institutionalized slavery based on race, a system that survived in the Chesapeake region for more than two centuries.
[vi] Gal 3.28 does not obliterate culture just as it did not eliminate slavery or male and female roles. The point is that there is equal spiritual opportunity and spiritual privilege in Christ.