In surveying the current socio-cultural landscape in America, it seems increasing numbers of individuals are either identifying as social justice activists or aspire to be one.
What began with the protestations of one individual over perceived systemic “racial” injustices being perpetrated against black people, primarily by those who occupy certain positions of authority (e.g. police officers), has morphed into a global movement with other notable athletes and celebrities remonstrating in solidarity.
Now, before I go on, I want to confess that the reason I placed the word racial in quotations above is that, unlike most social justice activists, I happen to not subscribe to the idea of “race” as an aspect of human identity. Scripture teaches that God created ethnicities not “races” (in Acts 17:26, the word “nation” is the Greek noun “ethnos,” from which the English word “ethnicity” is derived).
But setting aside theological definitions for the moment, my viewpoint on the subject of “race” is more closely aligned with that of the late anthropologist Dr. Robert Wald Sussman, author of The Myth of Race: The Troubling Persistence of an Unscientific Idea who, in a 2014 Newsweek article said:
“What many people do not realize is that racial structure is not based on reality. Anthropologists have shown for many years now that there is no biological reality to human race. There are no major complex behaviors that directly correlate with what might be considered human “racial” characteristics. There is no inherent relationship between intelligence, law-abidingness, or economic practices and race, just as there is no relationship between nose size, height, blood group, or skin color and any set of complex human behaviors. However, over the past 500 years, we have been taught by an informal, mutually reinforcing consortium of intellectuals, politicians, statesmen, business and economic leaders and their books that human racial biology is real and that certain races are biologically better than others. These teachings have led to major injustices to Jews and non-Christians during the Spanish Inquisition; to blacks, Native Americans, and others during colonial times; to African Americans during slavery and reconstruction; to Jews and other Europeans during the reign of the Nazis in Germany; and to groups from Latin America and the Middle East, among others, during modern political times.”
Dr. Sussman is right.
And though science continues to provide the world with objective evidence to support his conclusions, it is not necessarily my intent that this blog post serve as an apologetic for Sussman’s, or anyone else’s, epistemology of “race.”
That said, however, I find it interesting, if not ironic, that many who do subscribe to the concept of “race” as a scientific reality choose to engage in discourse about those who exhibit “racist” attitudes, either overtly or covertly, not from the standpoint of biology but morality.
That rationale, in my mind, raises several questions, such as:
How can anything whose ontological premise, such as “race,” is based solely on skin color become a matter of morality (racism)? After all, if such an attitude (racism) is simply a biological response to what is merely a product of that which has a biological genesis (race), should not the remedy for such an attitude also be biological as opposed to moral?
Second—and, conversely—if in fact racism is merely a biological response to a biologically-induced attribute of humankind, then, why is racism ever “wrong” to begin with? In other words, at what point does morality begin to supersede science—if at all?
And, lastly, by whose or what standard of morality should it be determined that racism is “wrong” in the first place? After all, is not that which is considered to be right or wrong determined as such against an objective standard of what is right and wrong? From where—or whom—does that standard originate and, conversely, who determines that that particular standard should be the standard?
In answering those—and many other—questions, I find especially helpful the words of pastor and author Dr. John MacArthur who, in his book Think Biblically: Recovering a Biblical Worldview, says that:
“…the doctrine of evolution (if followed consistently) ends with a denial of the reality of evil. If naturalistic evolution is correct and there is no God, neither can there be any inviolable principles that govern the universe. And therefore there is no moral accountability of any kind. In fact, if evolution is true, things are the way they are by sheer chance, for no transcendent reason. Nothing under such a system could ever have any real moral significance. The very notions of good and evil would be meaningless concepts. There would be no reason to condemn a Hitler or applaud a Good Samaritan.”
The book of Genesis records the first murder ever committed in human history—the premeditated taking of the life of Abel by his brother Cain. We know Cain’s actions were premeditated because prior to Cain’s carrying out the actual act itself, God spoke directly —and specifically—to him about the sinful attitude he was harboring in his heart toward Abel:
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it. Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against his brother and killed him.” — Gen. 4:6-8 (NASB)
Notice in the aforementioned text that Abel is twice referred to as the “brother” of Cain.
But notice also that it wasn’t for familial, relational, or genealogical reasons that God admonished Cain. God did not say to Cain, “It is wrong for you to murder Abel because he is your brother.” Nor did God say, “It is wrong to murder your brother because you both bleed the same color” or “It is sinful to murder your brother because you both share the same level of melanin.”
Those realities are important to note because when it comes to matters of “race” and “race relations,” the ethnocentric ethos to which many social justice proponents subscribe today is predicated upon mankind’s horizontal relationship to one another as opposed to our vertical relationship to God.
In other words, the assertion that racism is “wrong” is based primarily on the societal proposition that each of us is created in the image of one another (imago homo) rather than in the image of God (imago Dei). As the renown and highly-esteemed American poet, Maya Angelou, opined:
“We love and lose in China,
we weep on England’s moors,
and laugh and moan in Guinea,
and thrive on Spanish shores.
We seek success in Finland,
are born and die in Maine.
In minor ways we differ,
in major we’re the same.”
The problem with the kind socio-ethnic brand of moral relativism being espoused today by many social justice activists, is that it preaches the delusive and humanistic message “cura te ipsum” or “physician heal thyself.”
That kind of self-generated moralism is why countless social justice activists are demanding a so-called “end” to racism because they believe sincerely, albeit naively, that the genesis of sinful ethnic prejudice is biological (melanin) not spiritual (heart) and, conversely, that human beings inherently possess the capacity and the ability to stop being “racist.”
Which, again, begs the question: How is it that such a stabile, invariable, and constant characteristic as skin color can so affect the human heart as to result in the attitudes that lead to the egregious maltreatment of others who don’t look like us?
“…and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on the face of the earth…” – Acts 17:26 (NASB)
The God of all the universe—in His infinite and unfathomable wisdom—created and fashioned you and me with the specific ethnic characteristics we each possess. Our skin is the color it is and has the level of melanin it does because God ordained it to be so, not because you or I had anything to do with it.
Yes, “racism” is wrong—but it isn’t wrong for the reasons you think.
It isn’t because we all bleed red that racism is wrong.
It isn’t because we all belong to a “universal brotherhood of man” that racism is wrong.
It isn’t because we all breathe the same air that racism is wrong.
It isn’t because of our sociological, anthropological, or biological similarities that racism is wrong.
“Racism” is wrong not because you or I subjectively declare it to be wrong, but because it is a reflection of an innately sinful heart-attitude that has no regard for others who, like you and me, have been created by God to reflect His image in the world (Gen. 1:27; Matt. 5:13-16).
It is the objective and immutable truth of the gospel that makes sinful ethnic prejudice (racism) wrong, not the subjective and malleable ethics of society.
So to those who are calling for an “end” to racism, I applaud you. I have the utmost respect for you. Nevertheless, I often wonder if you truly understand what you’re saying when you say that? Do you have any real concept of what you’re actually asking by calling for an “end” to racism (Matt. 7:2)?
Whether you realize it or not, what you’re demanding is complete attitudinal and behavioral perfection from every sinner who resides on the face of this earth—yourself included.
Contemplate that reality for a moment and answer me this: How do you propose to achieve that level of collective behavioral perfection from a world comprised of more than seven billion sinners? Through more protests? More laws? More social media hashtag campaigns? More ethnic-based or class-based government programs that will help “level the playing field”?
Think about it.
Do you not realize that none of those things is actually the solution to the concerns you have? Of course, you do. And the reason you know it is because you realize that the fundamental problem is not the darkness of a person’s skin, but the darkness of his or her heart (Mk. 7:17-23).
The only way to “end” sinful ethnic prejudice is to repent of it—like any other sin—and to have our hearts and minds renewed by the regenerative power of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Eze. 36:26-27; Rom. 12:2).
That is the only lasting solution.
Humbly in Christ,
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