by John Piper
Fifty years ago, on June 12, 1967, the United States Supreme Court declared unconstitutional all state laws that prohibited interracial marriage. The case was called Loving v. Virginia. Mildred Jeter (who was black and Native American) and Richard Loving (who was white) were married in 1958 in Washington, D.C. When they returned to their hometown of Richmond, Virginia, they were arrested. They pled guilty to “cohabiting as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth.” To avoid jail, they moved back to Washington.
They wrote to Attorney General Robert Kennedy to start a legal action against their conviction. He referred the case to the American Civil Liberties Union. The original judge, Leon Bazile, who had handed down the conviction, refused to reconsider his earlier decision. He argued,
Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay, and red, and placed them on separate continents, and but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend the races to mix.
The Supreme Court was unanimous in favor of the Loving family, observing that laws against miscegenation were “designed to maintain White supremacy.”
At the time of the Supreme Court decision, sixteen Southern states still enforced laws prohibiting interracial marriage. South Carolina did not amend its state constitution on the issue for thirty years (1998), and Alabama took until 2000.
Important as Ever
This is a court decision worth celebrating. But far more important than the legalization of interracial marriage in one nation is the fact that God’s revealed will for the world is not undermined but advanced when a man and a woman from different ethnicities marry in Christ. That is a startling and controversial claim in the face of diverse opposition to interracial marriage in our own day. (The following quotes appear in Bloodlines, pages 204–205.)
- From the black community, one spokesman says, “Interracial marriage undermines [African-Americans’] ability to introduce our children to black role models who accept their racial identity with pride.”
- From the white community, another spokesman says, “We are seeing the death of the American and his replacement with a non-European type. . . . White people . . . are going to have to struggle mightily to survive the Neo-Melting Pot. . . . Call it what it is: Genocide and extinction of the white genotype.”
- From the white evangelical community, another says, “I would never marry a black. Why? Because I believe God made the races, separated them, and set the bounds of their habitation (Deuteronomy 32:8; Acts 17:26). He made them uniquely different and intended that these distinctions remain.”
Against all of these objections, I believe it is as important as it ever has been that Christians settle it in their minds that interracial marriage in Christ is not only a beautiful picture of Christ’s marriage to his church, but also a flesh-and-blood incarnation of the unity Christ achieved by his death and resurrection.
Moreover, I agree with Daniel Hays that “the common cultural ban on intermarriage lies at the heart of the racial division in the church” (From Every People and Nation, 23). I would go further and say that opposition to interracial marriage is one of the deepest roots of racial distance, disrespect, and hostility in the world. Show me one place in the world where interracial or interethnic marriage is frowned upon, and yet the groups still have equal respect and honor and opportunity. I don’t think it exists.
Add to this that, since the recent presidential election, the ugly forces of hateful and angry white supremacy have felt empowered to show their colors in America more openly than for the last forty years. Just two weeks ago, I spoke with a friend whose Korean parents have lived as American citizens in the same neighborhood in California for decades, only to find their house, soon after the election, for the first time ever, spray-painted with racial slurs telling them to get out.
Search Your Heart
I remember from the time I was a teenager growing up in South Carolina how the arguments from “nature” were used, and carried the day for most of us in our blindness to the fullness of biblical truth. “Red birds mate with red birds, blue birds mate with blue birds. This is the way God meant it to be. So, it’s against nature for different races to mate.”
Flowing from all these arguments against interracial marriage is an inevitable pressure on all social structures to keep ethnic groups separate, especially among young people who might fall in love, if they hang out together. So, that includes neighborhoods and schools especially. No matter how much love or goodwill you may have, if my son or daughter is racially unacceptable as a spouse for your son or daughter, then you will keep your family at a distance from mine. And the social order will reflect that distance. And the desire for that distance will inevitably breed disrespect, suspicion, and antagonism.
For all these reasons, Christians of every race should search their hearts and search the Scriptures, and bring their hearts, by the power of God’s Spirit into line with God’s word.
SOURCE: Desiring God