What Christians Should Know About the Sin of Racism

When it comes to a theology of race, there are four headlines:

1) We were all made by God;
2) We were all made in the image of God;
3) We were all made with distinction and variety—including the color of our skin; and
4) We are called into a relationship with God the Father by the Holy Spirit through Jesus the Son. This is why the Bible makes the following declaration: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28, NIV).

Evil of Racism

This brings us to the great evil of racism. And it is a great evil. It undermines, destroys and rips apart the very nature of God’s creation of a single human race made in the image of God for relationship with Him and with each other. Let’s be clear about the nature of this evil because racism is a word being seized and applied to almost everything in our politically-charged, social-media-trolling, Facebook-posting climate—by all sides. But we must dissect the real nature of this sin, because if everything is racist, nothing is racist.

True racism is believing in racial superiority. It’s believing that race determines intellectual, cultural and moral capacities. From that comes the practice of racism, which involves racial prejudice, bigotry and discrimination against others based on their race or ethnicity.

And that is a great evil and a stench in God’s nostrils, for it betrays the heart of God toward His creation—that all people are one and made in His image. To claim that you have more of the image of God than another, that you matter more to God than another, that you are distinct from the human race in a way that is superior to another, is heresy. And to have it take root and erupt in hatred, mistrust and division is unconscionable.

Racism can play out both individually and institutionally. On the institutional front, if you’re black and living in America, you are less likely to get a quality education, less likely to get a high-paying job, and less likely to live in an affluent neighborhood with low crime rates.

That’s just a fact. And often, institutionalized racism is behind it.

But let’s explore individual racism and, particularly, the shadow of individual racism. I say “shadow” because most would condemn racism and deny being racist themselves. In fact, most would say they don’t have a racist bone in their body.

But what if it’s not about bones?

What if it’s about succumbing to racist ideas, feelings, reactions and choices?

As Ibram Kendi has contended, being a racist “is not a fixed term. It’s not an identity, it’s not a tattoo—it is describing what a person is doing in the moment, and people change from moment to moment.”  Meaning the racism of today for most people is different than the racism of the civil war and slavery, or the era of the Jim Crow laws. As one black friend of mine put it, there’s more of an implicit bias than a functional racism at play in our world.

Shadow Racism

So let’s call it a shadow racism that can rear its head in anyone’s life.  And because it’s in the shadows, it needs to be brought into the light.

5 Examples of Shadow Racism:

1. Employment.

Let’s say you are an employer and you’ve solicited resumes. There are no pictures on them just their education and experience, accomplishments and credentials. You have four in front of you that have been vetted and are virtually identical in quality. You look at their names: Mitchell, April, Prince and Denada. You’re white. It’s obvious to you that two of these candidates, based on their names – Prince and Denada – are probably black. Mitchell and April – to your thinking – are almost assuredly white.

Who are you going to call for the interview?

Do you privately make an assessment of worth, value, capability or likability based on names—even though the resumes are the same?

2. Dating and Marriage.

You see a black man with a white woman on a date. Or even married. How do you viscerally feel about it? Good or bad, neutral or biased, positive or negative? I remember one white man telling me: “I just don’t like it. I just don’t like it.” This despite there being nothing wrong with interracial relationships or interracial marriage. In God’s eyes, it’s not an interracial thing at all. It’s just two human beings whom He created for relationship with Him and with each other.

And lest we forget, when a white/black marriage took place in the Bible and was met with racism and prejudice, God stepped in and gave an immediate condemnation of that racism and prejudice. Drawing a blank? It was in relation to Moses marrying a Cushite, a people known for their dark-skinned features (cf. Numbers 12:1-11).

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Source: Church Leaders