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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. In fact, my personal perspective on the subject 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, declared:
“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, 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.
This, in my mind, raises several questions:
Firstly, how can something whose ontological premise (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 biology (race), should not the remedy for such an attitude also be biological as opposed to moral?
Secondly, and, conversely, if, in fact, racism is merely a biological response to a biologically-produced attribute of humankind, then, why is racism ever “wrong” to begin with?
In other words, at what point does morality begin to supersede science?
And, lastly, by whose or what standard of morality would it be determined that racism is “wrong” and by whom?
In answering these (and other) questions, I find especially helpful the words of theologian and author, Dr. John MacArthur who, in his book Think Biblically: Recovering a Biblical Worldview, states 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 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 carrying out the actual act, God spoke directly – and specifically – to him about the 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 him. God did not say to Cain, “It is wrong for you to murder Abel because he is your brother.” Nor did He say, “It is wrong to murder your brother because you both bleed the same color.” or “It is wrong to murder your brother because he is a man just like you.”
This is important to note because when it comes to matters of race, and race relations, the ethnocentric ethos to which many people subscribe today is predicated on our 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 egalitarian proposition that we are created in the image of each other (imago homo) rather than in the image of God (imago Dei).
As the renown and highly-esteemed American poet, Maya Angelou, wrote:
“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 ethno-moralistic relativism being espoused today by many social justice activists, is it preaches the delusive message of cura te ipsum (“physician heal thyself.”)
This mindset is why countless social justice activists are demanding a so-called “end” to racism because they believe sincerely, albeit naively, that the genesis of racism is biological (melanin) not spiritual (mindset) and, as such, that human beings inherently possess the capacity 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 egregious maltreatment of others who don’t look like us?
The God of all the universe, in His infinite and unfathomable wisdom, created and fashioned you and me with the specific ethnic qualities we each possess.
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 collective “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 – a word I personally loathe but will use for the sake of this commentary – is “wrong” not because you or I declare it to be, but because it reflects a sinful heart-attitude that disavows the glory of God by deliberately harboring hateful biases toward those who, like you and I, have been created by God to reflect His image to a sin-sick world that does not know Him as Savior and Lord (Gen. 1:27; Matt. 5:13-16).
It is the objective, never-changing truth of the gospel that makes racism wrong, not the subjective, malleable ethics of mankind. So, to those who are calling for an “end” to racism, I applaud you, and I have the utmost respect for you. Nevertheless, I often wonder, do you truly understand what you’re saying when you say that? Do you have any idea what you’re really asking (Matt. 7:2)?
What you are actually demanding, whether you realize it or not, is complete attitudinal and behavioral perfection from every sinner who resides on this planet (yourself included.) Now, consider, please, my brother and sister, how do you propose to achieve this level of collective holiness? Through more protests? More laws? More social media hashtags? More race-based or socio-economic class-based government programs that will help “level the playing field”?
You know, don’t you, that none of those is really the solution to the concerns you have? Of course, you do. And the reason you know it is because you understand fully that the real problem is not the darkness of a person’s skin, but the darkness of their heart (Mk. 7:17-23).
You don’t end racism.
You repent of it.
Like any other sin.
Humbly in Christ,
Image credit: galleryhip.com