The Bible and Racism

Hello, my name is Joseph from Ghana. I’m an ardent follower of Ravi Zacharias. He was and continues to bless and influence my life in various ways. Hoping to connect and share with like minded people to explore various tough questions, challenges and topics concerning our faith. How do I respond to colleagues at work who have been asking how can we can believe in a Bible when it has been used to support and promote racism? How can we believe in the Bible which advocates that black people are cursed?

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Hi, Joseph. I think the Bible plainly speaks against racism because Jesus loved everyone and taught us to love all our brothers and sisters, even those who are different from us. I am not sure how your co-workers are referring to promoting racism, but I have never seen an example of the Bible promoting the idea that black people are cursed. There are evil people everywhere who have misused others to benefit themselves and that is wrong, always. Perhaps you could read to them from the Gospel where Jesus teaches us to love our neighbor and to care for others. Those all show the love of Christ.

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Brother Joseph Dogbe,

I know this common interpretation comes often from how certain people view Noah’s sons, and the curse in that family. For me, I see this view as mis-understood, and even intentionally misinterpreted, by people who want to hate. God made mankind in His image. Rest assured brother, whether we are brown, yellow, black, or even white- we are all made in the image of God. Add that we all are totally lost in sin until redeemed- that doesn’t help these conversations with unbelievers. And God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…and that world is a mixed bag of colours for sure.

From my experience people on any side of ungodliness attempt to use the Bible to make their point. I would ask them to make the argument for what they are saying. Ask them to use Scripture to make the point, and, spend the time with them to study what God is saying in His Word. After all, it is God’s Word so when we, or anyone, approach it, we must have reverence for it. And, that very Word, will convince the heart of the sceptic, even convict the soul, of what God is Himself saying in it. Very few people I’ve come across will argue the Bible outright from the Bible itself, rather they often take a verse and spin it to make their point instead.

Approach these colleagues in love, they are the reason God saved you. You are the servant preparing God’s Word in mind and speech, delivering the gospel into their lives. Nothing more amazing than witnessing the Bible come to life in an unbelievers life. God only knows what will happen next.

In summary, God of our beloved Scripture, is not racist. And Jesus, God in the flesh, said hatred was equal to murder in a man’s heart (racism is hatred. period). So racism has no place in a believers heart, mind and soul- because those items belong to God when anyone places their life into Jesus hands, He bought that right of ownership with His blood.

Have an excellent day Joseph,

Ken :canada:

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Welcome to connect. Thank you for coming alongside us. I agree with much that has been written above. The 1st thing that you might want to inquire is to have them point to sections of The Bible that support their claim so that you have an ability to explain. Additionally because we are made in the image of God and because Jesus died for all the basis of racism is not supported biblically. There are some admitted areas that talk about slavery but not from a racial perspective. Moreover the sections of The Bible or that is discussed is at best a culturally diverse guidance but also sections of The Bible address the freedom of slaves and not their confinement or abuse. It is exactly the opposite. Thanks for bringing these issues to the forefront. There other categories that have addressed these concerns so I hope that you get an opportunity to search for them and engage in those discussions. God-bless you and your journey.

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Fully supported. Thanks Ken

Hello everyone, thank you for this great question and all the great answers posted which I heartily agree with. One consistent theme that is mentioned over and over throughout both Testaments is that God does not judge by outward appearance of man, but only looks at the thoughts and intents of the heart. All hearts are the same in His eyes as His word teaches. If only we could always do the same is a lofty goal for us all.
May He grant you wisdom from above filled with love.

Mike

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Hey @Joe-D, I would be interested to know what Bible references they are using to say that all black people are cursed. In the Biblical framework there are only two groups of people, Jews and Gentiles. In this viewpoint any non-Jewish people group are lumped together regardless of skin tone. Regardless, part of Jesus’ mission was that he came to reclaim the rebellious nations (gentiles) of Babel back to himself. If you could get a specific chapter-verse reference in order to have proper context, refuting their claim would be easier.

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Hello Mercury Mike.

I get confused about this racial interpretation also. I understand the view requires a belief in the curse over Noah’s son, Ham, then down through grandson Cush, caused a continued curse over the people of Canaan? Basically, Ham did something offensive toward his father. Some interpretations say Ham performed some immoral action, mocking his dad and then showing his brothers. The insulting action brought the condemnation of Ham by Noah- and that curse still stands for all generations.

As I understand it, some people have the belief that this Canaan nation is related to the African people. It sounds like it could be. I do not believe this interpretation regarding the curse, as the sins of the father do not determine judgement on the son. Jesus approached the idea by explaining that all must repent, or worse things will happen to them. (Luke 13:1-9). Not that any people group must remain cursed, under a specific curse of slavery, but that they can repent individually and be free of the curse of sin and death. Did Noah have the authority to condemn all coloured people of every generation to slavery? In a half drunken state, hung-over and angry, determine the destiny for all black people? Is this the same situation as with Adam? Seriously? That doesn’t square with the rest of Scripture does it?

This interpretation of Genesis 9:27 is a real thorn in the side of the movement to abolish slavery and segregation everywhere. Imagine trying to pass this interpretation off on William Wilberforce, and see how far that servant of God would let this thinking go on uncontested? Or consider Martin Luther King Jr. when he referred to this interpretation as it was, he called it out as evil:

"I understand that there are Christians among you who try to justify segregation on the basis of the Bible. They argue that the Negro is inferior by nature because of Noah’s curse upon the children of Ham. Oh my friends, this is [blasphemy]. This is against everything that the Christian religion stands for. I must say to you as I have said to so many Christians before, that in Christ “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Wikipedia Quote- Curse of Ham- Speech Delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama, on 4 November 1956.

Even though generationally Ham’s descendants may have migrated to Africa. To me, the so-called curse is an excuse for racism today not a judgement of God on Africans. Darwinian evolution was the spear-head for natural selection and harsh treatment of the African people. Even any coloured people all over the world. Because, Darwin’s theory identified superiority in a particular segment of the human species. Very different than being all made in the image of God eh?

The idea of generational curses is common. Jesus addressed it to His own disciples.

“And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered, “ It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:2-3 NASB

The Bible does teach about the consequences of cursing your parents. Commandment # 5 emphasizes it. And all over Scripture the point is made, for example:

“He who curses his father or his mother, His lamp will go out in time of darkness.”
Proverbs 20:20 NASB

But these examples are directly about the particular person committing the sin against his father, not about their successive generations. Even when Scripture speaks about the curse of specific sins on second, third and four generations, that is a teaching warning against the continued sins of those people; and the teaching of those specific sinful traits. Repentance changes that outcome.

So what do we get out of this passage?

"Then Noah began farming and planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it upon both their shoulders and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were turned away, so that they did not see their father’s nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine, he knew what his youngest son had done to him. So he said, “Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants He shall be to his brothers.” He also said, “Blessed be the Lord, The God of Shem; And let Canaan be his servant. “May God enlarge Japheth, And let him dwell in the tents of Shem; And let Canaan be his servant.” Genesis 9:20-27 NASB

I do not see any justification to endorse racism or inequality here.

That’s all I know about this topic, hope it helps.

Ken :canada:

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Hey Joseph

One of the many reasons I love the Bible is because of its honesty. It not only tells us about the good things God’s people did, but it also tells us of the bad things God’s people did as well. It deals with the reality of a fallen, sinful world. Racism in our world is one of the many curses that stems from the curse of sin. I don’t see the Bible as supporting racism as much as that it doesn’t deny that it exist either. People in the past have tried to condone racism and slavery quoting the Bible but that is the result of their not understanding the scripture as a whole and it’s intent.

Even though Jesus never denied the reality of sin in the world and it’s consequences, He through His atoning death would introduce a new reality as well. The reality of the new creation which begins with man being reconciled to God and then reconciling to his fellow man. This is done one person at a time because that’s how God changes the world, one heart at a time. This is why the Gospel is so important and even more so needed today in our world.

This reality of a new creation is already at work and will eventually lead to what John saw in Revelation 7:9,10 where there would be people from every nation, kindred, and tongue gathered around the throne of God as one people of God.

The Bible must be looked at as a whole and not as something that we pick and choose to support our ideas or agendas. It tells us of the sickness, but also give us the remedy as well. Righteousness will triumph over sin, and there is coming a day when there will be no more heartache, sorrow, or tears. But until then the reality of racism as well as other sins and injustice will be a part of this world. That is why we should continue to share the Gospel of peace today in our culture. When a man or woman makes their peace with God, then thats when they can begin to make peace with one another.

This is brief answer but I pray that it is a good starting point for you.

God bless!

Pastor Robby

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Kenneth, your post is very good. I recall hearing a sermon by Pastor Mark Driscoll* years ago where he suggested that Noah was not cursing Canaan so much as observing that Canaan was cursed by his Father’s bad example. This dynamic may also help us to understand some of the passages about generational sin to which you referred. This is worth consideration for our sakes. We see fatherly misbehavior pass down through many generations. Our present distress can be directly linked to the sins of our fathers not because we are responsible for their sins, but because we have adopted their sins as our own. This is something about which to think. Fatherhood is a delightful but heavy burden.

* Pastor Driscoll has had some difficulties since then; I can link to his current site if RZIM Connect permits it. I like to give proper credit for an idea that is not mine regardless of its source. Besides, we all are sinners saved by grace.

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Thanks Robert. The Bible indeed does document a historical account of the human story which includes both good and evil acts. Even when the story is not meant for evil, it is open to misapplication, misinterpretation and mischief with semantics. I recall telling my work colleague two weeks ago that, if future generations read current football headlines “PSG buys Neymar” or “Real Madrid buys Cristiano Ronaldo”, they are likely to be appalled…why a football club will buy a human being. They would argue strongly and rightly so that buying another human being is wrong. Obviously, that’s not the intent and application of the text. I recalled growing up House-help and Nanny were referred to maid-servants, a term seen as offensive. The social and economic system in our world is prone to so much evil…in the current generation, generation before and generations to come.

To quote Ravi, “Where there is the possibility of love, there must be the reality of free will. Where there is the reality of free will, there will inevitably be the possibility of sin” The Bible abhors every form of evil including discrimination and racism. Thank God for Jesus and salvation; the only remedy for the malady of evil.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” ‭‭I John‬ ‭4:7-8‬ ‭NKJV‬‬.

Hate, pride and racism have no place in the presence of God and so is any interpretation that support and imputes such meaning to Scripture. We are all equal and created in the image and likeness of our Heaven Father. Peace and blessings!

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[quote=“Curious, post:3, topic:39431”]
Rest assured brother, whether we are brown, yellow, black, or even white- we are all made in the image of God.
[/quote] love this!:heart:

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Thank you for your thoughtful question Joe-D.
I have met a few racists in my day here in the United States but I cannot recall ever hearing any of them quoting scripture to back up their vile sin.
Just naked unsupported hate plain and simple.
I understand that in a different culture things may be different, so I was wondering if you could elaborate the specific way the bible is being used in Ghana to promote racism ?
Any verses in particular that are cited ?
I know that Ghana is composed primarily with people of color so I was wondering is it by racism that you mean more of a cultural type of racism ?
Kind Regards & God Bless + Mike

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Dear Joseph,
I am so sorry u r hearing this twisted scripture which has NO basis in the Bible!

Acts 10:34 …Peter said, “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.”

1John 4:20, “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar, for he does not love his brother who he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also”.

We are all from the seed of Abraham, created in the Image of God. The story about Ham’s sin causing Noah to curse him cannot abrogate God’s blessing of Noah and his sons. Man’s curse has no power to remove God’s blessing. Racism comes from the enemy who comes to steal, kill and destroy.

Hope this helps, your sister in Christ, Carmen

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Great illustrations, Joseph! This is why “What do you mean by that?” is one of the most useful, yet underused, questions in dialog.

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Thanks for the encouraging words Brendan.

Generational curse/ sin, is so prevalent in societies world wide. I love it when God intervenes. One saved human in a chain of sinful ways, breaks down that reproducing sin. And children begin to teach what they are taught, and whole families, communities and nations can shift gears as a result of the influence.

Thanks,

Ken

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Hi Michael,

Just to provide further context, let me quote the post on my office chat platform which got the Bible and slavery discussion going in my work place. I have seen similar sentiments and attack on the Bible expressed not just in my office but on other chat platforms I belong to as well. Anyway, the rather unfortunate post referenced is stated below.

<<Start
“During slavery, it was illegal for Africans to read any book other than the Bible. Anyone caught reading philosophy, science, governance, history, economics or any other genre of literature, faced the death penalty.

Why was this so?

The slave masters understood that the Bible was a tool to limit the thinking of black Africans and to keep them perpetually subservient. They knew that to keep them in servitude they had to make them accept their lot as the will of God and have them thinking about the end of days, these things will keep them in perpetual servitude. They refused to give them anything good but they gave them Christianity and the bible.

Over five hundred years later, the descendants of the slaves who were whipped, tortured, raped and murdered, now confess implicit confidence in the same Bible. (a book hurriedly put together by Emperor Constantine in 325 AD when he decreed Christianity - an infusion of Roman paganism, Greek and Egyptian mythology" as the new State religion and his troops would violently convert most of the world’s populations to this newly formed order by force and through violence. The Bible was central to the success of the trans Atlantic slavery. On a trip to Cape Coast in Ghana 2010, I saw first hand the role Christianity played in slavery. Slaves were first baptized and letters (signifyng their new names such as John, Peter, Isaac and other Christian names) engraved with hot metal in their backs - this was even before they learnt English. While in chains, blood dripping from all over their bodies, they recited the Nicean creed, not knowing the meaning. Verses like:

Ephesians 6:5
“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.” lent divine credence to the predicament of slaves and consigned them to perpetual slavery. Revolting against the oppressors, was a direct rejection of God - so they were made to believe.

Today, many Africans know the Bible from the beginning to the end but they know little about themselves or ideas that can improve their lives. They can feel Jesus in their spirits and they are absolutely sure that Christianity is the only true religion. They are waiting for an apocalyptic climax to humanity where a blue eyed, blonde haired Caucasian savior would appear from the sky at the sound of a trumpet, to save them from debilitating poverty, a dysfunctional system, diseases and imbecility. 500 years later, Africans are still languishing in profuse ignorance.

The damage has been done.

In the words of the late scholar Dr. Henrik Clark;

“To control a people, you must first control what they think about themselves and how they regard their history and culture. And when your conqueror makes you ashamed of your culture and history, he needs no prison walls and chains to hold you”.
End>>

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Joseph, I “liked” your comprehensive quote from your office chat platform only because it illuminates this entire discussion. I have several thoughts about it, but I want to give @ConsecratedLife first response because you addressed it to him. Let me know if you want my take on it.

Yes. Please do.

Hi All, feel free to take a stab at it from as many angles as possible. I find the diversity of thoughts and perspectives enriching. Regards, Joseph

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I have to ask, what time period is your friend referring to? American pre-civil war or African slave trade in general which goes back a lot further than the trans Atlantic period. I hope I am not butting in.

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