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The Origin Of Racism

Posted by William Battle on

Racism isn’t a genetic trait. It’s a learned behavior, a product of social norms, history, stereotypes and prejudices, right? Well, not so fast.

For the student taking an undergraduate class in sociology or anthropology, this is of course the typical response. But for the Christian, there is something much deeper going on here.

When we think of racism, we typically think of it within the context of our American bubble, naturally leading us to automatically think of it in a one-dimensional, black-and-white paradigm. Pun intended.

Our culture and history, having been punctuated with chattel slavery, segregation and second-class rights, has compelled us to view racism in a slightly skewed way. Black and white conflict is certainly one version of racism, and nothing I write here should be taken as mitigating the severity of our past, and the treatment of it in the present. However, except for rare exceptions, racism is a worldwide tribulation, always existing in one shape or form. Racism is universal.

So, while racism does owe itself to certain social norms and prejudices, the root cause is actually theological in nature. Racism exists is because of the fall of man. Ever since Adam and Eve, there have been divisions created between brother and brother, father and son, husband and wife, tribe and tribe, nation and nation. Racism isn’t just about the color of your skin. It can also be about where you are from, what you believe in, and even how you worship God. If you don’t think this is the case, then just open your Bible, and see the divisiveness throughout its pages. Racism has plagued the fabric of mankind since the very beginning.

Though some want to believe that if a group of children grew up on a desert island, that they would never become racist, Scripture shows this to be nothing more than a foolish dream. Sin is universal, and the division would eventually develop, sooner or later. Pretty morose picture isn’t it? Well, fortunately for all of us, there is hope:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility … So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.
— Ephesians 2:13–19

Not only has Christ given us liberation from our guilt before God, he has broken down the walls that divide us all as humans. He not only provided the way to be adopted by our heavenly Father, he has given us the way to be impartial in our love for people of every tribe and tongue. Not only did Jesus do this, even when we were his enemies, he gave us the ultimate demonstration of how we are to respond to our own enemies.

The Gospel isn’t just about our individual reconciliation to God. It’s a reconciliation that is all encompassing, reaching every sphere of the human experience and all of creation. As Christians, we are all commanded to take part in this grand reconciliation, one action at a time.

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