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The issue of inter-racial marriage has been getting a lot of press in Christian circles lately, which has got me thinking, ‘Why is this such a critical issue?’. I’d like to write from my point of view: the view of a recovering racist.

Some Church History

I grew up without overt or bigoted comments or statements about other ethnicities. Nothing I heard as a child caused me to think of others with contempt or disdain.  In fact, I grew up without thinking anything of those from a different race. I didn’t get to know an African-American on a first name basis until I took my first job in the Arkansas Delta.  I call this an unknowing racism, because I really didn’t know that racism was an issue for me; I hadn’t experienced other ethnicities yet.

[Tweet “I call this an unknowing racism, because I really didn’t know that racism was an issue for me.”]

As I’ve been digging into this I can actually remember only one thing that consciously impacted my decisions regarding a different ethnicity.  Sadly, but not surprisingly, it came from church.

My church was small and conservative, filled with kind and pleasant folks.  The minister had his Doctorate and spoke pointedly about Scripture.  It’s probably obvious by now, but it was an all-white congregation with a wide age range.  What I distinctly remember hearing about race was that we, as whites, should not be “unequally yoked together” with those of another race, particularly blacks.  This would most often lead to a discussion about what it would do to the children, how it would invoke unnecessary harm on the family, and other statements wrapped in a thin veil of concern for the welfare of others.  Anyone with an inkling of an ability to read Scripture abruptly notices the fallacy in interpreting this passage from 2 Corinthians 6:14, but that’s not the point here.

The point is that the racism I learned was one of separation, not out of bigotry or hate. I was told that this conviction honors God.  This seems so far beyond anything that assumes stereotypes or lives out of fear, which can be disproved and shaken when one encounters folks from another race.  This sets racism in a core place, a place that seeks above all else to honor and obey God.  This is so much harder to change, particularly if its the consensus of that day’s spiritual climate.

[Tweet “The racism I learned was one of separation, not out of bigotry or hate.”]

What Interracial Marriage Can Represent

Which brings me back to interracial marriage.  The church, at least the breed of church I grew up in (which is much more widespread than you might think), has done incredible and lasting harm to God’s kingdom by preaching for generations that races should be separate in marriage.  The conversation about interracial marriage pushes hard against this hidden and covert racism, and essentially forces the issue of what it means to be the Body of Christ.  It dispels the myth so long held that separation honors God, and points towards the truth that Christ came to unify mankind together in God through himself.

To be honest, I don’t know how to end this with some witty or thought provoking comment.  I’m disgusted and grieved as I read what I’ve written.  Tears of deep sadness drop as I realize how much I’ve missed through this learned separation.  My only hope is in my God’s forgiveness and his continued work in my own heart, as well as the heart of the South, my home.  In His great kindness he has already given me deep bonds of friendship and affection for those of a race I didn’t know until my mid-20’s.

[Tweet “My only hope is in my God’s forgiveness, his work in my heart, as well as the South, my home.”]

My challenge for those who read this comes from Paul in the book of Ephesians:

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:2-4).

As you keep conversing, forging new bonds, seeking truth, and pushing against your own unknown racism, ask yourself if you are living and working according to this passage.

How are you seeking to forge new relationships that require bearing a cost, particularly at a cost to your former ways of thinking about race?

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