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Was Opposition to Interracial Marriage Driven by Christianity?

Every now and again, you hear the argument that Christians in the past were wrong about whether inter-racial marriage was sinful, and the suggestion that likewise, contemporary Christians are wrong about gay marriage being sinful. And certainly there have been Christians who have claimed that inter-racial marriage is sinful. But was the broad American opposition in past centuries to inter-racial marriage, based purely on the Bible, or was it more of a cultural policy?

In this post, George Yancey asks, Was Opposition to Interracial Marriage Motivated by Christianity? And he suggests that the answer is that Christianity was not the driving force. What do you think? Is Yancey right or wrong?

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6 Comments on “Was Opposition to Interracial Marriage Driven by Christianity?”

  1. violetwisp says:

    You’re wrong and he’s wrong for many reasons. Inter-racial marriage is stillargued against by Christians using the same kind of weak reasoning and prejudiced core that drives the Christian ‘gay marriage is sinful’ camp. Thank you for drawing this to my attention.
    http://faithandheritage.com/2012/10/christian-ethics-and-interracial-marriage-part-1-preliminary-definitions/

    “But given the historical Christian witness against miscegenation, this Pavlovian moral indignation deserves a new assessment. It deserves an assessment which vindicates the historical Christian belief on these matters, showing how intertwined an anti-miscegenist and anti-racial egalitarian outlook is with the rest of Christian and biblical morality.”

    • stasisonline says:

      Violetwisp, thanks for your feedback. And thanks for the link to the racist website.

      My own opinion is that those who are articulate and consider inter-racial marriage sinful, and those who are articulate and consider same-sex marriage to be sinful, generally build their cases on quite different foundations. One thing I notice as I read through the 5 part series you linked to at the Faith and Heritage site, was that the blogger seldom – if ever – cited a Scripture passage to claim an explicit Biblical illustration of interracial marriage being sinful today. The blogger sure wrote a heck of a lot in those 5 sections, but the citations of Scripture provided, tended to be about general background principles rather than about race specifically. In comparison, an articulate and educated Christian who seeks to explain why they believe same-sex marriage is incompatible with Christianity, is likely to point directly to Scripture, providing several references in a short space of time, and basing the argument primarily on those grounds.

      I suggest it’s informative to note that the blogger uses references to homosexual relations as an analogy to illustrate reasoning for interracial relationships to be sinful. Consider why people use analogies. They use an example where a principle is clear, and say “look at the clear principle evident in this other situation, and see how it applies to our situation at hand, too”. This suggests that the blogger feels that it’s clearer that homosexual relations are unbiblical, than it is that interracial relations are unbiblical.

      It’s interesting that the blogger feels that historically Christianity has rejected interracial marriage. But perceptions of history can easily be shaped by tinted glasses. I note that there are other Christians who claim that same-sex marriage would have been accepted by Jesus and his followers, and that opposition to it likely only arose some hundreds of years later. Im not ready to buy either argument, without good evidence. And Im not ready to buy, because in both cases, the evidence that I am aware of, I think tends to support the opposite view. IE the early Christians did not seem to support same-sex marriage, and they did not seem to show opposition to interracial marriage.

      But back to the point of my post. Was opposition to interracial marriage primarily driven by Christianity or cultural mores. If the blogger of the above site cant cite a clear Biblical case for it (and from my skim reading of the posts, I didnt notice one), then my perception is that it’s based primarily in cultural prejudice.

      • violetwisp says:

        I don’t know if you saw that I did a post on this (you should have got the pingback) and that the racists popped over to provide links justify their position using the Bible. Not that I recommend giving them any traffic.
        http://violetwisp.wordpress.com/2014/04/22/modern-day-christian-bigots

        Other people have left comments confirming that this is still a common attitude for Christians in certain areas of the world. Your dislike of homosexuality is likely based primarily on cultural prejudice, and you find passages in the Bible to back this up. Using the Bible to provide external foundations for ignorant prejudice only prolongs the suffering of people suffering from discrimination. I don’t think the character Jesus would have been happy with that.

      • stasisonline says:

        Yep Ive had a look at your post and some of the comments beneath. I hate how much the racists give us to read. Are they just trying to tire us out, in the hope we will loose interest and they can claim to have prevailed lol?

        But now having read a bit more of the Faith and Heritage site, I still feel the same way as I did in my last reply, where I wrote
        “One thing I notice as I read through … the Faith and Heritage site, was that the blogger seldom – if ever – cited a Scripture passage to claim an explicit Biblical illustration of interracial marriage being sinful today.” Sure you can find Scriptures which reflect some separation of races, especially in the Old Testament. But you can also find Scriptures which lean in the opposite direction. One website that I found, argues that Christians should love refugees as per themselves:
        • Lev. 19:34, Deut 10:16-19.
        • Treat refugees fairly and stand up for them when others mistreat them. Ps. 82:4, Ex. 22:21, Lev. 19:33, Zech. 7:9-10, Deut. 23:15.
        • Share your food, clothing, and shelter with them. Is. 58:6-11, Lk. 3:10, Mt. 25:31-46.
        • Invite them into your homes. Heb. 13:2. Is. 58:6-11, Luke 14:12-13.

        If Nathaneal is arguing that the Bible is similarly clear and condemning of both gay relations and interracial marriage, my response is that I have not seen evidence of this in the Bible. As I said, I see nothing in Scripture that is an explicit Biblical illustration of interracial marriage being sinful today. But I can in regards to same-sex relations. I know you argue that people read anti-gay sentiment into Scripture rather than simply finding it there, but what we find today is that those who want to argue a strong case for homosexual relations being Biblically compliant, do not simply refer to one or two Scriptural passages to substantiate their case. Rather, they have to contrive their doctrines so much that they sometimes need to write a whole book in order to explain their reasoning.

      • violetwisp says:

        “I see nothing in Scripture that is an explicit Biblical illustration of interracial marriage being sinful today.”
        I see nothing in Scripture that is an explicit Biblical illustration of same sex marriage being sinful today. Show me one line. Committed gay relationships aren’t even mentioned.

        Your quotes about being humane to refugees are ridiculous in support of interracial marriage. I could use the same quotes to say that means if there are homosexual refugees you can marry them.

        Your position is just as tenuous and morally repugnant as that of the racists. The only difference being that you are caught in the middle of the time of change, as opposed to clinging on desperately to bigoted beliefs decades after society has seen the light. Try not to cling on for too long.

      • stasisonline says:

        Violetwisp, I paused for a moment to consider whether I should continue to reply to your feedback. I have a hunch that you know what my responses will be. To some extent we are simply running through the motions, and neither of us are seeing much in the reasoning that is new. Ive decided to reply as normal though, largely because there may be readers of this blog for whom this might be informative.

        I kinda agree with you that there is nothing in Scripture that is an explicit Biblical illustration of same sex marriage being sinful today. But given the explicit Biblical illustration of same-sex relations being sinful, and given the Biblical illustration of Christian marriage conforming to a heterosexual model, I suggest that the question of whether same-sex marriage is Biblically compliant, is rather obvious. This contrasts very strongly with the question of whether interracial marriage is Biblically compliant.

        My reference to refugees may appear to be almost relevant to interracial marriage. But my reference to refugees was in response to a page I read on the racist website, where the blogger was likewise citing Scriptures that had a rather tenuous connection to interracial marriage. So my point was that arguments about separation of races can be made either way. My perception though is that any Biblical leaning towards separation of races is more of an Old Testament practice than a New Testament practice though, meaning that ultimately the Bible probably does not call for separation of races.

        Yes, someone might take a verse that advocates love for refugees, and claim that this means that a homosexual marriage to a refugee is Biblically compliant. But this would be trumped by other verses which refer more specifically to marriage and indicate that a homosexual marriage is not Biblically compliant. The message of the Bible overall, is the deciding factor.

        I cannot see how my position on homosexual relations is tenuous. The Bible repeatedly refers to homosexual relations in the negative, and repeatedly illustrates Christian marriage as heterosexual. If your claim is separate to a Christian perspective though, then that is another matter, largely separate to the interests of this blog.


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