The Biblical Offense of Racism

Discussion in 'All Other Discussions' started by aadebayo, Apr 9, 2015.

  1. aadebayo

    aadebayo
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    Hi All

    I want to share a biblical approach to dealing with racism. I hope that it helps. It was copied from http://www.reformed.org/social/index.html


    Douglas M. Jones III

    Though non-Christians may condemn racism, they have no justifiable ethical basis on which to do so. In contrast, the word of God not only specifies our obligation to be color-blind, but it prescribes how this obligation applies to society. Neither collectivists nor traditionalists will be pleased.
    MOOKIE: Dago, wop, garlic-breath, guinea, pizza-slinging, spaghetti-bending, Vic Damone, Perry Como, Luciano Pavarotti, non-singing ....

    PINO: You gold-teeth, gold-chain-wearing, fried-chicken-and-biscuit-eating, monkey, ape, baboon, big-thigh, fast-running, three-hundred-sixty-degree basketball dunking spade...

    STEVIE: You slant-eyed, me-no-speak-American, own every fruit and vegetable stand in New York, Rev. Moon, Summer Olympics '88, Korean kick-boxing...

    OFFICER LONG: Goya bean-eating, fifteen in a car, thirty in an apartment, pointed shoe, red wearing, Menudo, meda-meda, Puerto Rican...

    KOREAN CLERK: It's cheap, I got a good price for you, Mayor Koch, "How I'm doin", chocolate-egg-cream-drinking, bagel and lox, ...[1]

    These sentiments are some of the niceties of contemporary racial warfare. The destructive notions expressed by these terms often remain unstated in "proper" social circles. Nevertheless, such attitudes tacitly guide many people's thought about the status, abilities, and dignity of racial groups. The underlying attitudes often find outlets in numerous subtle forms of behavior. And of course one of the ugliest features of the late 1980's is the overt and fatal expression of these attitudes in terms of actual racial violence, a la Howard Beach, and the resurgence of the Satanic ideologies of numerous neo-Nazi covens.

    The particular quotes appear in a series of characterized outbursts in Spike Lee's raw and painful movie, Do the Right Thing. Lee places this racial slander in a morbidly humorous context in order to demonstrate (once again) the quagmire of modern race relations. Lee openly acknowledges that his film paints a very despairing view of the relationship between the races, and yet, he claims, "I think there's some hope at the end, a shaky truce. But on the other hand, I think it'd be very dishonest to have a kind of Steven Spielberg ending where we all hold hands and sing We are the World."[2]

    Spike Lee only claims to point to the problems at issue; he doesn't attempt to offer any solutions. That, he asserts, is not his job as a film-maker. In response to a typical journalist's question, "What's the right thing"?, Lee retorts, "I don't know. I know what the wrong thing is: racism."[3] This clear and confident moral condemnation of the view that one race is inferior to another is most often taken as a self-evident truth.

    But this "self-evident truth" is subject to two questions. The first question is: how is an unbeliever justified in making such a judgment? In answering that question, we will see that those who reject a Biblical basis for moral judgments have no moral right to condemn racism or any other "obviously" unjust action or attitude.

    The second question is: What does Scripture say about racial relations. Put simply, Scripture very clearly condemns racist attitudes and actions.

    The Impotence of Non-Christian Analyses

    From a non-Christian perspective, the ethical issues of racism are much more radically desperate than even the pessimism of Spike Lee will admit. The non-Christian has no ethical basis to determine the "right thing," the wrong thing, the solution, the problem, or offer any hope for the future or an understanding of the past. Though racism and other sins are in fact widely condemned by unbelievers, the truth is that the only response that a humanistic worldview can offer is despair and silence.
    Recent non-Christian attempts in the networks and educational institutions to raise the nation's "social consciousness" about racism are ultimately hollow forms of moral breast-beating, since unbelievers have no legitimate non-arbitrary ethical standard by which to condemn racist practices. The non-Christian worldview must logically and horribly embrace racism.

    In short, the challenge that the unbeliever ought to face squarely, instead of smuggling in Biblical standards, is to provide a legitimate basis on which to make the judgment that racism is immoral. We ought to raise this Biblical challenge repeatedly in national discussions, yet believers most often sit impotently silent.

    How, then, do unbelievers attempt to justify the claim that racism is in some sense immoral? Unbelievers who have taken this question seriously have offered four prominent types of argument, which we will evaluate.

    N.C. Argument #1 -- The Irrelevance of Race

    One of the most common arguments non-Christians use to justify their condemnation of racism is based on the claim that race is irrelevant to the way we ought to treat people.[4] The argument runs: (1) It is immoral to treat people differently for arbitrary reasons, and (2) treating people differently because of their race is arbitrary, since race is irrelevant to whether a person has certain technical abilities, rights, and benefits. (3) Therefore, racism is immoral.
    Understood in a Christian perspective, this argument has some significance, but the non-Christian has no right to use it. As it stands, the argument is unsound since simple counter-examples refute the universal claim made in the second premise. Singer, for example, argues that race is not always illegitimately irrelevant and thus arbitrary.[5] His counter-example is the case of a movie director seeking black actors to play parts in a film about the lives of blacks in Harlem. A white actor shows up and claims that with the proper wigs and make-up, he can portray the mannerisms and speech of Harlem blacks. The director maintains that it is crucial for the film that black experience be authentic, and that however good the actor may be, he cannot satisfy the criterion of authenticity.

    Singer argues, "The film director is discriminating along racial lines, yet he cannot be said to be discriminating arbitrarily. His discrimination is apt for his purpose."[6] Therefore, the second premise is false, and the argument is unsound.

    However, there is nothing distinctively Christian in this criticism. The distinctive Biblical criticism of this argument is that the unbeliever cannot justify the first premise regarding the immorality of arbitrary treatment. Why, in terms of a non-Christian perspective, is such arbitrary treatment wrong? The non-Christian answer to this question always involves some appeal to the sacred nature of human life. A proponent of the above argument assumes that human life has some special moral value, worth, or significance, and, therefore, it is wrong to treat a sacred human life arbitrarily.

    Yet, this conclusion is completely at odds with a non-Christian perspective of the world. If humans are merely the products of physical or impersonal forces, then they have no greater moral value or worth than other products of these forces. The non-Christian has no source to provide the requisite worth for human life. Taken to its logical conclusion, this view cannot demonstrate that human life is more sacred than a block of granite. Hence, the former should receive no better treatment than the latter. The non-Christian worldview simply cannot impute value, worth, or significance to human life. Nothing can be sacred for the unbeliever.[7] Hence, the non-Christian may not justifiably use the first premise of the above argument against racism. We must look elsewhere for an argument which will succeed.

    N.C. Argument #2 -- Immorality of Presumed Inferiority

    Richard Wasserstrom, in his 1987 presidential address to the American Philosophical Association,[8] contends that the above argument against racism "fails to get at the heart of the evil."[9] The irrelevance-of-race argument fails, he maintains, because it implies that there is another non-racial characteristic which might be relevant to treating people in a dehumanizing manner.
    Wasserstrom speaks of the "deep injustice," "deep immorality," and "moral evil" of racism.[10] Yet, how does he justify these moral judgments? His argument is simply that the immorality of racism (against blacks in particular) is contained in the "idea that blacks were fundamentally lesser and degraded persons, to be understood by all as such, and to be controlled and regulated by whites so that whites would not be contaminated or otherwise degraded by various forms of interaction with blacks."[11] Wasserstrom replaces the entire "irrelevance of race" argument with an explicit appeal to a sacred human nature. Racism is wrong, according to Wasserstrom, because it treats some humans as inferior to others.

    The Christian justifiably hails this conclusion, but Wasserstrom's justification merely makes explicit what was implicit in the first argument. He too, however, cannot justify the basic principle involved. Why do humans have any moral value deserving protection? As in the previous discussion, Wasserstrom's argument fails because nothing can be sacred for the unbeliever. Wasserstrom cannot justifiably speak of the "deep immorality" of racism, since his system must welcome the very attitudes he opposes. We must look elsewhere.





    continue at http://www.reformed.org/social/index.html
     

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