by Graham Phillips | Our social media newsfeeds have been filled with racial tension for months now. Whether it be the horror of the murderous march of white-supremacists through Charlottesville, VA or Black Lives Matter’s profoundly racist list of demands for white people, issues of race are threatening to divide us all yet again.
The belief that all members of each race posses characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.
At bottom, racism is making general distinctions about entire people groups based solely upon their ethnicity. Hitler succeeded in duping an entire nation into believing that the Jewish people were at the root of all their problems, leading to the extermination of over 6 million European Jews in Nazi death camps. The Atlantic slave trade of the 16th-19th century was contingent upon the presupposition that black people were of less value than white people, that they were sub-human, without this bedrock of philosophical racism the whole operation would have faltered. Thanks to abolitionists such as Wilberforce this bloody trade route, built upon the suffering of black people was eventually brought to an end.
“This much is clear; racism begets suffering. Always. And there is but one remedy, only one defeater of this disease; the person of Jesus Christ.”
Wilberforce was driven by his deep commitment to Christ, and it was his Christianity that was the motivator for his passionate opposition to the slave trade. After a radical conversion while on European tour, Wilberforce experienced a deep conviction concerning his own sinful habits and underwent a remarkable transformation. He began rising early each morning to study his bible and to journal, he would emerge from his devotional time often deeply troubled, as if wrestling with his own conscience. Wilberforce found he could no longer sanction many of his own habits, thought patterns and beliefs because they ran contrary to what he found in scripture. He made it his aim to topple slavery once and for all, starting with the slave trade.
What was it that Wilberforce found in his tattered old Bible that caused the great abolitionist we know from our history books to rise up and take his stand?
1. Imago Dei
“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:27 [NKJV]
Here in the very first chapter of the Bible we have a solid foundation for the intrinsic value of all human life. Men, women and children of every ethnicity bear the image of their creator, of almighty God Himself. It is our resemblance to Him that sets us apart from every other created order. His image is revealed in our ability to reason, to be intentional and in our desire to seek out the true nature of reality. No matter what colour a person is, or how educated they are or even whether they happen to be disfigured in some way, disabled or even entirely dependent they bear the image of God and therefore have intrinsic worth and value that transcends humanity. As their value has not been bestowed upon them by human means it cannot be repealed by human means. As such, Genesis 1:27 is also the only true and reliable platform for inalienable human rights. No particular race has hegemony, but all are of equal worth in that they bear the imago Dei.
2. Love thy neighbour
Jesus, when asked revealed that the greatest commandments in the law are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and to love your neighbour as yourself.” In chapter 10 of Luke’s gospel, a lawyer questions Jesus; “who is my neighbour.” Jesus replies with the parable commonly known as ‘The Good Samaritan’ in which a man falls prey to thieves and is beaten and left wounded by the roadside, he is then ignored by two of his Jewish kinsmen but rescued by a Samaritan. The Samaritans were of mixed race, they were of both Jewish and pagan ancestry and as such the Jews looked down upon them and did not keep company with them. At the end of the parable, Jesus asks the lawyer which of the passers by had been a neighbour to the wounded man and the lawyer answered, “He who showed mercy on him”, Jesus then commands him to do likewise.
Jesus taught that we are to treat people of all colours, creeds and nationalities as our neighbour. That we ought to treat them with the utmost kindness, even at personal cost and inconvenience. There are to be no exceptions, according to Jesus, all are deserving of our servitude, not simply those who share our skin colour or worldview.
3. All are one in Christ
“For as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:27-28 [NKJV]
All potential barriers are removed when one accepts Christ. Scripture teaches that it is in Him that we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28) and that when we accept Christ that we become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). The Apostle Paul states in the preceding verse that we are no longer to regard anyone according to the old nature which is the flesh, whether that be race or any other worldly marker of identity, but regard them according to their new nature in Christ, in whom we are all one. This removes any distinction of any natural order in the heart of the Christian. I pastor in a multinational church congregation, there are people from all walks of life. Successful entrepreneurs sit next to asylum seekers, Afghani’s sit next to Americans. I know that I and my brothers and sisters from other nations are one in Christ, that our crucial union in Him supersedes our national or ethnic identities.
It grieves me when I see people attempting to right the wrongs of the past by attempting to identify the oppressor at large and judging an entire people group according to their race. Punishing all white people for the sins of our forefathers will not heal the past, but it will certainly ruin the future. Equally, believing that your particular race is superior to another is supremely evil and thoroughly anti-Christian. The truth is, anyone can buy a ticket on the racism train. Despite what Neo-Marxist propagandists would have you believe, you can be a racist whatever colour you are. I grew up in a largely non-white neighbourhood and unfortunately got mugged on several occasions, each time my attackers made it clear to me that their key motivation was my white skin.
“Racism welcomes all comers, it doesn’t discriminate. Only racists do that.”
As Wilberforce found, there is only one defeater of racism, only one antidote to this very human problem; Jesus Christ. The Christian worldview reveals this reality; that all carry the same image, the image and likeness of our creator and therefore we all have inalienable worth and value. God Himself then came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ to re-iterate that we all bear His image, and that all have value and that we are to live as a neighbour to all. He then died for all so that all might not perish but have eternal life in Him, joined together as one in His body; the Church.