Christianity: The White Man's Religion...or Nah?

(Image Credit: Patrick Fore)

(Image Credit: Patrick Fore)

So, there was a White Privilege Conference in Philly earlier this month. Until last week, I’d never even heard of such an event, and the name certainly captured my attention. Initially, I thought it was an ill-conceived response to the Black Lives Matter movement.  But apparently, WPCs have been taking place annually since 1999 and the conference, launched to examine issues of white supremacy and privilege in America, seeks to “work toward a more equitable world”. One way to do this, per author and WPC speaker Paul Kivel, is to undo America’s “Christian hegemony”. 

According to Kivel, everything negative in American society can be traced back to Christianity – racism being chief among them.  I tried hard to get more context on Kivel’s claims, but I couldn’t find any coverage from the conference that delved deeply into his position. As such, I found it challenging to understand how he could rightly blame Christianity, in and of itself, for racism other than to characterize it as “the white man’s religion” and to bash the King James Bible as racist propaganda.  

So, is this true? Is Christianity the white man’s religion? And does it, through the Bible, support racism and the inhumane treatment of Blacks and other people of color?

I am a BLACK Christian, and my response is an emphatic “no!”. But I’m certain Kivel, Black Hebrew Israelites and “Hotep Twitter” would undermine my intelligence and ability to think for myself on this one. They’d likely tell me that my position stems from being a victim of colonialism.  To them, I don’t truly know what I’m saying because I’ve been brainwashed. Yet, as one who not only studies God’s Word for myself, but has experienced the power of Christ in my own life, I would be remiss if I didn’t address these claims in defense of my faith. Certainly, anyone who doesn’t already believe in Christ or the Word of God will find fault with anything I present here. But that is of no concern to me. My goal is to present what I know to be the truth. So, I’ll put myself out there and offer an answer to the leading, yet ill-conceived, myths about Christianity, the Bible and U.S. race relations.

Myth 1: The Bible Condones Slavery

(Image Credit: iMAGINE)

(Image Credit: iMAGINE)

Truth is: So the Egyptians made the children of Israel serve with rigor. And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage—in mortar, in brick, and in all manner of service in the field. All their service in which they made them serve was with rigor.” (Exodus 1:13-14)  “Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:9)

Most who make this claim are typically referring to slavery as it was practiced in America and her territories. This is unfortunate because it means they truly don't understand what they are reading, or they understand but are willingly warping context to push their own agenda - the same way American slavers did in the 16th and 17th centuries. (Tisk! Tisk!)

The King James (KJV) Bible, in particular, comes under the most scrutiny for promoting slavery in America because it was the first English translation of the Bible ever published in the United States. It is also the version used by American slavers to promote their agenda.  Interestingly, the terms “slave” and “slaves” each only appear once in the KJV text. “Slave” appears in the Old Testament, which means it's original term was Hebrew. Yet there is no Hebrew word for the English term “slave”.  However, the term is used in Jeremiah 2:14 in the phrase “home born {yâlîyd} slave” and the context is of an adopted son or a servant protected by and now belonging to the family of God. The term “Slaves” appears in Revelation 18:13, in the New Testament, which means the term was translated from Greek. The Greek term (sōma) which translated to “slaves” in English means a literal or figurative “body”, as in “bodies of men” or the "body of Christ". In context, chapter 18 is telling of Babylon’s judgment and impending destruction. Verse 13 is a continuation of the references to Babylon’s sinful practices and means of wealth creation, including their participation in trading the “bodies” of men.

The term “slavery” does not appear in the KJV.  Yet, what does appear quite often is the concept of servitude. The terms “servant” or “servants” are directly translated from Hebrew ('ebed or 'âbad) and Greek (doulos), and both translations mean all manner of servitude (just as the terms mean in English). A servant could be an indentured servant, bondservant, man- or maidservant, laborer, worshipper, worker, apprentice - anyone subservient to another, thus context is key.

But in all contexts of the term, one thing that is consistent is God's strict instructions in the Old and New Testaments for how servants should be treated. As such, the Bible makes it clear that God DOES NOT condone slavery as it was practiced in the United States.  The Bible condemns the kidnapping and selling of another person (Exodus 21:16; 1 Timothy 1:9-11; Revelation 18:13); it requires that servants be treated fairly (Colossians 4:1); it condemns masters who threaten their servants (Ephesians 6:9); and it condemns personal injury, maiming and other harsh physical abuses, namely those leading to death (Exodus 21:20, 26-27). Further, if a foreign servant escaped from their master, God instructed the Israelites to allow that person to dwell wherever they wished in their land, and the Israelites were not to return them to their former masters nor mistreat them (Deuteronomy 23:15-16). So, rounding up Africans to deliver them into a foreign land where they would be subject to hard labor, subpar and unfair living conditions, beatings and disfigurement, threats, lynching or being murdered by any other means, and having no way of escape from such conditions were all unacceptable by God and cannot ever be justified by His Word.

If God condoned oppressive servitude, that whole “let my people go” episode with Moses and Pharaoh was all for nought. Yet God heard their cries, freed them, and constantly reminded the Israelites to consider the conditions they suffered in Egypt to guide their treatment of their servants. They were never instructed by God to hold anyone in oppressive bondage, as they experienced such in Egypt. But they were allowed to have servants and were commanded to treat them in a manner reflective of God’s character (Exodus 21).

So, for those who don't understand why the Bible doesn’t outright CONDEMN “slavery” consider your understanding of the term and the paradigm through which you have been reading the Bible. "Servitude" isn't inherently evil. However, inhumane servitude - servitude under oppressive, unfair and brutal treatment or entered into as a result of being kidnapped and sold, as was practiced in America, IS condemned in the Bible via God's repeated instructions against such practices. In fact, these are the very reasons the Christian-led abolitionist movement was able to make a case for abolishing slavery in the United States and its territories. 

Myth 2: King James, a White Man, Made Up the Bible/Christianity

(Image Credit: Tomasz Zajda)

(Image Credit: Tomasz Zajda)

Truth is: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God." 1 John 1:1-2

Yes, King James was a European, white man. King James also commissioned an English translation of the Bible that would become the first to be published in America. The “whiteness” of the Word pretty much stops there.

For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
— Romans 10:11-13

I often wonder if people ever ask themselves why a European KING in ENGLAND would help spread a religion based on a man born in the MIDDLE EAST. Why do this if his entire premise was to promote white supremacy or spread “western” ideals? King James was a King who had the power to do whatever he wanted. Why not command the translators to originate Jesus in London, for example? Why even “create” Jesus? Why wouldn’t King James make HIMSELF a deity?

Probably because the King James version was NOT the first English translation of the Bible. The Geneva Bible predates it, being published in 1560 and it being born from work by William Tyndale who sought an English translation directly from the Bible's original Hebrew and Greek texts.

Moreover, Jesus Christ (God in the flesh), the center of the Christian faith, was a Hebrew born in Bethlehem - right outside of Jerusalem. According to all typographically correct maps, Jerusalem is in the Middle East and northwest of Egypt, Africa. His initial converts were also Hebrew who once ascribed to the Jewish faith. Christianity is heavily based in the Jewish faith, as it is the Jewish/Mosaic law fulfilled through Jesus' birth, life, death and resurrection as the Christ. His life is repeatedly foretold of in the Jewish religious text. Mosaic law and the prophets point to Christ and Christ confirms Mosaic law and God's prophet's prophecies. So it’s pretty clear King James, "the white man", didn't have a thing to do with creating this faith and it certainly wasn’t created to promote the supremacy of white people.

In essence, Christianity is a faith that existed before the dawn of man to benefit all mankind. Buddha lived and died. Muhammad lived and died. But Christ, the spirit of grace and truth, has ALWAYS been and continues to be alive and well. He is the LIVING Word, meaning the Word of God (aka “the Bible”) has always existed (John 1:1-16; Hebrews 4:12).

Myth 3: The Bible PROMOTEs Racism

(Image Credit: Freshedia)

(Image Credit: Freshedia)

Truth is: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” (Acts 10:34)

This myth undermines the entire work of Christ, who came to free us from sin because God so loved the WORLD (John 3:16). It further undermines the great commission, in which Christ instructs His apostles to go throughout the WORLD and make disciples of ALL NATIONS (Matthew 28:16-20). We are also instructed to show no partiality to anyone, but to be fair to everyone (James 2:9).

But even if one chooses to ignore these Bible-based facts, let’s rely solely on human reason for a second to further dissect this claim. Racists, white supremacists in particular, in the U.S. have certainly used the Bible to support their behavior, but it makes no logical sense to do so. We learn from the Old Testament that God began His redemptive work to draw all nations to Him first through the nation of Israel (Genesis 12:2-3) who, again, were Hebrew - another word for Jewish. Further, Jesus was a Jew (Matthew 1:1; Hebrews 7:14). So was Paul, who wrote about 75% of the New Testament. But the last time I checked, American racists hate "the Jews" as much as they hate Black folks and anyone else of color! And the kicker? In the Old Testament, Moses, whom God favored, was married to an Ethiopian (a BLACK WOMAN) and He even punished Moses’s siblings Aaron and Miriam for speaking against Moses and questioning his character in this regard (Numbers 12). Furthermore, in the New Testament, an Ethiopian (a BLACK MAN) not only sought to receive Christ on his own volition, but was among the first to be baptized as a Christian when the disciples first took the Gospel across the world (Acts 8:26-40). So how racists EVER used or continue to use the Bible, which is filled with stories of people of color, to support their prejudice is uncanny. 

But this is merely yet another instance of the Word being used out of context for gain rather than to rightly live a life of holiness before God. It also further proves that hatred is not rooted in logic, but in evil - which is of Satan, who is the author of confusion.

Perhaps all of this confusion stems from their usage of passages in the Bible wherein God commands the Children of Israel to live separately from certain peoples or not to intermarry with people from other lands (Deuteronomy 7:1-3; 1 Kings 11:1-2; Nehemiah 13:24-25). But it doesn’t take much to read the scripture for yourself and see such a commandment had absolutely nothing to do with race and everything to do with worship (Deuteronomy 7:4; 1Kings 11:3-10; Nehemiah 13:26-27 2 Corinthians 6:14-16).

God’s first commandment is that we love Him with all our hearts and that we not put any other gods before Him (Matthew 22:37; Exodus 20:3). As such, His intention was to keep his children Holy and worshiping only Him rather than being led astray to worship the gods of other lands.  God’s word clearly tells us He is no respecter of persons.  He “does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears Him and does what is right.” (Acts 10:34, emphasis mine). As with the Ethiopians, yet another example of this is revealed in the story of Ruth, who was a Moabite. Moabites were generally detested by God because they practiced idolatry and caused Israelites to do the same (Numbers 25).  Yet, we see that Ruth goes on to become the great-grandmother of King David (whom God adored) and the great grandmother to the umpteenth power of Jesus Christ (whom God most certainly adored) (Matthew 1:5).  A Moabite is in Jesus’s bloodline! This would not have been possible if God’s admonishing against hanging out with and marrying Moabites was based on race. This was possible because Ruth rejected her people’s practices and sought to serve the true and living God. After she famously tells Naomi, “Your people will be my people and your God will be my God” (Ruth 1:16), Ruth goes on marry a Hebrew man named Boaz and finds herself in the lineage of the only Man considered PURE before God.   

Myth 4: Christianity is “the white man’s” religion

(Image Credit: Samantha Sophia)

(Image Credit: Samantha Sophia)

Truth is: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

I’m aware my ancestors once had no access to the Word to rightly divide the truth for themselves because American slavery precluded them from learning to read. This is no longer the case, and the Word of God is not only widely available to my people, but to people of all nations via the internet, audio books, smartphone apps, television, radio, Bible translations in over 500 languages, AND planes, trains, and automobiles that quickly transport missionaries around the world to help spread the Gospel to every nation! That everyone know Him is God's desire...that everyone receive His "good news" is Christ's great commission. So, WHYYYYY would anyone assume to be the superior race? Israel was the first, but even Gentiles (non-Jews) can have equal favor with God if they choose to serve Him (Romans 10:12).  God, the creator of the universe, is for all people. The issue, though, is not all people are truly for Him.

Kivel may believe racism in America is a result of Christianity, but I boldly posit the opposite. Where you see an absence of love for God and our fellow man…in the absence of justice, fairness, faithful stewardship, humility and wisdom, you see the absence of Christ in the lives of even those who dare profess to be Christian. Racism in this country is because of the absence of TRUE followers of Christ - TRUE CHRISTIANITY. Everything wrong with this country is as a result of man-made religion and prejudices created to support personal gain and man-made agendas born out of pride, anger and unforgiveness.  Very few have faith for the sake of a divine, transformative relationship with the Savior.

Further, it’s as if people forgot Dr. Martin Luther King was REVEREND Martin Luther King. We celebrate his life and legacy each year for his Dream of racial equality and equitable treatment of all mankind, but fail to remember EVERYTHING he ever taught was deeply rooted in his Christian faith. So no – Christianity (following Christ), is NOT to blame for racism and it certainly isn’t a religion created for or by “the white man”.  Even if all of this confusion with Christianity in America started with "the white man", the disease of false doctrine and spiritual blindness can impact anyone.  Satan can use anyone to do his bidding, and I’d submit that one claiming a thing of Christ is to blame for all that is evil in America (or even the world) is yet another one of his tactics.

I Said All of This to Say...

Folks, READ and STUDY the Word for yourself. Stop relying on Tweets, memes and ill-informed conference speakers to feed you garbage. Stop filtering the truth through frustration, hatred and a paradigm of man-made injustices. Seek knowledge for yourself. I'd even dare you to research anything I've presented here and will happily entertain your questions (though your best route would be to take them directly to God in prayer).  God is not afraid of what you will find and He can answer any concern or question you have. He is for all mankind and will freely give you right understanding if you truly want it.