Paul R. Lehman,Christian church that rejects mixed-ethnic couple not racist, just ignorant and biased

December 4, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Posted in American Bigotry, Bigotry in America, blacks, justice, Prejudice, Race in America, whites | 1 Comment
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Many people upon hearing about the church in Louisville, Kentucky, rejecting a couple of mixed ethnicity probably thought the appropriate term suited to describe the church’s behavior is racist. They would be incorrect because all the people concerned are human being—the same race. For those not familiar with the story, the Associated Press reported that “A tiny all-white Appalachian church in rural Kentucky has voted to ban interracial couples from joining its flock, pitting members against each other in an argument over race.”The article continued  by pointing out that “Members at the Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church voted Sunday on the resolution, which says the church ‘does not condone interracial marriage.”

The problem started when Stella Harville, a European American (white) female brought her African fiancé, Ticha Chikuni, to church with her. We are told that on one visit Chikuna sang a song for the congregation. The church board member who offered the resolution, Melvin Thompson, made the statement “I am not a racist. I will tell you that. I am not prejudiced against any race of people, have never in my lifetime spoke evil about a race.”In his mind and heart, Thompson believes he has done nothing wrong or unchristian. How can that be?

First, we need to make clear a number of points. First, Ticha Chikuni is an African, not a black. Although the article did not mention his cultural identity, we know that he is not African American. Chances are he would be the first to correct anyone making that mistake. Next, we are dealing with people to take their religion seriously. Finally, we are dealing with some people who are still living in the 1800’s relative to their beliefs and behavior.

Because of the confusion and the false information regarding the concept of race, many people still identify some people’s ethnicity on the bases of their skin color. Make no mistake, that concept of regarding race by color has been in existence since slavery, and as noted in the article, it still exist today. The church is regarded by most observers as the most segregated institution in America. One reason for that segregation can be traced back to some clergy who were warriors for segregation, discrimination, and bigotry. They used the Bible and their biased interpretations, along with some creativity, to underscore their point. One clergy in point was Josiah Strong (1846-1916) who believed, preached and wrote about how “God, nature, science, and history all legitimated white supremacy over black people.”

Many other prominent clergy, scientist, and doctors promoted the concept of the so-called black race being created differently from the so-called white race. The arguments were presented so well and so often that most European Americans did not question the legitimacy of the information, and like their religion itself, they internalize the concept of race as truth. Although religion is based on belief and race is available for scientific investigation, when the concept of race is presented as if it were a religion, argument is fruitless.

Thompson can state that he is not a racist because he does not see any problem with rejecting someone not of his so-called race. His biblical teachings and the word from many clergy would free him from any sense of wrong-doing. The fact that he has been taught that being white made one superior over nonwhites underscores his ability and right to refuse to worship with any nonwhite person. Rather then his religious beliefs keeping pace with the changing times, socially and historically, Thompson and those who supported him possibly feel comfortable and protected in their religious belief even when it goes against the general precepts of Christianity.  Part of the problem with being identified as a racist is the fact that race has not been defined clearly other than in scientific terms. Rather than clarifying the confusion of race, society continues to add to it.

The media referred to the couple in its articles as being “interracial” or “mixed-race.”Neither term is accurate or correct in trying to identify the couple. When the couple is identified by color, that description is incorrect because Chikuni is African, not black; that is he is not black unless one conceives of all people with dark complexions as blacks or of a black race . If Harville is identified as white, then one must assume that white is a race as well as African; that is the only way the couple can accommodate the descriptions. What the media has to understand is that a racist cannot exist in isolation. When a person is called a racist, he or she has to be viewed as a representative of a larger group known as a race. If mankind consists of only one race, then no other races exist for comparisons. The problem still involves ignorance and bigotry. If the people who are aware of the fallacy of the race conception continue to address people who are ignorant and/or bigots as racist, they are, in effect, supporting and promoting the fallacy.

When a bigot is called a racist, the mere word underscores his beliefs in so-called racial supremacy, and offers security and protection within his so-called racial group. However, when one is referred to as a bigot, then the full impact of the charge falls squarely on the individual, not a group. A bigot would prefer to be called a racist because that gives aid and comfort to his beliefs.  What reasonable and knowledgeable people must understand is that they are part of the problem if they do not recognize and correct the fallacy of race, racist, and racism.

Many Americans are discovering since the election of President Obama that the social progress thought to have been made since the 1960s in some cases is just an illusion. Who would have thought that today in America a so-called Christian church would refuse to accept children of their God simply because one child  does not look alike the rest of the people? That makes one wonder what heaven will look like.



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  1. Paul, I see where you were coming from with your comment on my article re the term racism. I agree with your reasoning, of course. I never actually use the word race as such but use ethnicity.

    Great article. Love the ending.

    “Suffer not the little children to come unto me….” (even atheists known a bibilical line or two).

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