And He has made all nations of men of one blood to dwell on all the face of the earth, ordaining fore-appointed seasons and boundaries of their dwelling.
Prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.
In this chapter, I’d like to encourage you to stand back from the debate for a moment. Up to this point we’ve spent a lot of time looking at historical, biblical, and scientific fact. By letting the evidence speak for itself and interpreting it through the grid of God’s Word, we’ve come to some startling, all-encompassing realizations. Racism is a consequence of sin in a fallen world infused with evolutionary thinking. The consequences of racism on a personal and social level are huge.
But what do we do about it? What do you do about it? We’ve done enough talking; the time has come for action. In the pages that follow, we will be looking at some very practical and personal application points. Like any true biblical conviction, these actions should start from a changed heart and a changed understanding about what is real and true. In light of what we have learned, I believe that at least three major action points are in order.
First, I would propose that we do away with using the term “race” when discussing the different groups of people in the world.
Before Darwin, the term “race” was largely a political and geographical term. People that were closely related biologically (such as the English and Irish) were considered to be separate races. Darwin’s theory has permeated the entire globe and the teaching of evolution has really redefined the term “race.” Now, when most people think of “race,” they’re thinking of lower races, higher races, black races, red races, etc. Even the best of us at times have struggled when we use that term. It just doesn’t mean what it used to mean.
Every human being in the world is classified as Homo sapiens. Scientists today agree that there is really only one biological race of humans. Geneticists have found that if we were to take any two people from anywhere in the world, the basic genetic differences between these two people would typically be around 0.2 percent,1 even if they came from the same people group.2 “Racial” characteristics account for only about 6 percent of this 0.2 percent variation. That means that the “racial” genetic variation between human beings of different “race” is a mere 0.012 percent.3
Overall, there is far more variation within a people group than there is between one people group and another. Anyone who continues to make racist distinctions does so based only on superficial, outward appearances rather than on sound scientific fact and clear biblical reasoning. If a Native American person is looking for a tissue match for an organ transplant, for instance, the best match may come from an Asian person, and vice versa.
The only reason many people think these differences are major is because they’ve been brought up in a culture that has taught them to see the differences this way. A scientist at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) convention in Atlanta in 1997 stated:
Race is a social construct derived mainly from the perceptions conditioned by the events of recorded history, and it has no basic biological reality. . . . curiously enough the idea comes very close to being of American manufacture.4
The American ABC news science page stated:
More and more scientists find that the differences that set us apart are cultural, not racial. Some even say that the word race should be abandoned because it’s meaningless. . . . We accept the idea of race because it’s a convenient way of putting people into broad categories, frequently to suppress them . . . the most hideous example is provided by Hitler’s Germany. . . . What the facts show is that there are differences among us, but they stem from culture, not race.5
In a 1989 article in the Journal of Counseling and Development, researchers argued that the term “race” is basically meaningless and that it should be discarded. I agree. Because of the influences of Darwinian evolution and the resulting prejudices, I believe that everyone (and especially Christians) should abandon the term “race.”
The Bible does not even use the word “race” in reference to people but it does describe all human beings as being of “one blood” (Acts 17:26; KJV). Terms such as these emphasize that we are all related, from one family, the descendents of the first man and woman. This is the reason Paul says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), because we are all descendants of Adam. Jesus Christ also became a descendant of Adam, when He came to earth as a man (Philippians 2:6–8) and died as a sacrifice for our sins. He was called the “last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45). All human beings are descendents of Adam; all need to build their thinking on God’s Word and accept that they are sinners in need of salvation; all need to judge their behavior in every area, regardless of the culture, against the absolute standards of the Word of God; and all need to repent and receive a free gift of salvation.
We all need to treat every human being as our relative. We are of one blood. All of us are equal in value before our Creator God. Any descendant of Adam can be saved, because our mutual relative by blood (Jesus Christ) died and rose again. This is why the gospel can and should be preached to all tribes and nations.
When it comes to defining human beings that are culturally, geographically, and politically distinct from others, missionaries use the term “people groups.” A people group is roughly defined as a cluster of human beings that are set apart from others because of their language, culture, geography, or religion. The Bible uses the Greek word “ethnos” to describe these relatively isolated groups of humanity. In the Great Commission, when Christ commands us to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” He used this word “ethnos,” much like Native Americans would use the term to describe the Cherokee Nation, or the Sioux Nation. Depending on how they are specifically defined, there are between 12,000 and 24,000 people groups on earth.6
So when you are talking to your children, training them up, and educating them, let’s get rid of the term “race.” Let’s start talking about “people groups” . . . and let’s talk about how to reach all of them with the gospel as Christ commanded.
What a difference it would make in this world if each person understood and adopted this biblical principle! Then each of us could proclaim with Paul:
For there is no difference between the Jew and Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him (Romans 10:12; KJV).
Second, we need to be reprogrammed.
Here’s something you might find hard to accept: In the U.S. culture we are racially programmed, particularly in regard to the skin color issue. Because of our culture’s racist roots, because of the way the world thinks, because of the influence of Darwinian thinking, we have been programmed to look at the exterior rather than the interior of a person, and to make broad judgments based on what we see. Had you not been programmed that way in this culture, you wouldn’t see the differences as you do. Different cultures are programmed in different ways. Our biases and prejudice show themselves in different ways, but in every case it is the world and our sinfulness (rather than science and the Bible) that drives our personal racism.
I realize those are very strong words. You might not even agree with me. But the fact is, it’s true. We just go through our days making all sorts of assumptions and judgment calls based on outward appearances of skin tone, facial features, size, height, etc. It’s very hard to see through the programming because it seems to be such a natural part of the way we think. No one likes to admit it, but the consequences are too serious to ignore. We’ve been programmed, and that programming needs to be changed.
This is no surprise to God, of course. He is fully aware of the pressures and the influences that the world places upon us. But He also states very clearly that it doesn’t have to stay that way. Change can take place in our minds and our hearts:
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think. . . . so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another (Romans 12:2–6).
If you want to solve the issue of racism in your own life, it’s very simple: You’ve got to believe the Bible. That’s the bottom line. You can spend millions of dollars trying to solve racist problems. You can pass new laws and institute all sorts of programs, but unless people believe the history in the Bible—unless our minds are renewed—we will never have the full picture of reality, and we won’t have the foundation that we need to make decisions that line up with truth rather than the lie.
All of us need to judge our attitudes and our worldview against the absolute authority of the Word of God. Considering our past track record, the Church needs to be very wise in realizing that as a body we have been strongly influenced by the world. Our interpretation of Scripture has been strongly skewed by pre-existing worldly biases and prejudices. We need to be willing to admit where we have been wrong—and in many cases we need to repent.
The Church tends to adopt man’s ideas and then reinterprets Scripture to fit those preconceived ideas. The result is that the Church is usually conformed to the world rather than transformed by the Word. And then what happens? Man changes his ideas, and the Church has to conform again. This is what happened with Darwinian evolution. So many in the Church adopted evolutionary ideas into the Bible, but now, when it comes to the issue of races, many of the leaders in the world are changing their course. That’s good news, but the Church is left in the dust because it compromised the Word of God on the basis of man’s previous ideas.
The Church needs to take the lead again. We need to let the Word speak for itself rather than filtering it through cultural and worldly thinking. This means that we need to do more than just say we believe the Bible. We need to be students of the Bible, “a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth,” as Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:15. Because, to be honest, the Church has exhibited some very lousy handling of Scripture in order to justify racist presuppositions.
One example of this is the so-called “curse of Ham.” Genesis 9:20–27 records an incident involving Ham, his son Canaan, and the other sons of Noah at which time Noah cursed Canaan. In 1958, Bruce McConkie, apostle of the Mormon council of 12, declared:
We know the circumstances under which the posterity of Cain (and later of Ham) were cursed with what we call Negroid racial characteristics.7
This was used to justify the proclamation given by the church’s prophet Brigham Young that said blacks would never hold priesthood in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. (This “unchangeable” dictate of the Prophet was later rescinded.) In 1929, the Jehovah’s Witnesses said, “The curse that Noah pronounced upon Canaan was the origin of the Black race.”8
But it’s not just members of the cults that try to use this passage to justify racism. Many people from mainline Christian denominations have called me on the radio and asked me about the supposed “curse of Ham.” (Maybe I’m just a tinge overly sensitive to this question, because my name is Ham!) I just ask them to look up the chapter and verse in the Bible. That’s always the end of that caller, because this narrative says nothing about skin color or race. Nothing. It’s a simple case of being programmed by the world to see something in God’s Word that isn’t there at all. (And the curse was on Canaan anyway—not Ham, so my name is clear!)
Third, it’s time to take action.
James 1:22 commands us to be more than just hearers of the Word. We are to prove ourselves “doers of the Word.” We are to be people of action. These actions must come from the heart, from the gut—from a determined conviction that the issues of racism need to be confronted with truth and integrity.
Instead of looking at minor outward differences in our physical features or skin tone, it’s time to look past the reflection of the small percentage of our genes and say, “This is my brother; this is my sister. I am one blood with this person.”
It’s time to fully learn and apply the message that the Lord gave to Samuel. God challenged him to not look at someone’s physical features, skin tone, size, etc. “Do not look at his appearance or the height of his stature . . . for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
The next time you see someone who looks slightly different from you, you should ask, “How can I help them? Do they need my love, my care? Do they need the Lord?” We need to treat people as the Lord did. Jesus continually reached across the invisible barriers of prejudice to love people, to care for people, and to speak truth into people’s lives. He reached out to touch those who were unclean, or those who were plagued with leprosy. He reached across ethnic and gender divisions to speak truth into the life of the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4).
If you truly want to see your life reflect the life of Christ, then you must begin to allow Christ to love others through you, particularly those who are different than you, just as He did. You need to begin to see as God sees. When you see the European, the Arab, the Native American, the African American, the Aborigine, the Asian . . . you need to look at them and see your relatives—fellow human beings with the same values and needs you possess. Just like you, they are seeking love, affirmation, and truth. It’s time for you to show them the way you have found. Cross the street with your hand outstretched ready to shake the hand of another shade of melanin. Be willing to cross to “the other side of the tracks” to fellowship and worship as a diverse and unified body.
Because of your programming by the world and by evolutionary thinking, these acts will require conscious choices—choices based on truth and the clear teaching of Scripture using Christ as your model and your strength. In time you’ll find that you are no longer being conformed to the world, but are more and more transformed by the renewing of your mind. Rather than seeing differences, you will see those from a different people group and immediately think, They’re my relatives!
As the love of Christ begins to stir inside your soul, God will show you what to do. You will make the choice and you will act, but it will actually be Christ loving them through you. Whether it is in small steps or large leaps, God can use you to bridge the so-called “racial barriers” that have been fabricated in our minds through both worldly thinking and evolutionary theory.
What a difference it will make in the lives around you as you begin to think and act that way! What a difference it will make in the world as more and more of us take up this cause! We are reclaiming Darwin’s garden for Christ. By choosing to act, we are pulling out the weeds of evolutionary thought and replanting with seeds of truth, love, understanding, and compassion. That’s what it’s all about.