One Human Family


(system) #1

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/deborah-haarsma-the-presidents-notebook/one-human-family

(Brad Kramer) #2

We encourage discussion on this important and difficult topic. If this is your first time commenting at BioLogos, we request that you read our FAQ/Guidelines before posting. We welcome all perspectives, as long as they are stated graciously, without inflammatory or abusive language.


(Christy Hemphill) #3

"Though genetics doesn’t lead us to race, the social construct of race is very real. "

I appreciate the clarification that just because race is not based on genetic realities, that does not mean it isn’t real. This misconception that “race isn’t real” is something I have seen batted around in articles recently. Just because something is a social/cultural construct doesn’t make it less real. Language and gender roles are human constructs too, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t real and important.

I think the church needs to do a better job acknowledging the reality of race before we can appropriately address race based injustice. It isn’t enough to just point out that we are all genetically very similar and belong to the same human family. True. (And that is an important point to make when addressing ways that science or religion has been used to promote harmful or discriminatory racial distinctions) But hugging someone of a different race and affirming we are all brothers and sisters in the human family doesn’t address all the very real ways that our experiences and perceptions are shaped by the racial categories we identify with and the ones we identify as “other.”


(Jay Johnson) #4

True. And if it is important for BioLogos to address race, as Dr. Haarsma says, then it is important for evangelicals to do some self-evaluation on that subject. Everything that follows is quoted from the 2013 and 2015 PRRI values surveys:

“The face of American society has changed dramatically over the course of a single generation. More than 7-in-10 (71%) seniors (age 65 and older) identify as white Christian (29% white evangelical Protestant, 23% white mainline Protestant, and 17% white Catholic). By contrast, less than 3-in-10 (28%) Millennials (age 18-29) identify as white Christian (10% white evangelical Protestant, 9% white mainline Protestant, and 6% white Catholic).”

The average age of evangelicals is 55.

“White Christians strongly embrace the belief that American culture has changed for the worse since the 1950s. Three-quarters (75%) of white evangelical Protestants and more than 6-in-10 white mainline Protestants (61%) and white Catholics (62%) say American culture and way of life has changed for the worse over the past half-century. … By contrast, nearly two-thirds of Jewish Americans (65%) and majorities of Hispanic Catholics (57%) and black Protestants (58%) believe that American culture has changed for the better.”

Why do Jews, blacks, and Hispanics believe that our culture has changed for the better since the 1950s? Hmmmm. Could it have anything to do with desegregation? The white evangelical nostalgia for the past engendered by the Culture War will not, in fact, make America great again. It is divisive.

"Roughly four in ten Mormons (38%), white Catholics (41%), and white mainline Protestants (43%) say that immigrants present a threat to American culture. White evangelical Protestants stand out as the only religious community in which a majority (53%) believe that immigrants threaten traditional American customs and values".

It seems to me that if these types of attitudes toward race and “the other” are a majority opinion among white evangelicals, then evangelicalism is in severe trouble within two generations, based simply on demographics.

Brothers and sisters, something has to change!


(Christy Hemphill) #5

Maybe they should pay more attention to their leadership: http://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2018/february/max-lucado-beth-moore-evangelicals-immigration-dreamers-ref.html#storystream


(Randy) #6

I appreciate this thorough discussion that avoids the pitfalls of extreme statements.


(Gary John) #7

Race matters.

People are tribal by nature. Blood is thicker than water. Good fences make good neighbors.

Israel has a Jewish immigration policy based on DNA. They want to preserve their Jewish identity. Good on them. Only whites are taught to pretend race doesn’t matter and races are interchangeable.

Many churches in the US are segregated. It’s not a bad thing. Different races evolved different traits, natures, and temperaments. They need their own way of worship.


(Andrew M. Wolfe) #8

Who do you know that teaches this? Progressives sure aren’t.

Do you have any evidence or examples of this?

What happens with interracial adoptions, in your view?

(I don’t think you know what you’re talking about, to be blunt, but I say this in the kindest, most non-trolling tone you can imagine.)

“White” and “black” are only races in the American imagination.

Spend a few months in Africa and your perceptions will change. You’ll start thinking someone looks “light-skinned” when just a few months before you would have called them all “black” and probably not even seen a difference between black and brown. Why? Because skin color is gradated, and culturally conditioned. In America, we have a “one drop” definition: One drop of African blood, and you’re considered “black.” This is a cultural definition, and it informs how we perceive the categories of race. But this is by no means immutable. In most places in Africa, you look around and everyone is dark black, and then the few people who are a lighter brown color stand out as different.

Note that the category “white” is also culturally conditioned. It is not a positive term, denoting a definable group. It is a negative term. It only means “not black,” as I described with reference to the One Drop rule. There is no one group of traits that belongs to a “white race,” because “whiteness” is actually heterogeneous. In fact, which ethnic groups were allowed to be “white” has changed; I understand that newer waves of (now considered) white immigrants were originally not generally called “white.”

This is why it would be socially acceptable to celebrate “Swiss German Mennonite Heritage Day” but not “White Day.” That’s because Swiss German Mennonite is a positive term, but “white” is just a grab bag of people who were lucky enough to avoid the social stigma and structural oppression of slavery, and everything that came with it and flowed from it.


(Andrew M. Wolfe) #9

P.S. I find your comment offensive and potentially inflammatory but I do hope the moderators won’t delete it yet. When possible, it’s better to discuss things calmly than to shame people and force such ideas underground, where they don’t go away.


(Lynn Munter) #10

Citation needed.


(Laura) #11

Tribalism has been the way of the world, as has war, greed, selfishness… but when I read the words of Jesus I see a call to something different – grace, love, and a view of something bigger than my own DNA.

From Luke 8:19-21

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they couldn’t get to him because of the crowd. Someone told Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, and they want to see you.”
Jesus replied, “My mother and my brothers are all those who hear God’s word and obey it.”

Even in a society steeped in ideas of “blood and turf,” Jesus led them to something bigger and far more important. (And yes, I believe race is real, and ignoring it can be harmful (mostly for minorities) but we shouldn’t use it as a means of superiority.)


(Phil) #12

While disturbing, so long as we can discuss the topic with grace and respect for others, your post provides fertile ground to plow.
Let me share the experience of our local church. I live in an area where there is a low percentage of African-Americans, with the demographics having Latino as the predominent minority (it is ridiculous how much you have think about terms to avoid giving offense!) and after Katrina among other factors, our community’s black population increased a bunch as a whole church community came from New Orleans. That community since has fragmented a bit, and we now have half a dozen new families in our church that previously only had an occasional black attendee. It has made a huge difference in our church to have a more diverse body. We have added one of the new members to our staff, and are supporting him as he attends seminary preparing for the ministry, and overall our church as been blessed. The last year or so has been difficult for race related issues in our society and in the church, and to share those struggles with people you worship and commune with adds a great deal to understanding.


(Christy Hemphill) #13

You are talking about culture, not something biological or genetic. Culture is transmitted socially not biologically.


(Christy Hemphill) #14

Social scientists say “white culture” is something describable in positive terms, it is not simply the absence of “ethnic-ness.”

I found the book Understanding Whiteness very helpful, because I think a lot of white people insist that they don’t have a definable culture, only the “other” groups do. But this is just an example of a “white culture as normative” fallacy.


(Andrew M. Wolfe) #15

We’re talking about two different things. I don’t disagree with you. I’m talking about what criteria decides who’s in and out of the white club (so to speak). You’re talking about the culture of the club.

Thanks for the book recommendation.

When I was in InterVarsity in college, I had the naive view you’re describing. People talked about building a multiethnic fellowship and I was like, “Um, we are multiethnic! And hey, we’re not the ones separating ourselves! Doors are always open if those clubby folks over there care to join the rest of us!”

With time, mercifully, I came to understand that we had a culture, and that I was, generally speaking, really only accepting of black folks who chose to put on a public face within my culture to interact with us. I felt more uncomfortable when in their cultural element. … which is exactly what our leadership encouraged us to do: Go to the black fellowships and black churches and learn from them, because only then could we really understand the cultural dynamics at play and what would be needed to cultivate a true and humble multiethnicity.

I’m grateful for those leaders!


(Mervin Bitikofer) #16

Tim Wise, a current pro-civil rights speaker, shares some history (in this video --starting at about 33 minutes in) that the whole concept of “white race” is pure invention from the slave-owning aristocracy in the Americas in the late 1700s [edit: actually late 1600s now that I went back and listened again]. According to him, the poor white share croppers of the south were in danger of joining with the slaves against all the wealthy land-owners – so the elites played the “race card” and kept the poor white farmers from joining with the blacks by giving them a token advantage. The new psychology being … “well I may be poor, but at least I’m ‘white’.” Prior to that (and even after) there were a lot of people (Irish, Native Americans and such) who were not considered part of the elite even though their skin was not dark colored. So it was more about class division and privilege than about actual skin color. And even if your skin was the “right” color – you were still held out of any financially elite group (as the Irish would be able to tell us.)

So does this mesh with or contradict what is being discussed here? If his (Tim’s) history class is overly revisionist, I would like to know where he gets it wrong.


(Jay Johnson) #17

This!

This!

This!

Check out my little chart here, which I made from the PRRI data. Just looking at three indicators – attitudes toward immigrants, the percent of white Christians in the population, and a state’s religious diversity – you can almost predict the outcome of the presidential election. I sorted first on the percent of white Christians, and second on the “fear of immigrants.” (By the way, “religious diversity” is not necessarily different religions. For instance, White Evangelical Protestant is a separate category than White Mainline Protestant. Thus, a state like Minnesota has a great deal of religious diversity, and a whole lot of white folks.) Not until you get to #25 Rhode Island do you find a state with three out of four measures falling on the “blue” side of the equation.

Here is the point (and, yes, I do have one): The problem is called “empathy.” Notice that the states that are most homogeneous are also the most fearful of others. White Christians must cross that divide, but it takes effort. Phil’s church “lucked” into it, in a sense. We should be more purposeful in building bridges of empathy between all Christian communities, and thus be an example of what “love thy neighbor” actually means in practice.

That’s my story, and I’m stickin to it!

All States Threaten US customs & values Strengthen US society % White Christian Religious Diversity
National Avg. 34 50 43 0.723
1 North Dakota 39 43 71 0.647
2 South Dakota 43 40 68 0.628
3 Iowa 39 44 64 0.679
4 West Virginia 47 35 61 0.600
5 Kentucky 44 40 61 0.609
6 Utah 33 40 61 0.555
7 Minnesota 38 45 59 0.729
8 Arkansas 44 43 58 0.489
9 Missouri 36 45 58 0.613
10 Wyoming 48 38 57 0.637
11 Tennessee 43 42 57 0.533
12 Indiana 40 43 57 0.651
13 Montana 39 46 57 0.688
14 Idaho 41 46 56 0.672
15 Ohio 40 45 56 0.699
16 Maine 40 41 56 0.806
17 Nebraska 36 45 56 0.717
18 Wisconsin 36 46 56 0.752
19 Pennsylvania 38 47 55 0.759
20 Alabama 47 36 53 0.477
21 New Hampshire 40 42 53 0.781
22 Kansas 36 50 53 0.699
23 South Carolina 38 44 51 0.528
24 Michigan 38 44 50 0.731
25 Rhode Island 29 58 50 0.771

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #18

Fascinating tidbit in here: The lowest fear indicator here is in Utah. Why?

I have my suspicions: I think it’s because a substantial portion of their population goes on a two-year mission when they’re college-age. Builds empathy, opens the mind, lowers xenophobia.

Now if we could just get evangelicals to be as globally minded as their Mormon friends…


(Jay Johnson) #19

That is my guess, too.


(Jay Johnson) #20

You can’t see it on the “Top 25,” but all the Western border states plus Florida and New York have low fears of immigrants. Again, it’s simple exposure. People fear who/what they don’t know.