Race: A Brief History of its Origin, Failure and Alternative

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #28


Welcome to BioLogos.

I agree with you. Integration of the Afro Church with the Euro Church resulting in a bigger White would be a crime. I think that it is a symptom of their arrogance that most Euro Christians think that they are superior theologically to their Afro bothers and sisters.

We are in similar situations, we are whites who have found a home in the Black Church. The main difference is that you found a home in a Black Baptist Church and I in a Black Methodist (A.M.E.) Church.

I have not found hostility to science in my denomination. What I have found is a concern for social justice, a desire for a relationship with Jesus, and a need for education. Emotional content is important, but emotion alone is not enough. We need to combine emotion with something for the mind. We need to develop a ,Black theology which is not as individualistic as in the White Churches.

If you are interested in how we can reconcile science and Christianity, I recommend my book, Darwin’s Myth.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #29

Yes. The role of God in creation is creating order as opposed to chaos.

Genesis 1:31 (NIV2011)
31 God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.

(Harry V Harlan) #31


Thank you for writing me. Let me find a picture of me and my wife and I will include it. When she came home today she said that she didn’t want her picture going out to someone she does not know. So, that will have to wait. I have heard of your book and I will get it. I also have written a book about Black Theology. I never got it copy-written and I just made enough copies at Kinkos each year to provide for my class. It is a history of American Black Theology. It talks a little about the A. M. E. church (see Chapter 7). If you like I will send the electronic version to you. Please send me a better email address so I can send you my book.

Thanks again,



These seem to be two different questions. I can’t run as fast as Usain Bolt, but does that mean I have less worth as a human being? Of course not. There is absolutely nothing wrong with pointing to the physical and genetic differences between humans. Where it goes wrong is using those differences to unfairly justify discrimination.

ALL of us are different from each other at a genetic level (except for identical twins), so it doesn’t make sense to say that one person is worth less as a human for simply having different alleles than another person.

That seems like a different issue, the infamous Problem of Evil that has bounced around philosophical and theological circles since the beginning of philosophy and theology.

It also moves into the territory of the Naturalistic Fallacy, where we determine what is moral by what is natural. Life threatening infections are natural, yet we think preventing and treating these infections is moral. There is absolutely no reason start with “this happens and is natural” and move to “therefore we should encourage these events”.

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #33

Hi Ken,

Welcome to the Forum! Not an official welcome, as I’m nobody official, but a warm one nonetheless.

I for one am uncomfortable with the pitch to stop “talking in terms of” race in favor of ethnicity. Race is indeed a social construct, and it is arbitrary—but it needs to be not ignored in a “colorblind” sort of fashion but rather recognized and discussed as the social construct that it is.

Otherwise, we will never be able to find the unity we seek, because we will not have come to terms with the history of race-based oppression that we find in America (and elsewhere), listened, repented, sought reconciliation, etc.

I don’t know the first thing about you, so this may not be you, but a lot of the time when we white guys say things like that we’ve found no theological basis for hostility with regards to race, we want peace, which is good, but many of us fail to recognize and think through the real historical basis for grievances within the black community.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts in response — I may well be talking past you, but I wanted to engage and try to draw out your thoughts a bit more.

(Ken Cukrowski) #34

Hello, Mr. Wolfe:

I appreciate your hospitable welcome to the forum and your question.

I share your concern–that any attempt to ignore wrongs committed in the name of race would be a wrong turn and not helpful to healing and reconciliation.

My comment/question comes from three places. First, as a professor at a seminary, I look for ways that my faith might inform my understanding (hence the moves with Genesis and Galatians), even though I recognize that others may not share my same presuppositions.

Second, I’m probably influenced by a recent book I read, “Disunity in Christ” (2013) by Christena Cleveland, who is a social psychologist who works in the area of multicultural issues. An African-American woman, she argues that our tribalism divides more than it unites us: “And hopefully, this book has also helped you understand that the primary problem is that our identities our too small. We tend to rely most on our smaller, cultural identities and ignore our larger, common identity as members of the body of Christ” (177).

Third, I’m very interested in unity and ways to move our culture together rather than apart. And I wonder whether more capacious visions, such as that depicted in MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which both names the wrongs of the past and present, and appeals to a common humanity (and country), have a better chance of bringing folks together.

I don’t claim to know all the answers, but I’d like to be in conversation with others so-minded who are looking for ways to promote a common good for us all. I hope that my questions are heard as invitations to dialogue and opportunities for mutual learning and understanding.

Thank you!

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #35

Thanks for clarifying. It appears I did indeed have the wrong idea from what you wrote! Christena Cleveland is fantastic. I’ve only read a few blog posts of hers (some years ago, at that), but I loved what I read. Sounds like I need to take a look at her 2013 book and understand her approach better.

Thanks for the tip!

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #36

@Cukrowski wrote:

Could we say that race, much like gender (vs. sex), is a social construct, and it would be much more helpful to talk in terms of ethnicity? That is, to divide people based on skin color (for instance) is as arbitrary as categorizing humans based on height or hair color?


Let me make one thing very clear. “Race” is not the problem. Racism is the problem. Race put the problem on others. Racism puts the problem on us, where it belongs.

Gender is not a purely social construct. Men and women are different. That does lead to different roles in society, which are a social construct. “Race” is better understood as ethnicity, but that does not negate the situation where “Caucasians” originate in Europe, “Negroes” originate in Africa, “Orientals” originate in the Far East, and “Native Americans” who originate in the Western hemisphere. Others do not fit into any of these racial/ethnic groups, such as the Indians from India and Semitic peoples.

The color of our skin does indicate who we are in terms of ethnicity, like it or not. The fact is that Jesus taught us not to discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity Period.

Please do not think that African Americans are embarrassed about their “race” or ethnicity. Yes, ethnicity is largely a social construct that can be changed. We tend to idealize our ethnicity and stereotype the ethnicity of others. The goal we need to pursue is to breakdown stereotypes and evaluate people are persons and not as a member of a group, just and Jesus taught us and demonstrated to us as He encountered persons who were not Jewish.

(Ken Cukrowski) #37

I saw the movie “Black Panther” last night. I appreciate the message of “brothers and sisters” and “one single tribe” at the end of the film:

“Wakanda will no longer watch from the shadows. We can not. We must not. We will work to be an example of how we, as brothers and sisters on this earth, should treat each other. Now, more than ever, the illusions of division threaten our very existence. We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another, as if we were one single tribe.”

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #38

Jesus taught that lesson long ago, yet we allow the foolish to run our nation and burn what bridges that exist.

When are we going to learn what is important?

(Jay Johnson) #39

And here is a sad story that I just ran across in the NY Times: A Quiet Exodus: Why Black Worshipers Are Leaving White Evangelical Churches

A representative quote from the story: “Everything we tried is not working,” said Michael Emerson, the author of “Divided by Faith,” a seminal work on race relations within the evangelical church. “The (2016) election itself was the single most harmful event to the whole movement of reconciliation in at least the past 30 years,” he said. “It’s about to completely break apart.”

(Christy Hemphill) #40

I read that article last night. But I was left wondering if it was really about race, not just a comment on the divisive political climate. I never felt comfortable in evangelical churches in Texas either, and the one I went to had a significant Latino population and some blacks. But it seemed like everyone was socially conservative. My church in Chicago is less racially diverse, but far more politically diverse, and far more hospitable to people with more progressive/liberal political leanings. White evangelical does not equal die hard Republican in all parts of the country.

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #41

I read it last night, too, and forwarded it to the one stalwart black member of our white-majority, religious-right-leaning church, who is a friend of ours and someone we pray with regularly. She admitted it struck a chord.

But (in answer to your comment here) can you really divide race and politics in 2018? As the article makes clear, these things were always sort of not far beneath the surface, but the Trump phenomenon has made it all quite explicit and clear-cut.

(Jay Johnson) #42

True, but we are all painted with that same brush in the eyes of outsiders. “Evangelical” is rapidly taking on the same negative connotation as “Fundamentalist.” I wouldn’t be surprised to see a new label emerge in the next decade.

(Christy Hemphill) #43

In certain parts of the country, maybe. My church draws from political districts where the Republicans don’t even bother to run candidates. Most of the people grew up blue collar and Catholic. The Democratic primaries are the elections and labor unions are super influential.

I was ready to never identify as evangelical again after the election, but Mark Galli talked me down from the ledge. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2016/november-web-only/should-evangelicals-part-ways.html

But I have noticed even CT has been slowly backing away from the word lately. Scot McKnight advises we all just walk away. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2017/10/16/burying-word-evangelical/ In terms of baggage, it’s a sad day when I feel more comfortable calling myself a Baptist than an Evangelical.


I don’t think they have been separable since the founding of the US. Slavery is America’s original sin, and it has echoed all the way through US history. All you need to do is look at the Civil Rights Act which led to the defection of the Dixiecrats to the Republican party in the 1960’s to get a feel for how long race and politics have been intertwined even in more modern times. I still think that the strong ties between the conservative church and the Republican party is a hangover from the politics of segregation.


I agree. It is somewhat ironic that the Evangelical movement was a very progressive movement that disagreed with many things found in the fundamentalist wing of Christianity. I think the founders of the Jesus movement would be very distressed if they saw their work being melded into the very things they were against.

Hopefully, more moderate and progressive voices in the church can start to be heard more widely. I think that would be good for all of us, believers and non-believers.

(Christy Hemphill) #46

4 posts were split to a new topic: Atlantic article, Evangelicals, and the culture war

(Bill Wald) #47

Truth is where you find it.

“Race” is an exact equivalent to “breed,” refers to a subspecies. The recent statistical science of DNA genetics demonstrates it. Some Right wing Protestant Dispensational Christians think DNA research has identified ancient Jewish Priest markers and those people will be the priests when the Temple in Jerusalem is rebuilt. see google/wiki

(Christy Hemphill) #48

No it isn’t. Humans aren’t bred, for one thing. There is often more genetic diversity between two people identified as the same race than there is between two people identified as different races. Two people from the continent of Africa who are both identified as black are likely to have quite a bit of genetic variation, because Africa has the greatest genetic diversity in the human population. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1893020/