Racial reconciliation; Farrakhan’s worldview
May 16, 2006
Racism is despicable in any form. Racism has been defined as a learned belief in racial superiority and includes the belief that race determines one’s intellectual, cultural and moral capacities.The most virulent and systemic form of racism in the history of the United States was the inhuman bondage of Africans prior to the Civil War. Sadly, the end of slavery witnessed the beginning of a new era summarized in the ridiculous concept of “separate, but equal” as articulated in Plessey v. Ferguson. In practice, segregation was never equal, always separate, and constantly dehumanizing.
As a professor at a Southern Baptist seminary, I am acutely aware of the dangers of racist rhetoric. As admitted by our Convention’s 1995 Resolution on Racial Reconciliation, “Many of our Southern Baptist forebears defended the right to own slaves, and either participated in, supported, or acquiesced in the particularly inhumane nature of American slavery.” The 1995 Resolution went on to say, “We lament and repudiate historic acts of evil such as slavery from which we continue to reap a bitter harvest, and we recognize the racism which yet plagues our culture today is inextricably tied to the past.”
In the past, white racists attempted to support their evil worldview by taking the Bible out of context to support their preconceived notions. Two of the most wicked abuses of Scripture were based on Genesis 4 and Genesis 9. From Genesis 4, racists have claimed that some form of black skin was the curse/sign God placed on Cain.From Genesis 9, others suggested that Africans were suffering as slaves because of the curse of Ham. In both cases, not the slightest hermeneutical evidence exists to support these terrible distortions of Scripture. In fact, these are particularly egregious examples of finding a justification for a deplorable status quo. Right-thinking Christians are justifiably offended by such Scripture-twisting.
Each of these theories shares the common lie that some people are better than others because of an innate superiority. A similar lie from a different perspective is advocated by Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam. A devout follower of Elijah Muhammad (1897-1975), Farrakhan believes and teaches that the original race was black and that white people were created by an evil scientist named Yakub. Elijah Muhammad claimed that Yakub performed genetic experiments on the island of Patmos about 6,000 years ago which resulted in the white race. Muhammad repeatedly referred to white people as “devils.” In fact, the Nation of Islam does not want racial reconciliation, but wants to establish “a separate state or territory.” These beliefs concerning the origin of people with Caucasian skin advocated by Louis Farrakhan and Elijah Muhammad should be as deeply offensive to any right-thinking Christian as the perverted white supremacist theories mentioned earlier.
On Oct. 15, 2005, Farrakhan organized and led a large gathering on the Mall in Washington, D.C. This event was in commemoration of the 1995 “Million Man March,” also led by Farrakhan. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Farrakhan’s rallies is that many self-identified Christians attend the events. Beyond racist rhetoric, the Nation of Islam also claims that one Wallace Fard, who mysteriously disappeared in 1934, was Allah in physical form. Furthermore, the Nation of Islam believes that a giant “Mother Plane” or spaceship was constructed ages ago on the Island of Nippon (Japan). This spaceship will be the instrument of judgment on the earth.
In contrast to Farrakhan, the Bible affirms that every human being is created in the image of God and is of immeasurable worth and dignity. Furthermore, Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world, emphasizing the infinite value God places on every human. Christian discipleship entails love and compassion for all people. As Christ-followers, we must demonstrate a consistent and determined lifestyle of kindness and reconciliation. This means a willingness to listen to others who may have suffered wrongs and then to work toward constructive solutions that promote unity and strength, not division.
Tragically, much of the anger reflected by the Nation of Islam is rooted in the all-too-real historical experience of slavery and segregation. However, those evils do not justify reciprocal racism, such as claiming white people were invented by an evil mad scientist. Racism is simply a sin, is never justified, has no part in a Christian ethic, and should not be supported overtly or subtly by Christians. (Dr. Alan Branch is vice president for student development and assistant professor of Christian ethics at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City.)