It was in 2000 that Bob Jones University, bulwark of conservative, right-wing Christianity, lifted its ban on interracial dating. I wrote them a tongue-in-cheek thank-you note, telling them that my non-white wife and I appreciated their validation of our marriage. I received sort of a harumph of a response. To me it was an irrelevancy and a joke – a meaningless, far-away institution, condemned by its own hypocrisy, was announcing the end of the Paleolithic Era.
When the white supremacist marches in Virginia began this last few days, my first response was incredulity. Americans do stupid things to capture the news for a week, and then they move on. I couldn’t believe it was something real or lasting. I was born in Atlanta, and I can remember the two times growing up that I heard someone say something racist. I remember being baffled as a kid, too. At a Boy Scout meeting, one boy told me that he didn’t like black people, and I shot back, “Why!?” He had no answer, and I was confused. I think I join a number of people who greet racist sentiments as the kind of prehistoric tribalism that comes from the same people who look for UFOs, stock their bomb shelters, wave around Bibles they haven’t read, and whisper conspiracy theories.
I see this all at a distance because I am white and entitled. A black friend once asked me what the experience of growing up white in America is like. I must have looked stumped, because he said, “You’ve never had to answer that question, have you?” He had. All his life, he had an answer. Now I do too. Growing up white in America is the experience of comfortable apathy. No one makes you be afraid for yourself and your family and your friends. No one makes your compassion extend to people who are victims to a hatred that seems ridiculous to you. So as a white person, you have to shed complacency, yours and your society’s. You have to raise the general alert that there is an idiocy that is not acceptable among those who actually believe one race should receive favoritism over others, even if you take for granted that it is idiocy. America can’t afford quiet entitlement.
Racists in Virginia need to read the Bibles that I know they own. Jesus told a parable about a good Samaritan (Luke 10). It’s his anti-racist parable. Samaritans were the outside race. They grew up in the wrong place, believed the wrong doctrines, married the wrong people, and weren’t considered pure by the majority. In Jesus’ parable, the outsider is the good guy, the hero, the one who does what is right in the eyes of God. Jesus also stops and has a conversation with a Samaritan woman (a double-whammy of taboo) in plain site of the public (John 4). The Bible crescendoes with the fact that in Christ, racial boundaries are no more (Galatians 3:28). The gospel is an anti-racist manifesto.
My daughter’s skin is not the same color is mine, nor her eyes. She has facial features that aren’t shaped exactly like mine. She is a good metaphor for heaven in that way. Those who hold to racial prejudice condemn themselves to hell. In this life, they will suffer the hell of separation and hatred, and in the next world, they will have to chose between their perceived hell of standing hand-in-hand with every race forever united under Jesus or removal from that – hell itself. Love is the better way.