Editorial Note: This article was first published on the site last winter. We thought it was a good one so we decided to re-post it.
Last week I talked about how interracial dating can go wrong by citing a certain website that is designed exclusively for those desiring only interracial relationships. I noted how this can allow people to develop unhealthy, racially-based fetishes. Since then, some have brought up the question of whether or not interracial dating is Biblical. This argument is not only easily dismantled, but in fact, racist in and of itself.
In order to properly talk about interracial relationships, we must define what race is. The best definition I have found comes from Dr. Mikhail Lyubansky, a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Illinois. He defines race as a “classification of human beings into politically motivated socially constructed categories based on arbitrary phenotypical combinations.” In other words, there is no lasting, biological condition such as race (other than, of course, the human race) — it’s strictly based on societal norms at a given place and time.
Using that definition, we understand that interracial relationships involve two individuals who don’t have similar phenotypical features (in terms of race, we often think of skin tone, bone structure, and hair texture).
The argument that interracial relationships are not Biblical could almost be dismantled by simply saying that race, as we know and understand it (or try to), in America today, simply did not exist when the Bible was written. However, that doesn’t complete the discussion; we must continue.
The idea that interracial relationships are unbiblical was likely created by someone with a white, eurocentric mindset. It is in this mindset that we find the root of systemic American racism. This is also the school of thought from which the concept of inherent superiority and inferiority comes from. It wasn’t until the Europeans saw a need for free labor that they concocted the notion that people who didn’t have pale, melanin deficient skin were inferior to those who did. Using this mentality as their rationale, they invaded Africa, stripping it of its resources, wealth, and most devastatingly, its people, who they took by force during the Atlantic Slave Trade.
Many of the scriptures fallaciously used to promote the view that it’s unbiblical to be in an interracial relationship are based on the perception that many of the people in the Old Testament were white. It’s crucial to understand that “white” as a racial identity didn’t exist until the 1600s and were created solely for economic gain.
Adam was not white. In modern terms, he was a black man. By studying the original language, we can learn that the name Adam means “reddish brown.” A derivative of this same word is used later in Genesis to describe the lentil soup that Esau wanted his son to make for him. If you’ve ever seen lentils, there are many types, but none are white. The most commonly used lentils in this time would have been red/brown and yellow.
Establishing that Adam, and in fact many peoples written about in the Old Testament were not white, as we know it, is just one building block in dismantling the argument that interracial relationships aren’t biblical. Secondly, we have to look at the scriptures that people may misconstrue to say something they really don’t.
We see plenty of times in the Bible where God forbids his people — the Israelites in the Old Testament; the Jews in the New Testament — to intermarry with other people. Yet in every instance where God commands it, his reason was religious, not racial. He doesn’t want His people to be woven together with those who worshiped pagan idols. The best example of this is found in Deuteronomy 7:
“When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you… Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you.” (Deuteronomy 7:1-4, NIV)
Note that in verse four, God’s purpose for forbidding marriage between His chosen people, the Israelites, and the pagan nations was because they would take them “to serve other Gods.” God was concerned, not about their physical appearance, but their spiritual appearance and whether their spouse would distract them from their focus of serving God. In fact, God was so opposed to these nations that, in verse 5, He told the Israelites to “Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire.” But be clear — this is not a racially based hatred, but rather one based in their idol worship and sacrifice.
Another such scripture, this time in the New Testament, is 2 Corinthians 6:14, where Paul writes, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” Some would take “light” and “darkness” to reflect skin tone, yet nothing could be further from the truth.
Looking at the scriptures, many times we see that God is synonymous with the idea of light, and the Devil is referred to as “darkness.” Looking at the scripture in context (which is always imperative when trying to understand scriptures) we can see that Paul says, in the next verses, 15 and 16, “What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?” What Paul is doing is repeating the same principle point multiple times, using different examples. He is striving to convince the believers in Corinth that they, at the most essential level, have nothing in common with unbelievers and therefore shouldn’t be married to them.
It’s clear that there is no scripture to support the idea that interracial relationships are ungodly. Rather what we see is that man made social constructs such as race and racism has clouded the judgment of Christians who have become so in the world that we’ve conformed to the society’s way of separating, classifying and ranking human beings.
The Apostle Paul saw this at work in the ancient society that he lived in. Yet, he refused to conform. In Acts 10:28, Paul (as a Jew, speaking to Gentiles) says,“You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean.” He understood that God’s laws and commandments always overrules those of the society.
Sadly, we seem to have lost a grasp of this concept. We let our churches and, perhaps more importantly, our lives remain separated and segregating — a horrible reflection on Christ and his Kingdom.