Racism in “Christian” America

How can a nation that was built on slavery and that's still full of racial discrimination today possibly have "biblical roots"? I've been hurt by racism in so-called "Christian" America, and I just don't understand why so many conservative evangelicals say this country is based on "Christian values." As an African-American who has faced racial hatred, I find this perspective unbelievable. If that's Christianity, then I want nothing to do with it!

Before saying anything else, we want you to know that we understand your perspective and empathize with your feelings. Racial hatred and discrimination are more than just glaring social injustices. They’re also a direct affront to God and an insult to the entire human family. Racism runs directly counter to everything the Gospel represents. It saddens us deeply to know that you’ve experienced its toxic effects. True Christians must oppose such attitudes with every ounce of strength God gives them. This is implied in our calling as disciples of Christ. Jesus died on the cross to redeem men and women of every race, color, and ethnic background. He lives today to affirm the infinite value of all people, regardless of nationality, race, development, appearance, or ability.

On a related point, you are absolutely right to suggest that there is no such thing as a “Christian nation” (see John 18:36). Christ’s kingdom knows no national boundaries. It can’t submit to national definitions or identifications. It is a timeless, transcendent reality. It’s a place where “there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female” and where “all are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). This explains in part the painful dissonance you’ve perceived between all the talk about “Christian America” and your personal experience of “racist America.”

But only in part. Why do we says this? Because we think it’s important to point out that America’s goodness is not completely overshadowed by her imperfections. What’s more, when we say that there’s no such thing as a thoroughly “Christian nation,” this doesn’t mean that a nation can’t build its foundational documents and governmental policies on biblical principles. This is exactly what our Founding Fathers did when they wrote the Declaration of Independence and framed the Constitution of the United States. That’s not to imply that the Founding Fathers were all dedicated Christians or that they were completely free of error, oversight, or hypocrisy. But it does mean that Christian principles had an important influence on the development of our country’s most basic institutions during its most formative years.

To put it another way, we realize that some of our forebears lived lives that were less than blameless from a Christian perspective. In particular, many of them were too shortsighted to see how their own fervently held convictions on the subject of equality, freedom, and biblical truth applied to their slaves. But this is not the same thing as saying that America was “built on slavery.” As we see it, racially based slavery was an unfortunate flaw in the fabric of early American life. It’s not the stuff of which it was made. History proves this: read the lives of the abolitionists and you’ll discover that it was America’s Christian heritage which eventually spelled the end of slavery and which continues to make the battle against racism possible.

If you don’t find this answer convincing, or if you simply want to talk about your feelings and experiences at greater length with a member of our team, call us. Our staff of pastoral counselors would love to speak with you over the phone.


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