Shouldn’t Christians use biblical truth and language to encourage understanding and acceptance of our human oneness—the scientific fact that there is biologically only one race?
You’re right that the category of race plays a huge and often divisive role in today’s culture. And yes, the Bible certainly provides a compelling vision of human oneness—God as Creator of all (as in Genesis 1 or Acts 17:26), and Christ’s redemption establishing a community in which sinful divisions are rendered obsolete (as in Gal. 3:27-28).
However, the fact that Scripture shows racial categories to be, in the end, theologically inconsequential does not mean that those categories have no relevance for Christians. Similarly, the fact that science shows no genetic basis for “race” is not the end of the conversation. Biological reality is not the only kind of reality. And God’s creative intent and redemptive work are not the only relevant theological truths.
Social and cultural realities, even if not rooted in biology or ultimately sanctioned by theology, are still real. Race, though an idea invented in human history, is all too real because society has threaded that category into its institutions and ways of organizing life, usually with an intent to exclude or dominate. Race, in short, is a product of racism. And sadly, Christianity contributed to the making of the notion of race in its involvement with patterns of Western colonialism that are, also sadly, still with us today.
Perhaps ironically, then, working to transform today’s cultural conversation toward a biblical vision of humanity’s unity requires paying attention to the historical and social reality of race in relation to the sin of racism and, through the Spirit, doing what we can in our churches, our friendships, our workplaces, our childrearing, and our voice on social policies to remedy the injustice of racism. It is by addressing the wrongness of racism, not by ignoring the concept of race, that Christians best testify to our human oneness.
About the Author
Matt Lundberg is the director of the de Vries Institute for Global Faculty Development at Calvin University. He and his family are members of Boston Square Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich.