Kentucky Fried Bible Reading: Is Interracial Marriage Immoral?

12/02/2011 11:08 am ET | Updated Feb 01, 2012
  • G. Elijah Dann Ph.D.; Th.D.; Philosophy & Religion, Simon Fraser University, Author

Of course interracial marriage - or, for that matter, interracial anything - isn't immoral.

Once again, what gets conservative Christians all worked up turns out to be quite wrong and just plain bizarre.

In the case of the Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church in Kentucky, and its banning of interracial couples from membership and from participating in certain worship activities, it's a return to old, visceral prejudices and insular thinking.

Standing on the side-lines, the rest of us believe it's all wrong-headed. We are right. Yet there's great value in delving into the archaeology of these prejudices. What are their sources? How did they originate?

This Baptist congregation isn't the first to imagine that God condemns interracial marriage. Here's a link to the description of its history in the US.

A more recent example is Bob Jones University, which, up until 2000, disallowed interracial dating because they thought it would be symbolic of an ungodly "blending together."

Where did such an interpretation of the Bible come from, and does this mean that God is mad at me for liking smoothies? Is my blender a tool of the Devil?

The aversion to blending together is taken from the story about the Tower of Babel, as described in Genesis 11:1-9. As it goes, at the time, the people of the earth were still unified in their language and race. Working together, they decide they can build a tower that will reach up into heaven. Seen by God as an intrusion into his sovereignty, he curses them to speak in different languages. This makes it impossible for them to work together, and as a result they disperse, spreading out across the earth.

I doubt if Chomsky would agree with this description of how various languages arose in human history, but we'll ignore that matter for now. In any case, the administration at Bob Jones University, and now this Baptist congregation in Kentucky, sees interracial dating and marriage as an undoing of God's judgment.

No wonder the Neo-Atheists do so well with their books.

If Christians really took this interpretation seriously, why would it only apply to interracial relationships? It would also condemn every other act of blending together of humanity, from learning other languages to even getting to know people from different parts of the world. And, quite seriously, from blending together other things like rhubarb-strawberry pies to manufacturing hybrid cars. Should I no longer watch basketball, baseball and football because interracial teams compete together? The symbolism is rich here. Don't forget that Leviticus extends "mixing together" to the condemnation of wearing a shirt with two different fabrics. I take it that the Kentucky parishioners who disallow interracial marriage have no problem wearing shirts with a cotton and linen blend.

At least the former would be contrary to a very important activity by Christians: missionary work in foreign countries and translating the Bible into all known languages. And weren't some of the last words of Christ for his followers to go into all the world?

Of course the Kentucky Baptists, and others who feel threatened by interracial relationships, can't consistently hold to their prejudices. Or, in this case, a consistent interpretation of the Bible. It also doesn't take much imagination to think that their hysteria is really something much more human and base.


As usual, the very thing that the Bible really condemns - treating others as inferior - is twisted around to say the opposite.