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Racism and the Church PDF  | Print |  E-mail


The History, Scope, and Nature of the Problem
[Article Excerpted from Author’s Must We Be Silent?]
Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, PhD
Director, Public Campus Ministries, Michigan Conference

“Of all the major institutions in our society, the church is still the most segregated. Americans of different races work together, play together, study together, and entertain each other. But seldom do they pray or worship together”     --David R. Williams                                

Racism in the Church

    The world today has become one global city whose highways are interconnected by advanced networks of transportation and communication technology. However, we are yet able to find a sound basis for overcoming hostilities among people of different ethnic and racial backgrounds.

    While it is true that many lands are expending much effort to kill racism in its various forms, one can still point to the Rodney King race riots in Los Angeles, the ethnic cleansing in former Yugoslavia, the hundreds of thousands being killed in tribal warfare in Africa, the violence and bloodshed in Asia, the Middle East and Russia, the activities of neo-Nazi hate groups in Europe, the USA and South Africa, as evidences of the fact that racism, “although repeatedly killed, is nevertheless undying.” [1]

    Racism may be outlawed in the books and laws of the lands, but it remains written in the hearts of people. Unfortunately, the Christian church, the body of people constituted and appointed by Christ to be a counter-voice in our world, is not totally immune to the virus of racism. Forgetting their status as “resident aliens” in this world, and perhaps, out of comfort, fear or blindness, Christians, by and large, have capitulated to the racism of the world. [2] "By and large, the people who have been the racists of the modern world have also been Christians or the heirs of Christian civilization. Among large numbers of Christians, racism has been the other faith or one of the other faiths." [3]

    Decades of research offer compelling, but sobering, evidence that more racial prejudice exists in the Christian church than outside of it. For example, several years ago two sociologists concluded their major study on racism in the following words: “Although the Protestant churches stress (1) the dignity and worth of the individual and (2) the brotherhood of man, the racial behavior patterns of most church members have not been substantially affected by these principles.” [4]

    Recently, an Adventist sociologist and research scientist at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, also updated Adventist Review readers on current studies that have been conducted in the United States on the relationship between racial prejudice and religion. He reported that “there is more racial prejudice in the Christian church than outside it, that church members are more prejudiced than nonmembers, that churchgoers are more biased than those who do not attend, and that regular attenders are more prejudiced than those who attend less often. It’s also been shown that persons who hold conservative theological beliefs are more likely to be prejudiced than those who do not. [5]

    The above scientific studies have yet to be contradicted. Despite the claims by some that there is “racial progress” in the church, very little is being done. Not too long ago, Christianity Today Institute devoted an entire issue to the “The Myth of Racial Progress.” Billy Graham remarked in that publication that even though racial and ethnic hostility is the number one social problem facing the world and the church, “evangelical Christians have turned a blind eye to racism or have been willing to stand aside while others take the lead in racial reconciliation, saying it was not our responsibility.” [6]

    Racism and the Adventist Church. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is not altogether immune from this infection of racism. Adventist history bears eloquent testimony to the fact that not only has their church been silent and insensitive to racial issues, but also it has often been guilty of ethnic or racial prejudice, discrimination, pride, condescension, paternalism, and scorn to some groups within its membership. [7]

    After noting “some marginal progress” during the past three decades in the area of race relations, one prominent North American church leader concedes that “Adventists remain as racially separated as the rest of Christianity and the rest of society. It is still true that 11 o’clock Sabbath morning is the most segregated hour for Adventism in North America. . . . Our church is still riddled with racism and segregation.” The church administrator continues:
Institutional racism is a costly separation, and when African Americans speak frankly to their white counterparts, they receive apathy, indifference, or the attitude that the issue is not really important. Blacks feel angry, hurt, and betrayed by what they see as society’s and the Church’s failure. White racism in white institutions must be eradicated by white people and not just black people. In fact, white racism is primarily a white problem and responsibility. This includes the Seventh-day Adventist Church. We must get our house in order. [8]

    Seventh-day Adventist historian, Richard W. Schwartz, has summarized in his Light Bearers to the Remnant how this racial attitude was manifested in the Adventist Church:
Afro-Americans were not the only group to be treated for years in a paternal, patronizing way. Adventist missionaries going to Africa, Asia, and Latin America in the early years of the twentieth century did not escape the general Western imperialistic attitude practiced by the colonial powers. In general this attitude tended to equate European culture, education, and technology with progress. The more another culture varied from the European or North American model, the more backward it was assumed to be. It was easy to conclude that nationals from non-Western areas could not be trusted in leadership roles until they had absorbed Western ways as well as Adventist doctrines. [9]
    One example of how European missionaries viewed Africans is captured in the 1931 Working Policy of the SDA church in South Africa. The caption under “Hints to Our Missionaries” reads:
It is not customary for Europeans to entertain [African] natives at meals, and the native does not expect it.  If you wish to give one a meal, let him eat it outside from a plate kept especially for natives.
Teach your mission students to shake hands only when you, or any white, makes an advance.  It is most embarrassing to have a native come up to you in the streets of a city and offer to shake hands.  You may not mind, but others will look askance at you and it will bring discredit to your work (see, Constitution, By-laws, Working Policy of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists [Southern African Division, 1931], 139).
    I am sure that there is an explanation for a statement of this kind.  Still, it aptly describes what Schwartz refers to as the paternal and patronizing practice of Adventist missionaries who went to Africa, Asia, and Latin America with the “imperialistic attitude practiced by the colonial powers.”

    Perceptive Adventists can also point to the cultural snobbery that has been displayed by some in the “church of the West” as they have related to the “rest of the Church” over the question of women’s ordination. For example, when at Utrecht the world church rejected as unbiblical the North American Division’s request for divisional ordination, some Adventist scholars and leaders in the United States could not accept the fact that Adventists from the Third World were capable of serious theological reflection. They simply looked down upon them as theologically and ethically “immature.” [10] Or in the words of an European church administrator who recently wrote in the Adventist Review, those opposed to the ideology of women’s ordination belong to the “fundamentalist fringe” [11]  Though not always acknowledged, and though not always intended, these kinds of statements reflect cultural arrogance, if not racial prejudice. [12]

    Explaining why Adventists have “had their share of casualties over racial issues,” another church historian argues that “racial prejudice, like other sins, is not totally eradicated in most Christians at conversion. Nor are the racial tensions embodied in a culture easy for the churches existing in that culture to overcome.” [13]

    The fact that many conferences in the United States have been organized along racial lines is another evidence of the reality of racism in the Seventh-day Adventist church. A recent indication of the challenge of racism in our church is the broad agenda set forth, and the wide representation of people, at the 1999 “Race Summit” held by the North American Division. [14]  These facts confirm that, as a church, we still have a long way to go on this issue of racism.

    It is rather ironical that the professions (like, politics business, industry, the military, basketball, baseball, football, and entertainment) whose activities are often at cross purposes with the teachings of Christianity are doing more to heal racial divisions in society than are Christians. We may discredit their efforts by arguing that they do so because of the fear of legislative pressures or sanctions from secular authorities, or the violent protests of individuals who can no longer accept the racial status quo. We may even discount secular efforts at curbing racism on the grounds that these are done for some monetary gain. But as Frank Stagg reminded us half a century ago, "To say that these have done it for money removes none of the sting, for it is a humiliation if a pagan for money effects good which a Christian fails to effect for love." [15]

    To understand why racism lies embedded in the attitudes of many Christians, we shall briefly offer a historical background to contemporary racism. We shall also attempt to gain an understanding of the nature of racism. These may explain why Christians have been slow in responding to racial problems.

A History of Western Racism
    Wherever there have been different groups of people, ethnocentrism and racism have also existed. Ethnocentrism is the belief in the unique value and rightness of one's own group, and hence the tendency to evaluate other races or groups by criteria that is specific to one's own. Ethnocentrism is not necessarily racism. It turns into racism when an ethnic group believes that it is superior to all others and transposes that belief into serving the vested interest of that particular ethnic or racial group by whatever means necessary.

    Thus, ethnocentrism becomes racism when the belief in the superiority of one race over another shapes the attitude or behavior of a group, or when that belief is transposed into an ideology of power. Racial prejudice is the tendency to misjudge an individual primarily on the basis of their identity within an ethnic or racial group. Fascism, for example, is nationalism built on racism.

    Racism, the suggestion that some races are inherently superior and inferior, is a fairly recent phenomenon, dating back some three-hundred years. [16]   We can trace the rise and development of modern race and color prejudices to four major historical events: [17]   (1) the discovery of America and the establishment of trade routes to India; (2) the development of the slave trade; [18]   (3) the industrial revolution and its contribution to the enormous wealth and prestige of the white people of Europe and America; [19]  and (4) Darwin's doctrine of evolution, with the idea of the survival of the fittest, which “was warmly accepted by the people of European stock who saw no reason to doubt that they were the fittest of all.” [20]

    Significant in this connection is the “social Darwinism” of English philosopher Herbert Spencer. He coined the phrase "survival of the fittest" in reference to the evolution of cultures and Darwin adopted the term to describe the outcome of the process of natural selection. [21]  Spencer argued that since some populations are “naturally unfit,” they represent a biologically or inherently inferior group of individuals. This teaching has not only provided “the ultimate license for social policies of domination” but also “has lent spurious credence to racism.” [22]

    This spirit of inherent superiority characterized the attitude of the European nations as they expanded overseas, competing for colonial power and the conversion of “heathen” natives. Since the European conquerors possessed superior economic and military technology over the enslaved people of color, they were able to explain the superiority of their cultural apparatus in terms of a superior human endowment. In other words, the European exploiters “read from right to left—from cultural effect to a natural or congenital cause.” [23]

    Modern racism in the West, therefore, arose as an ideological justification for the constellations of economic and political power which were expressed in colonialism and slavery. But “gradually the idea of the superior race was heightened and deepened in meaning and value so that it pointed beyond the historical structures of relation, in which it emerged, to human existence itself.” The result of this shift was that the alleged superior race “became and now persists as a center of value and an object of devotion,” with multitudes of people finding their sense and “power of being” from their membership in and identification with the superior race. [24]

    This brief history of racism in the West may explain why some Christians still cherish the view that some groups are inherently superior to others. They are simply reflecting the beliefs in their culture, in which the economic and cultural interests of people in the industrialized countries of the West often overlapped with Christianity’s. Today, however, such racial prejudice and hatred is almost universal.

Universality of Racism    

    Wherever diverse people meet, and wherever Western civilization has spread, racism exhibits itself in baffling complexity, intensity, and respectability. Some groups treat others as if the latter have no intrinsic value or worth.

    Historically, the groups that have been treated as inferior or subhuman, and possessing lives of little personal or societal worth have included people of color, Jews, native Americans, and Gypsies. Other groups, such as women, prisoners, chronically ill, the physically disabled, the mentally retarded, children, the elderly, and unwanted babies, have also frequently been despised, denigrated, and dehumanized. Today, however, racism manifests itself in a baffling complexity, intensity, and respectability.

    Recent expressions of racism include: (1) the tribal genocide in Rwanda in which, in just three months, over one million people--some 15,00 [recent estimates have it at 100,000] of whom were Seventh-day Adventists--were massacred by their neighbors because they were deemed a threat to the superior race; (2) the experiment of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia in which tens of thousands of people were "collected," "concentrated" and "eliminated" by their neighbors because of the belief that some people cannot dwell together with the superior race; (3) the practice, prevalent in some countries, of exploitation, domination and abuse of defenseless children, women, and the physically or economically disadvantaged, because these forms of slavery enhance the quality of life of the superior race; (4) the countless cases of brutality, war, executions, abortions, euthanasia, etc., which are currently being carried out in different places because such acts of violence will make the world safer and better for the superior race.

    A Global Problem. Though in America the word racism usually denotes conflict between white and black, this is much too narrow a definition. I have seen racism far stronger in Africa, where one tribe in an area or country seeks dominance over another. I have seen it in the Middle East, where the sons of Abraham still fight one another. I have seen it in various countries of Europe in the rise of ultranationalism and neo-Nazism. I have seen it in Canada, where differences in language and culture have fueled hostility among citizens of the same country. I have seen it in the former Soviet Union, where the fallen colossus seems destined to break into ever smaller warring pieces. And I have seen it in Asia, where religious and ethnic differences have ignited flames of violence.

    Nor is the phenomenon limited to ethnic or nationalistic concerns. It may be seen in chauvinism of either gender, in the designation of an unborn child by the neutral term "fetus" so that it may be the more easily disposed of, and in the invisibility of people with various handicaps with which we prefer not to deal. No matter what lines we draw to elevate one group and denigrate another, we are dealing with the same issue.

    Racism, therefore, has both a broad and a narrow meaning. In its broad sense it conveys the idea of the inhumanity of one group to another. In its narrow usage, it refers to the prejudice and ill-treatment displayed to a group of human beings solely because of such physical characteristics as color of the skin or hair, striking appearance of face or body, or unusual shape of the skull—physical features that are believed to make one group inferior to others.

    In this volume [Must We Be Silent?], I will use the term racism in the narrow sense. While I will be illustrating with examples from the North American scene, the discussion could be applied to any country or conflict in which one group is treated as inhuman.

An Ideology of Supremacy

    The discussion thus far leads us to conclude that racism is an ideology of supremacy. It is an ideology because it has a set of ideas and beliefs about reality. As an ideology of supremacy, it expresses itself in prejudice (prejudged negative attitude) and discrimination (unjust acts of domination, exploitation, dehumanization, etc.) of one group by another. [25] One scholar explains:
Racism is an ideology of racial domination that incorporates beliefs in a particular race’s cultural and/or inherent biological inferiority. It uses such beliefs to justify and prescribe unequal treatment of that group. In other words, racism is not merely attitudinal, it is structural. It is not merely a vague feeling of racial superiority, it is a system of domination, with structures of domination—social, political and economic. To put it another way: racism excludes groups on the basis of race or colour. But it is not only exclusion on the basis of race, but exclusion for the purpose of subjugating or maintaining subjugation. [26]

    The common thread in all manifestations of racism--whether it is apartheid, tribalism, white and black racism, [27]  anti-Semitism, anti-Arabism, patriotism, male and female chauvinism, etc.--is the idea that one group, distinguished by certain easily noticed features, is inherently superior to all or certain others. Taken to its logical conclusion (as it is in many parts of the world), it holds that since some human beings are not true persons, where necessary (i.e. to enhance the quality of life of the superior persons), the inferior race may be dehumanized, oppressed, even killed.

    Doctrinal Foundation. While one may trace the roots of racial prejudice to a number of factors, [28]  the foundational assumption upon which the different expressions of racism is built is the pseudoscientific doctrine of biological determinism. This doctrine holds that natural law or biological or genetically transmitted physical characteristics (such as, the color of the skin, eye, hair, or some physical features) do not simply influence, but define the basic humanness and, hence, the status of a person in society. [29] Such a belief may seem innocuous. But when it becomes the basis of a social policy, such as Hitler sought to employ, the results of this belief can be harmful and devastating. [30]

    An Ideology of Power

    Racism is not simply a set of beliefs about the inherent superiority of one race over another. It is also an ideology of power. Despite their claim to superiority, racists have a feeling of being threatened by members of the inferior race. This is especially so in situations where some members of the alleged inferior races display the same level of expectation (intelligence, character, ability, etc.) normally reserved for the superior race.

    To overcome their feeling of insecurity, racists seek to retain power (economic, political, military, etc.) exclusively in the hands of the superior. In this way members of the superior race express their self-identity by elaborate acts that systematically deny the essential humanness of people of other races. [31]

    It is not only those holding the reins of power who are racists. One scholar’s distinction between "imperialistic racism" or "aggressive racism" and "counter-racism" may be helpful here. In imperialistic/aggressive racism, racism is in power; it is full-blooded, in that "it can walk on its feet and strike with its feet because its spirit permeates the institutions of power"—political, military, economic, educational, ecclesiastical and other cultural institutions. "Counter racism" (others will say "reverse racism"), on the other hand is racism that is out of power. "It lacks feet to walk on and fists with which to strike. The spirit is present; the hope is compelling; but the will to power cannot find the institutions of power through which it can express itself." [32]

    In the context of USA, since power has tended to reside in the hands of Whites, imperialistic racism or institutional racism tends to be white racism. On the other hand since Blacks, Hispanics and Asians, generally speaking, do not possess power, the racism exhibited by these groups tend to bear the characteristics of counter (or reverse) racism. Given the chance and the appropriate conditions of power, Black/Hispanic/Asian racism can become as aggressive and imperialistic as white racism. This is because racism is a function of human nature, not color.

    Manifestation. As an ideology of power, racism takes two major forms: (1) legal or de jure racism, and (2) institutional or de facto racism.

    In legal or de jure racism, discriminatory practices are encoded in the laws of the land (such as was the case in the USA and in apartheid South Africa). In institutional or de facto racism, on the other hand, racial practices though not encoded in the laws of the land, are still present (albeit, in subtle and sophisticated form), having been built into the very structure of society. [33]

    In the past, believers in racial supremacy were nakedly racist; they were not too squeamish in advocating and putting into practice views overtly racist: racial discrimination, segregation, etc. Today however, with racism outlawed in many countries, it has assumed a sophisticated form, and racists are more covert or subtle in expressing their views and in implementing racial policies. Legal racism may be dead, but institutional racism is still alive.

    Of the two forms of racism, institutional racism poses the greatest challenge to the Christian church. Not only is it difficult to detect, but, as explained by Ian Robertson, institutional racism “is difficult to eradicate, since, obviously, it cannot be repealed, and in most cases is not susceptible to remedial legislation.” [34]
    Racialization and “Laissez-Faire Racism.” Recent research data indicates that because Christians are not nakedly racists, many are not even aware that they have become “racialized.” Racialization (a term which is less offensive than racism) is the situation in which a society assigns to a person certain privileges and benefits and certain doors of access solely on the basis of that person’s race.  Christians who have thus been racialized tend to be blind to racial injustices of society. [35]

    Racialization, it must be noted, is an aspect of “laissez-faire racism,” which is a “kinder and gentler” version of the ideology of supremacy and power.  With reference to the United States context, the phrase “laissez-faire racism” emphasizes that the institutionalized racial inequalities created by the long era of slavery and followed by Jim Crow racial segregation laws (1870's-1890's) has metamorphosized and persists in contemporary society. [36]  However, rather than relying on state-enforced inequality as during the Jim Crow era “modern racial inequality relies on the market and informal racial bias to re-create, and in some instances sharply worsen, structured racial inequality.  Hence, laissez-faire racism. [37]

    One distinctive feature of laissez-faire racism involves its widespread acceptance of negative stereotypes of other races. Racial stereotypes that were once viewed as categorical differences based in biology now appear to be understood as having largely cultural roots. [38] Moreover, biases based on racial stereotypes occur automatically and without conscious awareness even by persons who do not endorse racist beliefs. [39]

    Indeed, considerable data suggests that “much discrimination today occurs through behaviors that the perpetrator does not subjectively experience as intentional. Much contemporary discriminatory behavior is unconscious, unthinking, and unintentional.” [40]

    For example, while most Americans seem to believe in the broad principles of equality and integration, there remains a considerable gap between belief and practice. Thus, in the 1990 General Social Survey (GSS), a highly respected social indicators survey in the United States, the national data on stereotypes reveal that Whites continue to view Blacks and other minorities more negatively than themselves, which presumably would make the latter undesirable as neighbors  and employees. [41]  These racial attitudes, stereotypes, and discrimination are not the aberrant behavior of a few “bad apples” but a widespread societal problem. [42]

    Whether we are aware of it or not, the fact still remains that what lies behind much of our racial attitudes, stereotypes, and discrimination are the beliefs bequeathed to us by old-fashioned naked racism—the ideology of supremacy. Thus, in contrast to legal or de jure racism, the only way we can detect and eradicate institutional or de facto racism—whether perceived as racialization or laissez-faire racism—is by being aware of the world view on which racism is established.   We shall attempt to do in the next chapter when we consider racism as a religion.

    Unfortunately, many Christian believers fail to appreciate this fact. They are often inclined to believe that civil rights laws and similar legislation enacted by secular governments, as well as ecclesiastical statements and policies condemning racism, automatically eliminate expressions of racial prejudice and discrimination within and without the church.

Stating the Terms and Problem

    Race is one great catchword that means different things to different people, and about which much ink and blood have been spilled. Despite this fact, no agreement seems to exist regarding what is a race, how it can be recognized, who constitute the several races, and how the different races are to be ranked in their relative abilities and closeness to some ideal referent (whether an ape, or a Creator). Thus, over the years, in an effort to abstract some defining traits as characteristic of a race, notable individuals—statesmen, scholars, scientists, etc.—have erroneously pointed to certain easily noted human features (such as color of the skin, hair, or eye, the striking appearance of face or body, the unaccustomed mode of speech, language, dress or religion, the shape of skull, an unusual temperament, etc.) as the permanent ineradicable hallmark of a race. [43]

    Working Definitions. Racism is the attitude, behavior or ideology that is based on the belief that one race is superior to all others. By race, I mean a group of people, distinguished by certain easily noticed physical characteristics, such as the color of skin, hair, or eye, or the striking appearance of face or body, the distinctive mode of speech, language, dress, or religion, or any other external characteristics often associated with an ethnic group.

    The Forbidden Question. Do we still need race-based churches and Conferences in North America?


    The Seventh-day Adventist church has from time to time issued some very strong statements against racism. For example, at the 1985 General Conference session in New Orleans, Louisiana, the church released a public statement denouncing racism as “one of the odious evils of our day,” “a sin,” and “a heresy and in essence a form of idolatry.” [44]  Yet, racism is still alive in the church. The church in North America is only now, through its “race summit,” seeking “bold initiatives for dismantling racism” in the church. Why is this so?

    One reason could be because many have failed to fully recognize how deeply embedded racism is in the structures of society and the church. Even when they do, they don’t seem to know what to do about it. In this respect, society is doing a much better work than the church in mitigating the effects of institutional racism. But the church is unable to enforce remedial legislations and disciplinary measures to regulate the conduct of its members. In fact, many members and leaders don’t even see a need to dismantle the race-based organizations of the church.

    Is it any wonder that the church is still the most segregated of all institutions in society? In society the different races study together and work together; but in the church they seldom go to school or worship together. The different races of society entertain each other and play together; but in the church, they hardly ever sing and pray together. The impregnable walls of communism have come down; and yet, the church refuses to the allow its walls of racism to tumble down. Why is this so?

    Could it be because we have not realized that racism is actually a religion that repudiates all the essential doctrines of Christianity? Perhaps, a correct understanding of the religious nature of racism may help us to see the urgency of doing something about racism. For racism is not simply an ideology of supremacy or an ideology of power. It is a religion.


[1]    Jacques Barzun's Race: A Study in Superstition, revised, with a new preface (New York: Harper & Row, 1965), p. ix.

[2]    For a provocative analysis of what has happened to members of the Christian church, and what can be done to recapture their status as "resident aliens," see Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon, Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony, 9th printing (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1992). Speaking on the subject of Christian social concern today, Hauerwas and Willimon argue: "In fact, much of what passes for Christian social concern today, of the left or of the right, is the social concern of a church that seems to have despaired of being the church. Unable through our preaching, baptism, and witness to form a visible community of faith, we content ourselves with ersatz Christian ethical activity—lobbying Congress to support progressive strategies, asking the culture at large to be a little less racist, a little less promiscuous, a little less violent" (ibid., 80). With this kind of worldliness the Churches have become, in the words of Jesus, salt without savor, useful only to be "thrown out and trampled under foot by men" (Matt 5:13). Waldo Beach, "A Theological Analysis of Race Relations," in Paul Ramsey, ed., Faith and Ethics: The Theology of H. Richard Niebuhr (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1955), 218, has this worldliness in mind when he writes: "Seeking their life in quantity, they [churches] lose their life in quality and only earn the scorn of men."

[3]    George D. Kelsey, Racism and the Christian Understanding of Man (New York: Scribner's, 1965), 10.

[4]    G. E. Simpson and J. M. Yinger, Racial and Cultural Minorities, An Analysis of Prejudice and Discrimination (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1953), 546.

[5]    David R. Williams, “The Right Thing to Do,” Adventist Review, February 20, 1997, 24. Williams referred readers to work by James E. Dittes Bias and the Pious: The Relationship Between Prejudice and Religion (Minneapolis, Minn: Augsburg Publishing House, 1973).

[6]    Billy Graham, "Racism and the Evangelical Church," Christianity Today, October 4, 1993, 27.

[7]    For a documentation of how racism has sometimes been manifested in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, see Richard Schwarz, Light Bearers to the Remnant (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1979), 564-578; Calvin B. Rock, "A Better Way," Spectrum 2:2 (Spring 1970): 21-30; Louis B. Reynold, We Have Tomorrow: The Story of American Seventh-day Adventists with an African Heritage (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1984), especially appendix B—"Actions From the Regional Advisory Committee in Miami, April 7-9, 1969," 362-370; W. W. Fordham's autobiography, Righteous Rebel: The Unforgettable Legacy of a Fearless Advocate for Change (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1990).

[8]    Harold L. Lee, Church Leadership in a Multicultural World: Directions for Cultural Harmony in the Adventist Church (Lincoln, Nebraska: Center for Creative Ministry, 2000), p. 14.

[9]    Schwarz, Light Bearers to the Remnant, pp. 571-572.

[10]    See Jim Walters, “General Conference Delegates Say NO on Women’s Ordination,” Adventist Today, July-August, 1995, 13; Walters is an Adventist ethicist and an editor of Adventist Today, an independent publication whose stated purpose is to follow “basic principles of ethics and canons of journalism,” striving “for fairness, candor, and good taste.” Cf. J. David Newman, “Stuck in the Concrete,” Adventist Today, July-August, 1995, 13. Newman last served as the editor of Ministry, “the international journal of the Seventh-day Adventist Ministerial Association.” For a response to this kind of reasoning, see my Receiving the Word: How New Approaches to the Bible Impact Our Biblical Faith and Lifestyle (Berrien Springs, Mich.: Berean Books, 1996), 10-11, 91-92.

[11]    This church leader wrote: “To be honest, at times I am frustrated with my church. Sometimes I feel it is somewhat out of tune with the times and the world I live in. Sometimes I get upset by its frequent failures to deal decisively with important issues. I wish my church could settle the issue of women’s ordination (yes, I’m one of those people) and deal with a few other hot potatoes. And I often wonder why the church allows its fundamentalist fringe to set so much of its agenda. And yes, I need a double or triple portion of grace to interact with some people in the church” (Reinder Bruinsma, “Why I Stay,” Adventist Review, July 1999, 8-12). Some readers may justifiably argue that, for Bruinsma, “the church” is nothing more than the “church in the west” which is pushing women’s ordination; and the “fundamentalist fringe” is the rest of the world church that refuses to go along. Bruinsma is the secretary of one of the European Divisions.

[12]    One can also cite the unilateral ordinations of women in some North American churches, as well as the recent issue of unisex ordination credential in the Southeastern California Conference as further evidences of the undying racial arrogance prevalent in certain quarters of North America.

[13]    George R. Knight, Anticipating the Advent: A Brief History of Seventh-day Adventists (Boise, Idaho: Pacific Press, 1992), 112. Calvin Rock, has also offered some psychological, sociological, and theological factors that have historically led to white racism in the Adventist Church. Among other factors, Rock points to political expediency (the fear of a loss of prestige, finance, status and even loss of job) should racism be eliminated); an evangelistic strategy that is directed to the upper-lower and lower-middle class—the segment most threatened by racial parity; a certain kind of conservatism and fundamentalism that ignores the ethical dimension of the biblical doctrines; and a tendency to ignore social issues on the pretext that the situation is too hopeless for any meaningful change (Rock, "A Better Way," 22-24).

[14]    The Race Summit was held at the Church’s headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, from October 27-30. "Rather than merely talk about critical racial issues,” the organizers of the meeting sought to “concentrate on the important question of how to bring about positive change in race relations, recommend bold initiatives for dismantling racism, and create an ongoing mechanism to continually motivate, expand, and monitor the progress of those initiatives.” According to Celeste Ryan, more than 300 administrators and institutional heads were summoned to the summit. The 50 “renowed thought leaders” invited to speak included: Dr. Samuel Betances, futurist, author, motivational speaker, and senior consultant for Chicago-based Souder, Betances, and Associates, Inc.; Dr. Tony Campolo, professor of Sociology at Eastern College in St. Davids, PA, author of 26 books, and producer of “Hashing It Out,” a weekly television show on the Odyssey Network; Dr. Edwin Nichols, a Washington, D.C. based psychologist, motivational speaker, and director of Nichols and Associates, Inc.; Dr. Betty Lentz Siegel, nationally recognized lecturer and president of Kennesaw State University in GA; and Dr. Cain Hope Felder, professor of New Testament in the School of Divinity at Howard University in Washington, D.C. See, Celeste Ryan, “Adventist Church Hosts Race Relations Summit,” Adventist News Network [ANN], October 19, 1999.

[15]    Frank Stagg, The Book of Acts (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1955),  124.

[16]    With regard to the black/white form of racism, Cornel West, Prophetic Fragments (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1988), 100, observes: "The very category of ‘race'—denoting primarily skin color—was first employed as a means of classifying human bodies by François Bernier, a French physician, in 1684. The first authoritative racial division of humankind is found in the influential Natural System (1735) of the preeminent naturalist Carolus Linnaeus."

[17]    T. B. Maston, The Bible and Race (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1959), 64.

[18]    Slavery was first accepted as an economic way of life, and later justified as a positive good that was sanctioned by Scripture itself as capable of effecting Christian social order based on the observance of mutual duty of slave to master and vice versa. On how Christianity later came to play a part, Albert J. Raboteau, Slave Religion: The "Invisible Institution" in the Antebellum South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), 96, has remarked: "Right from the very beginning of the Atlantic slave trade, conversion of the slaves to Christianity was viewed by the emerging nations of Western Christendom as a justification for enslavement of Africans. . . . Pangs of guilt over the cruelty inherent in enslaving fellow human beings were assuaged by emphasizing the grace of faith made available to Africans, who otherwise would die as pagans."

[19]    Barzun, Race: A Study in Superstition, p. xix, argues that "since 1850, when industrialization broke traditional bonds and detached man from his native soil without affording him new loyalties, the idea of race has been put forward as a principle of political and emotional union."

[20]    Alan Burns, Colour Prejudice (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1948), 23 (cited by T. B. Maston, The Bible and Race, 64).

[21]    The integration of this idea of Spencer with Darwin's theory of the evolution of species, "produced a seemingly scientific rationalization of the 19th century European and American view of the peoples of the world as two populations, one of which was superior to the other by reason of physical and mental characteristics. . . . This rationalization came to be known as Social Darwinism. . . . [This view] arose during the most active period of industrialization and developing colonialism. The issue was the weeding out of the weak, the ill, the poor, the ‘socially unfit.'. . . The ‘survival of the fittest' was an appropriate concept for that goal." See E. Tobach, J. Gianutsos, et. al., The Four Horsemen: Racism, Sexism, Militarism, and Social Darwinism (New York: Behavioral Publications, 1974), 99, 101.

[22]    See Stephen T. Asma, "The New Social Darwinism: Deserving Your Destitution," The Humanist 53:5 (September-October, 1993), 12. Asma argues that the social Darwinism (more accurately social Spencerism) of Herbert Spencer, and his American disciples (e.g., John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie), with its foundation in the "survival of the fittest" ethic, not only fueled Western capitalism but also provided "the ultimate justification for social passivity and acquiescence in the status quo" on matters pertaining to the poor, homeless, unemployed, etc. (ibid., 11).

[23]    Kelsey, 22-23; cf. Adolf Hitler, "The Aryan Race Is Superior," in Bruno Leone, ed., Racism: Opposing Viewpoints (St. Paul, MN: Greenhaven Press, 1986), 211-214; Josiah Strong, "The Anglo-Saxon Race Should Colonize the World," in Racism: Opposing Viewpoints, 31-34; Albert J. Beveridge, "America Must Colonize," in Racism: Opposing Viewpoints, 20-25.

[24]    Kelsey, 9.

[25]    Manning Nash, "Race and the Ideology of Race," Current Anthropology 3 (1962): 285-288; William J. Wilson, Power, Racism and Privilege (New York: Free Press, 1973); Donald L. Noel, ed., The Origins of American Slavery and Racism (Columbus, OH: Merrill, 1972). An Adventist sociologist thus, defines racism (the ideology of supremacy) in this way: "Racism is both an attitude and an act of superiority that justifies its very existence by giving biological differences, such as skin color, texture of the hair, physical features, language, and cultural differences a negative meaning of inferiority. This negative meaning in turn legitimizes treating the other person as inferior to oneself." See Caleb Rosado, Broken Walls (Boise, Idaho: Pacific Press, 1990), 29.

[26]    Allan Boesak, “He Made Us All, but . . .” in John W. DeGruchy and Charles Villa-Vicencio, eds., Apartheid Is a Heresy (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1983), 3.

[27]    While Joseph Arthur comte de Gobineau (1816-1882) argued that "The White Race is Superior" (see Bruno Leone, ed., Racism: Opposing Viewpoints, 207-210), and Adolf Hitler, in his Mein Kampf (New York: Reynal & Hitchcok, 1939), insisted that "The Aryan Race is Superior" (see Racism: Opposing Viewpoints, 211-214), Albert J. Beveridge (1862-1927), a lawyer, US senator and historian, and Josiah Strong (1847-1916), a clergyman, social reformer and author, are two representatives of the views endorsing American or Anglo-Saxon racism (see Bruno Leone, ed., Racism: Opposing Viewpoints, 20-25; 31-34. On the other hand, Elijah Muhammad, the founder of the Nation of Islam religion may be cited as one of those advocating the superiority of the Black race (see his "The Black Race is Superior," ibid., 215-219); cf. the article by Leon Jaroff, "Teaching Reverse Racism," Time, April 4, 1994, 74-75, which also discusses some extremist views within the Afrocentric movement in which the history of black superiority is taught on the basis of melanism—the "science" of skin-pigmentation.

[28]    For a discussion of the six major factors that shape a person's racial outlook—historical, sociocultural, situational, psychodynamic, phenomenological, earned reputation—see for example, Gordon W. Allport's The Nature of Prejudice, 4th printing (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., 1966), 206-218; cf. Robert Merton, "Discrimination and the American Creed," in Robert M. MacIver, ed., Discrimination and National Welfare (New York: Harper, 1949).

[29]    In other words, racism's doctrine of biological determinism is "the glue" that defines and separates racial groups according to genes or "blood." Speaking about biological determinism, R. C. Lewontin, "Foreword" in Richard M. Lerner, Final Solutions: Biology, Prejudice, and Genocide (Pennsylvania, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992), vii-ix, states: "It makes the error of equating heritable with unchangeable, a biological mistake of the first magnitude"—a "pseudo-scientific nonsense."

[30]    Richard Lerner, Final Solutions: Biology, Prejudice, and Genocide, has identified biological determinism as the central dogma of the Nazi ideology or religion, without which Nazism could not have achieved its power and realized its racial program of holocaust. Lerner maintains that biological determinism is the doctrine that underlies the early 20th century embryological work of Ernst Haeckel, F. Lenz, the ideas of the European and American Social Darwinists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the American and European eugenics movement during the same period, the German racial hygiene movement (Alfred Ploetz, Wilhelm Schallmayer, Karl Binding and Alfred Hoche) of the first half of the twentieth century, and the contemporary ‘synthetic' science of sociobiology in biology and in the behavioral and social sciences (J. P. Ruston, E. O. Wilson, R. Dawkins, Daniel Freedman).

[31]    Roger Daniels and Harry H. L. Kitano, American Racism: Exploration of the Nature of Prejudice (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall Inc., 1970), 9-28, have argued that a racist society tends to go through four stages, each stage distinguishable by identifiable characteristics. In stage 1, a member of a minority (or despised) group finds himself avoided, stereotyped, and victimized by prejudice (informal rules operate here); in stages 2 and 3, he is deprived through discriminatory laws and insulated through segregation; finally in stage 4 the superior race adopts some extraordinary measures (isolation, exclusion and genocide). Historically this last stage has translated as apartheid, expulsion, exile, lynching, and concentration camps. Of these four stages, Daniels and Kitano maintain that stages two and three (discrimination/deprivation and segregation/insulation stages) "are the most damaging steps in race relations," since they provide the necessary condition for stage four (ibid., 20).

[32]    Kelsey, Racism and the Christian Understanding of Man, 10-11.

[33]    Ian Robertson, Social Problems, 2nd edition (New York: Random House, 1980), 210-211.

[34]    Robertson, Social Problems, 211.

[35]    See Michael Emerson and Christian Smith, Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2000).  After conducting nationwide phone surveys of more than 2,000 white Evangelicals in North America, along with 200 face to face interviews, sociologists Emerson and Smith concluded that white Evangelicals cannot foster genuine racial reconciliation because they deny the existence of any ongoing racial problem in America, often blaming the media and oppressed minorities for refusing to forget the racial conflicts of the past.  In the opinion of these two authors while many white Evangelicals may not be overtly racists, they are immersed in their “racialized society.”  For an Evangelical discussion and response to this study, see Christianity Today, October 2, 2000, 34-55.

[36]    Lawrence Bobo, James R. Kluegel, and Ryan A. Smith, “Laissez-Faire Racism: The Crystallization of a Kinder, Gentler, Antiblack Ideology,” in Steven A Tuch and Jack K. Martin, eds., Racial Attitudes in the 1990s: Continuity and Change (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1997), 15-42.

[37]    Ibid., 16.

[38]    Lawrence Bobo, “Group Conflict, Prejudice, and the Paradox of Contemporary Racial Attitudes,” in P. A. Katz and D. A. Taylor, ed.s., Eliminating Racism: Profiles in Controversy (New York: Plenum, 1988), 85-114.

[39]    P.G. Devine, “Stereotypes and Prejudice: Their Automatic and Controlled Components,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 56 (1989):5-18.

[40]    David R. Williams and Toni D. Rucker, “Understanding and Addressing Racial Disparities in Health Care,” Health Care Financing Review 21/4 (Summer 2000):75-90. Williams and Rucker cite the following works: J. Allen, “A Remedy for Unthinking Discrimination,” Brooklyn Law Review 61 (Winter 1995):1299-1345; S. L. Johnson, “Unconscious Racism and the Criminal Law,” Cornell Law Review 73 (July 1988):1016-1037; C. R. I. Lawrence, “The Id, the Ego, and Equal Protection: Reckoning with Unconscious Racism,” Stanford Law Review 39 (January 1987):317-338; D. B. Oppenheimer, “Negligent Discrimination,” University of Pennsylvania Law Review 141 (January 1993):899-972.

[41]    See J. A. Davis and T. W. Smith, General Social Surveys, 1972-1990 (Chicago: National Opinion Research Center, 1990). Two research sociologists summarize the findings thus: “29% of whites viewed most blacks as unintelligent, 44% believed that most blacks are lazy, 56% endorsed the view that most blacks prefer to live off welfare and 51% indicate that most blacks are prone to violence.  Similarly, only relatively small percentages of whites were willing to endorse positive stereotypes of blacks.  Only 20% of whites believed that most blacks are intelligent, 17% that most blacks are hardworking, 13% that most blacks prefer to be self-supporting, and 15% that most blacks are not prone to violence.  Substantial numbers of whites opted for the “neither” category on these questions and about 5% volunteered that they did not know or had no answer to the stereotype question.” See, David R. Williams and Ruth Williams-Morris, “Racism and Mental Health: The African American Experience,” Ethnicity and Health 5/3 (2000):246. To place the stereotypes of Blacks into a comparative context, the survey also noted how Whites view themselves and other major racial or ethnic groups. The national data reveals that Blacks were viewed much more negatively than Whites: “Compared to how whites view most whites, they are five times more likely to view most blacks as unintelligent, nine times more likely to view most blacks as lazy, 15 times more likely to view most blacks as preferring to live off welfare, and three times more likely to be prone to violence.  Hispanics and Asians are viewed more negatively than whites but a clear hierarchy of preference is evident.  African Americans are viewed more negatively than any other group and Hispanics are viewed at least twice as negatively as Asians.  On the other hand, Jews tend to be viewed more positively than whites in general. The persistence of pervasive stereotypes of African Americans suggests that there may be considerable cultural support for racist societal institutions and policies” (ibid., 246-247). Among other things, the above cited article documents and reviews available research data on changes in United States racial attitudes over time, the persistence of negative racial stereotypes, and the ways in which negative beliefs were incorporated into societal policies and institutions.

[42]    David R. Williams and Toni D. Rucker, “Understanding and Addressing Racial Disparities in Health Care,” Health Care Financing Review 21/4 (Summer 2000):75-90.

[43]     For a critique of some of the different definitions of race, see Jacques Barzun's Race: A Study in Superstition, revised, with a new preface (New York: Harper & Row, 1965). Barzun argues that the idea of race is a "fiction" (not a fact), a "fatal superstition" that has been put forward from time to time to advance some ideological goal; see also Ashley Montagu, Race Science and Humanity (New York: Van Nostrand Co., 1963).

[44]     “GC President Issues Statements on Racism, Peace, Home and Family, and Drugs,” Adventist Review, June 30, 1985, 2-3. In the code of ethics for the Seventh-day Adventist minister, racism is condemned as a sinful practice (see, Seventh-day Adventist Church Minister's Manual [1992], 53). Cf. Victoria VanAllen, “Clergy Conference on Racism Addresses Current Issues” Visitor [Columbia Union Paper], June 15, 1993, 6. See also the document, "Christian Declaration on Race Relations," adopted by the Southern New England Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in session on March 1, 1970 (Spectrum 2:2 [Spring 1970]:53-55).