Race and Religion: Churches, Clubs and Culture

Roman’s 2:11:

For there is no respect of persons with God. (King James Version)

Because God does not show partiality. (International Standard Version)

Tiny  Free Will Baptist Church in Pike County, Kentucky, is much in the news this week after congregants voted to effectively ban inter-racial couples from membership and participation in services, except in funerals, where it is presumed that the honoree would not be overly offended by such “wicked” love.

Their church, apparently without a trace of irony, is only exercising their Free Will to surround themselves with congregants with the same values and prejudices.  (I thought that was the way organized religion worked.)

Churches routinely adopt doctrines that represent their view of morality and their interpretation of holy texts and then get on with the business of saving souls.  Free Will Baptist just seems to be especially democratic in their processes.  Other churches should consider debating such “touchy” subjects in the open.

Many religious teachings are a running social commentary on the complexity of modern culture.  They purport to link earlier sacred texts to current behaviour as a way of guiding those who seek, in the eyes of some, a more perfect existence.

Free Will Baptist seems to get tripped up on the step of human fallibility and the notion of forgiveness as implied in the Christan tradition.  Even if you thought that practitioners of interracial love were sinful, would the correct Christian response be to banish them from participation in religious practice? Answer:  In their club, yes.

Here in Washington, D.C., at the presumably godless Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of Natural History, there is a fascinating exhibit on Race.  Essentially, it propounds  the theory that race is, for all intents and purposes, a human invention that serves as a convenient surrogate for cultural differences.  Race is literally “skin deep” but we use it as a visual marker to lay out feelings about how other people live, think, and yes–love.

Cyberspace, that ethereal province of the techno gods, has, this week, unleashed the Old Testament “rod” on Free Will Baptist through a blizzard of unfavorable press and a deluge of outraged emails to church leadership condemning their winnowing of the flock based on race.  The ultimate irony is that winnowing is a  classic Darwinian tactic to influence the evolution of a species.

Free Will, Charles Darwin and the Theory of Evolution–now I get it.


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