Interracial Marriage: Oppose, Tolerate, or Celebrate?

Andy Naselli —  September 30, 2011 — 4 Comments

I’ve been a member of churches that oppose interracial marriage. I have friends who have received counsel in those churches from pastors—pastors who refuse to perform an interracial wedding—to break off an interracial dating relationship primarily because of a person’s ethnicity.

I vividly recall when Bob Jones University dropped their ban against interracial dating in 2000 and apologized in 2008.

Nor do I forget the first time I taught an MDiv course at an extension site of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in 2007 composed entirely of black students—all older than I. When the dean introduced me to the class, he mentioned that I earned an MA and PhD from Bob Jones University. Then he walked out of the classroom. The stares felt like glares, and I don’t blame them. I had to dig myself out of a big hole (which, by God’s grace, I think I finally escaped).

So at least for me based on my limited experience, this issue is still fresh.

In John Piper’s new book, his chapter on interracial (or better: inter-ethnic*) marriage argues “from Scripture and experience that interracial marriage is not only permitted by God but is a positive good in our day. It is not just to be tolerated, but celebrated” (p. 203):

John Piper. Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian. Wheaton: Crossway, 2011. 

*See Piper’s appendix 1 for why the term ethnicity is better than race (pp. 234–40).

The book is even more interesting to me since Piper grew up across the street from Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina.

Watch him talk about it in this gripping 17-minute documentary:

Piper tells his story in chapter 1, and a big part of it is interracial marriage (pp. 35–37):

The perceived wrongness of interracial marriage had been for me one of the unshakeable reasons why segregation was right. (p. 35)

Here’s the outline of chapter 15 (“Interracial Marriage,” pp. 203–15, numbering added) with some excerpts:

1. Laws against Miscegenation

I spent the first eighteen years of my life growing up in a state where interracial marriage between white and black was illegal. When those laws were struck down by the Loving case in 1967, I was a senior in college. From a historical perspective, that is almost like yesterday. Laws reflect deep convictions. Often the change in conviction lags far behind the change in law. That is certainly the case with regard to interracial marriage. (p. 204)

2. Opposition to Interracial Marriage

3. My Personal Experience

4. A Place to Stand

  1. All Races Have One Ancestor, and All Humans Are Created in God’s Image. . . . “Race” is a fluid concept with no clear boundaries.
  2. The Bible Forbids Intermarriage between Unbeliever and Believer—but Not between Races
  3. In Christ Our Oneness Is Profound and Transforms Racial and Social Differences from Barriers to Blessings
  4. Criticizing One Interracial Marriage Was Severely Disciplined by God

5. So, You Like Being White, Miriam?

Consider this possibility: in God’s anger at Miriam, Moses’s sister, God says in effect, “Do you like being light-skinned, Miriam? Do you belittle the Cushite because she is dark-skinned and foreign? All right, I’ll make you light-skinned.” Verse 10: “Behold, Miriam was leprous, like snow.” (p. 212)

6. Closing Implications

[O]pposition to interracial marriage is one of the deepest roots of racial distance, disrespect, and hostility in the world. (p. 213)

7. Create a Problem and Make It the Reason for the Problem

And here is a great and sad irony. The very situation of separation and suspicion and distrust and dislike that is brought about (among other things) by the fear of intermarriage is used to justify the opposition to intermarriage. “It will make life hard for the couple and hard for the kids (they’ll be called half-breeds).” Catch-22. It’s like the army being defeated because there aren’t enough troops, and the troops won’t sign up because the army is being defeated. Oppose interracial marriage, and you will help create a situation of racial disrespect. And then, since there is a situation of disrespect, it will be prudent to avoid interracial marriage. (p. 214)

8. The Call of Christ Is Not Comfort

Will it be harder to be married to another race, and will it be harder for the kids? Maybe. Maybe not. But since when is that the way a Christian thinks? . . .
It’s hard to take a child to the mission field. (p. 214)

9. There Are More Than Problems in Store

A once-bigoted group of relatives is forced to see as a person the “outsider” who just married their “insider.” (p. 214)

10. Embracing the Beauty and the Burden

Inter-ethnic marriage in this new humanity is one manifestation and one means of Christ being all in all [Col 3:11].

We will not underestimate the challenges of interracial marriage and biracial children (and transracial adoption—they go closely together). Rather, we will strive to nurture churches where such marriages thrive. We will celebrate the beauty, and we will embrace the burden. Both will be good for us, and good for the world, and good for the spread of the gospel and the glory of God. (p. 215)

Update: Here’s an 8-minute video by John Piper called “Why Pastors Should Bless Interracial Marriage”:

Related:

  1. John Piper, resources on racial harmony
  2. D. A. Carson, “Hard Case One: Racism,” in Love in Hard Places  (Wheaton: Crossway, 2002), 87–108.
  3. D. A. Carson, “The SBJT Forum: In your book Love in Hard Places you gave us some reflections on racism. Summarize some of the more uncomfortable thoughts that spring to your mind when you think about this subject”  (The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 8, no. 2 [2004]), 74–78.
  4. J. Daniel Hays, From Every People and Nation: A Biblical Theology of Race  (New Studies in Biblical Theology 14; Downers Grove: IVP, 2003).

4 responses to Interracial Marriage: Oppose, Tolerate, or Celebrate?

  1. When we were just getting into homeschooling, years and years ago, we were at a homeschooling convention and looking at the literature. I’d liked the Bob Jones books, but

    In God’s providence, the Bob Jones rep was a black brother. Told him my concerns up-front, that I really didn’t want to be giving money to an institution that was being racist in God’s name. His answer was reassuring.

  2. Wow. The letter you link under “University” is incredible. So sad.

  3. Thank you, Andy. I hadn’t heard of this book.

    I just watched the video with my family and forwarded the link to everyone. Now I need to get the book!

  4. My thought is that inter-ethnic (a much better term imo) marriage among Christians is the SAME as any other Christian marriage. It is no more or less special.

    I watched the video with my wife and we were both awed that people actually treated others so wrongly and that one family chose the gospel first.

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