Host: Bojidar Marinov
The Anti-Covenantal Nature of Racism
Welcome to Episode 8 of Axe to the Root Podcast, part of the War Room Productions, I am Bo Marinov, and for the next 30 minutes we will be talking about racism. I know, racism is a politically charged word in the US today, and even the very mentioning of the word already produces certain reactions in people; and that even before they know what it’s all about. Liberals, of course, are wont to call “racism” everything that disagrees with their current emotions. When talking about the past, they call segregation racism. Today leftist students of some racial minorities want their segregated spaces, because now integration is racism. Although, to be honest, I find this completely consistent, because even in the past, segregation was enforced by liberals, not by conservatives; after all, it was the Democrat Party who voted against de-segregation many times. But, keep in mind, my point here is more than just unloading on a particular political party. Conservatives are not blameless either; they have developed an automatic shutdown response everytime someone points out that some of their reactions may be driven by latent racism. “Oh, yeah, you must be a liberal, if you speak of racism.” And they stop listening. Between these two emotional and mindless reactions devoid of any moral sense and commitment to real justice is the Biblical, covenantal view, which always looks at individuals as independent moral entities, which need to be judged based on their own individual covenantal standing before God. Such covenantal thinking is never afraid to address an issue from the position of justice, it refuses to treat people as animal units in a herd, and it always considers any charge of racism not from the position of political stereotypes but from the position of ethical/judicial principles. It always asks: are the Biblical principles of righteousness (ethical) and justice (judicial) violated because of our stereotyping of an individual because he belongs to a genetic group? Or because of our ascribing moral qualities on a group because of a few individuals we have met – or statistics we have been served?
Covenantal thinking always returns the Christian man to the fundamental unit of all government – the individual. As we have seen before, collectivism is not simply a social or political theory; it is a self-conscious war against God’s fundamental level of government, self-government. And racism in all its forms – ideological, practical, institutional, legislative – is collectivism. Its ultimate purpose is destruction, and eventually it destroys both sides in the conflict it creates.
It is, though, quite attractive as a mentality, especially when the other side can be accused of similar racism. We just love to put people in collectivist boxes, and then justify it by pointing that other people put us in their collectivist boxes. Because Hispanic students made their own Hispanic students club, white students find it justified to make their own white students club. Or because blacks are wont to speak disparagingly of each other, that somehow justifies others of speaking disparagingly of them. Etc., etc. There are always good reasons, y’know, to ignore the Biblical view of the individual and of self-control and speak as a collectivist, and put people in collectivist boxes, and then ascribe cultural and ethical characteristics, and covenantal standing to individuals based on their box. Now, if you ask me, I agree with R.J. Rushdoony’s opinion that the Christian answer to all the racial and economic and metaphysical divisions – that is, class and caste – is the communion of the saints. (We will talk in a future episode about the Christian view of class and caste, and how Rushdoony’s words on it have been taken out of context and he has been accused of believing in something he has actually criticized many times.) So I don’t care if everyone in the world makes their own little stupid clubs by skin color, or by economic status, or by place of birth, or by how long their nose is, or with which foot they touch the floor every morning, and I don’t care if I am excluded from their stupid little clubs; my only real club of any significance will be the communion of the saints, that is, those who believe in Lord Jesus Christ and profess Him according to the testimony of the Bible. And in it, there are no differences that deserve mentioning. Neither are there differences deserving mentioning out of it.
But racism is a real issue, and we need to talk about it. It’s a real issue theologically and ideologically; it is a heresy, and it should be denounced and excommunicated by the church. It is also a real issue ethically, for it creates conditions for complacency and self-righteousness. And, as we will see, it is a judicial issue, for it creates the atmosphere needed by tyrannical governments to enforce their agendas on the population.
We need to understand, first, that there are two kinds of racism.
One kind is the more primitive, more visible, direct, and brutal racism: the racism that declares that different human genetic stocks define human groups which are different in everything, including culture and morality. And, if they pretend to be Christian, even covenantal standing before God. These are groups that speak about “miscegenation” – that is, marriage between different races – as sin or at least undesirable, and call for government regulation of such marriages. Mixing of people of different genetics they consider “multiculturalism,” because genetics determine and define culture, for such ideologues. Man is entirely or at least partially defined by his genetics, declares such racism, and therefore there is an ethical and cultural part of man that he can’t change by his choice; a white man will always remain a white man and make cultural and ethical choices as a white man (whatever that means), and a black man’s cultural and ethical choices will always be a black man’s cultural and ethical choices (whatever that means). In a conversation some time ago with one such racist (who pretends to be a Reformed Christian) who has a Scottish last name (nobody knows if he has Scottish genes, though, he hasn’t done a genetic analysis of himself), I asked him what culture he would build if he was given to Russian parents and raised as a Russian, and had absolutely no knowledge of his genetic origin. His immediate answer was, “I would be building a Scottish culture and I would be acting as a Scotsman.” It makes sense, doesn’t it, after all, that’s how we pick our dogs: different breeds have different characters, and we can tell their internal character by their external looks. Our dog is a blonde retriever, I mean, a golden retriever although she is rather Scottish, I mean, gingerish, and that determines her character. Our neighbor’s dog is darker, with flat nose and curly hair, and he has a character that fits his race. We do that for dogs, and natural law tells us we can do the same for humans. We just need to keep different breeds of humans separated so that the moral characters and the cultures don’t get mixed. We don’t want multiculturalism, after all.
I said this is a primitive kind of racism only because of its rather primitive doctrine that equates humans to animals. In terms of historical existence, this specific type of racism has been around in Christendom only for about 2 or 300 years. A fully developed belief in the cultural significance of genetics has been at the foundation of India’s caste system for several centuries, and probably for a millennium. In its more animistic and occult form the belief was present among primitive tribes in the Americas, Australia and Polynesia; the concept of a tribe originating from some animal, and defining the culture based on that origin was just a more spiritualized version of the modern, allegedly “scientific” racial theories of culture. Similar pagan racism is still at the official mythology of the origin of Japan; and in fact, the history of Japan is a history of racism made into an imperial policy: from the extermination of the Ainu people (the original inhabitants of the islands) to the atrocities committed by the Japanese military during WWII. Racial views of culture existed in ancient Greece although they died out due to Hebrew influence. (Yes, Greek philosophy had Hebrew roots, but we will talk about it in another episode.)
The Old Testament itself acknowledged no cultural transmission through physical heredity, and indeed, a recurring theme in it is the apostasy of the children from the religion and culture of the fathers. In fact, the Old Testament doesn’t even acknowledge the modern symbolic connection between blood and heredity; as in when people say, “the blood of his fathers flows in his veins.” Such symbolism is purely pagan; the Bible is in agreement with reality on this issue: blood doesn’t transmit heredity. With the growth of the popularity of the Law and the religion of Moses in the ancient world, racist theories gradually disappeared in the ancient world. Early Christianity dealt the final blow on the ancient, pagan racism.
Ironically, while the Gentile world was being freed from its remaining racist beliefs by the victorious march of Christianity, racism as an ideology was revived in the writings of Talmudist rabbis in the Middle East. The theory of the “curse of Ham” came from the Babylonian Talmud in the 3rd century. This theory said that the descendants of Ham, Noah’s son, were cursed with black skin, innate immorality, and passive acquiescence with tyranny and enslavement. The use of the Biblical curse on Canaan (not on Ham), of course, is arbitrary, for the Bible doesn’t mention anything about black skin, and the descendants of Canaan were quite white. The reasons for this resurgence of a thoroughly pagan and anti-Biblical theory in Judaism are not very clear, but it is not a surprise either. Gary North has explained in his book, Judeo-Christian Tradition, that contrary to the beliefs of many modern Christians, modern Judaism is not a Biblical religion but a self-conscious attempt by the rabbis to steer away from the Law of God, and adopt pagan views while baptizing them to look good. Whatever the reasons were, Muslim scholars – influenced by Aristotle – eagerly adopted the concept of the curse of Ham; after all, it helped them justify the growing slave trade in black Africans from Sub-Saharan Africa. The Quran doesn’t distinguish between races, so the Muslim rulers needed a theological excuse for their raids and slave trade. The Babylonian Talmud provided the excuse.
During that same period Christian Europe had no trace of racism or of racial consciousness based on skin color or other genetic features. The concept of the communion of saints was the only concept of ethical and cultural division; the world was divided between Christians and non-Christians, and divisions of skin color had no identifiable meaning. In the Byzantine Empire, converting to Christianity made one a full-fledged citizen, even eligible for the highest civil post, that of the emperor. Several emperors were of Armenian descent, one was a Khazar. Ethnic origin had no meaning in the Byzantine thought. In Rome, the Jewish quarter – all converted Jews – gave several popes to the medieval Roman Church. “Nation” as an ethnic term didn’t exist in medieval Europe; the “natus” meaning of “nation” (that is, born) was related to judicial allegiance of the place of birth, not to family connections. Thus, cousins of the same family could be of different nations if they were born across the border between two judicial polities. The Russian poet Pushkin was the great-grandson of Abram Gannibal, a black slave from Cameroon presented as a gift to Peter the Great. Gannibal was freed by Peter, then given an extensive military and engineering training and education. As part of this training he fought in the armies of several European nations, as a Russian. Another Russian poet, Lermontov, was of Scottish descent himself, but he never thought of himself as anything else but Russian. During the medieval period, the legend of Prester John was very popular both among the population and among the learned elite; a mythical Christian ruler of a great empire somewhere on the earth. He was often depicted as a black African by many painters. The Ethiopian delegates to the Council of Florence in 1441 were received with a pompous ceremony, for the European church believed them to be ambassadors of that Prester John. Even the early slave trade was racially motivated but religiously motivated; there was no idea of racial superiority or inferiority in Europe at the time. At the same time Portuguese traders were loading Black pagan slaves from the coast of West Africa; Cristovao da Gama, Vasco da Gama’s younger son, was fighting for the black Christian queen of Ethiopia against superior Muslim forces.
Racial theories of culture re-entered Europe only in the early 16th century, through the Muslim and Judaist influence in Spain. It was the Spanish monarchy in the 16th century which encouraged the spread of the “blue blood” theory of the European nobility, in order to maintain the elaborate social stratification in Spain, as well as the brutal treatment of the Native populations in America. And it was in the Spanish colonies in the New World where the first openly racial slavery laws were introduced.
The Enlightenment gave a new impetus to the ideology of racism. The covenant was abandoned as a sociological foundation for culture. In order to reject God, the Enlightenment philosophes resorted to looking for materialistic and metaphysical definitions of culture. They didn’t directly attack the concept of God; they attacked the concept that culture had anything to do with religion. (Voltaire, for example, had exactly the same views of Christianity as the modern “Reformed” seminaries: he believed in God, he believed that the Christian faith produced good personal morality, but in his most important novel, Candide, he rejected both Christian optimism of history and the idea that there can be such a thing as Christian culture. Keep this in mind: your “Reformed” pastor is most probably educated in a seminary by professors whose views are not awfully different than those of Voltaire.) The Enlightenment philosophes fell in love with the racial view of culture; so much that a theory became popular in France that the French nobility originated from Nordic Germanic warriors who conquered the genetically inferior Celtic and Latin peasants. Ironically, under the same love for racial theories. German nobility was trying to find a Latin racial origin for itself, as coming from the Roman conquerors. In Poland, the nobility tried to trace their genetic origin to Sarmatian nomadic warriors. Etc., etc. Modern genetics was known at the time, so different materialistic explanations for the origins of races were brought forth, specifically the concept that climate affects the human seed and thus produces both different physical characteristics and different cultures. The theory was clearly refuted when black Africans brought to Europe continued producing black African children in the European climate, but the ideology of the Enlightenment had no place for inconvenient facts.
But the real modern ideology of racism started developing only at the end of the 18th century when Christian Europe couldn’t afford to ignore the growing slave trade and slavery in the Americas; and neither could it afford to ignore the blatant contradiction with the Biblical standards. German philosophers and natural scientists like Christoph Meiners and Samuel Thomas von Sommering spoke of the “beautiful white race” and the “ugly black race,” and tried to prove the inferiority of the non-European races.
In the 1780s and the 1790s, one of the most meticulous and conscientious anthropologist of the 18th century, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, published his studies on human skulls, and divided the human species into five races according to comparative skull measurements: Caucasian, Mongolian, Ethiopian, Malayan, and American. Blumenbach specifically warned that his studies were only about physiology, and he criticized the theories of those who were trying to find signs of superiority or inferiority between the different races. He also pointed out that culturally, some regions in Europe were quite backward compared to regions in Africa or in Asia, so there was no base for the racial theories of culture. Even before the discovery of modern genetics, Blumenbach opposed the theory of the different and parallel genetic origin of the races, and held to the Biblical narrative that all races were simply different varieties of degeneration from one original race. (A theory that is today confirmed and proven by modern genetics, but rejected in his time by most scientists.) Despite Blumenbach’s views, though, his study became popular in the American colonies exactly as a confirmation for the inferiority of the Negro race. It wasn’t, of course, but together with the revived Talmudist mythology of the curse of Ham, it gave a nice excuse for the continuation of slavery and the slave trade. So popular, in fact, that even as late as the 1950s, racial theorists in the US still used – or rather misused – Blumenbach’s study of cranial (that is, skull) features as a proof for the moral and intellectual inferiority of the Negro race.
The revival of paganism by the Enlightenment led to a revival of racism, and racists of all kinds tried to attach themselves to different popular theories. Evolution – even if the theory is not innately racist – became a favorite excuse for racism. I already mentioned the theory of the climate determinism. With the rise of the theories of Freudism, behaviorism, and the psychology of Carl Gustav Jung, different racist authors adopted the rather artificial IQ tests as their proof of inferiority. Racists have also tried to attache themselves to different Christian groups in their attempt to gain legitimacy.
The anti-covenantal nature of this type of racism should be obvious: It is, in its very foundation, materialistic determinism. It declares that genes – or blood, or flesh, or whatever other material racists can think of – produce culture. It declares that man is ultimately – or may be just partially – a product of his flesh, and that his spirit is shaped and defined and controlled by his flesh. Marxism is the other popular form of materialistic determinism in the 19th and the 20th centuries, except that the material factor in Marx’s analysis was the economic conditions of man. Different economic classes, Marx held, having different economic power and living in different economic conditions, will build different cultures and will have different systems of morality. But Marx himself was not a stranger to the racial argument either; he himself held strong racist views, and he praised the French racial ideologue Gobineau. He also highly praised Darwin’s The Origin of Species, and again for the same reason. Materialistic determinism was at the foundation of most new theories in the 19th century. After all, they were all following Hegel, and in Hegel’s view, even God defined Himself and evolved His own being through the material power of the state.
The church, of course, must reject such racism as heretical. The Biblical view of culture is that it is covenantally defined: the dominant ideology in a society is what determines the dominant culture of that society. In the same society, sometimes, several different cultures emerge, based on the different religious views in that society. Henry Van Til gave the Biblical definition of culture in his book, The Calvinistic Concept of Culture: “Culture is religion externalized.” That is, what we see in the culture around us, is only a visible manifestation of the religious and ethical choices of men. Not of their genes, and not of their economic conditions. Men of different skin color and of different economic means will have the same culture if they are all gathered in the only Biblically valid Christian gathering: the communion of the saints. On the other end of the spectrum, brothers in the same family will fight against each other, culturally, if they have chosen to follow two opposing religions. Man’s flesh doesn’t command man’s spirit; his ethical commitment and choices are what define man as a man under God. Thus, the church must from among itself those who promote such materialistic determinism, even if – and especially if – they are trying to use the name of Christ in its support.
Then there is another kind of racism, not so heretical but just as collectivist. We are all prone to it – myself included in this number – for we are all prone to stereotype people and put them in boxes. Especially when putting them in boxes helps us in our self-righteousness. We ascribe cultural characteristics to individuals based on their skin color – not because we consider genetics determinative, not because we consider them inferior, but because we have been served certain statistics which tell us that specific individuals must behave in a specific way because they belong to a group.
Some time ago a friend of mine and I were talking to a non-American Christian, and he asked us, very seriously, “How do you guys deal with all the Hispanics down in Texas?” We were a little confused. “Deal . . . about what?” “Well,” he said, “isn’t it dangerous to have such a large share of the population loyal to Mexico?” We laughed, of course, “Why would they be loyal to Mexico? What is there in Mexico to be loyal to, that is superior to Texas culture? The corrupt political establishment? The exorbitant taxes and bureaucratic regulations? The brutal and corrupt police and military? The drug cartels?” “Well, their culture is the same.” Well, it is true that on the surface, their culture is the same, but our friend made a logical leap from the external similarity of cultural trappings to the ethical/judicial choices of all Hispanics in Texas. It came as a deep surprise to him that a significant and rising percentage of Hispanics – especially among the young – has converted to Protestantism, and many have conservative political views. In his view, if he saw a Hispanic, he would automatically assume that the person is Roman Catholic, and probably a Democrat voter. Well, yes, stats do seem to lead in that direction, but stats speak of aggregates. Making assumptions about individual Hispanics based on these stats would be just as wrong as making assumptions about individual whites.
In another example, earlier this year, a radio preacher popular among certain evangelical fundamentalist audience ranted about a black kid he saw, who flipped off a police car and then threw away his plastic bottle without disposing it in a container. The preacher was offended by the actions of the kid – which is normal – but then he continued his rant by projecting the future life of that kid based not on the stats for people who flip off police cars and litter. His projections were based on the official statistics for black males: 70% chance to be a deadbeat dad, 60% this, 65% that, all projections and predictions of how the life of that kids is going to go, because he belongs to a specific skin color group. He didn’t make any projections that would include in the stats white kids who flip off police cars or litter: the numbers wouldn’t be so radically against the kid, then, would they? He didn’t mention that his stats include black males who never flipped off a police car – that may have led to some inconvenient conclusions. He also gave as example of moral uprightness his own generation and his own group – which should be white suburbanites, I suppose, as opposed to the black males group his stats is about – who never flipped off a police car and if they littered, they felt guilty.
Technically, in terms of fundamental theology, this is not racism: it doesn’t involve an ideological belief in the inferiority or superiority of a certain genetic class. This is what makes many people object when this is called “racism,” because they do not see any ideological commitment to racial supremacy in it. But then again, these same people are eager to call many actions or agendas of modern civil governments with the name “Marxism,” even though these actions and agendas are based on ideologies that are technically and ideologically unrelated to or opposite to Marxism. Why? Because they perceive that even if Marxism is not the official ideology behind modern taxation, monetary policies, climate policies, it is still true that the motives and the goals are the same. So, when we take the examples of collectivist thinking I mentioned, why should it be wrong to call it racism, if the motives and the agenda, and the ethical/judicial consequences are the same as if there was a full-fledged racist ideology behind them?
And the ethical/judicial consequences are certainly the same as they are of full-fledged racism.
One ethical consequence, of course, is the impact such racism has on the targeted minority – impact that we as Christians are under obligation to always take in account, according to Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 9:22, “I became all things to all man.” We as Christians, I said, but especially those of us who are considered ministers of the Gospel and therefore men of authority. Impact mainly on the individuals within that minority, and especially on the younger generation in it. Paul also says in Eph. 4:29 that no rotten word should come out of our mouth; it is generally assumed that he is talking about cussing, but the truth is, it includes much more than just cussing – any non-redemptive talk, especially by men in authority, is forbidden. Fathers are not allowed to provoke their children so that they don’t get discouraged (Col. 3:21; Eph. 6:4). Speaking in hopeless terms to a young person, especially by a men of authority, certainly qualifies as provocation and as rotten words. When a whole generation of young men are spoken in terms of hopelessness because of their belonging to a certain genetic group, and if this is everything they hear every day in the news, and by their neighbors, and by the official statistics, eventually they tend to live with the idea that there is little hope for them.
If you don’t believe me, try it on your children. Start telling them from an early age that, as children of white suburban parents, there is 95% chance that they would grow obese and morally and culturally apathetic, and will get to care for nothing more than just their paycheck and the next football game. Tell that to them every day, show them movies where white suburban kids like them grow to be morally apathetic and selfish, show them studies that explain the reasons for such inevitable trend, tell them that this is because they have grown in a family of two white parents, that it is the suburban culture that has left its imprint on them, and that there is little chance for them to change it. Continue doing that for 18-20 years. What do you think will come out of your kids, if not selfish, self-absorbed, apathetic brats who care for nothing much but their own comfort? Well, this is what we do to black kids in the inner cities when we continue the same racist rants of statistics and projections – racist not because we officially believe in genetic inferiority, but racist because the final result is the same. And a black kid has not much chance – especially if he doesn’t have a father. After all, if the father has left, what is the kid to do, except hear day after day the same statistics how there is little hope for a kid like him who hasn’t had the chance to grow under a loving father in his home? Aren’t we as Christians to lift those that are fallen? Why are we instead trampling on their minds and hopes? And when the target is a racial minority, how is that not racist? Would we do it to our own kids?
Another ethical consequence is what such attitude does to our own conscience. We are so good because we never flip off a police car. (We, I mean, generically. I have flipped police cars and cops, to be honest.) So what advantage is it to us as a group, that we should give ourselves as an example? White suburbanites of our generation who have not flipped off a police car in their lives and never gotten in any greater trouble than a speeding ticket, are also the most morally and culturally apathetic generation in the history of the US. After all, it is on our watch that abortion has been legalized, and it is still on our watch that politicians play games with the slaughter of the unborn, and we continue voting and then go about our own business. And we have been the dominant political group for the last 50 years and longer. Our focus on the speck in the eyes of one minority group prevents us from seeing the huge beam in ours. Yes, yes, we would issue a formal confession that we are all sinners, but then practically, we would proudly give ourselves as example to those other groups, as if their sin is so bad and ours is only an insignificant issue.
And to be honest, the more I study the issue, the more I wish white suburbanites start flipping off not only police cars but all other levels of the crime syndicate that parades as “civil government” in our country. There is something we can learn from those black kids in the inner cities, and that is the distrust of power structures who have long ceased to be legitimate civil government, and have filled the cup of their iniquity. It took our forefathers in 1775 much less to flip off a whole empire; that we have not started yet is a clear testimony to our moral decay.
And finally, there is a judicial issue with this kind of racism. Because we are so superior to them – culturally, of course, not racially – we are unwilling to address the issues of government injustice against minorities. When a black man is killed by cops, our first reaction is always in favor of the cops: he must have deserved it. Michael Brown was killed, we took the side of the white cop, even though we all knew that shooting after retreating unarmed person without a court warrant is illegal under all circumstances, as per two decisions of the Supreme Court. If only we could have a video, but since we didn’t have it, the cop is innocent by default. Then we had a clear video of the murder of Eric Garner, and then it was insufficient; sure there must be more to that story. Even those who admitted, half-mouth, that it was murder, remained silent when the Grand Jury exonerated the murderous cop. Then Freddie Gray was arrested for just owning a pocket knife, and then killed, we said nothing. Why would a black man want to have a pocket knife? We all talk about the Second Amendment, then we freak out when the Black Panthers want to have their communities armed to defend themselves against police brutality. Yes, I agree, the Black Panthers are Communist in their ideology, but should we disarm black neighborhoods because of that? Should we remain silent when they are indeed assaulted by cops, and when those cops have our tacit approval in the fact that we never protest against police brutality in black neighborhoods? And no, there is no supremacist ideology behind this silence, but there is still racism – because we have accepted that the inferior culture in the black neighborhoods deserves police brutality, and therefore we are not going to stand for justice in these cases. In the final account, we are just as passive and apathetic concerning the legitimate complaints of the black community as we are about everything else. And while we don’t ourselves harbor any racist thoughts, with our silence, we are complicit in the institutional racism of our civil government; that same civil government that we should have started flipping off long ago – and worse than just flipping off – if we had only a tenth of the spirit of our forefathers.
This sort of attitude – automatically ascribing the statistical categories of group to its individual members, is what Joel McDurmon in his book on logic calls “fallacies of composition.” As we said before, such collectivising of individuals is not Biblical; it is a war against self-government, and it eventually destroys both those who practice it and those who are their targets. it’s about time we stop thinking of people as members of groups, and only allow one division between people: a covenantal division between the communion of the saints and the world of the lost. And treat every lost person as a potential convert.
The book I will assign this week is a book written by a black female liberal. When you read the book, ignore the ideological bias – what’s important in the book is the historical facts of the transformation of racism into its modern form – more subtle, more politically correct, but just as brutal and unjust and profitable for the elites as its previous version. The book is The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. There I much we can learn from our ideological enemies – because, as many of us know, very often our worst enemy is ourselves.
And don’t forget to visit BulgarianReformation.com and prayerfully donate to our mission. America is an important battlefield of the Kingdom of God; but the war is going to be won in many battles in many places in the world. And Bulgaria has been a very favorable battlefield for the Kingdom; a field where a little effort produces serious outcome. Help me continue the work there, and God bless you.