Earlier this week, in a small town in Pike County, Kentucky, Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church passed a proposal to limit the involvement of interracial couples in their congregation. The proposal, written Reverend Melvin Thompson, reads: "That the Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church does not condone interracial marriage. Parties of such marriages will not be received as members, nor will they be used in worship services and other church functions, with the exception being funerals." It should be noted that this does not ban them from attending worship services, but from participating as official members.
After I read this story about the situation, I decided to do some research to find out why they made this decision. For most of the country, interracial marriage is no longer a controversial issue, even within religious communities. So why would a church, in 2011, in America, decide to make a policy (the vote was Yes-9 and No-6, while it should be noted that the head pastor opposed the motion) basically stating that interracial marriage is a sin that should not be tolerated within a church?
To be perfectly honest, it was difficult to find any literature or even websites that supported the idea of interracial marriages being sinful. However, there are people out there that feel specific scriptures support this idea and stand firm that God commands us to only marry within our own race. Let's take a look at a few of those scriptures.
New International Version (NIV)
"1 When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you— 2 and when the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. 3 Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, 4 for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods, and the LORD’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you."
In this passage, God emphatically commands the Israelites not to intermarry with these groups that live in land they are about to acquire. However, He goes on to give an explanation. God does not say to not marry them because of their skin color or ethnicity, but because "they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods...". Actually, I see no mention of the race of these people in this passage. While God definitely tells His people not to intermarry with these groups, it seems to be because He wants the Israelites to stay focused on Him. I'm not sure this scripture addresses the interracial marriage issue at all.
In this chapter, we see Aaron and his wife Miriam speaking out against Moses for having a wife of a different race. How did God react to this situation? He punished Aaron and Miriam by striking her with leprosy. Hmm...if God was against interracial marriges, wouldn't Moses have been the one who was punished?
You may recall the story of the tower of Babel. We find the descendants of Noah trying to build a tower to reach the heavens. To prevent them from doing this, God confuses their languages so that the people cannot understand each other. The scripture then says that the Lord then scattered them all over the earth.
Some people understand this story to mean that God wants group of people to be separate, and others even take it so far as to suggest this is support for racial segregation. However, no matter how many times I read it, I see no reference whatsoever to race. It seems like a huge stretch to use this passage as support for opposing interracial marriage.
Ezra 10 1-4
New International Version (NIV)
"1 While Ezra was praying and confessing, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a large crowd of Israelites—men, women and children—gathered around him. They too wept bitterly. 2 Then Shekaniah son of Jehiel, one of the descendants of Elam, said to Ezra, 'We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the peoples around us. But in spite of this, there is still hope for Israel. 3 Now let us make a covenant before our God to send away all these women and their children, in accordance with the counsel of my lord and of those who fear the commands of our God. Let it be done according to the Law. 4 Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it.'"
Now we are getting somewhere. This passage directly talks about the Israelites "marrying foreign women." According to this scripture, it was unfaithful to God to do so. This makes it seem as though God only wanted the Israelites to only marry within their own race, right?
You know what the problem with the Bible is? It's very easy to take one small passage and let it speak for itself, and then you completely lose the meaning of what you are reading. Turning back just one page, we see in Ezra 9:1 that "After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, “The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites." So, apparently, the foreign women the people of Israel were marrying were those same ones that God commanded them not to marry back in the passage we read in Deuteronomy. If you remember, the entire reason for God telling them not to intermarry with those people was because "they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods...".
Wow. So God told them not to do something in Deuteronomy because they would lose focus on Him, and then in Ezra we see that they are in trouble because they did what they weren't supposed to and lost their focus. The common theme through these passages seems to be staying focused on God, and there is no evidence that race itself ever played a part in that. Is this really the best Biblical evidence they can come up with? Let's look to the new testament and see what we find there.
New International Version (NIV)
"Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all."
New Living Translation (NLT)
"From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries."
Wait...these passages seem to talk about people being equal in Christ. Are there any scriptures that talk about who not to marry?
2 Corinthians 6:14
New King James Version (NKJV)
"Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?"
There it is. This verse says we should not be unequally yoked. Some people think that means we should not be bound to people of different races. But I have a hard time buying that. No matter how many versions of the Bible I looked at, the sentence almost always contained the word "unbelievers." So it seems to be saying that we shouldn't be bound to people that are not like us...in faith. My goodness, that sounds exactly like the passage back in Deuteronomy. Marrying people of a different faith can cause us to lose focus on God and "turn your children away from following me to serve other gods...".
The title of this article is "Why a local church banned interracial marriage in its congregation." I legitimately tried to find a Biblical basis or some sort of rational reasoning for why this was done. The truth is, I can't find one. I have no idea why Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church voted in a proposal that forbids interracial couples from being a part of their church family.
Speaking of family, I have one more scripture for you. In chapter one of the book of Matthew, you will find a genealogy of Jesus Christ. Besides his mother, Mary, you will find the names of four women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. Bathsheba is the only one of those women that was Jewish, or an Israelite by birth. What does that mean? That means that Jesus had at least three interracial marriages in his genealogy. If people of different races were good enough to be in the family of the Messiah, why shouldn't they be a part of your family? Think about it.