Is Christianity ‘for whites only’?
A refutation of the ‘Christian Identity’ heresy
Published: 12 January 2012 (GMT+10)
It may shock some to realize that there is a significant body of people (perhaps several tens of thousands in the US) who call themselves Christians but believe that only white people can be saved. To be more specific, they believe that ‘Germanic, Anglo-Saxon, and British’ people are the only ones who are descended from Adam, who they say is the father of the Jewish race referred to in the Bible. The others are thought to be so-called ‘mud people’, people created before Adam and Eve, and without souls. This astonishing heresy teaches that inter-racial marriage is unbiblical, that the ‘white’ race is superior to all others, and that today’s Jews are not descended from the biblical Jewish race at all.
They are loosely grouped under the heading ‘Christian Identity’, with ties to earlier ideas known as British Israelitism. But after the latter ideology, which embraced today’s Jews, reached American shores, it took on this anti-Semitic flavor.
Bible believers are on extremely solid ground in rejecting the suggestion that the color of a person’s skin has anything to do with their salvation. We affirm on both biblical and scientific grounds that all people are descended from Adam and Eve, and that modern genetics shows ‘racial’ differences to be very minor. So minor, in fact, that ‘race’ (although it still has relevance and meaning in ordinary parlance, of course) is not a particularly meaningful biological classification. Furthermore, Jesus Christ came to save people of all ‘races’ without distinction, and the Bible is clear that people of every ‘tribe, tongue, and nation’ will be in Heaven. There is simply not the slightest biblical justification for CI’s racism.1 And the best refutation of ‘Christian Identity’ and other racist white supremacist heresies is to look at the text of the Bible itself.
Compromising on origins
It shouldn’t be surprising that someone who wants to elevate their own people group above others would dispute our common ancestry from one couple, twisting the text of Genesis in the process. In order to escape the clear anti-racist implications of this Bible teaching, the Christian Identity heresy tries to claim that non-whites are not descended from Adam, and do not have souls. Incredibly, they equate non-whites with the ‘beasts’. While some may hold that all beasts were created on Day 6, and distinct from the first couple, the majority appear to be old-Earth creationists of varying degrees. They believe that while Adam was created about 6,000 years ago, non-whites were created at least hundreds of thousands, possibly even millions, of years before that. And they believe that the universe is billions of years old.
It should go without saying that this is a vile distortion of the Bible’s teaching. Instead, the Bible teaches that all people today are descended from the first couple, Adam and Eve. So clear and self-evident is this teaching, that even secular scholars have conceded that it was a major barrier to the surge in racism that followed the widespread acceptance of evolution following the publication of Darwin’s book.
One example is Australian historian Joanna Cruickshank, no defender of biblical Christianity. She was referring to earlier times in Australian colonial history, when social Darwinist theories about human origins were fueling policies detrimental to the continent’s Aboriginal people. They were believed to be ‘less evolved’ than whites. She points out that, “one of the few persistent barriers to social Darwinist theory in Australia was the Christian doctrine that all human beings were of ‘one blood.’”2
Furthermore, the straightforward evidence from modern molecular biology confirms that all people are astonishingly closely related. These findings from observational science were not expected from evolutionary considerations, and theories of human evolution have had to be substantially ‘reworked’ to take them into account. They confirm what the Bible has self-evidently taught. They are also further evidence, if such is needed, of the utterly fallacious and bizarre (not to mention deeply offensive to most reasonable people) nature of Christian Identity’s self-serving fantasy.
Even simple facts about our anatomy and physiology are enough to refute this notion. So far from their being any fundamental differences between groups, when it comes to the things perceived as differentiating ‘races’, we all have ‘the same stuff’—just differing amounts of it. For example, the brownish pigment melanin—varying amounts of it in the skin give us different shades of the same color. The same pigment, and variations in the amount, are responsible for both brown and blue eyes, as well as brown, black and blond hair.
Our immensely close relatedness is also the reason why the ‘two-tone twins’ in the photo here make perfect sense—biblically and biologically. If Christian Identity folk saw these two beautiful infant girls in separate prams in the street, to be consistent, they would claim that only the ‘white’ one of them had a soul and could be saved. Why? Because she was descended from Adam, and not the other, in their strange views. Since they are twins, with the same parents, they obviously cannot have different ancestry. Of course, once they knew of their parentage, CI fanatics would have to switch to saying that the ‘white’ baby only looked like that. But in reality she was some sort of (apologies for this, but it comes from their hateful literature) ‘polluted mongrel’.3
Interestingly, this shows that not only evolution, but compromising on Genesis creation to allow for pre-Adamic man, opens the door to racism.
What about the Flood?
‘Christian Identity’ says that Noah’s family brought the non-white races onto the Ark—but the Bible is clear that only eight people survived the Flood. Many CIs don't believe in a global Flood so explain the survival of non-white races that way, or (shudder) teach that these were among the creatures sent on board two by two. For more on related distortions of biblical teaching such as the (non-existent) ‘Curse on Ham’, see CMI’s newly-released full-color book One Human Family: The Bible, science, race and culture.
What does the Old Testament say?
The Bible makes it clear that what matters is someone’s belief in God, not any aspect of a person’s appearance. A few racial incidents in Scripture illustrate this very well.
Moses’ second wife was a Cushite (a descendant of Ham’s son Cush), and probably had darker skin than the Israelites, who would have had olive-toned skin. In Numbers 12, when Miriam and Aaron spoke out against Moses because of his ‘black’ wife, Miriam is punished by becoming ‘white’—with leprosy. In the same passage, God affirms that Moses is His servant and as such has a special standing before Him. Nowhere is there any indication that Moses’ marriage to the Cushite is condemned.
Rahab was a Canaanite, who was spared because she expressed faith in the true God and hid the Israelite spies. She married Salmon and was an ancestor of Christ (Matthew 3). Likewise, the Moabite Ruth was a proselyte (i.e. a non-Israelite who converted to the faith of Israel). Both of these women were part of ethnic groups that were despised because of their idolatry, but when they expressed faith in God, they were accepted on equal terms into the community, and married Jewish men (more interracial marriages!)
An encounter with ‘Christian Identity’ teaching Down Under
More than two decades ago, one of us (CW) was speaking on creation in a small country town in the Australian state of Victoria. Afterwards, it became clear that there was a small group that had planted themselves strategically dispersed so that they could ‘rattle’ the speaker in seemingly random reinforcement of each other’s pointed questions objecting to the speaker’s stance. CMI speakers were already long used to that tactic from certain evolutionist groups, but this time was different. It took a while to realize that where they were coming from was this sort of CI teaching.
A major plank for them was that the word for Adam is etymologically related to the word for ‘ruddy’ (as in complexion). Ergo, Adam could blush, and, they claimed, only white people can blush, hence only white people are descended from Adam and thus can be saved.
CW: “Scarcely able to believe such a facile attempt to justify their own ‘superiority’, I explained to them, speaking as a medical doctor, what blushing was—a dilation of the blood vessels causing more blood to flow to the face. And that every group of people can blush, only it is more readily visible to onlookers if one has less of the sunscreen pigment melanin. I had not heard of Christian Identity, but was vaguely aware of one of its threads, British Israelitism, which claims that ‘whites’ are the ‘true Israel’ and today’s Jews are imposters. So I asked them if they included Jews under the heading of ‘whites’, and they said that today’s Jews were not God’s chosen people. Paul was an Israelite, and thus a descendant of Adam, but not a Jew. They seemed to be disinterested in what the Bible taught unless it could be twisted to support their white supremacist and anti-Semitic ideology.”
The concept of race is foreign to the Bible, mainly because we are seen to be one family—descendants of Adam. The nearest idea in the Bible would be ‘nations’. A word search for ‘nations’ in the Old Testament will reveal that the word is rarely used with a positive connotation. It often refers to the rabble of non-Israelites who go after idols, who live in spiritual blindness at best, and at worst are actively hostile to the Living God. The nations come against Israel to enslave her, they sacrifice their children to idols, they curse God. But the Bible also says that “all the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will worship before you. For the earth is the Lord’s, and He rules over the nations” (Psalm 22:27–28).4 The Psalmist can say:
God be gracious to us and bless us,
And cause His face to shine upon us—Selah.
That Your way may be known on the earth,
Your salvation among all nations.
Let the peoples praise You, O God;
Let all the peoples praise You.
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy;
For You will judge the peoples with uprightness
And guide the nations on the earth (Psalm 67:1–4).
God sent the Messiah as “a light to the nations” (Isaiah 42:6, also 49:6). Egypt and Assyria are predicted to become peoples of God as well as Israel (Isaiah 19:23–25). God says that He will bless the nations who call on His name (Jeremiah 12:14–17). Zechariah 2:10–11 is even clearer: “Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” declares the LORD.11 “Many nations will join themselves to the LORD in that day and will become My people.”
There are many more similar passages in Scripture—anyone who reads the OT prophets should be familiar with them. The nations are judged when they are hostile to God—but what sense would it make to judge people who are incapable of a relationship with God? Their rejection is punished as if they could and should worship God, but refuse to do so. And the prophets predict a time when the nations will worship the true God.
What does the New Testament say?
Some of Jesus’ statements in the Gospels could be said to be racially oriented. Jesus said that He was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel, and also forbade his disciples from going to the Gentiles. He made statements referring to the stereotypical spiritual blindness and depravity of the Gentiles, warning the Jews not to follow their practices. But only by ripping these individual episodes out of context could someone come up with a Jesus who would condone racism.
Jesus commended the faith of the centurion and the Canaanite woman—he said the former’s faith was greater than any He had encountered in Israel. Even at a time when He was ministering almost exclusively to Jews, He envisioned a time when salvation would come to the Gentiles. And He explicitly commanded His disciples to go to every nation and evangelize them.
The book of Acts is largely the story of the early church’s endeavors to obey the Great Commission. At first the Gospel went mainly to Jews and God-fearers, and then to Samaritans. But then the Ethiopian eunuch was converted—a descendant of supposedly ‘cursed’ Ham! Philip doesn’t hesitate to baptize the Ethiopian when he requests baptism. And then Cornelius’s whole family is converted. The church in Antioch quickly becomes an important hub for Paul’s missionary activity, and Paul wastes no time in his attempt to convert all of the Roman empire.
In one of Paul’s most famous sermons, at the Areopagus, he said, “He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us …” (Acts 17:26–27). So it is possible for all mankind to seek and find God.
Paul declares in no uncertain terms that salvation isn’t dependent on sex or race—“neither male nor female, neither Jew or Greek.” What matters is someone’s response to the Gospel.
Revelation specifically says that people from every tribe, tongue, and nation will be present before the Throne—Heaven isn’t a place that racists would want to be!
Early Church history
Early Church history also forbids any racism. If Church tradition is to be believed, Philip went to India and was martyred there. Early Christians made it a priority to spread all over the world to evangelize. Athanasius, one of the great heroes of the faith who battled Arianism5 almost single-handedly, was called the ‘black dwarf’ as a description of his color and stature. Most of the early Christians would be thought of as Middle-Eastern by today’s reckoning. Augustine was from North Africa. The early Alexandrian Christians were responsible for the earliest copies of the New Testament to survive to the present day. In fact, these ‘superior’ Germanic and Anglo peoples were pagan until these ‘inferior’ people groups sent missionaries to them!
Today, the places where Christianity is growing the fastest are in the ‘global south’, in South America and Africa. These Christians often face persecution and hardship which many Western Christians would find hard to imagine, including Ugandan Christians who routinely have their limbs chopped off. Chinese Christians in underground churches still face persecution and imprisonment. Those who suggest that they are somehow incapable of true faith only reveal their own ignorance and bigotry.
All ‘races’ one in Christ
All of humanity has the same sin problem. Our common ancestor Adam rebelled against God, as has every one of his descendants. God sent Christ, the Last Adam, to take the punishment for the whole world’s sins so that anyone who calls on Him can be saved. Christians are commanded to take this message to all nations, without regard for race. The Bible indicates God will bless this effort and will make it successful, because people from every nation and language will be present at His return.
- While we recognize there is no biological basis for the classification of ‘races’ of people, labels such as ‘white’ and ‘black’ are in common usage and are useful for designating certain people groups of differing ethnicities and often also cultural backgrounds. Thus this article will use these labels, with the understanding that they do not imply anything more than superficial, even trivial, biological or genetic differences. Return to text.
- Cruickshank, J., Darwin, race and religion in Australia, ABC Religion and Ethics, www.abc.net.au, 11 Apr 2011, accessed 13 April 2011. The ‘one blood’ is a direct quote from the King James version of Acts 17:26 where Paul is referring to all nations having been made from one man (Adam). Return to text.
- For much more on how to understand race issues without being ‘politically correct’, including a survey of real race/culture issues around the world, see Wieland, C., One Human Family: The Bible, science, race and culture. Return to text.
- That the Psalmist can talk about the nations ‘remembering’ also indicates that they came from a line that once knew about God, which makes sense if all people alive today are seen as the descendants of Noah, who was a righteous man. It is also interesting that this is in the context of a Messianic psalm—and Jesus, the Messiah, was the one who brought this about. Return to text.
- A heresy which states that Christ is not God, but rather the most exalted and first created being. Return to text.