“Prejudice, Discrimination and Racism in the Bible: What Can We learn Today?”
If you have been to Israel, you will have noticed that there is a world of ethnoracial diversity among the Jews. The modern Israeli population comprise of people from all over the world, including from an unlikely place in India. Likewise, scholars have recognized ethnoracial diversity among the ancient Jews. So, anyone who describes “Jewish people” as a particular race or ethnic group cannot be farther from the truth.
In spite of the diversity, the Bible contains texts that reveal prejudice, discrimination and racism. Racism, however, should not be understood in terms of skin color. Today, whenever we hear the term “racism”, the first thing that comes to mind is skin color. Although the Bible has been used to justify racism in relation to skin color, it hardly mentions skin color. Racism based on the color of skin is a modern idea.
The Bible contains seemingly contradictory messages. For example, Paul who wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28) had no qualms in saying, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ” (Ephesians 6:5). Passages like this and others have been cited to justify racism and discrimination. However, the Bible was not written and should not be used to create barriers in human relationships. However, those who are bent on practicing discrimination of any kind will always find biblical passages to support their beliefs or actions.
Richard Rohr has aptly summed up in his book, The Great Themes of Scripture: Old Testament: “Indeed, the Scriptures are both the best book in the world and the worst book in the world. They are the worst when they are used for bullying and self-satisfaction. They are the best when they are used for the healing of the world and for the transformation of the self. It all depends on how we read them and how we use them. The “who” that you bring to the Bible will determine “how” you understand it and how you use it.”
Tezenlo Thong, Pastor
Simpson United Methodist Church