Terrible Parts Of The Bible: Part 5 – Racism

I would have thought the Bible of all books would be about love and peace for the whole world. I would never expected quotes from God or Jesus claiming only some ethnic groups were saved or that some were superior to others. But that is exactly what I found.

First of all there is the constant claim that Jews are the “chosen people”. Now surely a history of the Jews should teach a strong lesson of the dangers of declaring one group of people superior to all others. It always ends in trouble. Just ask the Germans.

The Bible seems to have one rule for the Israelites and one rule for everyone else. If you don’t see what’s wrong with this remember that America had one-rule-for-us-another-rule-for-you laws. It was called Jim Crow.

Before anyone says the Bible wasn’t racist because he wasn’t based on skin colour note that the United Nations defines racism as “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin”. So treating people different because they are from a different tribe or ethnic group is racist.

In Deuteronomy chapter 7 the God tells the Israelites that there are other ethnic groups living in the promised land. Does God tell them to live in peace and harmony with them, with everyone respecting each others’ differences? No he tells them “to smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them nor shew mercy unto them. Neither shalt thou make marriages with them.” (This isn’t the only time the Israelites exterminated others, see here) God commands the Israelites to exterminate another people, not for any crime but merely because they are a different ethnic group with a different religion. This exceeds even the Ku Klux Klan level of racism.

Chapter 25 of the book of Numbers (verses 1-13) tells of when the Israelis began to inter-marry (it uses the term “commit whoredom”) with the Moabites, a neighbouring ethnic group with a different religion. This provoked the rage of God who commanded Moses to “hang them”. One man had married a “Midianitish”. An Israeli, Phinehas killed both of them with a javelin. God praises him for this and declares he “hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel.” He then rewards him with a “covenant of peace” and the covenant of everlasting priesthood.” Moral of the story, God doesn’t want you to mix with people other you’re own.

Mixed marriages are denounced again. When Nehemiah was governor he found that Jews had inter-married with other ethnic groups. He “cursed them, and smote certain of them” for committing “this great evil”. He concludes with a malicious vague sentence Thus “cleansed I them from all strangers”. (Nehemiah 13:23-30) The exact form of this ethnic cleansing is not described. Yet this is included (without criticism) in the Christian holy book and we are supposed to worship and live our lives according to it.

Far from being open to all people, non-Israelis were actually banned from joining the religion. “An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the LORD for ever;” (Deuteronomy 23:3) So even if an extremely distant ancestor was from a neighbouring ethnic group, you could not become a Jew. Only pure Israelis could join.

The book of Nehemiah (chapter 13) records that when people were told of this law, “they separated from Israel all the mixed multitude.” (Nehemiah 13:3) So here we have an ancient version of ethnic cleansing.

Not some might say that was all in the past, that Jesus replaced this hate and bigotry with love. However even Jesus looked down on other people.

“And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying; Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.” Matthew 15:22-8

Strangely I have heard Christians use this story to claim Jesus was not racist. Apparently the fact he healed a Canaanite was proof of his tolerance. In fact I remember being told this story as a child, except I was told the disciples wanted to send her away but Jesus overruled them. However he initially refuses to even speak to her merely because she is different. He then declares that he only cares about Israelis, only they will be saved. He then compares her to a dog. All this vicious and disgusting racism coming from our saviour, the son of God. It is only after she is forced to beg, grovel and compare herself to a dog eating crumbs that Jesus decides to help her. If that’s not racist then I don’t know what is.(Mark 7:25-30 tells the same story except the woman is Greek according to him.)

Christians do point to the loving words of Jesus like, “Love your neighbours” or “Treat others as you would like them to treat you.” How do we square the tolerance of Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” with the vicious bigotry mentioned above? Part of this is because of the contradictory nature of the Bible. You can take almost any declaration and find another one that directly contradicts it. Matthew 10:5-6 tells the preachers to avoid Samaria as the word of God is only for the Israelites. Yet Acts 15:3 says the preachers did go to Samaria and converted many people. (For more examples click here)

For this reason we should not try to base our lives or government on a book that you can use to justify literally any position. We should not pretend it is “The Good Book”. Morality and  tolerance does not come from the Bible, it comes from society itself. We cannot worship nor blindly accept something that contains such blatantly racist comments. We should use our own ethics to judge the Bible not the other way around. Though, in doing so we are admitting that the Bible is redundant.

Terrible Parts Of The Bible Part 1 – Genocide

Terrible Parts Of The Bible Part 2 – Sexism

Terrible Parts Of The Bible Part 3 – Homophobia

Terrible Parts Of The Bible Part 4 – Slavery

Terrible Parts Of The Bible Part 5 – Racism

Terrible Parts Of The Bible Part 6 – Anti-Semitism

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