Thursday, November 20, 2008

Historic Presidential Race in Biblical Perspective

I am the president of procrastination and it looks like we're in for four more years. It should come as no surprise to anyone, therefore, that it took me until November 20th, to write a blog post I should have done on the night of November 4th.

The race to the White House this year was truly historic. This would be the first time in history that there was either a female Vice President or an African American President of the United States. As the chips fell, my expectation was realised, and with Obama's victory, we now have, waiting in the wings for inauguration, our first ever African American President.

What better time, then, to remind us all of the position of the Bible on women and various races. Often times, it is said by people who apparently do not know the Scriptures very well, that the Bible is sexist and/or racist. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Women. Woman was taken from the side of man, not the foot or head. Also, woman alone was 'meet' for man unlike the inferior animals. Both of these facts suggest that men and women are equals in the eyes of the Bible. While it is true that Paul said he did not permit a woman to speak in church, we must keep the historical context in mind. In the culture of that time, women were largely uneducated. So they would tend not to follow everything being said in the services. Imagine a high school freshman in a college senior math class. They would not be able to follow everything perfectly. The situation is analogous. In either case, the person would constantly be interrupting the instructor and nothing would ever get accomplished in the ensuing chaos.

Ethnicity. The most common charges of racism in the Bible are with respect to Jews and, in America, those of African descent. But the Bible was written by Jews, to Jews, about Jewish concerns (though, of course, many Jews today would likely deny this of the New Testament). So the Bible is clearly not anti-Semitic. What about prejudice with respect to African descendants? There is nothing in the Scripture that connects the mark of Cain to dark skin. The only other allegation I could think of are the biblical passages about slavery. Two comments here. First, just because the Bible talks about slavery, that does not mean that slavery is a good thing. Second, slavery as practiced in the ancient near East was different from slavery as practiced in the American south. This brings up a very important hermeneutical point. We must always be careful not to read modern events/experiences/perspectives into the ancient text of the Bible. Besides, it is in the Bible itself we read that God is no respecter of persons (i.e. all are equal in His eyes). And what is more, the abolitionist movement included many persons who were involved because of their Christian faith-not unlike the pro-life movement of today. There were, of course, slave owners who tried to justify their practices by appeal to the Bible but that does not mean the Bible actually said what they said it did. People have been reading all sorts of strange things into the Bible, that aren't really there, since day one. Is the Bible racist? I answer that with an emphatic 'no'.

So then, I see nothing wrong with either a female or a black leader of this country. The President (and Vice President) of the USA is the representative of the citizenry but who is that citizenry? The United States citizens are none other than the melting pot of many different men and women from many different nations. It is therefore appropriate to have that reflected in the ones we elect to represent us in high office.

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