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The Bible and interracial marriage

Anyone who has dated someone of another ethnicity knows that not everybody is fine with interracial relationships. Couples often receive awkward looks and stares in public, and many college students don’t date outside of their ethnicity for fear of their families disapproving.

Polls show that a significant amount of Americans oppose interracial dating, even 40 years removed from the modern Civil Rights Movement. In 1987, fewer than half of Americans thought it was appropriate for whites and blacks to date. Today, the number is up, but only to 61 to percent among Southern whites.

While some see these numbers as evidence that America is a nation of racist bigots, it’s clear that not everyone who opposes interracial dating does so out of hatred for other ethnicities. Many Americans are in fact friends and neighbors with people of other races, yet are still uncomfortable with interracial relationships due to their religious beliefs.

“Interracial dating is sinful,” some have said, “the Bible says two people can’t be ‘unequally yoked.’”

Any Christian using the above argument needs to reread the part of the Bible he or she is referencing immediately. It has nothing to do with race, and it actually has little to do with romantic relationships.

The passage in question is 2 Corinthians 6:14-15. “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers,” it says. “For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?... What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?”

The author’s point here is not even cryptic: Christians should not join together as one with non-Christians. That’s it. Whether this means believers cannot be best friends, close friends or friends at all with nonbelievers may be up for debate. What’s not is whether the passage forbids interracial marriage or interracial dating. It clearly doesn’t.

Another passage that Christians sometimes cite during discussions about interracial dating is Deuteronomy 7. Here, God discusses marriage when instructing Israelites about living on the land he’s promised them:

“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—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. Do not intermarry with them.”

Yes, in this scripture God tells Israelites to not marry people from other nations. He also tells them to “destroy them totally.” Clearly, the issue here is not the color of the Girgashites’, Jebusites’ and Perizzites’ skin, it’s their culture. To argue that Deuteronomy 7 proves interracial marriage sinful is silly, as the situation is obviously a specific one, and the people’s ethnicity is not the motivation.

A far more relevant passage of the Bible dealing with interracial marriage is Numbers 12, where Miriam and Aaron are speaking bad words about Moses because of his marrying a “Cushite wife.”

That Moses’ wife was a “Cushite” means she was from Ethiopia. It also means she likely had much darker skin than Moses, a scenario backed up by passages like Jeremiah 13:23.

In this story, God becomes very angry with Miriam and Aaron for criticizing Moses and his wife and even gives one of them leprosy. He offers not condemnation, but praise for Moses, calling him his “servant” and saying that “he is faithful in all my house.” Were God opposed to interracial marriages, he certainly would have said something else here.

Other religions may have different things to say about interracial marriage, and hate groups opposed to it will surely keep trying to spin statistics and religious texts in their favor. But the bottom line is that the Christian stance on the issue is extremely clear. There is nothing sinful or wrong about interracial relationships, and anyone who says otherwise has either misinterpreted scripture or abused it.

Nathan Carleton is a Trinity senior. His column appears Thursdays.

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