Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Religion and Civil Rights

Martin Luther King Day is January 19th this year and February is Black History Month (now rebranded African-American History Month). That makes this a good time to reflect on why racial equality has been hampered in America and how the equality movement has been corrupted from within.

MLK certainly had admirable goals. Black citizens should, without question, have every opportunity and advantage their fellow citizens enjoy. They should not be subject to exclusionary practices that deny them the chance to vote, they should not be excluded from schools or jobs based solely on their race nor should they have to fear for their lives during interactions with police. 

Yet it's ironic that the most admired and well-known figure in the history of of the Civil Rights movement was a Christian minister. 

Christianity has a very checkered history with minorities in this country. Those of us who lived through the 50's remember vividly the fights to end segregation and Jim Crow laws. The KKK identified itself as a White Christian organization. 

The writers of the Bible made no effort to condemn or discourage slavery. It's true that the slaves mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments were of Middle-Eastern origin and not the African slaves that are the shame of early American history. But slavery is slavery regardless of the color or national origin of those enslaved, and the Jewish writers of the Bible had no problem with it. 

The god of the Old Testament made slaves a reward for wars conducted in his name. In the New Testament, often referred to as the New Covenant between god and man, includes:

Colossians 3:22
Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.
1 Timothy 6:1
All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God's name and our teaching may not be slandered.
Titus 2:9
Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them,

1 Peter 2:18
Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.

The Civil Rights movement owes nothing to the Christian religion. 

Nor is it supported by the teachings of Islam. The Nation of Islam, under the leadership of Louis Farrakhan, has done more to increase distrust and enmity between Blacks and Whites than it has to help Blacks to reach parity with Whites. 

Religion is no friend to the struggle for Civil Rights. 

It could even be argued that the teachings of Christianity, the most popular religion in America, are to blame for the slow adoption of Civil Rights and the resistance to real equality in our society.