This week marks the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Loving v. Virginia overturning bans on interracial marriage as unconstitutional.
The Lovings, a white man and a black woman who had married, were found guilty under a Virginia criminal statute banning interracial marriage. The judge who sentenced them said
- “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”
The Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed the Lovings’ convictions. The Lovings appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The state of North Carolina filed a brief with the Court supporting Virginia’s argument that the Court should affirm the Lovings’ convictions. In 1952, 30 states had statutes prohibiting interracial marriage. Virginia, North Carolina, and 14 other states had statutes outlawing interracial marriage at the time of Loving v. Virgina.
Many people believed, as the Virginia judge did, that the Bible prohibits interracial marriage. In 1963, former President Harry Truman expressed his view that interracial marriage was against the teachings of the Bible.
I still have a Bible I used as a teenager. Here is its note on miscegenation (interracial marriage):
“Forbidden by Abraham … Isaac … Moses … Joshua … Ezra … Nehemiah. Reasons for prohibition of …. Prohibition of, observed by the Jews …. Results of ….. Instances of ….”— All with scriptural citations.
If you read that note, what would you infer is God’s view on interracial marriage?
There were lots of commentaries on the Bible from the 1800s and early-to-mid-1900s that say that interracial marriage is against God’s will (and some that say it is not, too).
Scripture itself, though, does not prohibit interracial marriage or indicate it is against God’s will.
There were occasions reported in the Bible in which God told the Israelites not to marry non-Israelites, and one can try to make this into a general prohibition, but it requires an extremely narrow reading, bias, some big leaps in logic, and ignoring Christ’s teachings and other scripture.
There is no general prohibition of interracial marriage to be found in the Bible.
Christ’s teachings and the teachings found in the New Testament teach the opposite.
Indeed, Paul, in his letter to churches in Galatia explained:
“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Fortunately, in June 1967, a unanimous Supreme Court found laws that banned interracial marriage unconstitutional and overturned the Lovings’ convictions. It is shocking to think that this was just 50 years ago and could have continued if the Supreme Court had not intervened.
Why are courts sometimes ahead of Christians on identifying and acting on issues that Christians ought to have themselves addressed long before?
Why are courts sometimes ahead of Christians in addressing issues Christians should have addressed long before?
Is prohibiting interracial marriage for others a sin? Is prohibiting it loving towards other people? Is prohibiting it blocking others from doing what Jesus asks, loving others, and thus a sin for that reason, too?
What are some views today about what the Bible prohibits that is or might not be what the Bible actually prohibits?
Is prohibiting those things for others a sin?
How could this have been only 50 years ago? And even then, how did it come to be that many Christians favored maintaining the prohibition? What percentage of Christians today believe that the Bible prohibits interracial marriage?
Why do some Christians deny that systemic racism exists or is not the church’s responsibility to address?
What do we need to do today?
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(The picture at the top is a meme I created today using a quote from the Virginia judge who sentenced the Lovings. This is the first time I have created a meme, so I will not be surprised if it does not turn out right.)
Notes and Sources:
The Supreme Court’s decision (quoting the Virginia trial judge): http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/388/1.html
My Bible: Nave’s Study Bible, The Southwestern Company (1907, 1978).
“There is no longer Jew …”: Galatians 3:28 (NLT).
Updated: Note that about 40% of people from Alabama voted against dropping the law banning interracial marriage in 2000, with many majority white counties in favor of keeping it. Every majority black county voted in favor of the change. Many majority white counties voted against it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2000_Alabama_Amendment_2. This was just about 20 years ago.
Updated June 2020.