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Austin Cline

Segregation & Christianity: Christian Opposition to Integration, Internationalism (Book Notes: Noah's Curse)

By October 30, 2006

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Noah's Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery One of the central organizing features of conservative evangelical Christianity is the perceived need for absolute standards of social order. They see all around them dangers to the social structures which uphold democracy, liberty, and especially Christianity. Whatever appears to threaten social stability and order is thus an offspring of Satan.

In Noah's Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery, Stephen R. Haynes writes:

By the mid-1960s, the legal status of segregation had been settled in America's courts and political chambers. But segregation's staunchest proponents continued to fight, insisting that integration was the leading edge of a social revolution bent on "overthrowing God's established order."

As conservative Christians reacted to what they regarded as perilous change, they pressed Nimrod's legend into service. One example is Corey Daniel of Dallas, a Baptist preacher who utilized the legend to depict integration as part of a demonic social scheme. ...Daniel combined race and disorder in his portrait of Nimrod, "the Negro leader of the Babelbuilders (Gen 10:6-10), whose name means 'Rebel.'" [...]

Like many Southern conservatives, Daniel associated the campaign for civil rights with socialism, internationalism, and revolutionary dictatorship. In fact, the alliance between integration and the loss of individual freedom is exceedingly close in Daniel's mind. Using epithets such as "those first unholy one worlders" and "the United Nations' modern tower of Babel," Daniel applies Genesis 11 to popular anxieties about America's role in a changing world. [...]

Like the Babel-builders, the UN seeks to integrate races and governments, "lest [they] be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." Again like the architects of that ancient UN, the modern internationalists "are ignoring, when they are not actively blaspheming, the Lord Jesus Christ and His glorious gospel blood redemption." Thus, in Daniel's view, Nimrod is the patriarch of all schemes to consolidate in rebellion against God.

Let's keep in mind that we are talking about efforts to desegregate America's schools and other public institutions. This should have been viewed as a question of basic justice: black Americans were denied justice, equality, and freedom on the basis of nothing more than racial bigotry by whites. Many of these whites sought to defend and justify their racism, their bigotry, and their institutional discrimination on the basis of their religious texts.

Few if any were just cynically manipulating the Bible in the service of racist political goals. We should accept them as completely sincere in their beliefs, which probably only makes things worse. The fact that blacks were being denied justice and equality was, in their minds, less important than the fact that giving them justice and equality would have undermined long-established social structures. They believed that the subjugation of blacks by whites was designed by God as the desirable social order in America — that God was in effect a racist just like them.

Notice also that Daniel, like others, equated racial desegregation with a loss of freedom. This is no different from the arguments made by conservative evangelicals today that equal rights for gays will lead to a loss of freedom. These people view liberty as a limited commodity: giving others basic freedoms that one takes for granted for oneself must necessarily lead to a decrease in freedom for others. Of course, any loss of freedom for white Christians is a sign that Satan is working behind the scenes.

 

Read More Book Notes from the Book Reviews on this site.

Comments
November 11, 2006 at 5:21 pm
(1) anomalous4 says:

“Justifications” for racism go all the way back to Genesis. Genesis 9 tells how, when Noah had had a bit too much wine and either passed out or fell asleep, his son Ham walked in, saw the old man naked, and didn’t do anything about it except tell his two brothers, who “took a garment, and laid it upon their shoulders, and walked in backward and covered their father’s nakedness; their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.”

(Note: In the early Hebrew Scriptures, “nakedness” was often used as a euphemism for sexual activity. Maybe Ham caught mom and dad in the act, or shortly thereafter.)

When Noah woke up and realized what had happened, he said, “Cursed be Canaan [Ham's son]; a slave of slaves shall he be to his brothers,” and blessed his other two sons.

According to Christian tradition dating back at least to the Middle Ages, the Jews and other “Semitic” peoples traced their ancestry to Shem (no surprise there); dark-skinned and/or “primitive” peoples were descendents of Ham (interestingly, at least one Bible translation lists “Egypt” as one of Ham’s sons); and caucasians were descendents of Japheth.

Before long, the tradition had been finagled so that Jesus and his direct ancestors (not to mention all the prophets, as well as the apostles) were said to be descended from Japheth(!), which left an easy “out” to let European Christians persecute the Jews. It was around that time that Jesus was turned into a “Christian.”

Just 2 shekels’ worth from someone who’s never understood racism – get my family all together, and we look like the United Nations.

November 19, 2009 at 6:20 am
(2) Desire says:

This is really funny!!! How can people say that there isn’t a God?! Altough what I am about to say is old news, it still stands!
If you cannot see the wind, how do you know it’s there? why did you name is “Wind”? Just beacause we dont get what we want out of life sometimes doesnt men that there isn’t a God! If you are an atheist or someone who doesn’t believe in God and you see this…. YOU BETTER MAKE UP YOUR MIND, AS TO WHAT YOU BELEIVE IN, BECAUSE THERE ARE ONLY TO PLACES TO GO AFTER YOU DIE, AND IM PRETTY SURE, YOU DONT WANT TO BURN FOR ETERNITY NOW,DO YOU??!

November 19, 2009 at 6:48 am
(3) Austin Cline says:

This is really funny!!! How can people say that there isn’t a God?!

Don’t see any good reason to bother believing.

If you cannot see the wind, how do you know it’s there?

Because we can measure it.

Just beacause we dont get what we want out of life sometimes doesnt men that there isn’t a God!

True. In fact, that’s the only true thing you write — but it’s also irrelevant.

If you are an atheist or someone who doesn’t believe in God and you see this…. YOU BETTER MAKE UP YOUR MIND, AS TO WHAT YOU BELEIVE IN, BECAUSE THERE ARE ONLY TO PLACES TO GO AFTER YOU DIE, AND IM PRETTY SURE, YOU DONT WANT TO BURN FOR ETERNITY NOW,DO YOU??!

Actually, there is no place to go after we die: once we die, that’s the end.

May 23, 2011 at 12:48 pm
(4) dogkees says:

“Actually, there is no place to go after we die: once we die, that’s the end.”

How do you know this for sure? have you checked this out yourself?

May 23, 2011 at 3:20 pm
(5) Austin Cline says:

How do you know this for sure? have you checked this out yourself?

Because who we are as individuals is dependent upon our memories and our personalities. These, in turn, are entirely dependent upon the physical brain. When the physical brain dies, our memories and personalities die as well. When the die, we as individuals also die – no more “us” at all, except in the memories of others. If there is anything else that survives, it’s not “us” and nothing to be concerned about.

October 3, 2011 at 3:51 pm
(6) Jenn says:

Alas, I too was told the story of Ham as a child (not to mention dinosaur bones as being laid by satan)…Needless to say, I’m VERY agnostic (not sure what type really, but, yes, “without knowledge” that’s me)…I just always found it funny that the bible (or other holy books) have been used to justify to worst deeds in human history…

I don’t know if there is a god or not, or if my energy (that makes me a living being) stays sentient somehow, but I do know I am in THIS reality, and I want to make this world a better place, and treat those around me well as I can…the judgement and anger (as seen in some of the posts)…why ruin the life you have with these emotions that take the enjoyment out of life, the beauty? Life is short, and are really only guaranteed what you have right now…
Peace and joy be with you…

June 26, 2013 at 7:20 pm
(7) chrisnfolsom says:

Great article – and as most good position papers eternally current. We just overruled the prop 8 allowing federal support for gay unions. Now, I am not gay, have issues with how gay lifestyles will make things more complex culturally (although I do like complexity). But as has been written here social changes you are not comfortable with (or “feel” good about) are not for you to keep – especially when it involves limiting others rights.

I was looking for articles on religion against segregation and suffridge and many of the arguments – as always – are the same – let’s not rock the boat. Well, creating America was about as much boat rocking politically as had happened 200+ years ago – and look what we have created! You can have your own personal comfort zones, and pick your friends and the community you live in and interact with – you cannot use the government to limit others freedom your own comfort. The constitution is the law of the land – not the Bible.

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