Is God a Racist? An Evangelical Pastor’s Response to Anthea Butler

Is God a racist?  According to Professor Anthea Butler, God is a violent racist.  Butler, a professor of African Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, stated, “God ain’t good all of the time. In fact, sometimes, God is not for us. As a black woman in a nation that has taken too many pains to remind me that I am not a white man, and am not capable of taking care of my reproductive rights, or my voting rights, I know that this American god ain’t my god. As a matter of fact, I think he’s a white racist god with a problem. More importantly, he is carrying a gun and stalking young black men.”[1]  In lieu of the Zimmerman case, it is necessary to address this issue from a theological perspective.  In this article, we shall first address the issues brought forth by Butler while addressing the issue of God’s relation to various races.

Butler probably brought forth more claims.  However due to space, we will address the three claims that Butler made of God from the brief discourse above.  Is God good at all times?  Is God favorable to any particular race?  Does God hate a certain race?

Anthea Butler, Professor at the University of Pennsylvania
Anthea Butler, Professor at the University of Pennsylvania

Is God Good At All Times?

            Butler claimed that God is not good at certain times.  What basis does Butler give for this statement?  Is she blaming God for the death of Trayvon Martin in the Sanford, Florida shooting?  It appears so.  However, Butler makes a statement that transcends just the Zimmerman/Martin case.  She seems to be saying that God is sometimes bad.  Can this be the case with the God of the Bible?

Certainly there are some who would claim that God is bad at times since God allowed for slaughters in the Old Testament, henceforth called the Hebrew Bible.  We have addressed some of those issues in a previous article.[2]  But, what does the Bible tell us of the character of God?

Paul writes in Titus 1:2, “This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began.”[3]  God does not lie.  It is not that God does not choose to lie.  Paul shows that God is incapable of lying.  Why is this so?  It is due to the moral goodness of God that transcends eternity.  Does the morality of God change?  Absolutely not.  There may be ceremonial laws which are given.  There may even be things that God permits due to God’s love for humanity.  Jesus seemed to indicate this much in relation to the issue of divorce.  Jesus said, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended.[4]  While the issue of divorce is not on the table, the permission of God is.  It can be found that God may permit something even though it is not God’s ideal plan.  There even seems to be a case in the Hebrew Bible where God lets the people have what they desired even though it was not what the people needed.  God told Samuel, “Do everything they say to you,” the Lord replied, “for it is me they are rejecting, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer.”[5]  Was the goodness of God affected by the sinful actions of humanity?  Of course not.  God is still good despite the depravity of humanity.  We can tap into the goodness of God when we open our lives to God’s direction.  God calls.  God stirs.  Are we open to God’s moving?  The psalmist writes, “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God.  May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing.”[6]  Butler addressed another issue: God’s partiality of a certain race.

African child Prays to Jesus

Does God Prefer a Certain Race?

One of the more bizarre statements from Butler concerns the thought of God being a racist hunting down those of a different race.  It is especially bizarre when one considers the fact that God does not possess a race but is Spirit.  Butler’s statements show her passion in the Zimmerman/Martin case.  The bizarre thing is that Zimmerman is Latino.  But for the sake of argument, let us be honest.  Many Caucasian Christians have not been overly kind to those of darker complexions.  I am in my thirties, so I missed many of the racial tensions that existed in the 1960s.  However, I have picked up on much of the tensions that have spilled over to individuals today.  Not long ago, my family and I were at a Mexican restaurant in one of the larger cities in our area.  A white couple was waiting to pay their bill.  A black family approached the register beside the white couple.  Pleasantries were exchanged between the couples, but they were strained at best.  This is certainly not the mood of all white and black families.

When wounds are deep, they take much longer to heal.  With the inhumane treatment of slaves and racial crimes that took place in the 1800s and early 1900s, it will certainly take a long time to overcome.  That does not even take into account the stereotypical behavior that spilled over in the later 1900s.  I spoke with a black gentleman who served in Vietnam.  He told me of his return to America from the war.  A white friend of his wanted to take him to a restaurant in Mississippi.  The gentleman told his friend not to do it because he would not be allowed to enter the restaurant, but his friend was persistent.  Sure enough, he was asked to leave due to the color of his skin.  Are these actions what God supports and desires?

Jesus demonstrated by His actions and by His teachings that we are to love everyone despite of one’s nationality and skin color.  I will use two examples to prove this case.  The first example is Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan.  Jesus said,

A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by.  A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.  “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.  The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”[7]

The racial issue in this story may fall on deaf ears until the reader realizes that the Samaritans were hated by the Jews of that day.  The Samaritans hated the Jews just as much.  So, Jesus’ presentation of a Samaritan being the hero would have been revolutionary in Jesus’ time.  Racism was not approved by Jesus.  He even used the racism between Jews and Gentiles to bring forth a point to a woman in need while commending her faith.[8]

Another example of Jesus’ anti-racism is found in His healing of a Roman’s servant.  Matthew records,

Lord, my young servant lies in bed, paralyzed and in terrible pain.”

7        Jesus said, “I will come and heal him.”

8        But the officer said, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. 9 I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.”

10      When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to those who were following him, he said, “I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel! 11           And I tell you this, that many Gentiles will come from all over the world—from east and west—and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven.[9]

Again, the Romans were hated by the Jews.  Quite frankly, the Romans did not care too much for the Jews either.  Yet, Jesus transcended the racial boundaries to heal the Roman officer’s servant even boldly proclaiming that many Gentiles from all over the world would sit down at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven!!!  This does not sound like a racist to me.  Running with this thought, Butler’s thought of God hating black people needs to be addressed.

Does God Hate Black People?

Honestly, typing the question above just seemed bizarre, because some of the godliest people I know are black.  Even using the terms “white” and “black” seem so trivial.  Are we not more than colors?  My wife met a woman at a previous place of employment.  This woman and her husband are of African descent and are both wonderfully filled with the Spirit of God.  I can say that I earnestly trust this couple because they are such godly people.  There is a local officer in our community who is a godly, Christian woman.  I would trust her anytime.  She is of African descent and filled with the Holy Spirit of God.  The sheer notion that God hates black people, or any race for that matter, is ludicrous.  Take for instance the Ethiopian eunuch mentioned in the Book of Acts.[10]  The Ethiopian was dark-skinned and African, as Ethiopia is in Africa.

Many godly Christian people in entertainment are black.  Take for instance, Tyler Perry who produces movies with great moral integrity.  There may be some questionable material from time to time, but overall there are great moral themes to his movies.

Take also the fact that the Spirit of God has brought forth a great revival in the heart of Africa.  The revival has become so great that many ecclesiastical statisticians are claiming that the center of Christianity in the future will be found in Africa, South America, and in Asia.  Does this fact indicate God’s disdain of dark-skinned people?  Certainly not!

God loves all people

Taken from the Christian Post
Taken from the Christian Post

Conclusion

To find the heart of God, one needs to only glance at the most famous verse in the Bible.  Jesus said to Nicodemus, “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.[11]  The world means just that…the world.  Butler  may claim that since God allowed dark-skinned people to become enslaved during the early years of America that God must not care about those people.  But, may we remind Butler and those who hold this radical view that the people chosen to write God’s Word, and the lineage from which the Messiah would come, were in fact enslaved (as found in the book of Exodus).  It was from a people who were enslaved (the Hebrews) that God brought forth the first prophet Moses.  It was from a people who were mistreated that God brought forth a life manual (the Bible) for people of all walks.  The challenge that we have as genuine believers in Christ is to allow God to break down the barriers which keep us from loving God the way that God deserves to be loved; and also allowing God to break down the barriers which keep us from loving others the way God has commanded.  If you have racial tendencies, give them over to God.  You might just find some exciting new friends in Christ.  May you find the favor of the God of all nations and peoples through God’s Son Jesus Christ.

hands shaking

Keeping the faith while loving people of all colors and nationalities,

Pastor Brian Chilton

 


[1] Anthea Butler, quoted by Cavan Sieczkowski, “On George Zimmerman Verdict: ‘American God’ Is A ‘White Racist,'” HuffingtonPost.com. Accessed July 19, 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/17/anthea-butler-god-white-racist_n_3610342.html.

[2] See the article “Why the Violence in the Old Testament?” here on pastorbrianchilton.wordpress.com.

 [3] All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation, 3rd ed. (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2007), Titus 1:2.

 [4] Matthew 19:8, NLT.

[5] 1 Samuel 8:7, NLT.

[6] Psalm 143:10, NLT.

[7] Luke 10:30–38, NLT.

[8] See Matthew 15:26-28.

[9] Matthew 8:6–11, NLT.

[10] See Acts 8:27ff.

[11] John 3:16–17, NLT.

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