Interracial Relationships and the Church

First, thanks to Rachel Held Evans for including me in her Sunday Superlatives 5 August 2012.

Twenty years ago I was serving at a youth camp as summer staff and was leading a track on tough questions and crisis situations. During a forum discussion I was leading, one comment silenced all the others and I was point-blank asked to give my opinion. The topic was interracial dating. The leaders in the room ranged from saying they personally did not care but knew it would not fly in their church to being vehemently opposed personally. I sat bewildered never once having heard anyone in real life say such things and having seen interracial relationships my entire life. It was normative at my high school and college.

Then the bomb dropped…one woman said…out loud…that God did not intend interracial dating as dating leads to marriage, and marriage leads to procreation, and that would be like asking cats and dogs to mate.

While the entire room fell silent at her comment, I think I was the only one who gasped. I tried to respond with gentleness, I am certain I failed. We looked at Galatians 3:28-29 and Acts 10:34-35. We talked about what it means to be human and to be God's adopted children. The woman who made the comment didn't see it as racist at all, even when I said it was a racist comment. She said she wished no ill will to others, but that young people should not be allowed to mix with those not like them for all the problems this creates. Almost more shocking to me than her comment was that no one else in the room seemed as offended as I was, and not a single other adult spoke up against this woman's comment. In all fairness, there were only about 25 people there, but you'd think one of them would have been so horrified that they too would have spoken up.

Fast forward to today. One of my students who recently graduated from seminary and is in an interracial marriage, has been interviewing for youth pastor positions and is faring quite well. She just had an interview at a church in my home state of Arizona when the following occurred.

She asked how the church would receive her and her husband. She fully intended this to be a question about her interracial marriage. Those in the room just stared at her. She asked if there would be any problems or issues. Again, blank stares. She told me it took the older people in the room to explain to those who were younger what her questions were trying to uncover and why this would be an issue. When they finally understood her question, their response was clear, no one would think poorly of them. It would not even cross their minds. Clearly, it didn't cross their minds.

I am encouraged that she finally had an interview where she was received so positively on this one issue. Her own suspicions that other churches dropped her as a candidate once they knew of her interracial marriage may never be able to be confirmed but this one church has been an encouragement to her and to me.

As much as I am encouraged, I am also frustrated that she even has to bring this up as an issue in the interview process. She understands this is life and chooses not to be bothered by it. She will serve well where she is hired and pray for those churches and individuals who still hold to the ignorance of racism.

 

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About Amy Jacober

Amy Jacober (PhD, Fuller Seminary) is a youth ministry veteran with ministry and teaching experience. She focuses on practical theology, urban ministry, theology & disability, and marginalized communities. She is a volunteer youth worker in her church and community, lead consultant with Youth Ministry Architects and serves on the Young Life Capernaum national board. In her free time she can be found playing with her three young children, husband, and oversized dog.