“Loving Day” and the Sin of Previous Generations

Virginia judge Leon Bazille’s handwritten theological justification for banning interracial marriage. He ends by saying, “The fact that [God] separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” What Bible was he reading from?

Fifty years ago today, the United States Supreme Court struck down a Virginia law forbidding interracial marriage. The Loving vs. Virginia decision cut at the heart of racist ideology in my home state, and paved the way for American democracy to recognize that skin-color makes no difference when it comes to marriage. For couples in interracial marriages today, June 12 is often remembered as “Loving Day.”

What makes this so tragic for the Gospel is that a racist ideology had for centuries been falsely linked with the Bible. The biblical teaching that prohibited Jews from marrying people outside of the Mosaic covenant had been twisted to say that people of different skin-color, irrespective of God’s covenantal purposes, should not be allowed to marry.

Folks, unless you have not figured it out before by reading this blog, Bible interpretation matters.

In addition to what I wrote in reviewing Loving, a 2016 film of the story behind the Loving vs. Virginia case, I believe the legacy stemming from Christian rejection of interracial marriage is a good example of what is meant by this difficult passage of the Bible:

“The Lord…[forgives] iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6-7)

One application of this passage is that sin has its way of being repeated generation after generation, unless it is properly addressed, through confession and repentance. In recent decades, most Christians have thought that interracial marriage is not forbidden by the Bible, but over the past fifty years, this has not always been the case.

I have had more than one conversation in some thirty years, where a believer simply assumed that the Bible really did forbid interracial marriage. In every case where I challenged the believer to give me a prooftext, the answer every time was something like, “Well, someone told me it was in the Bible. I just do not know where it is.

Mmmmpph.

Why would anyone go around saying “the Bible says,” when in fact, they have no clue as to what the Bible says?

At best, that is merely uninformed, or just plain, lazy-thinking Christianity. At worst, it is a subtle way of justifying sin. Furthermore, the fact that it took a secular court to force Christians to rethink how they were misinterpreting the Bible is a scandal in and of itself.

We should therefore not be surprised when so many in our society today apply the same logic about interracial marriage to same-sex marriage. As the thinking goes, “Christians were wrong to condemn interracial marriage some fifty years ago, so why should Christians be condemning same-sex marriage today? Marriage is about people loving one another and being happy as individuals making their own decisions. What does race and gender have anything to do with it?

I can easily sympathize with what drives the argument, based on how poorly Christians in past eras misinterpreted the Bible. However, unlike the falsehood of racial ideology, the Bible does understand God’s purpose in marriage to have gender as an essential component to it. But how many Christians today think theologically about marriage?

So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27)

Here Genesis sees human gender as a primary way of reflecting God’s character, demonstrating to the world around us, the nature of the God of the Bible. But how many of us think of God’s purpose for marriage in this way, as a means of displaying the attributes of God? The God of the Bible is Triune, the Father and Son in union through the bond of the Spirit, distinct persons yet in fundamental unity with one another.

Surely, those Christians from earlier eras who opposed interracial marriage were not theologically sound when they were thinking about marriage. Could it be that Christians today still need to learn more of thinking theologically about marriage? Could it be that we have some more confession and repentance to do today?

HT: The Gospel Coalition has a helpful article summarizing the significance behind Loving vs. Virginia.

About Clarke Morledge

Clarke Morledge -- Computer Network Engineer, College of William and Mary... I hiked the Mount of the Holy Cross, one of the famous Colorado Fourteeners, with some friends in July, 2012. My buddy, Mike Scott, snapped this photo of me on the summit. View all posts by Clarke Morledge

4 responses to ““Loving Day” and the Sin of Previous Generations

  • Mike Gantt

    (Let me preface my comment by dispensing with the issue of “same-sex marriage.” I believe that the term is an oxymoron, and nothing about Loving v Virginia supports Obergefell v Hodges. I believe the normalization of homosexuality is against the will of God and a tragic turn for our country. I am dispensing with this issue up front because my comment is going to focus exclusively on the issue of interracial marriage.)

    Though I grew up in the Jim Crow South, I have believed from an early age that interracial marriage was legitimate – and have never wavered from that position. I hate that the Lovings had to go to court to secure what should have been recognized as a God-given right. Whatever the percentages were back then, It seems now that the vast majority of Americans accept interracial marriage. It has therefore surprised me that practically all of these people nevertheless want to cling to racial categorizations. It is hard to find a government form that doesn’t want you to identify your race. It is hard to find a public opinion survey that doesn’t include breakdowns by race. All day long, it seems, we hear and use the terms “African-American,” “Hispanic,” “White.” Yet shouldn’t fifty years of Loving v Virginia being the law of the land have diluted these distinctions?

    Why does Barack Obama claim, and everyone accept, that he is an African-American? Wasn’t his mother white and his father black? By what rule, then, is he African-American? If it was his decision, had he chosen to “identify” as white, would his decision have been met with the same universal acceptance? If not, why not? If it was not his decision, whose decision was it? And why in the decade of his running for, and presiding as, president have I never heard anyone else raise these questions which should be so obvious in the wake of Loving v Virginia?

    A society that embraces interracial marriage but preserves racial categories consigns the children of interracial marriages to no-man’s land. – and this is grossly unfair to these children. It’s fairly obvious that Obama chose to identify as African-American because he would not be accepted as white and it’s social stigmazing to identify as mixed race. Yet why should he have been faced with this choice?

    What good have we done to create a world where people like Richard and Mildred Loving can freely marry but their children can’t fill out a form or answer a survey without joining a tribe?

    Because of my long-held acceptance of interracial marriage as legitmate I have long sought to eliminate racial distinctions in my thinking and my vocabulary. That is, I’ve tried not to think of myself or anyone else as this race or that. What baffles me is why the majority of Americans aren’t trying to do the same thing.

    Like

    • Clarke Morledge

      Mike: Thank you for your comments again on Veracity. Even fast food restaurants these days, on their survey forms, ask you to identify your racial background. I am thinking now that I should simply refuse to answer such questions!

      Like

  • Mike Gantt

    Good!

    Think how much good Barack Obama could have done if he had used his platform to say something like this:

    “Do not call me black, because, you see, my mother was white. Do not call me white, because, you see, my father was black. Do not call me gray because I do not wish to start yet another race category. Do not call me “None of the above” or “Not quite any of the above” or “Partly some of the above” because such designations stigmatize me and my children. Let’s be done with the categories! If there were no interracial marriage, I could accept the distinction of races, but covenant extinguishes distinctions. A marriage covenant especially results in one flesh! If you have some valid reason for referring to the tint of my skin as you would the color of my eyes or my hair, I’m not going to get all picky about it. Just don’t make it a matter of race. It’s not; it’s a matter of appearance. And then get back quickly to “the content of my character” – as that should be what most concerns us. Let me be the first post-racial American president and help me establish a post-racial America. Otherwise, what did we mean when we said that no one has a right to object to Richard and Mildred Loving getting married?”

    Like

  • Mike Gantt

    This will be my last comment on this post.

    Many people say today, “We need to have an honest conversation about race.” And yet, when they do talk about race, hardly any of these people will address the kind of straightforward and obvious questions that I have asked above. These sorts of questions, for whatever reason, must be considered embarrassing and taboo because no one seems to want to ask them or answer them. However, if a person is not willing to talk about such issues, I know they are not really interested in solving race problems. Rather, they are interested merely in either self-advancement or self-preservation. As long as these subjects are taboo, I know that while people might feel proud of themselves for embracing couples like the Lovings, they are simultaneously wanting to preserve racial identities and showing a callous disregard for the children that inevitably result from such unions.

    The mother may be one race and the father another, but what will you say of the child? If an African-American marries an Asian-American is their child to be called an African-Asian-American or an Asian-African-American? How many hypens do our racial identities have to carry before we realize the foolishness of trying to preserve them in a world of interracial marriage?

    It’s not enough to support the Lovings of the world if we do not support their children, too.

    “Whoever loves the father, loves the child born of him” – from 1 John 5:1

    Like

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