by William Trollinger
In August, Ken Ham (Answers in Genesis CEO) and Charles Ware (founder and executive director of https://gracerelations.net/), spoke at the Indianapolis Castleview Church on the topic, “One Race, One Blood.” Ham and Ware drew from their co-authored book of the same title to – as the conference was promoted – discuss “how evolutionary thinking has led to an increase of racism,” as well as “the Bible’s powerful answer to racism.”
As we note in Righting America (184), AiG’s ubiquitous evolutionism-equals-racism claim “could easily lead the historically unaware to conclude that Darwinism had something to do with the 250 years of slavery in North America, even though Origin of Species was published just six years before slavery was abolished.”)
One of the attendees at the “One Race, One Blood” conference was Larry Smith, founder and CEO of Leading Edge Advisory Firm, and graduate of Williams College and Stanford University. In an Indianapolis Recorder article entitled, “One discussion, two perspectives,” Smith highlighted the differences between the two presentations: while Ware (who is black) “spoke from the perspective of one who has a close kinship with the subject matter,” Ham routinely wandered into “tangentially related” topics before “remembering that he was supposed to have been discussing race and racism.” And even then, Ham “tended to speak from a 25,000 foot level.”
In short, Ham’s spiritual gaze was fixed beyond the sky to an ethereal future; Ware understood that people of color must endure an existential crisis on Earth – in the here and now. (Importantly, neither man spoke to the scourge of systemic racism, preferring to focus on cross-racial interaction, personal recognition of the sin of racial bigotry, and personal transformation based upon faith in Jesus.)
Smith sparked Ham’s ire. While it took him a couple of months, Ham has now penned a response. As is his wont, Ham includes ad hominem innuendos: Smith “is an African-American who states that he is a ‘devout evangelical Christian,’” and yet “he was very lukewarm about the content presented at the conference.”
Ham’s suggestion is obvious: if Smith really were a Christian, he would have been thrilled with what Ham had to say.
More substantively, Ham argued that “there is no way to fix the systems of this world in regard to racism,” just as there is no way to “fix the world’s political systems” and there is no way to “fix the planet” from what “is supposedly happening regarding climate.”
We can’t fix things (politically, socially, etc.) on this earth! And sadly, the majority of people are also doomed, but there’s real hope! What we can do is proclaim the “fix” for each individual – and that “fix” is to respond to the gospel and build all of one’s thinking on God’s Word!
Reading Ham’s blog post, someone unfamiliar with Ham might imagine that he is an apolitical evangelist who focuses his efforts on rescuing individual souls from the fires of Hell, and who has little or nothing to say about politics.
Nothing could be further from the truth. It just depends on the issue. As Smith pointed out, while at the conference “Ham was generally dispassionate regarding racism . . . he ‘came alive’ when railing against the social issues that bedevil white evangelicals (e.g., abortion, homosexuality and gender identity).”
This is precisely how it plays out on Ham’s blog: a multitude of posts regarding the specifics of gay marriage, transgender bathrooms, and the like, and nary a word about the particular and multitudinous ways in which racism bears down upon people of color in the United States. As we note in Righting America, the contrast is startling:
While Ken Ham and AiG immediately launched a series of attacks on the June 26, 2013 Supreme Court decision that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, they had nothing to say regarding the Supreme Court decision that came down one day before, a decision which, to quote the New York Times, “effectively struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act.” This striking contrast was weirdly repeated in the summer of 2015: while Ken Ham and other AiG contributors published a raft of angry articles in response to the June 26, 2015, Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, they were (as far as we can tell) silent as regards the Confederate flag controversy that erupted in the wake of the June 17, 2015 massacre of nine African American churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina (189).
Larry Smith is exactly right when it comes to Ken Ham (and white evangelicalism more generally, as Camille Lewis noted here) and racism. As Smith noted in his final paragraph:
Though I am a devout evangelical Christian, it is impossible for me to overstate the following: Being a baptized believer in Jesus Christ is far from enough to eradicate racism. Slaveowners usually were devout “Christians.” So were their progeny who created and protected Jim Crow, sharecropping, “separate but equal” laws, and domestic terrorism against African Americans.
Interesting how there was no mention of the fact that Darwin and his family were strong supporters of the anti-slavery movement. Also of note is that many of the schools endorsed by AIG practiced institutional racism with interracial dating banned at Bob Jones until the year 2000. Fortunately, that has changed, but it makes you wonder if some vestiges are still present.
The ban on interracial dating at Liberty was fairly brief, and was initiated by a Chinese family in the 1970’s, concerned that their child would move away from their cultural heritage. In other words, the motivation was not racism, but instead for the purpose of preserving the cultural heritage of minorities. Otherwise they would tend to be lost, and absorbed into the minority. They soon changed the policy to permit it, if the parents approved. So, they did not have a moral problem with interracial marriages.
Liberty views all people as belonging to one heritage, having all been descendant from Adam. Evolution allows for the idea that there can be inferior races, and so until recent decades, reconstructions of skeletons believed to be ancestors of modern people all had black skin.
Concerning Darwin. He considered the negro race to be inferior. Hitler wanted to dedicate Mein Kampf to Darwin, because it provided scientific motivation for racism. But, Darwin’s widow declined the offer.
Thanks, Joe, for these comments.
I am sure you know that the opposition to interracial marriage has a very long history in America (and in white evangelicalism) – it is not until 1967 (the anniversary was just three days ago) that the Supreme Court struck down laws against interracial marriage – and this opposition to interracial marriage was not primarily about ethnic minorities trying to protect their heritage. Instead, the great fear in America about interracial marriage had to do with the great white fear that black men would have sex with white women, a fear at the heart of Jim Crow segregation and the plethora of lynchings in the decades after the Civil War.
I know that Darwin=racism and Darwin=Hitler are staples of young Earth creationism – Ken Ham trots this out all the time – but historically they do not work:
And while many white evangelicals and fundamentalists hope that the notion that Darwin=racism gets them off the hook, history tells a different story. Again, from Righting America:
If we are going to talk about racism, we have to get our history right. If we’re going to follow Jesus, we cannot pretend that white Christians stood up for blacks when they clearly did not.
While many comments in the article are true in part. Just as Ken Ham, in one sense, flies over the facts and roots of racism prior to Darwinism, the rebuttal flies over the fact of the historical Christian response to racism and slavery prior to Darwinism as well. The fact that most of the notable abolitionist were in fact Christian. For example William Wilberforce in England worked in parliament for decades to abolish the slave trade and was inspired to the work BY his Christian faith and encouraged to it by the former slave ship captain who wrote amazing grace who also turn from the slave trade BECAUSE of his personal conversion. Many in the US who worked on the Underground railroad, Abolition and Civil rights were also driven by personal Christian convictions and the encouragement of pastors. Anyone remember John Brown who probably had one of the clearest visions of the racism in this country of a white man. And that was INFORMED by his understanding of the clear teaching of scripture. Bottom line the basic answer Ken Ham proposes IS correct. the REAL implementation of Biblical values. Not simply an acknowledgement of Christ as savior. But a biblical overhaul in the world view for each individual. So that we each see every human being as LITERALLY a family member. The fact that many white evangelicals of the past and present are not where they need to be on this issue is not because the solution is false but that it’s not earnestly applied. Similar to divorce among Christians, the problem isn’t that the Bible is not up to the job it’s that Christians are selectively ignoring and disobeying the scripture. However in contrast to divorce, if we’re honest about the race issue, we have to acknowledge that the white Christian Church U.S. as a whole has moved CLOSER to what God wants over the past 200+ years. So to say that ALL evangelicals or fundamentalist were anti-civil rights, anti-abolition and segregationist is simply false.
If we’re going to follow Jesus we must abandoned the tendency of all parties to focus on the worst and ignore the best… or disparage progress… in various discussions.
It’s ungodly and doesn’t serve anyone well.
Thanks AE for your comments.
Yes indeed Wilberforce and other abolitionists drew upon their Christian commitments to oppose slavery. But to say this also requires that the following be said:
And they detested John Brown. And after the Civil War, they used similar arguments in behalf of segregation.
It is much more than many past and present white evangelicals “are not where they need to be on this issue.” As these millions of 19th/20th century white evangelicals understood it, to be truly biblical and truly Christian meant being proslavery and pro-segregation. The Bible was their weapon. Ham elides this issue, but there is no way to deal with white Christian racism in America without an honest reckoning of the past. And many, many white evangelicals — in keeping with Ham — have not done this.
Thanks again, AE, for sharing your thoughts.