What are race and ethnicity and how has religion impacted these concepts in society? Can men and women from different tribes, nations and culture come together to govern as citizens? Or is God partial and prefers one race to another? These questions are briefly discussed in this article.
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Galatians 3:28: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
With the inherent racism that pervades our systems, structures and institutions in society; this scripture will appear to many to be more idealistic than realistic. Prentiss (2003) defines race and ethnicity as ways of perceiving and attaching traits to groups of the population.
Race is marked by biologically inherited characteristics and ethnicity by culturally inherited characteristics. These terms are widely used in everyday conversation but perhaps rarely distinguished. Returning to Galatians 3:28 and the message implied by the Apostle Paul that all individuals are afforded the same privileges as citizens upon receipt of salvation; irrespective of race, status and gender. However, throughout history, it is recorded that Religion has aided and even created racism (Eskola 2011).
Therefore, it takes a conscious few to realize that racism is a consequence of sin and people are prejudice and racist as they are products of their environments. Christ’s intended purpose in the establishment of His Kingdom is His sons and daughters from all tribes and nations governing in His Theocracy on Earth. Romans 8:16-17.
Through the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ, all those who believe in him become constitutionally changed and enter as one kind: GodKind. Citizens of his everlasting glory, manifestations of His character. Black, White, Male, Female, Rich or Poor all become sons and daughters of God.
This means that as fellow citizens we are required to treat each other equally. But time and time again seen both in the epistles and throughout the ages; fellow believers have treated each other partially. This partiality is based on human prejudice. If prejudice remains then regardless of the equality that we share as citizens, inequality will thrive. 1 Peter 2:9, Romans 2:11, James 2:8-9
The process of sanctification is the full submission of body and soul. Characteristic of the soul is our former self-identity. The identity many had before Christ. The identity many had before salvation was composed of mainly their ethnic cultural identity. After salvation is received their identity now centers on citizenship and how their ethnic and cultural self does not solely make up their identity. The colour of skin is no longer the focal point of one’s identity, but nevertheless is still an important factor in the composition of many individuals.
In everyday interactions before we speak assumptions are made about us because of our race, ethnicity and gender. Therefore, identifying as a Kingdom citizen does not remove the impact that race, ethnicity and past experiences have on us as believers. Nonetheless, the significance of citizenship is that it creates an equal platform that affords us our rights, privileges and responsibilities which are given to us unrelated to our race and ethnicity.Revelation 7:9
Our experiences derive from our context. Context comprises of our socio-economic status, gender, race, ethnicity and family background. These experiences shape our history and perception of the world. These experiences include both positive and negative memories and do not dissolve upon receipt of salvation. Each individual has their own context which is unique and provides diversity in God’s Kingdom. Does Race and Ethnicity matter in this world, Yes. Does God judge us based on the colour of our skin, No. God’s judgement is based on our obedience or lack thereof to His will. With the failure to understand that God did not establish religion, humans did.
People will continue to be bound by the constructs that they themselves have created and locks them in circular thinking without resolution. The message of kingdom citizenship is a message of liberation from former social constructs of society and is underpinned by the formation of a new constitution established by a new social construct in Christ, expressing itself in the culture of his children. 2 Corinthians 5:17
References Eskola, T. (2011). Evil Gods and Reckless Saviours: Adaptation and Appropriation in Late Twentieth- Century Jesus Novels. Oregon: Pickwick Publications. Prentiss, C.R. (2003).
Religion and the Creation of Race and Ethnicity: An introduction. New York: New York University Press.