The ‘But Christians Aren’t Racist’ Argument

The ‘But Christians Aren’t Racist’ Argument June 30, 2015

Two of the Republican presidential candidates, Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal, were asked in the last few days about the comparison between the same-sex marriage ruling and the virtually identical ruling overturning state laws against interracial marriage in 1967. Both offered the same terrible argument in response. First Jindal:

Todd noted that people — including President Harry Truman — used the Bible as the rationale for their opposition to interracial marriage in the 1950s and ’60s, and asked if he was comfortable making a similar argument in regards to same-sex marriage. “I think it’s offensive to try and equate the two,” Jindal replied, noting that race relations are better in America and “I’ve said we’ve got to stop viewing ourselves as hyphenated Americans.” He added:

I think viewing people by the color of their skin is one of the dumbest ways to view people — I’ve written that, I’ve said that — so I think it’s offensive to equate evangelical Christians, Catholics, others that view marriage as between a man and a woman as being racist. We’re not being racist; we love our fellow man, we think we’re all equal under God’s eyes, we simply believe that marriage — we don’t believe we should change the definition of marriage simply because of opinion polls, or because of a court that, quite simply, isn’t looking at the Constitution.

Ted Cruz makes the same argument in more detail and plainer language:

She followed up by asking whether Cruz would have opposed the Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia striking down bans on interracial marriage.

“Of course not,” Cruz said. “We fought a bloody civil war over the original sin of our country, which was slavery. Slavery was grotesque and immoral and some 600,000 Americans spilled their blood on American soil and lost their lives to expunge it. We passed the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution, to ensure everyone has equal rights regardless of race. And that was honoring the promise of the Constitution.”

This is not a response, it’s an attempt to avoid responding by changing the subject. It doesn’t matter whether most Christians today believe that interracial marriage is sinful and therefore ought to be banned, it matters whether most Christians 50 years ago, when the earlier ruling came down, believed that. And the answer is yes. They used the Bible — specifically the Hamitic theory of race — to justify their support for “traditional marriage,” by which they meant marriage only between those of the same race. The law had banned such marriages in this country for hundreds of years.

Nearly every argument that Ted Cruz uses against Friday’s ruling was used by the Christian right of that day against the ruling in Loving v Virginia. The same cries of “judicial activism,” the same pearl-clutching over “nine unelected judges” overturning the “will of the people,” the same claims that requiring government officials to sanction what they considered to be a sinful marriage was a violation of their “sincerely held religious beliefs,” indeed the same laws passed to exempt clerks from having to issue marriage licenses to interracial couples in order to protect their “religious liberty.”

If anyone really thinks that Ted Cruz, or Antonin Scalia, or almost any other conservative making those arguments today would have made different arguments 48 years ago against Loving, they’re living in a fantasy world.

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