The church and racism

The church and racism

When it comes to rejecting racism, there is agreement in the churches today. In earlier centuries it looked different, although the church never adopted the "racial doctrine".

"Racism is blasphemy," is how the chairman of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), regional bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, recently summed up the consensus. Pope Francis castigated the "sin of racism," and the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople condemned racism as "blasphemous". Church leaders were not always so clear in their statements. Discrimination against people perceived as "different" existed and still exists in the churches as well.

The unity of the human race is laid down in the biblical story of creation. The Hebrew Bible is characterized by a tension between the "people of God," the Israelites, and the pagan "peoples" ("goyim"). Christians adopted this dichotomous view, the new pair of opposites being Christians and "pagans" (in the sense of the unbaptized). Because the Christians saw themselves since Paul sent to "all nations".

"There is no longer Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus," he put it in the Letter to the Galatians. In practice, the church always lagged far behind.

Dark chapters in church history

One over 2.000 years of difficult and often bloody history connects Christians and Jews. The once religiously based demarcation begins with the secession of the Christian communities from Judaism and the rejection of the Mosaic law regulations. Since Christianity has been the majority religion in Europe, there have been many bloody outrages against the Jewish minority – with popes often standing up for them as a protective force. An aggravation was brought about by Luther, who in his hatred of Jews struck much more radical tones than Catholic theologians before him. In the 19. and early 20. Finally, in the nineteenth century, there were hard-core Catholic anti-Semites, including among leading Jesuits.

Dark was the chapter of the enslavement of millions of Africans. To be sure, there were admonishers against slavery, such as the Dominican Bartolome de Las Casas (1484-1566). As early as 1537, Pope Paul III. was the first pope to speak out against human trafficking and, with regard to the "Indians," emphasized that, like all peoples of the earth, they were "real human beings.

Although the peoples of Africa and the New World were considered as addressees of the mission, they did not become equal members through baptism. In North America, priests and religious orders also owned slaves. And only in the 20. In the nineteenth century, sub-Saharan Africans and African Americans in the U.S. became bishops and cardinals.

Term "race" in ecclesiastical literature

It is true that in the 19th century, the Catholic Church made itself. In the nineteenth century, the emerging concept of race was not to be embraced – especially since it negated the biblical story of creation. But the unequal treatment of different groups of people functioned even without such a theoretical basis. In South Africa, the "Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk" still delivered in the 20. In the nineteenth century, a religious justification for racial segregation.

A look at the "Lexikon fur Theologie und Kirche" (Encyclopedia for Theology and Church) shows how long the path of the Catholic Church was. It contains in the 2. edition (1958 to 1968) still an article "Race" with the sections 1. Biological, 2. Anthropological and 3. Racial ideology. While the latter is described as an "ideology devastating in terms of spiritual history and politics," the existence of different races is not doubted. In the current edition of the encyclopedia, the entry "race" no longer exists, but instead the keyword "racism," which, however, takes the term "race" as a given.

Similarly, the current "Catechism of the Catholic Church," referring to the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), states, "Every form of discrimination in the fundamental social and cultural rights of the person, whether on account of sex or race, color, social position, language or religion, must be overcome and eliminated, since it is contrary to God's plan" (Gaudium et spes 29:2). That there are races is not questioned here either.

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