April 01, 2014

Answering Bad Arguments Against Interracial Marriage

Leon Brown's recent article at Reformation 21 got me thinking about interracial marriage. This post is the result.

Maybe it's like this everywhere, or maybe the stereotypes are true, but, living in the South my entire life, I've heard a lot of nonsense about interracial relationships. Before I tear apart a couple of bad arguments against interracial marriage, I want to make it clear that I have no dog in this fight. I am not nor have I ever been in an interracial relationship. I'm just tired of hearing Christians (whether real or nominal) say foolish things which are so clearly out of step with the gospel of grace and the Lordship of Christ.

For instance, I have a friend (a nominal believer) with an irrational aversion to interracial relationships. When asked to justify his position, he said something to the effect of, "That's just the way I was raised." "Oh really?" I wanted to ask, "What if your parents were both serial killers? What if they had raised you to follow in their footsteps and kill people for fun? Would that make it okay?" Now, of course, racism is obviously not on par with murder, but the purpose of an extreme example is to help one look past the particular issue at hand and see the principles at work underneath. In this case, one will hopefully realize that ethics are based something other than one's upbringing. "That's what my parents taught me" is either legitimate or not. If it's legitimate to appeal to this standard in one case, it's legitimate to appeal to it in the other. The difference between the two cases is not one of kind but degree. There is no principled difference between the two.

We all realize that even the best parents are not perfect. They don't get everything right. The very fact that we can judge the rightness or wrongness of our parents' actions means that they are not the ultimate standard of morality. Even if they were, the objection still would not stand, for one could simply say, "My parents taught me to affirm the rightness of interracial relationships." Now we have a standoff. We are not left with this standoff, however, because there is an absolute standard of right and wrong which stands in judgment over us and our parents/upbringing/culture/etc. Sound moral reasoning must appeal to this higher standard. Relativistic appeals to one's upbringing may work for children, but adults are going to have to do better than this.

Thankfully, the other common argument I've heard against interracial marriage isn't quite as childish as the first. It goes something like this, "Children of interracial relationships will be ostracized. They will not be fully accepted by either ethnicity. Therefore, it is irresponsible and unwise to engage in interracial relationships." This one, at a glance, seems more intelligent than the first one, but it actually fails for the same reason: it proves too much. See the similarity? The "think of the children!" argument could be used against virtually any kind of relationship. It could be used to dissuade any minority from having children merely because there is a possibility that the children will be bullied/ostracized/isolated/etc. An example: as a high-functioning autistic, I've been ridiculed my entire life due to the social deficits and behavioral quirks that come with my condition. There is a good chance that any children I have will suffer from some form of autism as well. They will likely experience the same kind of pain and isolation that I have experienced (probably much more than that of a non-autistic, interracial child). Perhaps I shouldn't have children at all.

Are you starting to see the problem with this argument? It could even be used to argue against Christians having children. "You shouldn't get married because, if you have children, you will, as a believer, be required to raise them in the fear and admonition of the Lord. This God-fearing lifestyle will make your children feel alienated and unwelcome in our worldly and sinful culture. Therefore, it is irresponsible and unwise for Christians to get married." What is the principled difference between these two cases? There isn't one. If it's a bad argument in one case, it's a bad argument in the other.

This argument also overlooks the fact that virtually all children are picked on for some reason or other at various times in their lives. This is so obvious that I really don't think I need to develop it any further.

Just like the first argument, the second one proves far too much. If the first argument succeeds, it proves moral relativism. An action is right or wrong for me simply because I was brought up to believe it was right or wrong. There is no higher standard to which one can appeal in order to correct the morality one was taught by one's parents. If the second argument succeeds, it would prove that it is wrong to do anything that could potentially lead to one's hypothetical children possibly being bullied or picked on. This is moral insanity. Since when are believers supposed to be constrained by the social mores of the unbelieving culture around them? Isn't God's Word supposed to be our standard? When we are obedient to Scripture, we will be ostracized. When we teach our children to obey God's Word, they will be ostracized. What, then, follows from this? Are we to rewrite God's moral law, adding to it and subtracting from it at will, forbidding what he allows and allowing what he forbids, until our standard perfectly lines up with that of the unbelievers around us? Certainly not.

The end of the matter is this: God has not forbidden interracial marriage.

Are we wiser than God?

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