Martin Luther King Jr. famously said in 1963, “It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.” Fifty years later this remains true as America’s churches lag behind its schools, businesses, military, and almost every other institution in escaping old taboos about mixing the races. Compare the diversity in the pages of Christianity Today to that of Sports Illustrated. The greatest humiliation of American Christianity is its long endorsement of slavery, and even longer endorsement of racism—a dark cloud still clearly visible at eleven o’clock on Sunday mornings. And many other places besides churches on Sunday morning as well: open any issue of Christianity Today—the flagship magazine of evangelical Christianity—and you will see almost exclusively white faces, most of them male.
In yet another centuries-old context extending into the present we find Christians looking to Genesis to make sense of race, even questioning the humanity of tribes that did not appear to be descended from Adam. How did the corners of the earth become populated with so many different tribes if humanity began with two people in the Middle East fewer than ten thousand years ago? How was the earth populated so rapidly that Adam’s son Cain could travel to Nod and build a city? And how could Adam’s descendants in a few thousand years have turned into Eskimos, Pygmies, Aryans, and Aborigines?
Originally posted on Salon.com on June 13, 2015. Excerpted from Saving The Original Sinner: How Christians Have Used the Bible’s First Man to Oppress, Inspire and Make Sense of the World.