Thursday, October 11, 2012

A 400 Year Old Rebuke Of Racial Division

I'm reading Winthrop Jordan's 1968 book White Over Black for a project I'm working on and was struck by this call for racial equality by the Reverend Samuel Purchas, in 1614!
The tawney Moore, blacke Negro, duskie Libyan, ash-coloured Indian, olive-coloured American, should with the whiter European become one sheep-fold, under one great sheepheard, till this mortalitie being swallowed up of Life, wee may all be one, as he and the father are one...without any more distinction of Colour, Nation, Language, Sexe, Condition, all may bee One in him that is One, and onely blessed for ever.
Despite the archaic descriptions of the different people groups, what stands out here is the recognizably modern sentiment Purchas expresses in opposition to dividing people by skin color, sex, and other characteristics.

Or is it modern? Why am I surprised to see these egalitarian views in 1614? What Purchas describes here is very basic Christian doctrine, but in the 400 years since he wrote those words, we went through a long period of particularly flagrant violation of this doctrine. We're only now recovering these principles. So even today, it is not unusual for conservative Christians to see concerns about racial division as a sign of political correctness or a liberal mentality. That's incredibly perverse, isn't it?

Probably the biggest thing standing in the way of American Christians living as we should is our unexamined attitudes about race and class.

1 comment:

  1. "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither male nor female, there is neither slave nor free, for you are all one in Christ Jesus"... Maybe the past 400 years really have been the aberration. What a very interesting possibility - now, what do we do with it? Oh, yeah, love one another, right?