Monday, August 17, 2009

"We have a particular interest in encouraging and helping couples who choose to marry [and adopt] across ethnic lines."

From last week's sermon by Michael Lawrence on Numbers 11-12 at Capitol Hill Baptist Church:

Though the precise identity of Moses' Cushite wife referred to in Numbers 12 can't be determined with certainty . . .
The point is clear. Miriam and Aaron are dissing Moses because he has married someone of a different ethnicity than they are. And more than likely, who he's married is a black African wife. . . . White Christians, in particular, have a long history of racism and of justifying their racism. White Christians, and in particular, the part of the country that I come from—the deep South—have tried to justify using Scripture prohibitions against people marrying someone of a different race—a different ethnicity—than they are. Such justifications—such teaching—is wicked, and has no justification in Scripture. And this is a great text to go to, because as we're going to see later, it is not Miriam who is vindicated. It is Moses. It is Moses who is vindicated

And one of the things I think that means for us as Christians is that we have an interest—we have a serious interest—in making clear that in Christ we are one new humanity, and that the sorts of things that divide the world, like ethnicity, like color of skin, have no place amongst us. We are one in Christ, and whether you're black or white, whether you're Asian or North American, is really beside the point.

Now, I think we have an interest in making that strikingly clear to the culture around us. So I think we have a particular interest in encouraging and helping couples who choose to marry across ethnic lines. I think we have a particular interest in helping and encouraging couples who want to adopt across ethnic lines, because I can think of few other things that demonstrate more profoundly to our racist culture that it is Christ who is our Lord, and not the world—that it is Christ who sets our identity, and not the world.
This portion starts just after 32:00 into the sermon.

5 comments:

Greg said...

Thanks, Ben.

joydriven said...

Amen. x2.

James Kime said...

I am all for people marrying who they believe is the right person for them. I have no interest at all in the color of one's skin.

However, to use the text he did as a springboard is no different than so many of the other hacks who use a text that has nothing to do with it to preach on a hobbyhorse. It is an abuse of scripture for anyone to do that. This guy is no different.

Paul taught in Acts 17 that we are all from one blood. That should settle that issue.

From the Numbers passage we have no idea what Moses' wife's skin color was. Here is something else, anyone pay attention to the skin color of people in Egypt? It isn't WHITE. Moses was not WHITE. He was a jew whose people had spent 400 years in Egypt. For all we actually know Moses was quite dark skinned.

It is far more likely that Miriam and Aaron used Moses' marriage to a nonjew as the issue to usurp or at least challenge him.

The color of a person's skin was NEVER an issue in scripture. Rahab was a canaanite and Ruth was a moabite. They are both in the messianic line. It was always about same faith.

Ben said...

James,

1. I don't know if you listened to the surrounding context, but Lawrence was crystal clear that Aaron and Miriam used ethnicity as a pretense for the underlying issue. Ethnicity isn't the main emphasis of the text, but there are implications related to ethnicity in how the narrative unfolds.

Here's what I mean: 1) It was the ground on which they chose to attack him, 2) Moses was vindicated, 3) Christians have frequently distorted Scripture in attempting to make arguments prohibiting inter-"racial" marriage. For that reason, this text may legitimately be applied to inter-ethnic marriage and adoption, even if it's tangential to the primary thrust of the narrative. Narrative texts aren't so simple that they can only make one point.

2. I don't know what point you're trying to make when you delve into skin color. Lawrence clearly understands this is about ethnicity, and may or may not be about skin color derivatively. You're right that no one knows what shade of flesh tones her skin was. Lawrence says that. But the reality is that people today think really poorly about both ethnicity and skin color. The two overlap. You're making a distinction where there's no relevant difference.

James Kime said...

"Miriam and Aaron are dissing Moses because he has married someone of a different ethnicity than they are. And more than likely, who he's married is a black African wife"

Pure speculation and theory. I have heard this text used in this way several times. There are other texts that actually speak to the issue without reading into it the unknown. I think that is a misuse.

After rightly condemning racism though, he says:

"And this is a great text to go to, because as we're going to see later, it is not Miriam who is vindicated. It is Moses. It is Moses who is vindicated."

This is a great text? A text that has nothing to do with skin color is a great text to counter false claims about skin color? I wonder why he didn't choose 2 Chronicles 8:11 as an equally valid text. That also has nothing to do with skin color.

No his implication is obvious, Miriam was black and Moses was WHITE, therefore it is okay for whites to marry blacks. The condemnation of such fell against miriam.

People can marry a person of another color if they want to. But the text he used doesn't address that.

I don't see anything in scripture that encourages or discourages marrying or not marrying someone of another skin color. There isn't some great spiritual enterprise there. I think it is wrong to push it and forbid it.