The late U.S. presidential historian Theodore White once wrote that America is “the only peaceful multi-racial civilization in the world”, though exactly how “peaceful” is a question of considerable debate in light of both history and the continuing crisis of race in the United States of America. But White is indisputably correct that the unique promise of justice and liberty offered by the American experiment has drawn millions to seek new life and opportunity within the shores and borders of this land. Citing the opening words of the Declaration of Independence, White observed:
These words were written by men who had taken the best ideas of their English-speaking heritage and made them universal. Such language was almost incomprehensible to the non-English-speaking peoples who were drawn to America in ever-growing numbers seeking the promise. But the ideas were compelling, and still compel.
And though written more than four decades ago, this description of the American promise remains compelling, for both current and aspiring citizens of the United States.
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Ellen G. White, articulating America’s fulfillment of the second-beast prophecy in Revelation 13:11-17, makes a similar observation:
The oppressed and downtrodden throughout Christendom have turned to this land with interest and hope. Millions have sought its shores, and the United States has risen to a place among the most powerful nations of the earth.
Devout Catholic though he was, former New York Governor Alfred E. Smith echoed these words of Ellen White—unwittingly, most likely—in the last speech he delivered before his death. Speaking of God’s purpose for the United States, Smith declared:
He made it a haven of repose and a harbor of refuge for the downtrodden and poor and the oppressed of every land.
Racial and Ethnic Hostility
The recent inflaming of racial and ethnic hostility by the 2017 rally of neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia, the subsequent murder of one Heather Heyer in the melee that followed, the continuing threat to build a wall on America’s southern border as a means of blocking entry to immigrants hailing primarily from Hispanic backgrounds, together with other recent incidents of racial violence in America, has for thoughtful Christians brought into focus their own obligation to administer kindness and justice to those of racial and national origins different from their own. Seventh-day Adventists, whose Biblical message to humanity is encapsulated in the New Testament’s end-time summons to “every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” (Rev. 14:6), cannot escape responsibility for articulating their own response to these events and their implications.
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It is truly beneath contempt for any Christian, let alone a Seventh-day Adventist, to harbor or nurture notions of racial or ethnic superiority. Despite their prominence in many Christian circles across the centuries, the Bible furnishes no ground whatsoever for such beliefs. In light of our multi-racial, international divine commission, Seventh-day Adventists should lead the way in demonstrating why no Biblical case exists for these degrading, oppressive thought patterns.
The Biblical Case Against Racism
Seventh-day Adventists have been known from the start of our history as the “people of the Book.” From the beginning of our movement we have stood fearlessly and without qualification against popular teachings in the Christian community which run counter to the Word of God. Racism in any form is certainly one of these popular yet unscriptural teachings which both the history and present witness of mainstream Christendom tragically reveal. Let us turn to our Bibles and see what the Word of God truly states on this subject.
In the initial call of Abraham, God declared to the father of the faithful the universal ethnic and international reach of the Biblical message of mercy, blessing, and salvation: “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). God repeated this promise to Abraham following his sacrifice of Isaac on Mount Moriah: “And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast obeyed My voice” (Gen. 22:18). Later God gave this same promise to Jacob, in the vision of the ladder from earth to heaven at Bethel: “In thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 28:14).
Few passages in Holy Scripture, or in human language, could be more inclusive.
Other Old Testament passages are equally clear that all nations were to be included in the blessings of the gospel:
For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him (II Chron. 16:9).
All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before Thee (Psalm 22:27).
And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious (Isa. 11:10).
Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else (Isa. 45:22).
And He said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be My salvation unto the end of the earth. . . .
Behold, these shall come from far: and lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim (Isa. 49:6,12).
Consider also what God through Isaiah says regarding His temple, that “Mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people” (Isa. 56:7). Many modern translations translate “all people” as “all nations” (e.g. NKJV, NIV, TEV, NEB, NLT). No racial segregation is envisioned here. It helps to remember that the “court of the Gentiles” was a feature of Herod’s later temple, not—so far as the Biblical record and history indicate—of the temple of Solomon which God Himself designed (I Chron. 28:11-19).
Other verses from Isaiah declare a similar promise:
And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising (Isa. 60:3).
And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard My fame, neither have seen My glory; and they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles (Isa. 66:19).
Then, of course, there’s the story of Jonah’s mission to Nineveh (Jonah 1:2; 3:1-10), of the captive maid through whose witness General Naaman was healed of leprosy and converted to Israel’s God (II Kings 5), and similar examples. One is led to wonder, with all these Old Testament verses and stories, how there could have been any doubt in the minds of Jews during the New Testament period that God intended to offer mercy and salvation to the Gentiles.
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Ellen White makes the following statements about the nation of Israel during the time of Jesus and the apostles, which are truly remarkable in light of the Old Testament passages we have considered, with which the Jews should have been familiar:
The Jews looked upon Jerusalem as their heaven, and they were actually jealous lest the Lord should show mercy to the Gentiles.
Intent on maintaining the separation between themselves and other nations, they (the Jewish leaders) were unwilling to impart the knowledge they still possessed concerning the symbolic service.
Make no mistake about it. God had commanded that His people keep themselves separate from heathen worship, intermarriage with idolaters, and a whole lot more. Such verses as the following make this clear:
Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter shalt thou not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son (Deut. 7:3).
Now therefore make confession unto the Lord God of your fathers, and do His pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land (Ezra 10:11).
But by the time of Jesus, the Jewish nation had misunderstood these divine commands as racial rather than religious. And they ignored the Old Testament command to spread the message of God’s truth and the coming Savior to the nations of the world.
Unfortunately, the early Christians appear to have ignored these commands as well, until God made it plain through the experience of Cornelius and others that the Christian community was designed to embrace all ethnic groups and races of humanity. Like the Jews who should have been studying their Old Testament, the early Christians in the first years after Pentecost had forgotten the experience and teachings of Christ Himself.
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Old Simeon in the temple, immediately after Jesus’ birth, spoke of the Savior’s mission as “a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel” (Luke 2:32). Jesus confirmed this universal nature of the gospel proclamation more than once during His ministry, as in His statement following the healing of the centurion’s servant at Capernaum:
And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 8:11).
Certainly, the Savior’s encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well underscored this principle of ethnic inclusion (John 4:5-42).
And then we have the unmistakable clarity of the Great Commission:
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (Matt. 28:19).
Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).
When the apostle Peter finally came to understand this truth following his vision on the rooftop in Joppa, he declared:
Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him (Acts 10:34-35).
The apostle Paul, in declaring to the Judaizers in Galatia the universal reach of the gospel, pointed his readers back to the original call of Abraham, which we cited earlier:
And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed (Gal. 3:8).
Notice how there is nothing in any of these passages about God showing mercy and salvation to everyone, but nevertheless keeping the races apart. Those in the southern United States and elsewhere in America, along with such groups as the white South Africans under the apartheid regime, could assemble no sound Biblical arguments for the separation or subjugation of any racial group, no matter how hard some of them tried. Sincere and fully persuaded of their cause though many of these misguided souls were, evidence from Scripture in support of their position was—and is—simply not there.
Some may be wondering, What about the argument so many racists have used from Genesis chapter 9, regarding the curse placed on Ham and Canaan and its alleged justification of the subjection by the white race of persons of African descent?
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The passage in question, of course, is taken from the sad incident of Noah’s drunkenness after the Flood, and reads as follows:
And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant (Gen. 9:24-27).
Despite the insistence of certain ones, when we take the plain reading of this passage, permitting the Bible to explain itself (I Cor. 2:12-14), there is nothing whatsoever in these verses about persons of African heritage or black skin color. If we simply take the Bible as it reads, these verses are simply talking about the future conquest of Canaan’s descendants—the Canaanites—by the descendants of Shem (including the children of Israel), and the descendants of Japheth (e.g. the Philistines, Hittites, Persians, Greeks, Romans). Nothing more.
Some people have tried to use the story of the dispersion at the Tower of Babel as proof that God doesn’t want the races to mix. Again, such a claim is entirely without Biblical support. The scattering of the Babel builders was solely about frustrating the schemes of those who doubted God’s promise not to send another Flood, and who were inciting rebellion against His plan for the human race (Gen. 11:2-9). Nothing in this story, or elsewhere in the Bible, prohibits the mixing of the races. There is no Biblical command anywhere against racial integration. All the Biblical commands about separation concern believers and unbelievers (Deut. 7:3; I Kings 11:1-2; II Cor. 6:14-17), not persons of different ethnic or racial backgrounds.
Moses himself, the divinely-appointed leader of Israel, married a non-Israelite (Num. 12:1)—and when Aaron and Miriam heaped scorn on Moses because of this fact, divine punishment followed (verses 9-10). Nor can we overlook the fact that Rahab, the harlot of Jericho—a Canaanite, no less—married into the Davidic, Messianic line, as did Ruth the Moabitess (Ruth 4:18-22; Matt. 1:5-6).
It should be clear from our survey of the Biblical evidence that no one can fabricate from Scripture a case for racial segregation, inferiority, or superiority while remaining true to the plain, self-explanatory reading of the written Word.
 Theodore H. White, Breach of Faith: The Fall of Richard Nixon (New York: Atheneum Publishers, 1975), p. 323.
 Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 441.
 Christopher M. Finan, Alfred E. Smith: The Happy Warrior (New York: Hill and Wang, 2002), p. 344.
 Unless otherwise noted, all Bible texts are from the King James Version.
 Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 29.
 Ibid, p. 33.