Over the last two pieces, we’ve discussed Christian groups who support segregation. After discussing the basis for their support, I want to address the two basic Biblical arguments raised by Christians who claim to be segregationists.
Argument 1: Old Testament discussions of Intermarriage
Many segregationists look at the various arguments about Jews marrying those from the nations around them as an argument about mixing ethnicity. The problem is, this misses the very point of why Israel was told not to intermarry with the other nations. Deuteronomy 7:4, however, explains that the reason for this prohibition was not related to ethnicity, but to religion: because intermarriage with the nations around Israel would lead them away from the worship of the True God. Secondarily, both Moses and Joseph married non-semites.
For the Christian in the modern age, the warnings about intermarriage in the Old Testament should be understood not to be an argument against marrying someone from a different ethnic background, but as an argument against marrying someone who does not share the Christian faith.
Argument 2: Acts 17:25-27
This passage has often been misquoted by segregationists, arguing that God has created natural boundaries between different ethnic groups (which they trace back to Babel). The problem is that their exegesis ignores the point Paul is making, which is God’s sovereignty in history, not the enforcement of boundaries. That is, as human beings, we mark out our territory, we speak for example of the Roman Empire as the territory that Rome controlled over a historical period of time. Paul’s point was that this empire and previous ones were ordained and allowed by God; God is in control of history and uses it so that men will seek Him.
The problem of course for segregationists arguing that Acts 17:26 enforces segregation is the reference to God’s also setting their times; the reference to the times is grammatically parallel to the discussion of boundaries. We would of course not suggest that we need to invent time travel to force different ethnic groups to move to different epochs of history, but this would be precisely what would be demanded if we accepted the segregationists argument.