A tangled thread: The Curse of Ham, African Americans, Alt-Right White Supremacy, and the SBC (Part 2)
This is the second of a two-part discussion of Resolution 10 and its passage at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Phoenix, AZ on June 14. The interview from the African American perspective is with Grady Caldwell, pastor of New Mercy Baptist Church in Newnan and a member of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board Executive Committee. For Part 1 and related background information, click here.
The Christian Index: What does this have to do with race and slavery?
Caldwell: The Bible teaches that there is only one race, the human race, and that we are all descended from Adam. After the flood Noah and his sons populated the entire earth (Gen.9:1). While there is no indication of Noah’s skin color, the Bible does give us color clues about his sons as found in the names which he gave them. Ham is Hebrew for “hot, burnt, dark” while Japheth means “bright, fair, or very light.” Shem indicates “brownish or dusky.”
In Acts 17:26, Scripture teaches that we all come from one blood as traced back to Adam. The Bible doesn’t really talk about distinct races but of people groups.
You may ask “Well, how did Mr. and Mrs. Noah have children with three different colors of skin?” Well, Genesis 2:7 tells us that God “formed” Adam. In Genesis 2:21-22 God “made” Eve. Adam was formed with color. Our skin color is determined by melanin. So when God “made” Eve He placed within her a different degree of melanin so by the time we get to Genesis 4:1 when Adam knew Eve, God had already put in them the genetic makeup to give birth to multi-colored children; so by the time we get to Genesis 5 when Mr. and Mrs. Noah fall in love they are falling in love with people of different colors.
If Shem and Ham had darker colorations in their skin and Japheth was lighter-skinned, that meant that two-thirds of the earth’s population came from people of color (Shem and Ham). Lighter-skinned people have always been a minority when considering the world’s population.
Index: Since we’re talking about the origins of different skin colors, what does that have to say about Adam?
Caldwell: That is a very good question since the Bible teaches that all the world’s people were descended from him. People who study color will tell you that all color variations come from the darkest of all colors, which would be black. As I said earlier, the color of human skin is not based on race as much as it is on the amount of melanin in the skin, which is surface pigment.
The darker the skin, the less absorption of sunlight and the lesser the cases of skin cancer. That is why people living closer to the equator have darker skin, to protect themselves from the sun’s harmful rays.
Index: So, what does that have to do with racism?
Caldwell: The enemy has used the difference in skin color to divide us but skin color was never an issue in the Bible. God never elevated one skin color above another, as Alt-Right and White Supremacist doctrine alleges.
Therefore, race is clearly not an issue in God’s mind; His relationship with people has always been based on the condition of their heart, not the color of their skin. It’s a spiritual relationship.
Index: If Noah was a direct descendant from Adam, and all people come from Adam, what color was he as the first man?
Caldwell: Adam, who was formed from the soil, was not of White European descent but was a person of color. It’s disappointing that we have never been taught that Blacks and other people of color played a dominant role among the major biblical characters but they are the majority, not the minority. And let me say that Adam’s being black or very dark does not give me any privilege. Remember, he was the first man to sin!
Getting back to the curse, Noah said, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants he shall be to his brethren.” The curse was not on Ham the father of all dark-skinned descendants, but just on the one son, Canaan. By the way, Canaan is the only son that no longer has any descendants: Cush-Ethiopia; Mizraim-Egypt; and Phut-Libya.
There was no curse placed on all dark-skinned people as White Supremacists try to teach in their perversion of Scripture. For those readers who may be interested in further reading on this matter, may I suggest a book by Dr. Tony Evans entitled Oneness Embraced, which encompasses most of my position and comments on this issue.
Index: Do you think it was necessary to have included the mention of the Curse in McKissic’s proposed resolution?
Caldwell: It was not necessary, but would have taken the resolution to a greater level of confronting the real problem – sin. As the Body of Christ we need to refute this false teaching which has been at the root of racism since our nation’s founding. I really wish the [mention of the] Curse had not been removed so we could address it head on and educate the populace that people of color, all color, are not destined for a life of slavery; that is simply not taught in the Bible.
Now, the Curse of Ham is no threat to me because I know who I am in Christ. I welcome another’s acknowledgement, but I am not in need of it to validate who I am.
I know racism firsthand. As a teenager I was one of the biggest racists you would have met. I was one of the first three African Americans to play football for a White high school in Georgia. My intention was to prove that I was not “just as good,” but “better than” the Whites I played with and against.
But my experience on the field and subsequently with God broke me of that false belief and He can do the same with anyone who is sensitive to His voice, including White Supremacists who are twisting the Scripture to place all races – not just African Americans – under submission to them.
That is the danger of the Alt-Right and White Supremacy movement and why Southern Baptists need to take a stand against their doctrine.