In episode 98, we saw over 27,000 plays to the question, “Can a white woman marry a black man?” It’s now the most listened-to episode of all time. Of course, the obvious answer to most listeners is, yes, of course she can marry a black man, so long as he loves Christ. And yet, for the obvious answer, a lot of people wanted to hear why. Pastor John, what’s your take on the popularity of this episode on interracial marriage? Why do you think so many people clicked to listen to what should have been a fairly obvious answer?
Well, since we have asked that question, I have been thinking more and more about it. On three different occasions, people have asked me why I think that, and so here is my latest take on this.
Five Nerves Interracial Marriage Touches
1. “Can a white woman marry a black man?” is specific and provocative.
Your title, I think, was really good. You didn’t say in a general, vague way, “What do you think, Pastor John, about interracial marriage?” I think that would not have gotten the traction. You said, “Can a white woman marry a black man?” That is really specific. So it is provocative in that. So that is number one.
2. Racial wounds still sting in America.
Cultural and legal opposition to interracial marriage in America, black-white in particular, is recent history. When I graduated from high school, seventeen states had anti-miscegenation laws which means you go to jail if you marry across a line in any kind of interracial marriage. And then in 1967, the Supreme Court struck all those down, and not all of them willingly. So in my lifetime, it was illegal. This is recent history. For virtually any twenty-something who wants to get married, his grandparents lived during that era, right? Maybe even his parents.
So, the racism that lay behind that and the deep wounds are fresh. I mean, can you imagine the woundedness of being a minority and the majority says, “We won’t let our people marry you”? I mean, that communicates such a dagger assault on a person’s sense of humanity that those wounds and that racism are, I think, still alive. That is number two. It is fresh.
3. Some black people long to preserve cultural cohesion.
Today it is not just white racism that opposes white-black marriage. Many blacks — not all — oppose it for different reasons. This is part of a bigger phenomenon right now of a sense in some of the black community of losing their cultural cohesion that once enabled them to do so many great things in the Movement with a capital M in the sixties and so on.
And Touré — that is what he is known by now; his name is Touré Neblett— wrote a book that I have read parts of called Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness?. And his whole point is, There isn’t any black cohesive culture anymore, if there ever was. He means there are lots of black cultures. There are lots of socioeconomic blacks. There are lots of culturally differentiated blacks. There are lots of religious blacks and so on. And so, his point is that the idea of there being a black culture to be lost is just not true. Some people feel that is a huge disappointment. In other words, the glory days, as some would say, of the sixties and fifties are over, because we are losing our cohesion. And when a person who thinks that looks at a black-white marriage they say, “There it goes.” I mean, that is a sacrifice of the black cohesiveness if a black is “selling out” to marry a white person. So that is a piece of this that might make it especially interesting or urgent for some people.
And, by the way — it is really not by the way, it is right at the heart of things — this is just a golden opportunity for the gospel, isn’t it? As black and white and brown and Asian and everybody is struggling with the new faces of ethnic identity today, this is a moment for Christ to step in and say, “I am creating a new humanity for all these ethnicities, and I am your identity.”
4. Some mistakenly believe the Bible teaches against interracial marriage.
I believe there is lurking in lots of people a remaining sense that the Bible really is against interracial marriage, because, “Well, God is sovereign, and he ordained that races be. Why would we want to start to smooth them out by having people marry and then their children don’t look like either of them anymore, and you don’t have the same integrity of the race? Wouldn’t God be in favor of preserving all those races since he ordained them? And you people are all intermarrying and turning everybody into one generic kind.” That is a question that people would have. And the Old Testament forbade Israel from marrying outside of Israel. So it looks like God is in favor of ethnic integrity. I think I tried to address those questions in the original podcast, so I am not going to do it here, but that is still there when people read their Bible, I think.
5. Parents want their kids’ marriages to be successful.
And the last one is — and this may be the most down-to-earth, on-the-ground practical. Parents want their children to succeed in marriage. They don’t want them to get divorced because of unresolvable differences. And everybody who has been married ten years knows — I have been married forty-four — that all marriage is hard. All marriages, I laughingly say, are cross-cultural. I mean, I married a woman from Georgia, for goodness sakes, and I am from South Carolina. So that is cross-cultural. Or actually, I could describe a lot of other differences, but every marriage is cross-cultural.
And when you add a racial divide to that, parents feel inside that you are making it harder for yourself because they are going to bring these different expectations and other differences, even if they are not opposed to racial intermingling in and of itself. There is this kind of check in their spirit that, Oh, you are going to make life harder for yourself. And so there is this resistance. And that can quickly be intermingled with racial prejudice of various kinds.
So those are at least five reasons so far in my thinking. Those are the nerves that we touched when we did this. And I will say one more time, every one of those five is a golden moment for the gospel of Jesus Christ to address all of these things. And that is what I tried to do in Bloodlines, especially in the chapter on interracial marriage.