As half of an interracial couple, and the father of interracial boys, the last few weeks have been very difficult for me. In a world where we don’t have to look far to see extreme evil, where there are plenty of bad actors to call to repentance, in a land where people have turned their backs on Christ and happily follow the pied piper of idols like sex and money, our American culture has decided to work itself up into a frenzy over race. Really? Race? Sorry. Isn’t race a trivial issue compared to the problems facing our world? Apparently not.
Race has become the latest idol in America’s pantheon of paganism. It’s not a new idol, but it’s an idol that many of us (mostly white people) thought died with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. When discussing the racial atmosphere of the US with my ten-year-old son he asked me the same question that I think many Americans are asking right now, “Dad, didn’t Martin Luther King Jr. take care of all that?” Unfortunately, he didn’t. As long as human nature is fallen and sin lives in our flesh we will continue to struggle with race.
One manifestation America’s sinful infatuation with race is found in the last place we should expect it: the Church. A heresy called Kinism, which purports to set the record straight on proper, Biblical racial relations, has emerged to stoke the flames of racial animosity by exaggerating the “otherness” of non-white races and minimizing the unity of the church in Christ. One of the main tenants of Kinism is that race mixing or miscegenation is contrary to God’s will. Most go so far as to say that miscegenation is sinful and open rebellion against the God of the Bible.
I believe that just as feminist theologians make women’s issues their primary hermeneutical principle and liberation/socialist theologians make class struggle their primary hermeneutical principle, Kinists make ethnicity their primary hermeneutical principle. That is, they read the entirety of scripture, not through a theocentric lens, but rather through an ethnocentric lens. Their devotion to ethnocentrism rears its head in Kinists’ interactions with other Christians. Instead of joining hands with other Christians to share the good news of the gospel, making Christ the focus of their efforts, they instead preach the gospel of racial separation and purity. Race, not Christ, is the engine of their zeal.
I fully expect that this post will bring plenty of fury my way. In every interaction I’ve had with Kinists I’ve been labeled as a Marxist, an emotional, unthinking drone of the socialist world order, brainwashed by the “Jewish media” and called names like “dill-weed” and told that I’m a self-loathing white man. My wife has been referred to as a “negress” and my children referred to as “half-breeds” and “mongrels.” In my experience thus far, Kinists do not hesitate to hurl slurs. Name calling is the go to response to any criticism of their views.
I’m not saying this as an ad hominem attack against Kinism. Their incivility and in-your-face shock tactics tell us nothing about their truth claims. Rather I’m mentioning it because I believe such behavior is not in keeping proper interaction among Christians. As the LORD told us, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) The apostle Paul encouraged us to, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.”(Romans 12:10) I would not expect such name calling from anyone who is so sanctified that they happily stand in judgment of others who claim Christ. It is in a spirit of love that I present a case against Kinism. It is my sincere hope that those who have adopted this theology will come to a fuller understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ and cease worshiping at the altar of their ethnicity and embrace the LORD of all.
I’ve asked a “lite-kinist” to give me what he considers to be the best arguments for Kinism. He directed me to two articles. The first one, A Biblical Defense of Ethno-Nationalism, can be found here:
Given the length and density of this article, I will divide my synopsis and critique into several parts and will break from my normal format of synopsis and response. This first post will be concerned with the following sections of the article:
- The Meaning and Usage of the Word Nation in the Bible
In this section, Opperman establishes a few definitions for us. They are:
- Ethno-Nationalism: “Ethno-nationalism is a belief system that affirms a traditional Christian understanding of families, tribes, and nations. Ethno-nationalism holds that nations are defined and rooted in common heredity, and that the foundations of a nation are based on common ancestry, language, culture, religion, and social customs.”
- Propositional Nation: “A proposition nation is supposed to be a group of people who are united by a common ideology rather than by common heredity…”
After establishing some definitions, Opperman then goes on to ask the questions, “What are the primary factors that bind a nation together? Is it common ancestry or common ideas?…Does the Bible endorse a more traditional definition of a nation? Or does the Bible promote the idea of a propositional nation, the proposition being Christian faith?”
Besides the fact that his questions present false dichotomies according to his own definition, Opperman’s definition of nation is flawed. Isn’t religion a set of common ideas related to one’s belief in deity? Don’t these common ideas concerning the nature of God and proper worship result in culture and social customs? Doesn’t religion influence the formation and usage of our language? Aren’t these common ideas passed down through generations from parents to children, resulting in common ideas among members of a family group? Ideas are essential to the founding of any group of people, the most preeminent idea being how people believe in God. Religion, not ancestry, roots the language, culture, and social customs of a nation.
Despite Opperman’s earlier definition of nation that incorporates ancestry, language, culture, religion, and social customs, his thesis statement for the essay states, “It is my goal to demonstrate that the Bible in fact promotes the traditional concept a nation as an aggregation of people who share a common lineage.” Indeed, what is clear from the essay is that Opperman has elevated ethnicity as the primary component of nationhood.
The Meaning and Usage of the Word Nation in the Bible
Again, singling out ethnicity as his primary concern, Opperman notes that the Greek word for nation is ethnos. The definition of ethnos does include common lineage, but also a number of other ideas. BDAG defines ethnos as, “a body of persons united by kinship, culture, and common traditions, nation, people…people groups foreign to a specific people group.” There is no question that ethnicity is a component of how we should understand nations.
Where Opperman goes off the rails is his insistence that nations are mainly defined by human ancestry. Jesus dealt a fatal blow to the idea that blood ethnicity is preeminent when he said, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.”(Luke 3:8) While this text isn’t explicitly about race relations, Jesus makes it clear that ethnic descent takes a back seat to the sovereign power of God. Are we to believe that those Gentile born descendants of Abraham should not in some way fit in with his blood born children? Was Paul incorrect to say that those who belong to Christ are the true descendants of Abraham? (Gal. 3:29)
The good news of the gospel is that we have been become children of the Most High (John 1:12), sons and daughters of God who are predestined to adoption and can hence call out to Him as our Abba, Father (Romans 8:14-17, Gal. 4:6, Eph. 1:5). Hence, Christians refer to each other as brothers and sisters. Are we to believe that this is merely a spiritual adoption, that it has no earthly impact upon our relations with one another, and that racial lines are preeminent over the LORD’s sovereign adoption of a people? Heaven forbid! The idea borders on gnosticism. Kinists cheapen the theology of adoption by making it a ghettoized adoption. Yes, the kinist says, you are a child of God, but don’t come into my house! May we never treat our brothers and sisters with such contempt.
Next on Opperman’s agenda is the Babel narrative. He contends that, “The people under Nimrod set out to build a city and a tower as a monument to their commitment to political unity…This is a strong passage that demonstrates that national boundaries and divisions are commensurate with the natural order that God has ordained.” Opperman, by reading the text through his ethnocentric lens, has unsurprisingly made ethnicity the focal point of the text and missed the point of the Babel narrative. This text is most certainly not about the importance of national boundaries. The LORD did establish the nations and their boundaries, and He did so that humanity may seek after Him (an issue that will be discussed in my next response) but that is not what He is communicating in this text.
A theocentric reading provides us with a very different understanding and application of the text. These men were building a tower to the heavens out of a desire to be like God and to rebel against His commands. If they could only reach the heavens, they would make a name for themselves. However, it is God alone who makes a name for Himself and for others. If people are to have a name, it will come from the LORD. The LORD promised to make a name for Abraham (Genesis 12:2) and David (2 Sam. 7:9; 2 Sam. 8:13). It is God alone who makes a name for Himself. This is not a right given to humanity. (Isaiah 63:12, 14; Jer. 32:20; Neh. 9:10)
The builders of the tower violated one of the very few commands given to humanity at this point. This tower would keep them unified in one place on earth. By staying in one place humanity was thumbing their nose at God’s commands. He told humanity be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth. (Genesis 1:28; 9:1) The problem that this text presents is the depth of humanity’s idolatry, constantly attempting to make ourselves God. Like Adam and Eve who were thrown out of the garden, those who gathered around the tower of Babel were scattered throughout the earth.
It’s important to note that in their sin, humanity’s language was confused. Yet, at Pentecost, in righteousness, the LORD removed the language barrier between his people. It was not unity or homogeneity that the LORD objected to at Babel; rather, it was humanity’s idolatry.
As this text relates to the topic of Kinism, Opperman is barking up the wrong tree. Given that in Christ we are adopted brothers and sisters of Christ, we have to ask why we would desire national divisions within the body? Perhaps we may desire divisions outside of the body of Christ, but what warrant is there to make such divisions within the body, all adopted children, and all part of a nation not determined by ancestry, but by holiness (1 Peter 2:9)? How are national divisions among God’s children relevant? Certainly, at Babel, divisions occurred between lines of descent, but in Christ the church traces its ancestry to Abraham. Thus, Opperman’s point is pointless.