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And I charged your judges at that time, ‘Hear the cases between your brothers, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the alien who is with him. You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s. And the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.’
— Deuteronomy 1:16-17 (ESV)
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
— James 2: 1-4 (ESV)
As Critical Race Theory is imported even into the Southern Baptist Convention, despite deceptive denials from the previous and new leadership, it is worth going back to the texts the Christian church has long professed to reverence as the Word of God. Racism and sexism are not “sins” named in the scriptures. Instead, what is consistently condemned and prohibited is “partiality” or “favoritism” in judging between people or deciding how to treat them.
At the beginning of Deuteronomy, Moses is reminding the people of Israel of the commands he gave to them. He prohibits partiality in judgment even when the legal dispute is between a member and an alien, someone from outside the political, ethnic, religious community.
The apostles also prohibit favoritism or partiality, a fundamental problem of fallen humanity. In the very earliest days, in the first communities in Jerusalem, complaints arose that local ethnic members were discriminating against ethnically or culturally Hellenistic widows.
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
— Acts 6 (NIV)
So, the second layer of church leadership, after the apostles, was created to enforce impartial administration of the internal welfare system. Most or all of these people had just witnessed and experienced Pentecost, a miracle in which everyone in a public crowd heard the apostles preaching in the native language of the hearers: “Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians . . . .” Yet, the apostles end up writing again and again things like:
Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave,[e] free; but Christ is all, and in all.
— Colossians 3: 11
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
— Galatians 3: 27-28
So, the sin, the flaw, is fundamental to all humanity, not to particular ethnic groups, let alone defined by intersectional status. Favoring one group in the name of correcting past or present unequal outcomes is antithetical to the commandment against favoritism or partiality. There is no virtue in favoring the rich or poor, prominent or obscure, more or less melanated. This rule of impartiality is not a recent or convenient interpretation. Rather, it predates any such thing as “whiteness,” first appearing around 3,000 years ago. Of course, the same texts tell us the hard truth that people who knew better kept on breaking the rule, again and again, with repeated rebukes by prophets and preachers. It is in our earthly nature, all of us.Published in