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June 24, 2011

Opposition to Interracial Marriage Lingers Among Evangelicals

This month marks the 44th anniversary of the Loving v. Virginia, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that struck down state laws prohibiting interracial marriage. A 1968 Gallup poll found three-quarters of whites disapproved of a whites and blacks marrying. Today, opposition to interracial marriage is low, but it still lingers. Among religious groups, evangelicals remain the most opposed to interracial marriage, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press (Pew).

Pew's February Political Typology Poll asked people about recent trends in American society. Pew asked if “more people of different races marrying each other” was good or bad society. Overall, only nine percent of Americans said it was bad for society. However, 16 percent of white evangelicals said this, more than twice the opposition found among other Americans (7 percent). The survey found that 27 percent of Americans overall said more interracial marriage was good for society, compared to 17 percent of evangelicals.


Evangelicals may have the most negative view of interracial marriage, but there is also opposition among white mainline Protestants (13 percent) and Catholics (10 percent). Statistically, the percentages in these traditions who saw interracial marriage as bad for society were about the same as for evangelicals.

The views of white Christians stand in stark contrast to two other groups: black Protestants and those with no religion. Only three percent of either group said interracial marriage was bad for society. Eight-in-ten respondents said the trend “doesn't make much difference.”  Those who are not religious were more optimistic, with 38 percent saying it was good for society.

Such a poor view of interracial marriage comes despite its near universal acceptance—even celebration—among evangelical leaders even as they acknowledge sensitivity to the issue. For example, in a 2005 sermon, John Piper of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis said, “interracial marriage is not only permitted by God but is a positive good in our day. That is, it is not just to be tolerated, but celebrated.”  He followed this by noting that the issue remained “extremely controversial since it is opposed by people from all sides.”

Bob Jones University removed its rule against interracial dating in 2000; the university apologized for this and other racist policies in 2005.

Today, the issue of interracial marriage is most likely to be breached during debates over same-sex marriage. Ted Olson and David Boies released a video this month for the American Federation for Equal Rights (AFER). The video features the two lawyers (who argued successfully against California's Proposition 8) discussing Loving v. Virginia as the foundation for the argument for same-sex marriage.

Focus on the Family's Glenn Stanton said the video is emotionally persuasive but makes an invalid comparison between interracial marriage and same-sex marriage.

“Segregation was a profound social evil. Full stop,” Stanton said. “Loving v. Virginia struck down a legal regime, peculiar to certain parts of the nation, that was wholly racist at its core … It was about nothing more than the racial purity of whites and all the ugliness that implies.”


I would like to see those statistics broken down by age. Among white evangelical, are those who are opposed predominantly older, or is there a persistent racism that is passing down through the generations?

I would also like to see a geographic breakdown of these responses. Could the fact that so many evangelicals live in the South skew the results?

WHO could explain to me who are the Evangelical who are against marriage of so called "different colors" ? How one could be in the same time such a strong believer of the Word of God (I fully agree with) , e.g. regarding Creationism and not believe the Word about the unicity of the ONE HUMAN RACE as told from the beginning of Genesis and confirmed thru the whole 66 books? Such biological reality nowadays is fully matching the Word teaching.
Maybe the Lord Jesus answering his disciples about divorce could also apply : "It is because the hard-heartedness...". Oh my God am I ignoring your love?

Help me out here Adam. How are the statistics presented here being misinterpreted and misapplied?

John, sorry I did not mean these ones were. I was referencing the book I mentioned. Many statistics about Evangelicals are misinterpreted. But the book suggested that one area that is not misinterpreted is that Evangelical have a higher rate of racism than the general population.

Reading your comments remind me of the men who gathered to stone the woman caught in adultery (John 8). So which of you are without sin? You should know evangelicals have never claimed freedom from sin. Rom. 7:18 "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want." At least BJU, John Piper, the Southern Baptist Convention, and other evangelicals have admitted racist attitudes and behaviors in the past and have publicly asked for forgiveness. Have you asked those whom you have hurt/offended/wronged to forgive you? Btw - which private group gives the most aid (food, medical, agricultural) to the poor? (Hint: its not the enlightened liberals)

But what proportion ASK for forgiveness rather than, say rationalize racism by saying a) its in the bible like mark of ham; b. say its not racism but something else like opposition to welfare spending or like Nixon's "southern strategy" of appealing to state's rights and "law and order". 2) conservatives give more to PRIVATE charity but liberals support PUBLIIC government spending. check out which nations have higher per capita spending in commitment to development report. church attendance is negatively correlated. private charity ends up being ingroup giving.

I really think evangelicals need to confront the fearfulness and defensiveness that dwells in our midst. When we read the epistles (written by apostles who DID get martyred, to small groups of misunderstood Christians who WERE suffering) we tend to identify too much with their anxieties, and act as though we are under some sort of siege. It then verifies whatever other anxieties we suffer from, including white fear of being overrun by other races and losing our dominant place in America. So instead of repenting of the false superiority that fear reveals, we baptize it and consider ourselves persecuted. May the Lord have mercy on us.

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"...conservatives give more to PRIVATE charity but liberals support PUBLIIC government spending." Wow! You really burned me with that one, Luke. We've got a 14 trillion dollar debt! And you think that kind of govt. spending is a good thing. [Btw, the Grace Commission in 1984 said that govt. waste was 25% of the budget. Compare that to private charities.] But so what if libs support govt. spending, since conservatives are a majority in the country, they end up giving more in taxes than do liberals. "..check out which nations have higher per capita spending in commitment to development report." So what, who gives more in total? That's what really counts. Think of it this way: would you rather have have someone who has a $100 give you 10% of his money, or would you rather have someone with a billion dollars give you 10% of his money? Do the math. The USA gives way more foreign aid than any of the other countries. Not to mention we saved the world in WWII. Trivia question for you L. How countries paid back their WWII war debt to the US? Answer: ? [look it up]

I just spent quite a few hours doing nothing but browsing the net reading all the comments and post about interracial dating. There is definitely strong opinions, especially when it's on the subject of black women seeking white men. I think people feel they can post comments and say what they really want to. One thing's for sure is we got a long way to go in race relations. The amount of ignorance is amazing. But at the same time there is no question that I'm seeing more and more interracial couples out there.

As disturbing as it was, I appreciate Prof. Tobin's article. However, I think describing interracial marriage as being universally accepted and celebrated among evangelical leaders based solely on events like Pastor John Piper's sermon and Bob Jones University (the article fails to mention that it was a LAWSUIT that prompted the change, not the Holy Spirit) is a stretch. I think I can learn more about how a church REALLY feels about interracial relationships by asking the church leadership how they would feel if their children brought home a mate that didn't look like mom or dad.

I stand corrected re: Bob Jones as the policy change came during President Bush's visit rather than following the Supreme Court lawsuit which dealt with their tax-exempt status rather than the merits of their policies.

Some white people are more interested in worshipping skin than dealing with sin. You can only serve one master. Either you serve your skin or you serve Jesus Christ!

It is sad that Evnagelicals still think that way.
Racism is like AA we need to wrestle with everyday.
I hope someday we will all see eye to eye and honor God for the beauty of His creation.

Some Evangelicals still think that way, but most don't. Most of my generation [baby boomers] are way past that. But opposition to interracial marriage is not always based on prejudices - sometimes it is based on more practical issues [I'm thinking more along the lines of say, an American marrying a middle easterner, or someone from SE Asia]. Where will the couple live, for eg., or how will the spouses in the marriage be accepted by the other's family. Which culture will predominate in the family? In some cases the spouse who leaves his/her family to live in the other culture feels alienated due to cultural differences. Many times divorce occurs b/c one of the couple cannot adapt. I for one would counsel my daughter not to marry a man from the middle east unless he was going to live in the US and he was a strong Christian.

I think a big part of the problem is residue from America's segregated past. We (especially African-Americans and whites) tend not to worship together. I don't think it is as big of a deal for members of integrated congregations.

Gisèle Joly: May I suggest you look up the "curse of Ham"? For centuries, many Christians interpreted the story of Noah and the curse of Ham as ordaining both the separation of the races, and the inferiority of the black race. Most American segregationists thought their views were firmly established by scripture.

You interpret scripture differently. Your interpretation certainly is more in line with my liberal views. That doesn't mean it is in any sense a (the?) correct interpretation. Let me know when Christians all agree on a single way to interpret their scripture, thus uniting all the different sects. Heck, if the agreed way is also rational, they may even attract the non-believers.

Or become non-believers.

Really, really, it's sickening, that at this point in time, there are people in the churches still thinking like and believing the GARBAGE OF BIGOTS.

There is only ONE RACE people; the HUMAN RACE!!

ALL descendants of Adam and Eve. All lost without Christ and ALL save ONLY thru Christ. ENOUGH SAID.

I would like to know as well the age of the Evangelicals who answered negatively to this question. That said, shouldn't Christians honor Jesus' message of love, and be on the forefront of tolerance, acceptance, and love between races?

I agree with the "residue of the segregated past" comment. It's amazing to me how these evangelists can preach about an all loving God--then turn around and preach hate solely because of skin color. If they have hate, why not have the same hate for God, since He created all the races?

So where are these committed Christian men that women of all races seem to be unable to find? I know white Christian women who cannot find a Christian white man. I know black Christian women who cannot find a Christian black man. I know Christian Latinas who cannot find a Christian Latino. The Christians who do not like people marrying outside their races are not the same people who are concerned about not marrying period.

Instead of being upset by interracial marraige, why don't they do something practical like setting up classes to teach ignorant men the skills to be worthy husbands? Black women would go for black men over white men if they are godly Christian men. As things stand now, a woman will take a godly man no matter what the color.


There are just as many godly men (in my experience more men than women) who are interested in Godly women who are not control freaks and who do not want to redefine equality to the point where they stand at the urinal with men. There are Godly men out there, but what is your definition of a Godly woman?
Race is not an issue.

Anon 2

There is NO SUCH THING as RACE. There is only 1 human race not 4 or 5 as Darwin and other secularists have said. Thus there is no such thing as inter-racial marriage. There is inter-national marriages but not inter-racial ones.
Christians, please read the Bible and learn something and listen to God's word not humans.

Anon 2

The article was not about Jezebel spirits amongst Christian women; it was on Evangelicals who object to mixed race marriages.

Unfortunately, many marginally competent men have issues with competence in women. Many men did not do what they needed to do as boys and teens and are stunned when women possess skills men should have obtained. I think that instead of fussing about mixed racew marriages, Evangelicals should build up better men so they may take their role in society.

Many Christians here in South India still cling to caste and marry within their caste of their forefathrs who were Hindus. Hindus are very stratified and Christian evangelicals from America used that to try and convert the locals to Christianity. Now it seems to me that the white evangelicals practice the same kind of caste system not very different from Christians here in South India. So I wonder what was the real point of conversion to Christianity if some of the philosophy of evangelical christianity is not different from Caste Hinduism? Can someone in America explain?

Madurai, India

Interracial marriage isn't just between blacks and whites. I wish people wouldn't just limit it between those two groups. I am the child of an Asian father and a white mother.

Raj, I disagree that the philosophy of evangelical Christianity is the same as caste Hinduism. There are some evangelicals, particularly those from the Old South section of the U.S., who are ensnared by a legacy of racial animosity. But this is not inherent in evangelicalism. Note that the poll shows that over 80% of evangelicals don't have a problem with interracial marriage. Is it disappointing that there are still a substantial number who object? Absolutely. But that's not a reason to condemn all of us. And it's not a reason to reject God; accepting him and his promise of eternal life for all who repent of their sins and trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord is the real point of conversion to Christianity.

"And it's not a reason to reject God; accepting him and his promise of eternal life for all who repent of their sins and trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord is the real point of conversion to Christianity."

Try telling that to the Hindus who are aware of the views of at least some of the evangelicals. Easier said than done! My evangelical friend from America is telling me that it is harder to get converts these days because of internet...racism of evangelicals is exposed! My uncle is an example..he thought until the internet showed up that white people will marry anyone who is Christian, especially white American Christians, now he knows that many white Christians are not very different from the Tamil Christians here.

I think it is still very obvious that racism is still persistent among white evangelicals. Look at the response to Obama. More hate has come out from White so called saved people that any other group.