I was shocked. I didn’t know Penelope had a colored town! We had a wonderful time playing with the children, petting the dogs, talking with people and drinking cokes in the kitchen.

Several hours later it was time to depart. We had an evening church service to lead. Mr. Green, our deacon (we only had one) was standing on the church steps waiting for us. “We hear you’ve been to colored town,” he said. “Those people aren’t welcome here.”

“Okay,” I said.

I suppose that there are two ways to handle racism. One is to climb on a “high horse” and angrily judge and condemn those obviously racist. The other is to take time to work on their hearts.

I chose the latter. In fact, I set a goal. Every year our church sponsored what we called “Vacation Bible School.” For two weeks each summer children came every morning for fun, games, crafts and Bible lessons. Bible School for this year had just ended. I decided that next year the colored children would be welcomed.

So, I preached compassion and love and acceptance — and worked on our hearts. One year later 11 African-American children attended our Bible school. Mrs. Beard was one of our Vacation Bible School teachers. The next Sunday two African-American families came to worship with us in or church. No one turned them away. In fact, the fellowship we had was sweet.

A curious belief once arose among some Christians about the origin of black-skin coloring in order to justify slavery. In Genesis 9:20-25 Ham is cursed by his father Noah for dishonoring his dad during one of Noah’s drunken stupors. Some think that the curse placed on Ham and his descendants was black skin.

Some of Ham’s descendants, Cush and Put, for example, settled in Africa in the present-day countries of Ethiopia and Libya. These misguided people conclude that Cush and Put spread their black skin throughout Africa. Therefore, they conclude that black Africans are a cursed race and thus inferior to white races.

This awful premise was often invoked by white people in the Southern United States as Biblical “proof” to justify the institution of slavery. In fact, in Dred Scott v. Sanford in 1856 and a in a series of other cases the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that black slaves could not be citizens, were not real human beings and thus had no protection under the U.S. Constitution. Furthermore, other rulings concluded that slaves were nothing more or less than the property of their owners — little different from horses and plows.

Horribly, many Southern preachers and Christians used this line of reasoning to circumvent the idea that slaves were to be treated as equals for whom Christ died a substitutionary death on the cross. This is not to say that all Southern Christians agreed with this concept. Some repudiated it fiercely! Many operated underground railroads to move runaway slaves to “safety” in the North.

The Southern Baptist Convention split off from other Baptists in 1845 because they wanted to continue legalized slavery in the South.

Thankfully, among most Christians, times and attitudes have changed.

Fighting racism is not easy. It’s built into our genes. In his book Genome, Matt Ridley selects a gene or two from each chromosome pair and overviews the work of our genes.

Several things, among many, stand out in his book relating to racism.

First, we are genetically programmed by GOD to be wary of people not like us. This is a survival mechanism that contributes to racism.

Second, skin color is not skin-deep. It is less than skin-deep. Of the 30,000 or so genes imbedded in human DNA, only a very few have anything to do with skin color. All races are basically alike in mental, emotional and physical make up. Skin color is only cosmetic.