Dr. James Emery White Christian Blog and Commentary

Marrying Out

  • Dr. James Emery White

    James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and a former professor of theologyand culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he…

  • 2011 Nov 11

The latest research has found that today, “young adults have more friends of diverse racial backgrounds than past generations and are more willing to have relationships with those of other races and cultures.”

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that increasing numbers are "marrying out," meaning outside of their race.  According to a new analysis of Census data by researchers at Ohio State and Cornell, the percentage was 14.6% in 2008, up from 6.7% in 1980.  An estimated 4.5 million married couples in the U.S. are interracial, according to 2011 Census data released last week from the Current Population Survey.

A USA Today/Gallup poll released in September found that 86% of Americans approve of black-white marriages, compared with 48% in 1991.  Among ages 18-37, 97% approved.

Asian-white pairings, especially Asian women and white men, are so common many "don't even look at that at all," says Kevin Noble Maillard, associate professor of law at Syracuse University in New York.

Somebody please tell the American church.

It’s become cliché to call Sunday mornings at 11 a.m. the most segregated hour in America.  But like most clichés, sadly, it’s often true.

But interracial couples are the most lost of all.

In most churches, black-white couples stand out, as if good Christians only marry their own “kind.”  There is a sense that somehow, there is something “wrong” with them being together, or perhaps that it is even a sin. 

This is just as strong in black churches. 

I was having coffee with a friend of mine who pastors a large and predominantly African-American church in our city.  He’d snuck into Meck a few times for a Saturday night service, and was blown away at how many interracial couples he saw.  He loved it, and envied how comfortable they must feel at our church, unlike his, because there were so many others like them in attendance.  He then went on to tell me black-white couples are often stared at in his church, with less than veiled contempt, and that this is present in other predominantly African-American churches across the nation as well.

He said in white churches, it’s because there’s a sense that such unions are condemned; in black churches, it’s because a white man or woman “took” an eligible black man or woman away.

I don’t know if that’s the right assessment.  I just know the whole thing reeks of racism.

So does Scripture condemn people of different races intermarrying? 

Is that something that God frowns on? 

No.  A thousand times no.

There is nothing in Scripture that condemns interracial marriage in any form.  Yes, the Bible speaks of not being unequally yoked, and tells the Israelites in the Old Testament that they should not marry Canaanites. 

But that was not racially-based. 

It was faith-based.

That type of intermarriage is very much warned against in Scripture, and with very strong language.  We are told, time and again, not to marry outside of our faith.  To do so is to create a relationship destined for difficulty, because the deepest parts of who you are cannot be shared with your mate.  At the deepest and most significant levels, the two cannot become one. 

When you have the power of emotions coupled with romantic love it can override all logic, especially the fact that you know on the front end the relationship cannot and should not be consummated. That is why it's not even wise to date someone outside of your faith. You are just setting yourself up.

So let’s put evangelistic dating in the “stupid” category, despite the wonderful love stories from those who violate the wisdom of scripture would posit with eventual success.

Those are not only exceptions to the rule, they are examples of dodging the proverbial bullet.  For every one of those stories, I could introduce you to scores of others who would tell you of the heartbreaking nature of what it is like to live unequally yoked.

But again, this has nothing to do with interracial unions.

In certain periods of history, and in certain cultures, it’s certainly been fair to lovingly counsel people about the difficulties involved in an interracial marriage – both for the sake of the couple, and for the sake of the children. 

But never in a sense that it would be wrong. 

It is no more different than counseling any other couple that might come from different backgrounds – economically, educationally, culturally - to be aware of what might lie ahead. 

In truth, those that condemn interracial unions tend to do so from a spirit of racism more than a sense of what the Bible actually teaches.  And racism, of any form, has no place in the Christian life.

Lest we forget, the sin committed by Miriam and Aaron against Moses was in condemning Moses' own interracial marriage. 

The Bible tells us that, ”Miriamand Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushitewife, for he had married a Cushite” (Numbers 12:1, NIV). 

They rejected Moses’ wife because of her race.  She was a Cushite (an Ethiopian), meaning she was black, and Moses and his family were Jewish.  Interestingly, as the criticism mounted, it is God Himself who comes to Moses’ defense and reaffirms His hand on his life.

This past weekend a young African-American boy came up to me in a hallway between services and said, “Pastor Jim!  Pastor Jim!  I have a question.”

I stopped and said, “Fire away!”

He said, “If we’re all supposed to be brothers and sisters, why did God make people black and white?”

I said the first thing that came to mind.

“I don’t know, buddy, but isn’t it great that it doesn’t matter when it comes to being brothers and sisters?”

He smiled, hugged me, and walked away.

And for all the churches out there, I would add this:

“And isn’t it great that it doesn’t matter when it comes to being husband and wife?”

James Emery White


“Americans ‘marrying out’ in much greater numbers,” Sharon Jayson, USA Today, Tuesday, November 8, 2011, p. 1D and 2D.  Read online.

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