“God the Original Segregationist”

A black-and-white photo of racists protesting against desegregation

I’ve written about a phenomenon I call “the march of progress” – the way organized religion is consistently on the wrong side of moral change, from democracy to feminism to secularism to LGBTQ rights, and consistently pretends otherwise after every loss.

Because religion is inherently conservative and resistant to change, religious apologists defend every popular evil of their day. And when that evil is finally defeated and a new conception of human rights takes hold, those same apologists rewrite history to pretend they were on the correct side all along. They take credit for the outcome they fought to prevent. Then the next human rights movement arises, which religious apologists fight against fiercely, ignoring all historical parallels… and the pattern repeats.

One prominent example is how the Confederacy was a Christian theocracy. During the Civil War, prominent Confederates loudly argued that they were on God’s side, that slavery was God’s will, and that abolitionists were “undeniably atheistic” – and that because of this, God was sure to grant them victory.

Of course, the Confederacy was defeated and chattel slavery was abolished. After its loss, Christians memory-holed these inconvenient facts. (The Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest Protestant denomination, would very much prefer people not remember that it was founded to protect slavery.)

But, just as historical precedent predicts, they learned nothing from their error. The next time civil rights erupted into national consciousness, Christians were once again on the front lines to stop it.

I saw this tidbit in an essay by Peter Wehner, “The Motivated Ignorance of Trump Supporters“:

In his book The Bible Told Them So: How Southern Evangelicals Fought to Preserve White Supremacy, J. Russell Hawkins tells the story of a June 1963 gathering of more than 200 religious leaders in the White House. President John F. Kennedy was trying to rally their support for civil-rights legislation.

Among those in attendance was Albert Garner, a Baptist minister from Florida, who told Kennedy that many southern white Christians held “strong moral convictions” on racial integration. It was, according to Garner, “against the will of their Creator.”

“Segregation is a principle of the Old Testament,” Garner said, adding, “Prior to this century neither Christianity nor any denomination of it ever accepted the integration philosophy.”

Two months later, in Hanahan, South Carolina, members of a Southern Baptist church—they described themselves as “Christ centered” and “Bible believing”—voted to take a firm stand against civil-rights legislation.

“The Hanahan Baptists were not alone,” according to Hawkins. “Across the South, white Christians thought the president was flaunting [he probably meant “flouting” —Adam] Christian orthodoxy in pursuing his civil rights agenda.” Kennedy “simply could not comprehend the truth Garner was communicating: based on their religious beliefs, southern white Christians thought integration was evil.”

Just as modern-day Christians claim that outlawing abortion and fighting wokeness is God’s will, Christians of the civil rights era claimed that segregation and interracial marriage bans were God’s will. They argued for Jim Crow with the fervency of the true believer. White Christians wrote lengthy theological arguments backed up by biblical citations to make their case for segregation:

A decade earlier, the Reverend Carey Daniel, pastor of First Baptist Church in West Dallas, Texas, had delivered a sermon titled “God the Original Segregationist,” in response to the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. It became influential within pro-segregationist southern states. Daniel later became president of the Central Texas Division of the Citizens Council of America for Segregation, which asked for a boycott of all businesses, lunch counters included, that served Black patrons. In 1960, Daniel attacked those “trying to destroy the white South by breaking the color line, thus giving aid and comfort to our Communist enemies.”

You can read the full text of that sermon. It’s a vile blast of old-timey Christian racism:

New Testament Text — ACTS 17:26,27

*And (GOD) hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, AND THE BOUNDS OF THEIR HABITATION; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us.”

Our Lord God Himself was the Original Segregationist.

When first He separated the black race from the white and lighter skinned races He did not simply put them in different parts of town. He did not even put them in different towns or states. Nay, He did not even put them in adjoining countries.


So… God didn’t intend for people to cross oceans? Did he not know about boats?

This racist theology poses huge questions about the way its author saw the world. If God’s plan was that each race would stay where it originally arose, does that mean it was against God’s will for Europeans to settle and colonize the rest of the planet? Shouldn’t we give the Western Hemisphere back to the Native Americans?

Daniel is so certain that racial integration is against God’s will, he doesn’t feel obligated to provide any reason why it’s bad. He just asserts that it is, and expects his audience to agree with him. His deepest horror and loathing is reserved for the prospect of interracial relationships, which he slurs as “mongrelization”. Obviously, there’s a subconscious bigotry he can’t put into words that’s driving his conclusions, not any process of reasoning.

The feeble efforts of the integrationists to support their views by God’s Word are not only pitiful, they are often ludicrous. When pressed for Bibical authority many of them can be no more specific than to quote such general moral principles as “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself’ and ‘Do unto others as you would be done by, etc.

But as I loving my white neighbor as myself if I am working for a society which threatens to mongrelize his children or grandchildren? Am I loving my black neighbor as myself if I am trying to change his God-given skin-color into something contrary to both nature and Scripture?

Daniel thinks that it’s “contrary to nature” for people of different races to mingle – but obviously it’s not, because people are part of nature. Anything we choose to do is natural in that sense.

If God existed and didn’t want people of different races to have children together, he could have made us genetically incompatible with each other. Daniel never questions why God gave humans the ability to do something he doesn’t want us to do.

The reality is that, at a genetic level, all humans are the same species, and our DNA is virtually identical. The differences between us are, literally, only skin deep. They have no bearing on intelligence, moral character, work ethic, or anything else that matters.

Most Christians today, I’d wager, would say that they reject Daniel’s grossly bigoted theology – even though they believe in the same god and read the same Bible that he did. That’s exactly the point. It proves that religion doesn’t provide any inerrant or consistent morality, nor does it give us access to a source of wisdom outside ourselves. It only puts a gloss of divine approval on whatever prejudice is popular in each era.

This is why the march of progress happens. There’s no deity revealing what’s right and what’s wrong. There are only humans, arguing and fighting it out amongst ourselves. Some people cling to the prejudices of the past and resist change, while others try to pull humanity into a more enlightened future.

Fortunately, the friends of enlightenment have been winning this battle. The net effect is that – slowly, over many generations – we’re outgrowing ignorance and superstition. Moral progress is a long stairway, but we’re scaling it one step at a time. That’s an achievement to celebrate, but it would be happening faster if regressive religion weren’t trying to drag us back down.

Image: A 1959 protest against school desegregation in Little Rock, Arkansas. One of the signs reads, “Stop the Race Mixing March of the Anti-Christ”. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.


  1. Bruce says

    Clearly, the world’s greatest sin was what Wikipedia calls the Age of Discovery, where they say:
    “European oceanic exploration started with the maritime expeditions of Portugal to the Canary Islands in 1336, …”
    Obviously, this, and sailing along the coast from Portugal and Spain to Morocco and along the coast of Africa was a sinful use of the technology of “boats” to defy God’s will and visit other continents, where there were other races.
    Likewise, the habits of Arab traders to use camels to cross the Sahara and trade and spread monotheism from the Middle East to sub-Saharan Africa was an earlier sin that promoted race mixing. So the technology of sitting on an animal and getting a ride was a defiance of god’s holy word, and anyone who got transport from a horse or a donkey was undoubtedly sent to Hell for it.
    This is why, after Jesus got an animal ride into Jerusalem, God punished him by crucifiction and sent him to Hell for his sin.
    But because Jesus was a nepo-baby, God said never mind, and let him off with a bad weekend and reigning the universe at God’s right hand for eternity.
    That punishment taught Jesus never again to sin by promoting evil riding technology that could lead to race mixing.
    So the segregationists have wisely taught all Caucasians to repent, and to walk back from the USA to Europe, and to never use anything but our God-given feet for transportation. Because if you walk south along the coast of Africa, you can never get from white people places to black people places by walking. I guess.
    Anyway, god obviously set up the world so we couldn’t walk to or breed with people from other regions of Eurasia or Africa, so we shouldn’t. And we need to disassemble anything built with transportation or with help from sinful beasts of burden. So the segregationist have taught us that we need to live in stick-and-mud huts in Europe so we don’t meet different people or do business or anything. I guess.
    Or, were the segregationists just trying to exploit religion to justify their own bigotry? Like they do.

  2. says

    So… God didn’t intend for people to cross oceans? Did he not know about boats?

    Given the story of the flood, it seems clear that boats are magical things that allow you to safely survive god’s otherwise fatal judgment. That’s why they should only be built by prophets directly inspired by god and all secular boat-building is an abomination!

    I can’t imagine why there are no churches espousing this essential teaching.

  3. Katydid says

    Most people who have gotten their DNA tested have a tiny (1 – 4% on average) amount of Neanderthal genetics. If race-mixing drives the bigots nuts, I wonder what they think of species-mixing.

  4. eastexsteve says

    Here’s a good example of “motivated ignorance”, these are the books that have been banned by the school district I live within:

    The Underground Railroad (Colson Whitehead)
    · The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas)
    · The Color Purple (Alice Walker)
    · Sold (Patricia McCormick)
    · Salvage the Bones (Jesmyn Ward)
    · I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter (Erika Sanchez)
    · The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
    · Homegoing (Yaa Gyasi)
    · Girl in Translation (Jean Kwok)
    · Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Jonathan Safran Foer)
    · Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
    · Beloved (Toni Morrison)
    · Speak (Laurie Halse Anderson)
    · My Sister’s Keeper (Jodi Picoult)
    · Water for Elephants (Sara Gruen)
    · We are the Ants (Shaun David Hutchinson)
    · Slaughterhouse-Five (Kurt Vonnegut)
    · Where the Crawdads Sing (Delia Owens)
    · The Bluest Eye (Toni Morrison)

    See anything you’ve read? Brave New World, really!

  5. anat says

    So… God didn’t intend for people to cross oceans? Did he not know about boats?

    That’s not how Bible!god works. If Bible!god doesn’t like something he doesn’t make it impossible or even difficult. He may send some emissary to tell people ‘don’t do this thing that is an abomination according to me’. Or just expect people to figure it out themselves, and if they don’t he may destroy their community. Or not, depends.

  6. Pierce R. Butler says

    … He separated the black race from the white and lighter skinned races …

    A small and morbid part of me wants a list of Gawd’s non-white but “lighter skinned races”, & the reproductive rules for same.

  7. Prax says


    There have been major north-south trade routes crossing the Sahara for at least 4,000 years, and there’s like 16 miles of ocean between the Horn of Africa and Yemen. People got through or around the Sahara just fine.

    Also, that bit from Acts 17 is a Romanized Jew from Turkey preaching to a bunch of folks in Greece, as part of God’s Great Commission to spread the gospel to every nation on Earth. There’s a Pentecost miracle in Acts 2 where everyone can hear the same sermon in their own native tongue. The entire book is about how we should unite all of humanity under the true faith. How do you read that and conclude that God wants us to be segregated?

    …that said, Paul wrote, “There is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” but also wrote that women shouldn’t talk in church and it was sinful for men to wear their hair all girly-like. So the Reverend Daniel was in good company when it came to bending logic for the sake of prejudice.

  8. says

    ‘Motivated ignorance’ is a great way to put it.
    I spent yesterday (6/22/2024) at a trail head here in the Pacific Northwest as a volunteer for the Washington Trails Association. It was Washington Trails Day and we were there to talk with hikers and ask them to take the ‘stay on trail’ pledge. All in all it was a great day and we got to speak with hundreds of happy hikers.

    While we are behind our table talking with hikers we never talk about politics or religion in any way. I get it and support the rule. However, after we had taken everything down and I was hiking back to my car an old guy (I am an old guy so perhaps I looked sympathetic) collared me to complain about how you-know-who is being railroaded, corrupt judge, etc. etc.

    I asked him what he knew that the jury did not know and he was stumped.

    You simply cannot reason someone out of a position they have not been reasoned into.

  9. says

    There have been major north-south trade routes crossing the Sahara for at least 4,000 years, and there’s like 16 miles of ocean between the Horn of Africa and Yemen. People got through or around the Sahara just fine.

    Not to mention that the Strait of Gibraltar is so narrow, you can see the other continent on a clear day.

  10. lpetrich says

    That’s not a problem with religion in general but with the more conservative and authoritarian sorts of religion.

    The US, at least, has long had a sort of Religious Left, and in the Progressive Era around 1900, the “Social Gospel” was a big thing. There was some Religious Left in the late 1950’s and the 1960’s, especially in the civil-rights movement, but over the last half-century, it has had very little public visibility. Nearly all the challenging of the Religious Right has been secular, whatever the personal religious beliefs of the challengers.

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