I am a founder member of change.org, a website which keeps updating me with the latest petitions on important national and international issues. It is continually dismaying in its information about those who cause injustices and continually inspiring in its information about those who oppose them. Sometimes I am irritated by being told of terrible situations because I cannot take action against them all, but more often grateful to be given a chance to do something however small.
Today I received an update on a petition I had already signed to dissuade the Israeli government from destroying a village school in Khan al Ahmar, Palestine, to enable further Jewish settlement. I say Jewish, rather than Israeli, because the government itself distinguishes between Arab and Jewish citizens. The threatened destruction of the school and village is an example of the racist policies of Israel. No specious words about the historic suffering of Jewish people can justify a prejudice far more blatant than anything shown by Jeremy Corbyn. (If you would like to sign the petition go to change.org and The Tyre School)
I have been readng recently about the historical genome research of David Reich and others, who have been able to map the movements of human groups throughout prehistoric times far more clearly than has been possible until now. His conclusions are important:
1. All modern humans are descended from Africans.
2. Homo Sapiens groups moved out of Africa in several waves of emigration, and at least some mated with Neanderthals, so that all modern humans have some Neanderthal genes.
3. A completely different race, the Denisovians, whose remains were recently discovered, has also contributed its DNA to some modern humans.
Further research may disover other groups of modern humans. The uniqueness of “homo sapiens” has already been disproved, although the primary origin of humanity remains African. I very much doubt if any of those cultures which assert their racial purity would be pleased with these findings: all of us are mongrels.
But the same research can show whether historic cultural changes are matched by changes in DNA. It would appear that often change was triggered by the arrival of a group with different DNA from the host group. The movement of peoples in settlement and conquest brought about an exchange of thought and technology. These encounters, which add to the genetic inheritance of a group, also enrich its culture.
The tendency of human groups to define themselves as separate races is exposed by modern research as bogus: all groups are mongrel, almost from the start.
The Bible has two great stories that bear on the issue of race. The first is the story in Genesis of the Tower of Babel in which the division of humanity into diferent races and langauges is seen as God’s way of splitting humanity so that it cannot challenge his rule. This wonderfully ironic tale interprets the proud races of humanity as merely a divide-and -rule strategy of God.
The second is the Pentecost story in The Acts, which shows God’s Spirit cancelling the division of races in a new unity, which is the shared life offered by Jesus. The tongues of fire include the diverse languages of the world in the one multiracial community of Jesus, who, rejected by his own race, becomes the means of overcoming racial division.
Both of these stories challenge the racial ideologies of humanity. St. Paul who knew this truth, nevertheless believed that there was a divine purpose in the racial identity of the Jewish people. I do not agree with him. I cannot see it as anything other than a tragedy, first of all for the victims of Jewish aggression, and then for the Jews as victims of the aggression of others.
Racial pride is exposed by science as a fiction and by Christian faith as a sin. The exponents of British, English or Scottish nationalism should ask if their chosen identity may not be fundamentally racist. One test would be whether it welcomes people of all races. In many societies there are large numbers of people impoverished by the capitalist economy, but persuaded by the agents of their misfortune that it is due to the immigration of other racial groups. These sadly deceived people become the aggressive upholders of racial purity or worse, of racial cleansing.
For me the tradition of Jesus has been helpful in exposing the racism which thinks it OK to destroy a village and its school, because the land is needed by people of a better race.