Racism and Discrimination: The Church Vision and Teaching

What are Racism and Discrimination?

Racism and Discrimination are a form of social and personal disorder that adheres to the assumption that one race or social group is inherently superior to the other.

They are socio-cultural ideas regarding the superiority of a particular individual by the race, religion, ethnicity or social class that they originate from.

The stance of the church in this matter is reflected in the 1989 Papal Encyclical by the late Pope John Paul II, which correlated racist and discriminatory thoughts and attitudes as a sin. From the perspective of the church, all individuals are equal in the eyes of God and should be treated as such.

Catholic Teachings: Scriptural Basis

In Galatians 3:28, it is stated that “there is neither Jew or Greek or even slave or free man, male or female; rather, we are all one under Jesus Christ.”

Supported by Genesis 1:26-27, Acts 10:34 as well as Galatians 3:28, which all emphasize our equality under God.

“God does not play favorites”. In other words, there is no such thing as one race being superior to the other or one group being inherently better; we are all a single people with differences that make us special and unique, yet in the end we are all the same (Valadez and Mirci 162). It is based on these passages, as well as numerous others, that the stance of the church has been one of tolerance of differences, the celebration of the unique and the acceptance that we are all brothers and sisters under God.

Catholic Teachings: Papal Encyclical

Society has begun to take on a different meaning wherein it is praised on the same pedestal as the Lord Almighty where groups of people emphasize they are better than others by belonging to a particular society (Finn 136).

This is the origin of racism and discrimination since several groups have created an artificial belief in superiority based on a false idol (i.e. social groups). All of us need to understand that it is not a society that defines us, that controls who we are, or influences our freedoms. We are one body under God and is through his love and divine providence that we exist and thrive in this world.

Catholic Teachings: Pastoral Letters

While it is currently illegal to discriminate against someone based on their race when it comes to jobs or various opportunities, discrimination still exists resulting, in particular, in different ethnicities such as Latin Americans being denied potential job opportunities (Caccamo 301).

From the point of view of the Catholic Church, the problem lies in the way in which people learn to discriminate or be racist. Such attitudes are not inherent, instead, they come about through social influences which cause a person to think in a particular manner. The U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference states that the only way in which racism and discrimination can truly be removed is if we address how social concepts and behaviors are transmitted from one generation to the next (Beyer 11).

How Teens Can be Involved

People do not start out as racists or inherently discriminate against others; they learn these behaviors over time as a direct result of the influence of their environment. By removing racist and discriminatory elements from a child’s upbringing (i.e. racist language), this ensures that they are less likely to utilize such terms or engage in such practices (Groody 17). Teens can assist by being part of church programs that seek to convince parents of the need to properly raise their children in an environment that encourages love for one’s fellow man. Some of the possible ways this can be accomplished is through church sermons as well as public information campaigns that specifically target new parents.

Teens can assist by enabling other Christians to realize that we are mandated to share the word of God with all our brothers and sisters and one aspect of it is the knowledge that we are all equal under God. We should not expect someone else to take care of society’s issues for us; instead, we need to take a stand and show what it means to be true Catholics through words, deeds, and examples (Regan 1024). Yes, this may seem hard to do but it is possible so long as we trust in God and follow the teachings he imparted to us through Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

The problem of racism and discrimination originates from the desire to showcase superiority, the desire to place ourselves above others and to show that we belong to a particular group. One of the clearest examples of this can be seen in social attitude of either being a “winner” or “loser”. We as a society have created these negative classifications to showcase our superiority over one another. In fact, some individuals derive a certain level of “happiness” from being considered “better” than others by belonging to a group and not through their accomplishments. It is attitudes like this that are at the heart of racism and discrimination in the world today.

“Was Jesus ever racist? Did he truly show preference for one social class over another?” The answer is no, his ministry included people from all walks of life, all races and backgrounds and it is this attitude that we should take when it comes to spreading the word of God. Despite differences in wealth and social standing, we are all the same, we are all God’s creations and, as such, we should not discriminate nor racially profile one another since this would be the same as doing it to ourselves.

Works Cited

Beyer, Gerald J. “The Meaning Of Solidarity In Catholic Social Teaching.” Political Theology 15.1 (2014): 7-25. Print

Caccamo, James. “The Ethics Of Branding In The Age Of Ubiquitous Media: Insights From Catholic Social Teaching.” Journal Of Business Ethics 90.(2009): 301. Print

Finn, Daniel K. “What Is A Sinful Social Structure?.” Theological Studies 77.1 (2016): 136. Print

Groody, Daniel G. “A God Of Life, A Civilization Of Love: Justice, Mission, And Catholic Social Teaching.” International Review Of Mission 102.1 (2013): 17. Print

Regan, Ethna. “Barely Visible: The Child In Catholic Social Teaching.” Heythrop Journal 55.6 (2014): 1021-1032. Print

Valadez, James R., and Philip S. Mirci. “Educating For Social Justice: Drawing From Catholic Social Teaching.” Journal Of Catholic Education 19.1 (2015): 154-177. Print