The Bible and Race in American Christian Cultures

The Christian Bible has been a factor in American culture and society since European colonists brought it here 500 years ago. Political and religious leaders, academics, and cultural figures have applied biblical texts and Christian interpretative traditions to their political and social agendas. With a mindset that had long taken the supremacy of Christianity as a given, some influential early Americans developed biblical and theological justifications for subjugating Indigenous populations and taking their land. The same thinking found a rationale for the enslavement of Africans and the continued violence against their descendants. Elaborate readings of biblical texts combined with early modern theories of racial origins formalized systems of racial identities that fundamentally privileged White people. This talk illustrates connections between historical practices and present inequalities, and poses the question of how we, as a university, ought to respond.

Rannfrid Lasine Thelle
Rannfrid Thelle

Rannfrid I. Lasine Thelle is an associate professor of religion, and teaches courses in Old and New Testament and themes related to biblical literatures and traditions. She also teaches First Year Seminar:  Creation, the Earth and the Future. Thelle has published “Ask God: Divine Consultation in the Literature of the Hebrew Bible”, “Approaches to the Chosen Place: Accessing a Biblical Concept”, and “Discovering Babylon”. Currently, she is working on a book that charts how biblical scholars in the late nineteenth century responded to discoveries of ancient Mesopotamian cultures.