Francis J. Grimke | Christianity & Race Prejudice

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Rev. Francis James Grimke, D.D., (1850-1937) Pastor of the 15th Street Presbyterian Church, Washington, DC

The following is an excerpt from a sermon entitled Christianity and Race Prejudice, Preached on June 5, 1910 and reprinted in The Faithful Preacher: Recapturing the Vision of Three Pioneering African-American Pastors by Thabiti Anyabwile.

Sermon Text: The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) -John 4:9

And this represents substantially the condition that exists between whites and blacks in this country. So far as their religious and social relations are concerned, the white people have no dealings with the colored people. This is true of the whites within the church as well as those outside it. Just as the Jews felt toward the Samaritans, the whites feel toward the colored people in this country.

If, however, the church was all right, if these whites professing religion, in their treatment of the colored people they would stand apart from the other white people in this country, just as Jesus stood apart from the rest of the Jews around Him in his treatment of this Samaritan woman. But they do not stand apart. They are indistinguishable from them; they are in no respect different from them.

To how many of the white Christians in this country could it be truthfully said by any number of colored people, “How is it that you, being white, treat us as brethren, as children of one common Father? How is it that you, being white, do not discriminate against us because of race or color?” To how many white Christians could this be said? Not a great many. And yet if these whites professing religion were really, truly Christian, if the same mind that was in Jesus was in them, not one or two dozen but the whole Negro race would be able to say it. These whites professing religion would stand apart from the rest of the white people of the country, would stand on a higher plain, would exhibit a nobler spirit, a more Christlike spirit. 

It is important, it seems to me, not only in dealing with race prejudice but in dealing with every other evil, that Christian men and women should understand that Christianity is not clay in the hands of the world-spirit to be molded by it but is itself to be the molder of public sentiment and everything else. It isn’t the meal but the leaven put into the meal that is to leaven the whole lump. It is salt- not salt that has lost its savor but the salt of the earth that is intended to arrest corruption, to put an end to the forces that mean moral decay, that tend to break down the tissues of spiritual life and to degenerate into festering sores of race prejudice and all the other brood of evils that grow out of it. The mission of the church, of Christian men and women, is to mold, not be molded by encircling influences of evil. (p.151)


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