Church opinions on prejudice and discrimination

Church opinions

The Roman Catholic teaching on prejudice and discrimination is made quite clear in Gaudium et Spes:

Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, colour, social conditions, language or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design. Gaudium et Spes para 29, 1965

Some people claim that the Roman Catholic Church contradicts its own teachings by not allowing women to become priests. In its defence, the Church answers that a priest stands in the place of Jesus who was a man, and points to the tradition of male priests for over two thousand years.

Nowadays, most Christian denominations accept female ministers as equal to male minsters. The Church of England has allowed women to be ordained as priests since 1994 and as bishops from 2014.

Many Christians believe there is little racism shown in the churches. Many ministers in all denominations are of different races. The most recent Popes have come from Poland, Germany and Argentina.

Many Christians today actively fight prejudice and discrimination in all their forms.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

One of the best known Christian leaders who fought against racial prejudice and discrimination was Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr King was a Baptist minister who became an activist for African American civil rights early in his career. He led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott. This started through a simple act of defiance when a black woman, Rosa Parks, refused to give up her seat on a bus for a white passenger when ordered to do so by the bus driver. She was later arrested.

Through death threats, multiple arrests and several attempts on his life Dr King was consistent in his application of the principles taught by Jesus and recorded in the Bible:

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.Matthew 5:44

Throughout history, many racist actions and institutions (eg slavery) have been justified using stories from the Bible. Alternatively, Christian churches have simply turned a blind eye to them. Some people even justified the apartheid system in South Africa by citing Christian teachings.

Over time, most Christian churches have spoken out against these injustices, recognising them as perversions of the Christian message.

Similarly, in places like Northern Ireland, where religious differences have been a trigger for violence and persecution, Christian groups like the Corrymeela Community are working for peace and reconciliation.