THE HAMITIC HYPOTHESIS:
Racial Christianity in the Service
of the Business and Political Elites
by: S.R. Shearer
The link between the economic elites that promote cheap labor (which
ultimately was the rationale behind slavery) and racism is as undeniable
as the fact that the sun rises in the east - and so, unfortunately,
is the link between political Christianity and those same economic elites.
For Christians to believe that their alliance with economic "fat cats"
will lead them anywhere but into shame is naive at best, and very self-serving
Its difficult today for most Christians - especially evangelicals
- to understand with any degree of appreciation the kind of "Racial
Christianity" which was practiced in Africa, India, and portions
of Asia by the great majority of European and American missionaries
- Catholics and Protestants alike - during the 18th, 19th and early
20th centuries, notwithstanding some very notable exceptions to the
contrary. The fact is, it was pervasive, widespread and its effects
long-lasting and extremely pernicious - so much so that its consequences
are even today - almost eighty years later - easily discernible in much
of the "ethnic" strife which at present is ripping Africa
apart (to say nothing of India and parts of Asia).
The specific culprit insofar as Africa was concerned was a kind of
racism which combined in itself a strange and eccentric mixture of various
passages of Scripture which had been thoroughly distorted and gnarled,
and then grotesquely tied to bizarre evolutionary theories which postulated
that black Africans were somewhat lower on the evolutionary scale than
whites - an evolutionism which is, in reality, not that much different
from what J. Philippe Rushton of the University of Western Ontario in
Canada is "pushing" today. This freakish mixture of evolutionism
and Scripture was known as the "Hamitic Hypothesis."
Hamitic Hypothesis derives principally from Genesis 9:18-27. These verses
recount the story of Ham, the son of Noah, who, upon discovering his
father naked and in a drunken stupor, "exposed" him to his
brothers, Shem and Japheth. [Some commentators conjecture that the sin
committed by Ham involved much more than "exposure;" specifically,
bestiality and sodomy.] Canaan, Hams son, was also apparently
involved. When Noah awoke, he "knew" what Ham had done and
pronounced a curse in retribution; interestingly, only Canaan is directly
mentioned: "Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants he shall be
to his brothers." (Gen. 9:25)
According to the hypothesis, Ham and Canaan were "marked"
in the pigmentation of their skin (i.e., they were made black) and thereby
became the fathers of the "Negro" or "black race"
- and the curse [i.e., "a servant of servants he (Canaan) shall
be"] accounts for why the "black race" has suffered to
such an extent at the hands of whites and Arab slave traders.
There are, of course, a number of problems with this hypothesis: first,
there is nothing in the Scriptures which suggests any kind of "marking"
in reference to Ham and Canaan - Nothing! There is, of course, the "sign"
or mark which was placed on Cain, the son of Adam, after he slew Abel;
but presumably, all of Cains progeny were killed off as a result
of the flood. Nor is there any Biblical indication that Canaan and his
descendants settled in Africa. The Bible is quite specific as to where
Canaan settled: Palestine [which is not to say that the modern-day Palestinians
are the descendants of Canaan either; they (the original Canaanites)
appear to have been killed off).3
There is Cush, of course, another son of Ham, who is generally regarded
by fundamentalist Christians and Orthodox Jews as the father of the
African people; but there is nothing in the Scriptures which indicate
that the curse which was pronounced against Ham and Canaan devolved
on Cush. The Bible is quite specific as to the direction the curse was
to take insofar as Hams descendants were concerned: it was
to fall on Canaan and his progeny - and the certainty that it did
not fall on Cush is indicated by the fact that Nimrod, one of Cushs
sons, became the most powerful man of his time - and hardly could it
be said of him that he was a "servant of servants" to his
brethren, which most decidedly would have happened if one takes these
verses literally, which one must if he really considers himself to
be an evangelical.
The truth is, there is nothing in the Scriptures which in any way indicates
that Cush and his descendants were cursed; on the contrary, there is
much which argues the opposite: specifically that the African people
were a peculiar treasure unto the Lord and enjoyed a very special relationship
with Him. Psalm 68:31 says that Ethiopia (i.e., Africa) "stretched
out her hands to God" (and that God, as a result, embraced her
in a very close and peculiar way); and Psalm 87:4 lists Ethiopia (Africa)
as a peculiar treasure unto God, a people who "know" Him and
worship Him in a manner that is due particular recognition: "I
shall mention ... Ethiopia among those who know Me." Finally, the
great care with which the Lord specifically commissioned the
Gospel to Africa (Acts 8:27-40) has no parallel to any other people
in the Scripture outside the Jews.
One thing is sure: nothing is similarly said of white Europeans
- something which white evangelicals would do well to take note of before
they start - directly or indirectly - buying into the Racial Christianity
which pervades the thinking of some of their right-wing political and
business allies. And insofar as God is concerned, this kind of thinking
has a way of boomeranging, and it should be noted that in the one place
where God did curse and "mark" a particular people (i.e., the sons of
Cain), a second curse went along with it: "And the Lord said unto
him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him
sevenfold ..." (Genesis 4:15) Its a warning that those who
buy into the Hamitic Hypothesis should take very, very seriously!
So much for the Scriptural basis for the Hamitic Hypothesis! - the
fact of the matter is, the Hamitic Hypothesis was (is) a sham cooked
up by bigots to justify their racism, their past exploitation of black
labor (black slavery), and their economic rape of the African continent.
And Christians - by allowing such myths to circulate without challenging
their basis in Scripture and denouncing those in their community who
are connected, directly or even indirectly, to such thinking - disgrace
the name of Christ and cause it to be "blasphemed among the unbelievers."
(Romans 2:24) After all, when Christians allow their names and the name
of their Lord to be connected to such bigots as Roger Pearson et
al what are blacks and others to think? Liberals have a right under
such circumstances to question our sincerity.
Finally, to think that such thinking doesnt have an effect is
disingenuous at best, and just plain bogus at worst; and insofar as
the so-called Hamitic Hypothesis is concerned, that effect is still
being felt in Africa today - eighty years after the fact. Indeed,
much of the ethnic strife thats presently raging in Liberia, Nigeria,
South Africa, Angola, the Central African Republic, Somalia, etc. can
be traced directly to the continuing effects of this pernicious doctrine.
Take Rwanda, for example. When Belgian missionaries first arrived in
Rwanda in the 1880s they brought with them this noxious way of thinking
- which was then tied to European imperialism. In the case of Rwanda,
the doctrine took a rather bizarre twist. The Belgians needed allies,
there were simply not enough of them (i.e., whites) to go around to
adequately control the country. They therefore postulated that the Tutsi
Tribe - a minority tribe in the area - were really "black Caucasians"
or "African Aryans." Why? because the Tutsi exhibited "a
kind of white bone structure" and appeared on the whole taller,
thinner, and more "European-looking" than did other tribes in the
area, specifically the Hutu. The majority Hutus were designated as "African"
- which meant they were incapable of mentally digesting the trappings
of European civilization and, therefore, had to be treated as "children"
and/or "wards of the colony" much as one would treat mental deficients
in a modern society. And, of course, there were reasons in choosing
the Tutsi above the more numerous Hutu: economics. The fact of the matter
is, the whites needed laborers, and they needed a lot of them - and
there were a lot more Hutu than there were Tutsi.
The elevation of the Tutsi meant the relegation of the Hutu to the
status of "Bantu serfs," and of the Twa - a small group of
potters and hunter-gatherers in the area - to the lowest position of
aboriginal "pygmoids," supposedly remnants of an earlier stage
of human evolution. Under the Belgians, Tutsi dominance and power were
extended and Tutsi privileges intensified - leading over the years to
a white-hot, jealous rage on the part of the Hutus and Twa. Interestingly,
it should be noted that prior to the insertion of this particular twist
of the Hamitic Hypothesis, the three groups had lived together in relative
The practice of elevating one tribe to assist in the governance of
the colony was common to all colonial governments in Africa; for example,
in South Africa, the Zulus were elevated to semi-European status; in
Nigeria, the Ibos were elevated to quasi-European rank, and in Liberia
the re-settled American slaves received the status of "African-Aryans"
- and all with the same result as in Rwanda: jealousy and hatred on
the part of the tribes which had been left out.
And in all of this, Holy Writ and evolutionism were twisted together
in a diabolical and cruel mixture to achieve the result - all with the
acquiescence of the Christian community. God help us as evangelicals
if we should ever repeat these mistakes! But this is certainly what
some of our business and political allies are urging on us under the
pretense of a new evolutionism presided over by men like Jensen, Shockley,
Rushton, and the Pioneer Fund.
- People like Hudson Taylor, C.T. Studd, et. al. were
very much the exception to this rule. Unfortunately, people like Taylor
were - in the main - few and far between.
- Please see Edith Sanders, "The Hamitic hypothesis:
Its origins and junctions in time perspective," Journal of
African History, v. 10, 1969, pgs. 534- 526; also Ian Linden,
Church and Revolution in Rwanda, Manchester University Press,
- Please see Davis Dictionary of the Bible, pg. 117-119.
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