RIGHT or WRONG: Racism or sexism -- Which is the more virulent “ism” in our society and churches?

A key word in the question is “virulent.” According to Webster’s Dictionary, “virulent” carries the impact of being actively poisonous, noxious, highly infective, intensely bitter, spiteful and malicious. To deny a person the right to participate in the fullness of society because of race, color or ethnic origin is virulent.

A key word in the question is “virulent.” According to Webster’s Dictionary, “virulent” carries the impact of being actively poisonous, noxious, highly infective, intensely bitter, spiteful and malicious. To deny a person the right to participate in the fullness of society because of race, color or ethnic origin is virulent. To deny a person the right to participate in the fullness of society because of gender is virulent. To use sex or race to limit people to specific life categories is virulent. To limit another’s pay, privileges or opportunities by race or sex is virulent.

Racism sees an individual as less than a complete person. It assumes the person judging has the right to use his/her own criteria for evaluating others. Who establishes the standards? Who says those standards are right, honest, fair or godly?

In recent years, our nation has seen people of various colors, accents and hues rise to contribute generously to the good of the whole. Their giftedness of mind, intelligence, skills, competencies and spirit has blessed us all. The most recent example is our 44th president of the United States.

Sexism also sees a person as inferior, less than complete. Most often, defensive postures made by males become the criteria. There have been longstanding assumptions that males are smarter, more stable, physically stronger and endowed with prescribed privileges that make them superior. We now know that mental and emotional strength is not bound by gender. The investigation of some other cultures shows women to be superior by any measurement used in Western culture.

Sexism also ignores the beauty of God’s creation. As a man, I can say that God’s gift of womanhood gives beauty, love and tenderness that is so desperately needed to give balance and worth to humanity. It would be awful to live in a world of nothing but men. We need the gift of femininity for far more than procreation. We need beauty and grace.

The purpose of the church is to participate with God in God’s redemptive activity. That activity is to bring all of humanity into a loving relationship with God. Our participation is a gift of God to everyone in whom God has breathed life. As the Apostle Paul says in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Which is worse, racism or sexism? Both are virulent. Both are sins against God and sins against humanity. All sin is sin. Let us combat both racism and sexism. But thanks be to God, there is redemption for all sin through his Son, Jesus Christ. We do not need to continue in “virulency.”

Emmanuel L. McCall is pastor of Fellowship Group Baptist Church in East Point, Ga., and a vice president of the Baptist World Alliance. Right or Wrong? is sponsored by the T.B. Maston Chair of Christian Ethics at Hardin-Simmons University’s Logsdon School of Theology. Contributors include Baptists in Virginia, Texas, Missouri and other states. Send your questions about how to apply your faith to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .