Quote of the Day: Was Fundamentalist Creationist Henry Morris a Racist?

henry morris

In the early 1960s, Henry Morris revolutionized the young earth creationist world with his seminal work, The Genesis Flood. Morris unleashed what is today referred to as a “creationist renaissance” and became the father of modern young earth creationism. He was also racist—and he grounded his racism in his young earth creationist beliefs.

You don’t have to take my word for it. In his 1997 book, The Beginning of the World: A Scientific Study of Genesis 1-11, Morris wrote about Noah’s curse on his son Ham.

Of the descendants of Ham, he wrote that:

“Their future will be one of service—providing mainly for the material and physical needs of mankind. Shem, on the other hand, with his concern for the Lord and His honor, will through his descendants lead men to know and follow God. Japheth also, with his more serious approach to life and its meaning, will see his descendants enlarged geographically and mentally, coming to dwell finally in the spiritual house built by the children of Shem. The children of Ham, however, even those of his youngest and least responsible son, Canaan, will have to be content with giving service to both Shem and Japheth providing the material basis of human society, upon which the spiritual and intellectual concerns of mankind can be superimposed.”

The sons of Ham provide for “the material and physical needs of mankind.” The sons of Shem build a “spiritual house.” The sons of Japheth have a “more serious approach to life and its meaning” and are enlarged “geographically and mentally.”

Just so we’re clear, the children of Ham are the African, Asian, and Native American races. The children of Shem are the Jewish people and other Middle Eastern peoples. The children of Japheth are Europeans.

I don’t have to guess at this, either. Morris writes it himself:

“The descendants of Ham were marked especially for secular service to mankind. … The prophecy is worldwide in scope and, since Shem and Japheth are covered, all Ham’s descendants must be also. These include all nations which are neither Semitic nor Japhetic. Thus, all of the earth’s ‘colored’ races—yellow, red, brown, and black; essentially the Afro-Asian group of peoples, including the American Indians—are possibly Hamitic in origin and included within the scope of the Canaanitic prophecy, as well as the Egyptians, Sumerians, Hittites, and Phoenicians of antiquity.”

Morris remarks that the descendants of Ham—“yellow, red, brown, and black”—were “marked especially for secular service to mankind.”

What has this “secular service” involved? Let’s have a look:

“The Hamites have been the great ‘servants’ of mankind in the following ways, among many others: (1) they were the original explorers and settlers of practically all parts of the world, following the dispersion at Babel; (2) they were the first cultivators of most of the basic food staples of the world, such as potatoes, corn, beans, cereals, and others, as well as the first ones to domesticate most animals; (3) they developed most of the basic types of structural forms and building tools and materials; (4) they were the first to develop fabrics for clothing and various sewing and weaving devices; (5) they were the discoverers and inventors of an amazingly wide variety of medicines and surgical practices and instruments; (6) most of the concepts of basic mathematics, including algebra, geometry, and trigonometry were developed by Hamites; (7) the machinery of commerce and trade—money, banks, postal systems, etc.—were invented by them; (8) they developed paper, ink, block printing, moveable type, and other accoutrements of writing and communication. It seems that almost no matter what the particular device or principle or system may be, if one traces back far enough, he will find that it originated with the Sumerians or Egyptians or early Chinese or some other Hamitic people. Truly, they have been the ‘servants’ of mankind in a most amazing way.“

This start may be surprising. I know I found it surprising. After all, some of the things on that list are not what we would consider material or physical accomplishments. The remainder of this section, however, is more predictable:

“Yet the prophecy again has its obverse side. Somehow, they have only gone so far and no further. The Japhethites and Semites have, sooner or later, taken over their territories and their inventions, and then developed them and utilized them for their own enlargement. Often the Hamites, especially the Negroes, have become actual personal servants or even slaves to the others. Possessed of a genetic character concerned mainly with mundane matters, they were eventually displaced by the intellectual and philosophical acumen of the Japhethites and the religious zeal of the Semites.”

“Possessed of a genetic character concerned mainly with mundane matters…”

Morris goes on, growing only more direct:

“The Japhethites have been ‘enlarged,’ taking over lands originally settled by Hamites, and developing the Hamitic technology into science and philosophy. Japhethites have provided the intellectual aspect to humanity’s life, Hamites the physical, and Semites the spiritual. Japheth has, even in the present age, largely taken over the religious function from Shem—‘he shall dwell in the tents of Shem’ (Gen. 9:27).

“These very general and broad national and racial characteristics obviously admit of many exceptions on an individual genetic basis. It is also obvious that the prophecy is a divine description of future events, in no way needing the deliberate assistance of man for its accomplishment. Neither Negroes nor any other Hamitic people were intended to be forcibly subjugated on the basis of this Noah declaration. The prophecy would be inevitably fulfilled because of the innate natures of the three genetic stocks, not by virtue of any artificial constraints imposed by man.”

“because of the innate natures of the three genetic stocks…”

Yes, you did read that right—Morris did in fact write that slavery was the inevitable result of “the innate natures of the three genetic stocks.” He wrote that. He wrote that in 1977, and it was published by a creationist publisher.

I grew up reading Henry Morris. I grew up seeing him lionized in young earth creationist circles. He was the father of modern young earth creationism. To the best of my knowledge, however, I never read Morris’ The Beginning of the World. I’m glad that I did not; if I had, I would have read it as an impressionable teen.

— Libby Anne, Love, Joy, Feminism, On the Racism of Creationist Henry Morris, August 20, 2018

The views espoused by Henry Morris were similar to those I was taught at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. My biology teacher, in particular, taught that students should only marry after their own “kind.” Today, he would have been right at home among white supremacists. Several teachers believed that the mark God put on Cain for killing Abel was making him black. These racists told an elaborate Bible story to justify their racism. Years ago, I ran into followers of IFB luminary Peter Ruckman who believed that it was a waste of time to evangelize blacks. Why? They didn’t have souls.

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6 Comments

  1. Charles

    Good morning Bruce—and friends. We must have been on the same wavelength over the past few days Bruce—and I feel sure that it ultimately had something to do with Trumpism—because the recent resurgence of racism in this country has been very much on my mind. While you were writing this blog article on Henry Morris and his racism, I was writing the following article about the racism I experienced personally while growing up in the American South:

    https://faith17983.wordpress.com/2018/08/15/the-one-drop-rule/

    Some of you may not be aware of this, but I am a professional scientist who works in the particular scientific discipline most closely associated with human and primate evolution. I already knew about Henry Morris and his creationist pseudoscience. However, I had never heard of this racist connection with Morris that Bruce has brought to light here. Thank you very much Bruce for opening our eyes on this point.

    As my blog article above points out, we all have an opportunity to begin the work of bringing this recent resurgence of crass American racism to an end in the November 2018 election. Personally, I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican right now. I tend to be conservative on foreign policy like most Republicans of the past, and I tend to be more like the Democrats on domestic social policy—out of my concern for “the least of these” in our country. I do not know what all y’all’s personal plans are, but I am going to tell you mine.

    When election day comes in November 2018, I am going to enter my voting booth and push the buttons or pull the levers AGAINST EVERY LAST Republican candidate on the ticket—from local Dogcatcher all the way up to the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, and State Governor. Within the confines of my voting booth, there is going to be a fucking massacre, and I hope the folks in my polling place will have enough figurative mops and buckets to take care of all the figurative blood flowing from the innards of the voting machine. My reason: A protest against President Donald J. Trump. He, his stupidity, and his outrageous antics are responsible for this resurgence of racism and ethnic prejudice I am seeing everywhere these days. His lies and indecency have wrecked the quality of my country that I love so much, and I plan to begin putting a stop to it in my voting booth in November 2018.

    Charles

    P.S. With regard to Ham—was he a hickory smoked country Ham, a sugar-cured Ham, or a Honey-Baked Ham? Inquiring Christians need to know, and I suspect only Bruce could tell us with any accuracy.

    Reply
  2. GeoffT

    I’ve read and re-read this post, and am intrigued by the silly fool nonsense from Morris. I think it’s now pretty universally accepted that the Ark story is entirely fictitious, based on earlier flood stories from different cultures. So there never was a Noah, or a Ham, or a Shem, or whatever. But even if there were any truth to it, so what? Why should descendants of somebody who does something wrong be punished in perpetuity, indeed at all? It’s stupid to the point of insanity, it’s certainly unjust, and it’s grossly immoral.

    Then again, morality never has been high in fundamentalist, creationist thinking

    Reply
  3. Dr. R

    My wife has suffered due to this hideous doctrine of demons. I was raised with this filth, but rejected it. My family is mixed European and American Indian on both sides, but that didn’t stop some in the family from adopting this pernicious ideology. (My mother bought into this sort of crap hook line and sinker; thankfully my father and grandparents all rejected it. Other family members don’t bother with the religious veneer.)

    This hideous thinking permeates society in some areas. Some people try to cloak it in religious terms, others don’t, but the result is the same.

    I married someone who looked different from the rest of us. We were not welcome by what was left of my family, we were not welcome at churches back in our home state, and we were not welcome in society in general back there. Hell, my engagement announcement was met with quips about “little yellow babies.”

    As I often tell my wife, I wish Hell were a real place so these lowlifes could burn there for all eternity. Unfortunately, there will not be any sort of reckoning for most of them.

    Mene, mene, tekel, uparshin, the whole “Damned Human Race”.

    Reply
  4. ObstacleChick

    This type of teaching propagates the notion of divinely-ordained racism and is a blight on society. It is particularly harmful to impressionable children.

    Reply
  5. Troy

    The question I have is this Henry Morris’ racism, the Bible’s racism, or a synergistic synthesis of both? (Not mentioned in your post is that this “curse of Ham” originates by Ham seeing Noah naked when he was drunk. ) The Mormons wouldn’t allow blacks to be bishops in the church because of this interpretation until the late 1970s.

    Reply
  6. Troy

    (In case some haven’t seen it a Cartoon from the Illustrated Bible depicting the sons of Noah as the 3 stooges)
    http://www.metroactive.com/features/images/06.22.11/GenesisThreeSons.jpg

    Reply

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