What are the teachings of the Christian Church on racism? Are there any relevant Biblical references or other authoritative sources?
The teaching of various Christian denominations on racism have varied tremendously with denomination and historical period. Although the overwhelming majority of Christian denominations in the twenty-first century are opposed to all forms of racism, that was not always the case.
The first and most important Biblical text used to justify racism is Genesis 4:11-16, describing the curse or mark of Cain. In some denominations, such as the early Syriac church (5th and 6th century), and the Southern Baptists and Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (popularly known as the Mormons) until the 1960s, it was believed that black people bore the mark of Cain and might even lack souls. This belief was used to support racial segregation. Most mainline denominations, including the contemporary Eastern Orthodox church, Roman Catholics, and liberal Protestant denominations were opposed to racism, and do not interpret the story of Cain racially.
Slavery, which had distinct racial components, was accepted by many European, British, and American Christians in the 18th and early 19th centuries, and often justified on the basis of St. Paul's Letter to Philemon. Evangelical Christians, however, were key players in the abolitionist movement.
The ideological movement know as "Liberation Theology" within the Latin American Roman Catholic Church was especially strongly committed to working against poverty, racism, and inequality in all their manifestations. Pope Francis, who was closely connected with this movement, has repeatedly called for an end to all forms of racism and xenophobia, and for the church to focus on ending poverty, inequality, and social injustice.
When God created man, he created them to rule over all the creatures. God created man in his own image. The image itself was the highest state of creation. No one had something special about them that made them better than everyone else. Everyone was the same.
26 Then God said, “Let us make man[b] in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
The declaration of Independence also states, "...all men are created equal..."
Matthew 22:36-40 says that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. This statement leaves no room in our hearts for racism.
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”