The charge is sometimes leveled that Christianity is a “white man’s religion,” due to the historical connections that Christianity had with the rise of European nations and the founding of the United States. This is complicated by the fact that, during the era of the African slave trade, many white slave owners claimed to be Christians and tried to use the Bible to justify their actions. Acceptance of the idea that Christianity is a white man’s religion causes some people of color to embrace non-Christian religions such as Islam, animism, and Rastafarianism.
Regardless of world history since the reign of Charlemagne, Christianity was never intended for white people only. The Bible teaches that all people are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). The first Christians were all Semitic in ethnicity and likely had light- to dark-brown skin. Christianity having been predominantly a white religion in recent centuries has nothing to do with the message of Christianity. Rather, it is due to the failure of Christians to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the world (Matthew 28:19–20; Acts 1:8). Jesus Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the entire world—all races and nationalities (see 1 John 2:2). Spiritually, men of all races are in need of the Savior because of their shared sinful condition (Romans 5:12).
The idea that Christianity is a white man’s religion is countered in the book of Acts. When the church began, there were Africans who responded to the gospel (Acts 2:10). Philip the evangelist was called specifically to share the message of Christ with an Ethiopian official in Acts 8:26–38. This Ethiopian was saved and baptized, and the last we read of him, he “went on his way rejoicing” (verse 39). The Ethiopian Coptic Church traces its origin to the evangelistic work of the Ethiopian official in Acts 8.
The spread of the gospel in Syrian Antioch—a metropolitan city located in Asia—highlights the varied roots of the church. In fact, Antioch was the first dominant hub of Christianity once it spread beyond Jerusalem. More evidence of the strength of the Asian church is found in the number of Paul’s letters (Galatians, Ephesians, and Colossians) that were written to Asian churches, and the letters to the churches in Revelation 2–4, also written to residents of Asia.
Church leaders such as Augustine, Athanasius, and Tertullian—all from Northern Africa—demonstrate the vibrancy of Christianity in Africa. Irenaeus, Ignatius, and others demonstrate the vitality of Christianity in Asia in the first three centuries. Ethiopia, present-day Libya, Egypt, and western Asia remained firmly Christian territory until Muslim invasions in the Middle East and Africa turned it over to Islamic control. Before the arrival of Islam, many African and Asian regions were hubs of Christianity as much as Europe ever was.
Forgiveness of sin through the sacrifice of Christ, the essence of Christianity, is offered to all races, colors, creeds, and genders, to all “those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness” through Him (Romans 5:18). In giving His life as a substitute for sin, Jesus Christ purchased for God with His blood “men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).
No, Christianity is not a white man’s religion. Christianity is not a black, brown, red, or yellow religion, either. The truth of the Christian faith is universally applicable to all people. “How true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right” (Acts 10:34–35).