The very first heresy that threatened the Church had to do with race. This was known as “Judaizing.” The baptized Christian who had been born a Jew and observed all the commandments of the Law of Moses (besides others of the rabbis) sought to impose also the Law of Moses onto Gentile converts to the Faith who were not circumcised.
This impulse was natural. At Pentecost, the Scripture mentions along with the host of Jews from around the Roman world also proselytes (Acts 2:11). These converts would have been circumcised and observant of the Law of Moses. So the Judaizers would have been continuing an already existing practice before the coming of the Christ. Nevertheless, those who were born Jews — that is, of the Jewish race — held that all men would have to conform to their laws, including the alteration of their physical bodies as prescribed by God in the Old Covenant.
But our Lord already foretold in a figure that a great change would occur in the New Covenant which would alter the parameters of the relationship of God to Man. In a famous episode where our King speaks to a woman of the hated race of the Samaritans — with whom most Jews refused to speak — there is this exchange:
The woman saith to him: Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers adored on this mountain, and you say, that at Jerusalem is the place where men must adore. Jesus saith to her: Woman, believe me, that the hour cometh, when you shall neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, adore the Father. You adore that which you know not: we adore that which we know; for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit and in truth. For the Father also seeketh such to adore him. God is a spirit; and they that adore him, must adore him in spirit and in truth. The woman saith to him: I know that the Messias cometh (who is called Christ); therefore, when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith to her: I am he, who am speaking with thee (Jn. 4:19–24)
His Majesty finally reveals Himself as the promised King, but remarkably, He asserts that His Kingdom will also extend over the hated race of the Samaritans — and, indeed, the whole world. Therefore, the homage due to God in His Kingdom will not be according to this or that place, but will extend to all places, since His Kingdom will extend everywhere. The famed exegete Cornelius a Lapide (d. 1637) explains in his commentary on this passage that our Lord here says:
Now is the time of the New Law of My Gospel, in which the true worshippers, namely Christians, whether Jews or Samaritans, or of the other nations, being converted unto Me shall worship God, not in this mountain, nor Jerusalem only, by the carnal sacrifices of beasts as the Jews and Samaritans do, but in all places throughout the world in spirit and truth.
The Fathers understood “spirit and truth” to mean, first, the Holy Spirit and the Son who is Truth; second, by orthodox worship instead of heretical worship; and third, according to the “spiritual” understanding instead of the “fleshly understanding of the Jews.” This latter contrast between flesh and spirit would later be twisted by the Protestant heretics to serve their ends. But in the context of the Fathers, this dichotomy especially addressed the Judaizing heresy. I will return to that in a moment.
The New Covenant as established by the Holy Ghost at Pentecost after our King ascended His throne would not be according to a physical characteristic of human bodies — circumcision, birth, or race. At Pentecost, the Holy Ghost enables the apostles to speak other languages so that three thousand men heard the Gospel in their own native tongue and were converted (Acts 2:41). This symbolized the universality of the Kingdom of God now established.
They were not circumcised, as the Judaizers would have it, but baptized into this Body of Christ. Baptism as a rite does not alter one’s physical body; rather, it is worship in spirit and truth. It is spirit because it cleanses one’s soul by means of the body, cutting to the heart of the person, instead of the former external rites, which only cleansed the flesh (cf. Heb. 9:13). It is truth because it also does not disregard the body — as the Protestant heretics would do later — but uses the body to effect a true spiritual change: cleansing Original Sin and incorporating a soul into the Mystical Body of Christ. No man is required to change his body to become a Christian. He is not even required to change his language — the very fabric of every culture. He keeps his language and his body intact. Therefore his race and his culture as such are accepted but baptized. Therefore, anything against God must be forsaken, but this does not include his race or his culture as such.
Therefore, in St. Paul’s greatest epistle against Judaizing, he gave this foundational principle about the sacramental and spiritual nature of the New Covenant:
For as many of you as have been baptized in Christ, have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek: there is neither bond nor free: there is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:27–28)
And again in another place:
There is neither Gentile nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free. But Christ is all and in all (Col. 3:11).
Here St. Paul makes reference to the common racial/ethnic, class, and sex divisions of his day. Through baptism, all men and women, all races and tongues are given the full dignity of heirs to eternal life (cf. Gal. 3:29) .
Therefore, we see the first important truth about the human person and the New Covenant: the dignity of the vocation to eternal life and the preaching of the Gospel are not restricted according to race or birth. Therefore, it is the sin of racism to assert that anyone born of woman should not be baptized or is somehow subhuman. On the contrary the commandment is to baptize all nations (Mt. 28:19).
The Conversion of Society to the Gospel
The history of Christianity is the story of the struggle to baptize all races and then conform society to the kingdom of His Majesty. This meant that the truth about the baptismal identity of all nations shown in the dictum of St. Paul had to penetrate society. The errors that exacerbated existing class and racial animosity were abolished in the Gospel message by the force of the truth. This truth then slowly converted these violent tensions into relationships of hierarchical rights and duties imbued with Christian charity. The greatest achievement of Christendom for ethnicity was forming one culture out of diverse languages and races who shared one equal dignity in baptism. This culture had not yet reached its ideals — although it was progressing toward them — when a new racial hatred emerged as a result of colonialism.
The history of colonialism carried the struggle for Christ the King into new lands. It took some of the most brutal and lawless men of Christian society — who invented a new racism to justify their cruel slave trading — against the innumerable preachers of the Gospel who defended the Indians and Africans from injustice. It was a centuries-long civil war within Christendom to realize the truth of the Gospel in society.
This is why Pope Eugene condemned the new colonial slavery in 1435, but his successors continued to waffle on the issue. This is why New Spain debated Indian Rights in the 1550s and why St. Peter Claver baptized thousands of Africans. This is why the Jesuits defended the Indians for centuries until they were betrayed by the pope. This is why, even while the new racism obtained among the full blooded Spanish elites of New Spain (believing themselves to be superior because of their pedigree), a whole new race of mestizos and creoles was created in New Spain. Despite so many abuses and crimes based on race, baptism created a new common identity, so interracial intermarriage became the cultural norm. The first known and recorded Christian marriage in the continental United States (then New Spain) was between the full-blooded Spanish Miguel Rodríguez and the African Luisa de Abrego — in Catholic Florida, 1565.
Enter the Errors of Russia
The tragedy is that the truly Christian civilization did not gain the cultural dominance in the world, and instead the slave-traders, profiteers, and barons moved from racial slavery to wage slavery in the 19th century. In reaction to these injustices, there arose a force that would destroy everything it would ever touch: Marxism. As I have discussed elsewhere, this force sought to take a true injustice and manipulate the people into violence and bloodshed in order to achieve political power. This was far worse than any racism, slavery, or injustice before, because it sought to use the poor, the African, and the Indian by stirring up their passions against their oppressors to commit bloodshed, while the Marxist gains political power.
Marxism attempts to provoke the victims of racial hatred by making them hate their oppressors. Is there any more nefarious force in the history of the world that uses and abuses people for the benefit of elites? The Mother of God herself came down from Heaven to oppose these “errors of Russia.”
The foundational figure of American Marxism explained his tactics in his book dedicated to Lucifer and praised by numerous politicians. His thirteenth rule described how he sought to stir up hatred by the oppressed group by identifying an enemy who was to blame: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it” . Thus, the Marxist has no desire to liberate the oppressed from their oppression by justice. Rather, he encourages the victims of injustice to commit still greater injustice. This is because to the Marxist, the ends justify the means, while the Marxist “community organizer” can pocket the donations and maybe even convince himself he’s their savior. The Marxist uses the poor for his own ends while masking himself in a cloak of altruism. He is Satan disguising himself as an angel of light (II Cor. 11:14).
The cure for Marxist manipulation of racism is not to deny that racism exists — it is as old as the Holy Bible itself. Rather, it is in the effort to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and convert them, while showing mercy to the poor and the virtue of justice, the two things that Pope St. Peter charged the greatest apostle to do (cf. Gal. 2:9–10). This will silence the Marxist, who asserts falsely that the Church is “the oppressor.” This assertion is laughable, as the thousands of orphanages, hospitals, and ministries to every kind of oppressed people throughout history silently rebukes such foolish ignorance. This will disarm the Marxist, since his power is in manipulating victims of injustice to violence. Finally, it will convert the Marxist, since it will confront him with the thing he hates most: reality.
Let us tirelessly do deeds of mercy for the poor and against racism, and let us fearlessly proclaim that there is one Name only by which we are saved: our King and Lord, Jesus Christ, God and Man.
 This does not destroy the nature of each of these, since grace perfects nature. A certain hierarchy remains — especially between male and female — but it is transformed into a relationship of Christian charity.
 Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals (Random House: 1971), 130
Timothy Flanders is the editor of OnePeterFive. He is the author of City of God versus City of Man: The Battles of the Church from Antiquity to the Present and Introduction to the Holy Bible for Traditional Catholics. His writings have appeared at OnePeterFive and Crisis, as well as in Catholic Family News. In 2019 he founded The Meaning of Catholic, a lay apostolate dedicated to uniting Catholics against the enemies of Holy Church. He holds a degree in classical languages from Grand Valley State University and has done graduate work with the Catholic University of Ukraine. He lives in Michigan with his wife and five children.