Racism and Reputation

Two terms that are tossed about with great liberality today are “racist” and “white supremacist.”  Like other words with specific definitions, such as “fascist” and “Nazi,” these labels are losing their specific social, economic, political, and legal meaning, and have essentially become nondescript slurs thrown at anyone a Progressive disagrees with.

All of these words are routinely used against those who might describe themselves as “conservative,” “traditionalist,” “Christian,” “capitalist,” “patriotic,” or “libertarian.”  This is a clever Orwellian strategy to recast mainstream people as outcasts of society – a carefully crafted linguistic trick to marginalize, dehumanize, and eliminate an opponent by rhetoric and dishonest implication.

And given the politically correct power of academia, government, and Big Tech, nobody wants to be on the business end of this kind of name-calling.  It has a chilling effect on freedom – and even the ability to hold a job – and thus pushes a totalitarian narrative that is a betrayal of not only our American ethos, but of natural law and Christian anthropology and theology itself.  It is a way to demonize nearly half of the country, and it is almost always based on a lie.

Just to take the first term: “racist.”  What is the concept of “racism”?  Racism is a form of bigotry against a person’s “race.”  The term “race” is not very precise, as the older classifications of humanity into three or four taxonomic groupings is no longer standard.  And so “racism” can mean bigotry against a person based upon his skin tone or other characteristics derived from his ethnicity.  Obviously, a typical seventh generation Norwegian and a typical seventh generation Ethiopian look very different.  Bigotry or hatred against people based on these differences is a clear and reasonable definition of “racism.”

It is not racism for a Norwegian to cheer on his own Olympic team, or for an Ethiopian to feel at home among people who speak his language and share his culture and history.  Nor is it racism if a Norwegian or an Ethiopian is a Christian or votes for a conservative political candidate.  Nor is it racism if an Ethiopian and a Norwegian disagree with each other in terms of economics or politics.

And as the world has shrunk, and as race-based slavery, segregation, and apartheid (political and social arrangements based on an actual legal arrangement of “white supremacy”) have long since become condemned historical relics, actual racism is likewise drifting into cultural and political insignificance.  Interracial marriages and people of mixed ethnic backgrounds have today become common – even though such marriages were illegal only a few decades ago.  Moreover, there has never been a better time to be black in the West than today.  Thirteen years ago, America elected a black president – even as the black population of the United States is a mere 13% of the population.

But the term “racism” remains politically and socially powerful and useful.  It is a word of subjective and fluid meaning, and can thus essentially be used by anyone to accuse anyone else of repugnant views – and those views being vilified often have nothing to do with either race or bigotry!

I recently learned that some users of Twitter (I am not on the platform), apparently members of Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod churches – have been throwing the term around to denounce the more conservative members of the synod, accusing our church body of being “institutionally racist.”  And I have also learned that I have been called “racist” by name.

Again, the term is becoming meaningless.  It has almost been so watered down as to be an adult version of the childhood playground taunt: “poopyhead.”  And yet, the word remains a cudgel that can ruin someone’s life – especially in our “cancel culture” world.

Applying the actual meaning of the word “racist,” it is as an odd charge to make about me – especially by people whom I have never met.  I was not raised to hate people based on skin tone or ethnicity.  I spent my childhood and some of my teen years talking to people all over the planet via ham radio.  To this day, I have dear friends all around the world, from every continent, of every skin tone, ethnicity, and from diverse religious traditions.  I’m a fan of the international language Esperanto because I enjoy communication and friendships that transcend all such barriers, and believe such contact is godly and edifying to all.

In my secular, academic, and pastoral careers, I have had colleagues and friends of every ethnicity – many of whom I have been friends with for decades.

I believe that all people are related to one another, as revealed in the Book of Genesis, and skin tone and differences in appearance of people groups is nothing more than a response to how much sun one receives combined with generational genetic traits.

If I’m a racist, I’m not a very good one.

As a pastor, I do deal with my parishioners according to their ancestry.  Namely: we are all sinners who inherited our mortal nature from our forebears going back to the Fall.  There is no Jew or Greek, male or female, free or slave, white or black where it comes to sin and grace (Gal 3:28).  We don’t segregate people in our sanctuary by ethnicity, and we all drink the Lord’s blood from the same chalice no matter what color we are.

One of my beloved parishioners is a delightful lady from the Caribbean.  She has been my parishioner now for 16 years.  She knew my son from the time he was born.  And when his body was brought into the church 15 years later, she was the first person there.  She mourned with my wife and me.  Our relationship can only be described as one of deep, abiding Christian love.  I am always happy to see her in the pews, and it is my honor to place the Holy Sacrament upon her tongue with the confession: “The body of Christ,” and to hear her “Amen” spoken with her beautiful island dialect.

Maybe I need to brush up on my racist skills, because I seem to be a failure in that department.

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