A Message from Pastor Harvey
Greetings My Brothers and Sisters..
The issue of racism has been in the news a lot, recently. But the truth is, that for many people, racism has been a hidden and avoided issue for a great many years. I just recently attended the Synod’s Theological Conference on racism. I enjoyed and appreciated the conference because I learned much I didn’t know. I was reminded of things I did know.
I want to explain why the pursuit of God’s restorative justice against racism is a core value for me. I learned this from my father. After WWII and the internment of Japanese families in the US, my dad returned from the Pacific theater of the war. You might have thought he would have harbored prejudices against the Japanese, but in fact, several of dad’s closest friends were Japanese men living in our small farming and ranching community.
I was proud of my dad for these friendships. But dad was also a Charter member of the Elks and their charter stated that no Japanese man could be allowed to be a member. It disturbed me that my father would be a member of an organization that discriminated against our close friends.
Additionally, I was born and raised within the Sioux and Assiniboine nation and I witnessed racism, prejudice and discrimination there. And let me add, it wasn’t so much that I witnessed individuals practicing discrimination as I witnessed systemic or institutional racism. This reservation was really a great place to live and to grow up. I credit our outstanding Wolf Point high school and especially the football and basketball teams of Native Americans and cowboys in helping integrate the two cultures. (Yeah. When I was in high school, we didn’t yet have female sports teams.) But what I mean is that it is more difficult to be prejudiced against a race, when you are cheering for them as part of your team. But in spite of this sense of unity in school, I witnessed unfair discrimination and prejudice against Native Americans, including my uncle’s wife and son.
Finally, as an inexperienced lieutenant in the Army, I credit my successful career to the patient teaching and guidance of minority sergeants. Yes, I also had outstanding white sergeants, but in my career, the most important and influential sergeants were Blacks or Hispanics. They saved my career. But more importantly, these men and women served this nation with honor and distinction. And yet, even in the military, I witnessed racism, prejudice and discrimination.
For these, and for other reasons, it is a core value of mine to stand against racism. Not to mention the reasons that arise from being a Christian and Lutheran theologian: like the fact that Hitler approved and appropriated
many of the examples of racism he saw in 1930’s United States’ Jim Crow policies or Hitler’s approval and appropriation of Martin Luther’s 1543 hateful diatribe against the Jews.
In my personal and public actions in society, I believe it is not enough for me to be passively non-racist. I must be actively anti-racist. For example, where my father accepted the status quo that his Japanese friends could not be members of a club to which my father belonged; I cannot accept that as being right. My father didn’t discriminate based on race, but I didn’t see him standing up to it directly. He did however lead by example in his personal life, and I am proud of that.
It is important to understand this about racism. Racism is not merely discriminating against a person based on their race. “Racism” is a belief system that says one race is superior to another, or more insidiously, that one race is inferior to another. Although individual prejudice and discrimination are involved in racism, the core evil of racism says that non-white races are inferior races, by various degrees. And if inferior, then subhuman by various degrees. (Remember, at one time, the US Constitution declared that African American slaves were inferior as 3/5ths of a white person.)
I know racism is wrong. It is clearly unfair. It is not Christian. The Bible says we are all made in the image of God. Jesus welcomed all and invited everyone, Jew and Gentile (Barbarian) into God’s kingdom and God’s community. Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan in order to teach there are no limits on who our neighbors are. He healed Romans, he healed the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter, and on and on, to demonstrate there are no limits, no racial barriers, in the kingdom of God. This means no barriers in God’s community and kingdom here and now.
These are the reasons it is important for me to be anti-racist.
Blessings to all of you.
Your Shepherd in Christ,
(And please, if you have any questions, please call me or the church.)