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OMG Pastor MacFarlane, Did You Really Say There’s No Racism in Rural Northwest Ohio?

trump im not a racist

John MacFarlane is the pastor of First Baptist Church, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation in nearby Bryan, Ohio — the place of my birth. I attended First Baptist Church in the 1960s and 1970s. I was attending First Baptist when I left in August,1976 to study for the ministry at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. I attended First Baptist during the summer between my freshman and sophomore years. This would be the last time I regularly attended the church. After Polly and I married, left Midwestern, and moved to Bryan, we chose not to attend First Baptist. Instead, we joined Montpelier Baptist Church, upsetting many of the people at First Baptist. In their minds, First Baptist was the “family” church. Mom Daugherty, the mother of three of my uncles, told me in no uncertain terms that I belonged at First Baptist. Interestingly, the church’s pastor at the time, Jack Bennett (married to my uncles’ sister), made no effort to retain us as members. Due to my mother’s mental health problems and “sinful” lifestyles, Bennett always treated me like the ugly, redheaded stepchild. Given the opportunity to become the assistant pastor at Montpelier Baptist, I took it.

John MacFarlane was a nine-year-old boy when I went off to Midwestern in 1976. John grew up, felt the call of God, and enrolled in classes at Tennessee Temple, graduating in 1991. After pastoring Twining Baptist Church in Twining, Michigan for three years, John returned home to work as Jack Bennett’s assistant. After Bennett retired, John became the pastor of First Baptist, a position he has held ever since.

John is White. He grew up in a White family, attended a White church, and spent K-12 in a White school. John is a lifelong resident of Williams County, Ohio. According to the 2010 US Census, Williams County is 95.9% White. And this is progress compared to Williams County demographics in the 1950s-1970s, I didn’t know of one Black person who lived in the county. Bryan, Ohio is one of the most White cities in America. Rural Northwest Ohio is the epitome of whiteness and White privilege. This is the world John MacFarlane (and Bruce Gerencser) was born into, grew up in, and lives in today.

I have sketched MacFarlane’s history for readers to provide context for what follows. MacFarlane publishes a daily “devotional” for church members and others to read. I am one of those “others.” Remember, John is a lifelong Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB). He lives, breathes, and shits IFB beliefs and practices. John is a product of IFB indoctrination, as was I for many years.

Today, MacFarlane wrote a “devotional” titled Racism. As I read John’s post, I stopped and said, “OMG, John, Did you REALLY say this out loud?” I couldn’t believe he said what he did. As you shall see, his post is racist, bigoted, and ignorant. I am not shocked by what MacFarlane believes. Thousands and thousands of White rural Northwest Ohio residents believe as he does. I doubt that he will have one church member object to what he wrote. What I AM shocked by is that MacFarlane actually said what follows out loud on a public blog.

Here’s what MacFarlane had to say:

I am writing today’s devotional on June 10 while sitting in a Hampton Inn & Suites hotel room in Louisville, KY.

….

The culture of Kentucky is definitely different than the culture of Ohio.  I didn’t say wrong and I didn’t say worse.  I said different and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  But I want to share with you a very politically incorrect observation.  Bear with me as I set this up.

In the little dining area of the hotel, the television has the morning news running to provide those enjoying their breakfast with some indigestion.  News is never good, it seems.  The news today featured:  the millions of ransom dollars paid by a company to someone who had taken their computer systems hostage; issues on the border and a Vice-President who has yet to act as the border czar;  Presidential missteps and mistakes; millions of COVID vaccines rapidly reaching their expiration dates;  race riots, BLM, protests, white privilege, and apologizing for our race.  That’s where my observations come in.

How much of this is made up, contrived by those who aren’t content unless they are fighting?!?  How much of this is stirred up by people whose nickname should be Maytag – always agitating?

Oh, please don’t misunderstand.  I believe racism is out there.  There are places where it is practiced in some despicable ways.  But deal with it there.  Don’t bring it where I’m at and introduce it like another strain of the Wuhan plague.  I have yet to be in a place where I’ve felt that tension and I don’t want to be in that place.  Get rid of it THERE…deal with it THERE…and certainly don’t bring it around me!

Let me introduce you to Betty, Earl, Millie, and Carl.   Every one of them had a much darker tan than I have!  In fact, this was true throughout the facility.  The Hampton Inn & Suites of Louisville, KY was an ethnic melting pot.  So what?

They were the kindest people. 

….

The Asian housekeepers were courteous and polite, smiling and accommodating if you asked a question.

There were mutual niceties and respect.  I didn’t feel treated or looked at differently because of the color of my skin and I certainly didn’t treat or look at them differently because of the color of their skin.  Isn’t that the way it is supposed to be?

….

I never once felt uncomfortable or threatened.  I saw blacks treating whites respectfully, openly talking with each other.  I saw whites treating blacks the same way.  Never did I see anything that made me think that I needed to hide in fear.  Doors were opened for one another.  Common courtesies and manners were demonstrated between ethnicities.

….

We cannot deny our history and pretend that there are not some very shameful events from the past.  But I’m not living there.  If the past continues to shade our present – if we allow it to do that – we will never move on and achieve the equity that is allegedly sought.  Yes, atrocities were done.  However, the people that deserve the strongest apology and acts of restitution have been in graves for many years.

Is it possible that some people aren’t happy unless they are stirring a pot, creating a fight, and spreading animosity and hatred?  Once again, please hear what I’m saying.  I know racism exists.  But creating a national narrative that teaches racism is everywhere and that if you’re white, you’re automatically a racist is nothing more than a vicious, vulgar lie and I personally resent and am angered by the accusation.

Genesis 1:27 tells us, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”  From this original couple sprang every ethnicity there is.  There are not multiple races.  We are all of one race and that race is humanity.  Ethnicities are just the spices of life that the Lord has added to keep us from becoming dull and boring.

Celebrate the ethnicities.  Respect them.  Refuse to place one above another.  Make the playing field level.  That’s the way God does it.

….

The cure to the violence, hatred, and fighting in the world is NOT to give any ethnicity advantage over another.  We definitely don’t need sensitivity training.  It’s for EVERY ethnicity to be brought before the cross of Jesus and together, we humbly kneel in gratitude for the blood that covers our sins and the power of the resurrection that makes us alive.

If it’s a fight people want, take them to the cross where the greatest fight ever was fought and won – by a JEW, nonetheless!  Praise the Lord!

Do you see why I said “OMG, John. Did you REALLY say this out loud?” He did, and what follows is my response.

First, there is a difference between ethnicity and race. Black and White are not ethnicities; they are races. John parrots young-earth creationist Ken Ham on race, and biologically, he’s right. However. MacFarlane wants to de-colorize our world. In his uber-White mind, we are all the same; that racial and ethnic diversity is harmful.

Second, John admits that racism exists out there, somewhere (cue Fox Mulder of the X-Files), but not in the lily-white enclave of rural Northwest Ohio. In 2020, I wrote a post titled, Does Racism Exist in Rural Northwest Ohio? Having spent most of my life in White rural Ohio, I can say with a high degree of certainty that racism not only exists in rural Northwest Ohio, but that White privilege and systemic racism are very much a part of our culture. Oh, we are nice country folks who will bake you an apple pie and help put a tire on your car, but underneath our niceness lurk racist ideas and beliefs. (Please see Typical Example of Racism in Rural Northwest, Ohio.)

I could share scores of stories that would illustrate my point: that racism and white privilege abound in rural Northwest Ohio. But, instead, let me share one story from my teen years at First Baptist:

In the mid-1970s, I attended First Baptist Church in Bryan. I can still remember the day that a woman who once attended the church and moved away, returned home with her new Black husband. Oh, the racist gossip that ran wild through the church: why, what was she thinking . . . marrying a Black man! Think of the children! It was not long before she and her husband moved on to another church.

In 2008, months before Polly and I deconverted from Christianity, we visited the Methodist Church in Farmer. We had been attending the Ney United Methodist Church — which would be the last church we attended before leaving Christianity; but since the Farmer and Ney churches were on the same charge, we thought we would visit the Farmer church.

As was our custom, we arrived at the church early, so much so that we caught the last ten or so minutes of the adult Sunday school class. Teaching the class was a matronly White woman. She was telling a story about her grandson who played football (at college, I believe). She complained that her White grandson was not getting much playing time. Why? The coach gave the “Black” players more playing time. The inference was clear: her grandson wasn’t playing as much because he was White (not because the Black players had better skills).

I am shocked that in his 50+ years in rural Northwest Ohio, MacFarlane hasn’t seen racism or White privilege. Evidently, if the KKK is not burning a cross on the Williams County Courthouse square, no racism exists. John is truly colorblind. The only color he sees is White.

Third, MacFarlane thinks that racism is in the past, that all those racists are dead. Time to move on. Unfortunately, our racist forefathers’ beliefs live on in the lives of White residents of rural Northwest Ohio. I was a racist for many years. I have worked hard to cleanse my mind of racist thinking. While I like to think I am no longer a racist, I am still a White man in a White community with little interaction with people of color (unless I go to Fort Wayne or Toledo). Unlike MacFarlane, I believe the United States has yet to come to terms with its racist past. I support Black Lives Matter (not necessarily the group, but the idea) because I believe many people of color continue to be oppressed and marginalized. I own the fact that my White privilege can and does cause harm to people of color.

Fourth, MacFarlane regales us with stories about the “nice” Blacks and Asians. Why, they were “courteous and polite, smiling and accommodating.” Why did the race (ethnicity, to use John’s word) of these people matter? Was it surprising to MacFarlane that Blacks and Asians were respectful and treated him well? JFC, John, it was their job. I worked in the service industry for years. I also pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years. As a result, I became an expert at smiling at rude, nasty assholes, helping them with their needs. The Blacks and Asians who waited on and helped Pastor MacFarlane and his family were just doing their jobs. Their race had nothing to do with their treatment of the MacFarlanes.

Finally, MacFarlane posits a solution for racism (that doesn’t exist in rural Northwest Ohio):

The cure to the violence, hatred, and fighting in the world is NOT to give any ethnicity advantage over another. We definitely don’t need sensitivity training. It’s for EVERY ethnicity to be brought before the cross of Jesus and together, we humbly kneel in gratitude for the blood that covers our sins and the power of the resurrection that makes us alive.

MacFarlane posits that the answer for racism is Jesus and his substitutionary blood atonement for human sin. If everyone would just get saved, why, racism (and violence, hatred, and fighting) would simply and magically disappear. Racist White Christians wouldn’t need sensitivity training, and Blacks — thanks to J-E-S-U-S — would then be equal. No need for anti-discrimination laws. No need for marches and speeches. No need for an honest reckoning over our racist past. No economic or educational help for people of color who have been marginalized and harmed for four centuries. Jesus paid it ALL, time to move on to the 1950s.

MacFarlane forgets that most American Blacks are Christian, many of whom are Evangelical. If Jesus is the cure for racism and marginalization, why haven’t things changed for people of color (in general)? The White Jesus is not the answer for what ails us, we are. Until Whites own their racist past, White privilege, and the systemic racism that plagues our country, it is impossible for us to truly become a land ruled by justice, equality, and equity.

MacFarlane wants us to deal with racism and White privilege where it exists. I am, John, and I am looking right at you. You may sincerely believe what you have written here, but your words reveal a bigoted, racist “heart.”

Note: MacFarlane is a Trump supporter, thus the out-of-right-field mention of “Wuhan plague.” I don’t know if John is an anti-vaxxer.

Other posts about John MacFarlane and First Baptist Church:

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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16 Comments

  1. Avatar
    CarolK

    I didn’t know that Vice President Harris was supposed to be the Border Czar. And vaccines that are nearing the expiration date? That would not be so (if indeed that is true) if people weren’t so damn dumb to believe all that anti-vaxx crap. If there were a god, it would need to take all these stupid anti-vaxxers for killing people.

  2. Avatar
    Karuna Gal

    What I couldn’t get over as a kid was that my dad’s Italian Catholic family – first generation Americans and churchgoing – were as racist as white Southerners. And his family had themselves felt the sting of racism because they were immigrants! Then why no sympathy for the plight of black people, huh? And when they got a black priest at our Catholic Church the poor man didn’t stay long because all those good white Catholics drove him out. How’s that for Christian love? I would scold my relatives for their racism and they learned not to talk about it in front of me, although my dad sometimes teased me about being so serious about it. And I resent that their racist nonsense was drummed into my head from my earliest days and still lurks there, in spite of everything. Same as the Catholic/Christian nonsense.

    • Avatar
      Kel

      I come from Asia and trust me, Asian Christians hate other Asian Christians of other ethnicities. It used to be the Jewish people versus Gentiles in the past, now it’s Gentiles versus Gentiles.

      There are mainly two different ethnic groups attending my parents’ church and they don’t like each other. Of course, there is no open hostility, but the tension is there. In the words of my parents: “We’re culturally different.” This is sometimes a code for: they’re lazy, greedy good-for-nuthins. Well, aren’t we all supposed to be culturally Christian (i.e. somewhat Westernised and “Presbyterianised”/“Baptisised”)? Inter-ethnic marriage is frowned upon, even if the couple are both Evangelicals! Isn’t Christianity supposed to transcend culture? At least they still hold the correct views about abortion and the gays. sigh

      My parents probably think I’m naive even though I just wanted to see a real application of the Biblical ideal. Does that mean Christians are not different from the “unwashed Philistines of the world” as Bruce likes to say?

  3. Avatar
    Sage

    I went to a Christian college in central Ohio – about 99% of the students were white. My freshman year started with a roommate who was very messy, very disorganized, and more than a few irritating habits. Also in my dorm was the only black man on campus. He also happened to have an annoying, messy roommate. I met him, he was nice guy, a fun guy, generally easy to be around. About 2 months into the school year, we did a roommate swap, he moved in with me and the slobs moved in together. We were roommates for 2 years, year round, until he dropped out.

    After he moved in, the questions started from the other students. The most often asked question was “what is it like living with him?” Mind you, no one asked me this when I lived with Pig Pen, who left clothes on every available surface, thought food could be kept for extended times anywhere was convenient to store, and who kept dirt as pets and basically never cleaned anything, ever. I knew exactly what they were asking, but not wanting to ask.

    The conversation was usually like this:

    Them: whats it like living with him?
    Sage: What do you mean? I don’t understand.
    Them: Well, you know..whats it like living with HIM.
    Sage: Oh, you mean how he is more outgoing and I am a bit quiet? Its ok, I’ve had a change to meet new people, and I can go find quiet when I need it.
    Them: No, not that.. you know what I mean.. whats it like?
    Sage Oh, you mean how he is such a rabid Browns fan. You know, I don’t follow sports much, and he has to be dedicated to support the Browns. Honestly I feel kinda bad for the guy.
    Them *Sigh” NO, not that, I mean whats it like to live with a guy.. you know.. like him..
    Sage: (wondering exactly what they mean now, but knowing my own closet is well and truly closed) Well, I can assure you, 100%, he is not gay. Trust me, if he was I would know.
    Them: NO. eeww ..no.. just.. you know.. he’s.. I mean, what is he like to live with
    Sage: Why don’t you just directly say what you mean….or.. maybe you know you shouldn’t be asking questions like that??

    Usually, at this point they gave up. But I did quickly find out which kids were bigoted and which were not.

    I also found that stores I would go to alone with no trouble would suddenly have an employee follow us when we went together. If we separated, they would follow him. I found it annoying, but there was little to be done.

    Fast forward into my 30s, at one job I shared an office with a black lady. We had a great relationship. She was very smart, had knowledge I did not, so we worked well as a team. The was also highly organized, something at which I am less skilled. In the office, no issues, because this office was very diverse. But out of the office, I would get questions like “what is it like to work with her?” or “What is it like working there with all of those people” Same questions, same attitudes, just a different day.

    As a non-apologetic non-binary person, I can assure you that bigotry is alive and well, and is led by the church and their conservative allies. I feel most unsafe in areas similar to NW Ohio. And people like McFarlane, who remain willingly blind, and ignorant, or just are to stupid to see, OR, quite often, are simply closeted bigots, are a big part of the problem.

    My question is this.. if racism and bigotry is not a problem, and if you are truly not bigoted, then what is the harm in talking about it and dealing with issues? I’ve heard it said before and it applies here – kicked dogs holler.

    • Avatar
      Karuna Gal

      Sage, I LOVED reading your story. And I admire your inspired snarkiness with the bigoted students at your college. Nicely done. 😄

    • Avatar
      clubschadenfreude

      excellent, if unfortunate, story, Sage. when I when to college, late 80s, I had never talked to anyone not caucasian before or who wasn’t Protestant or Catholic (and they hated each other). I’m from Western PA, deep dark stupid Trump country.

      At college, it was quite an experience, but luckily, I was a nerd who already had crushes on aliens, so didn’t bother me much.

  4. Avatar
    ... Zoe ~

    MacFarlane: “However, the people that deserve the strongest apology and acts of restitution have been in graves for many years.”

    Zoe: I keep trying to come up with something “pithy” . . . 🙁

  5. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    What I “heard” from MacFarlane’s recounting of his story was, “and all those nice Asian and Black people knew their place”. CRINGE!!!!!

    White evangelicalism chooses to teach that racism is an individual “sin” problem rather than a whole systemic issue that needs a ton of work. It’s easy for a White evangelical to say, “OH, I am not racist, so I don’t have anything to worry about. I will pray for Jesus to speak to the hearts of the real racists.” Their thoughts and prayers are cheap, an easy and lazy way to ignore how they benefit from systems and underlying beliefs about people of color.

    Learning about systemic racism and facing up to memories of racist things I learned growing up is uncomfortable AF. My discomfort is nothing compared to real people’s current lived experience. The least I can do is shut up, read, listen, step out of the way, understand my privilege, and not be a wilfully clueless a$$hole like MacFarlane.

  6. Avatar
    BJW

    The pastor is completely mistaken. He just doesn’t want to have to give up his wrong ideas and privileges. It’s the cry of the white man, that why are we worrying about those people getting more (deserved) rights while they lose our privileges? Redlining Blacks has lost them generations of equity and preserved white equity. I was shocked when I first heard that Bryan was a sundown town. We didn’t have any choice but to move to this area since Bob needed the job. But damn, I think we might have lived closer to Fort Wayne or Toledo, and those aren’t exactly representative of thriving, diverse cities.

  7. Avatar
    Davie from Glasgow

    Bigotry comes so naturally to human beings that it can be a life’s work to understand it and rise above it. One of the most depressing experiences of my life was encountering anti black prejudice and racism among people with first hand experience of Nazi state prejudice and racism being directed against them. Those people just could not make the connection. What their families had experienced was terrible. But their view of black people “wasn’t the same”. Yeah. Depressing.

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Bruce Gerencser