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Tag: Institutional Racism

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.

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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.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

The Strange Saga of NBA Star Jonathan Isaac

jonathan isaac

Guest post by Steven S.

Many people do not think I am a fan of sports. That could not be further from the truth. My dad is a scout for high school basketball. His love and passion for the game influenced me tremendously. I love all kinds of basketball. I think it is the most graceful and progressive sport out there. That opinion was reinforced when the NBA recently resumed games this past week. The latitude the NBA allowed the players to highlight their messages and causes, especially as it relates to the Black Lives Matter movement, was moving and inspiring. The first game back, all the players kneeled in solidarity. It was enough to move me to tears.

Then something happened. One of the players in the next game: a young man from the Orlando Magic named Johnathan Isaac refused to kneel for the anthem or wear a jersey with a social justice message printed on it. The media outlets wondered, what could make Isaac break so drastically from the pervading sentiment of the league? What was his reasoning? Was his motive a well-thought, finely-nuanced work? Most folks withheld their criticism until Isaac had a chance to speak.

When Isaac did eventually speak, here is what he said:

For me Black lives are supported through the gospel. All lives are supported through the gospel. We all have things that we do wrong and sometimes it gets to a place that we’re pointing fingers at who’s wrong is worst. Or who’s wrong is seen, so I feel like the Bible tells us that we all fall short of God’s glory. That will help bring us closer together and get past skin color. And get past anything that’s on the surface and doesn’t really get into the hearts or men and women.

What does this sound like if not a religiously-influenced and misguided attempt to evangelize and make a stand for Jesus? What does it sound like if not a paean to the “All Lives Matter” crowd of Evangelicals? What does this sound like but an equivocation of the grievous sins of White supremacy and privilege, police brutality, slavery, racism, and discrimination with sins like adultery and not going to church on the Lord’s Day?

How could something like this go so wrong? Of course, Mr. Isaac has the right to believe and act as he wants. I will defend his right to act as he did, but I will dissect the religious toxicity behind it.

For too long, Christianity, especially Evangelicalism, has been used as a shield from the wrongdoings our society has committed in the past and present. Isaac’s actions fit into that larger picture. All sins are equal in the eyes of God, now that we are washed in the blood and saved. Jesus is the answer. The Gospel is the great uniter. It all seems so simple. Win enough hearts to Christ and all the ills of this world will be wiped out. It would all be so great if these beliefs, held by tens of millions, weren’t so deluded.

Our actions in the here and now matter. What happens in the here and now matters. Attempting to distract and deflect from that is what Evangelical Christianity does best. Isaac’s statement takes away from the special, critical gravitas of the here and now, placing it on a someday when every knee has bowed and every tongue has confessed. It is a very myopic worldview that extends no empathy to those of other beliefs or nonbelievers.

The whole idea that Christianity will help bring us closer together and suThe whole idea that Christianity will help bring us closer together and supersede skin color is laughable. Christianity has driven people apart for over twenty centuries. People used Christianity to justify torture, murder, and owning others as property. How someone can expect that process to not continue is beyond me. Christianity does not change, but instead amplifies the kind of person a believer already is, albeit perhaps in a milder form today than in previous centuries.

Isaac’s words effectively cast a pall over one of the most critical movements to ever spring up in our nation to lead us toward grappling with and addressing the White privilege and supremacy inherent in all of our institutions. They diminish the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Walter Scott, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, and the many other Black lives lost to White vigilantism and police brutality.

While Mr. Isaac is undoubtedly a phenomenal basketball player, he is not so phenomenal at seeing how his actions hurt instead of help our nation heal from the tragedies White supremacy has inflicted on this country. My hope is that he educates himself with the help of his teammates on why his actions, instead of providing hope, provided a sense that he was grandstanding for Jesus. I sincerely hope Mr. Isaac can one day see how disrespectful his actions were to a movement and league that wants nothing more than for the oppressed to have the same rights as their oppressors.

Since the writing of this post, Isaac has torn his ACL and is out for the season.

The Sounds of Fundamentalism: The Bible is the Solution for Institutional Racism by Dave Brat

dave-brat

This is the one hundred and twenty-second installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section.  Let’s have some fun!

Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is an audio clip of a radio interview given by U.S. Representative Dave Brat (Virginia). Brat is a Calvinist.

Audio Link

Right Wing Watch reports:

Virginia talk radio host John Fredericks asked Brat yesterday, “Help me understand, what is Black Lives Matter rioting about in Charlotte?”

“Well, that’s just sub-groups,” Brat responded, “some of these radical groups that are funded out of George Soros’ pot of money and just some confused people.”

In contrast, he said, he recently visited a prison and met with former heroin addicts who told him that they wanted him to “get the Bible back in the classroom and religion back in the classroom so my kids and grandkids don’t end up like me.” Because of the lack of religious instruction, he said, these men were “never taught what was good and bad in life in the public school system.”

“The Democrat policy in education is holding back an entire generation from being successful,” he said, “and then you end up with this racial system when your school system … [is] teaching them about isosceles triangles but we’re not giving them any hope.”

“There is institutional racism,” Brat told Fredericks, “and if Obama and Hillary want to talk about institutionalized racism, I just mentioned the source of it. It’s their own policies. that’s where the institutional racism is, right? When you don’t tell people what is ethically good and bad, right, if you cannot even define what a morally good life is anymore and you block the Bible and you block the Judeo-Christian tradition and you block the Baptist church, which is fundamental in the African-American community, from being the voice of power and the only hope you give is a broken federal system of government …”

He added that since Martin Luther King Jr., we haven’t had “any nationally prominent philosophers or theologians out there promoting the Judeo-Christian tradition in the African-American community and across the board in education.”

Bruce Gerencser