My husband was born and raised in Upper Sandusky, Ohio. We both were grieved and jolted to see his hometown make national news last week after it was reported that an Upper Sandusky couple supplied neo-Nazi educational materials to parents who home-school their children.
Apparently, the couple used a Telegram messenger channel called “Dissident Homeschool” that was full of racist slurs, praise for Adolf Hitler, and criticism of today’s public-school curriculum. For example, part of a lesson plan about Martin Luther King, Jr. instructed students to practice cursive by writing out a quote from American Nazi Party founder George Lincoln Rockwell.
That this is happening in 2023 seems unbelievable. But not only is it real, it also is not new.
Part of the work of BSPC’s Racial Justice Initiative has been to explore the history and relationship between the Broad Street Presbyterian Church and nearby Bethany Presbyterian Church. Broad Streeter Bob Hines created a display that many of you have seen. One part of that display is a poster from 1925, featuring the words of Clyde Osborne, Grand Dragon, of the Ku Klux Klan. The KKK’s state headquarters was nearby on Bryden Road, and the county headquarters was downtown, at the corner of State and 4th Streets.
The poster is a precursor, essentially a great-grandparent, of the messages the couple in Upper Sandusky have been spreading. I encourage you to read or reread the poster. Notice the fusion of patriotism and Christianity. Among agreeable virtues like dedication to honesty, charity and reverence are messages about keeping America’s blood pure and public schools “free of all influence not typically American.”
The desire to protect our children and preserve our way of life is strong. Fear was and is a powerful motivator, which makes the slippery slide toward Evangelical White Christian Nationalism all the more seductive. That ideology idealizes and advocates a fusion of American civic life with a particular type of Christian identity and culture.
Just yesterday in Plain City, Ohio, fear-based white supremacist propaganda from the Aryan Freedom Network was distributed to people’s driveways with these words, “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”
In Sunday’s sermon about being salt and light, Pastor Amy Miracle noted that Christians aren’t supposed to rule the world; instead, we’re supposed to flavor it. These days, it seems to me that part of that flavoring involves a willingness to call out the severity of the direction and goals of White Christian Nationalism.
As writer, Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel once said,
We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere.
Notice the faith-based messaging that surrounds you. Pay attention to what you hear in the media and what you see on signs.
Ask yourself what is of God and what is not. Be salt. Be light.
How do you discern what is of God and what is not?
-Written by Rev. Ann Palmerton
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