Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thankgiving Cultural Bias

Messiah Lutheran Church in Baltimore had an interim pastor who was a Midwesterner of Norwegian descent.  This was the early 1980s before the Canton section of Baltimore was trendy; it was still blue collar in those days.  Messiah had a Pre-Thanksgiving canned food drive for the needy and the interim pastor upbraided the congregation for "cleaning out your pantries" and donating multiple cans of  sauerkraut   He didn't know sauerkraut was a staple of Thanksgiving dinner for Baltimoreans of German descent, as the members of Messiah were (just check out the last names -- Schoberlein, Bauer, Scheidt,  Haas, Meyer, Klingelhoffer, etc.) . The Lutheran Church in America and its successors went south when the Scandinavians ousted the Germans from leadership.

Riot Survivor

I survived the riots of 1968 following the assassination of MLK.  The blue collar, row house neighbor I lived in was next to, literally across the railroad tracks from, a majority black community that was mostly public housing.  It was a terrible, frightening time.  But the point I would like to make is about what happened after the riots.  The businesses that were burnt out did not return.  The already horrific economic situation there only got worse. No one wanted to live there, or live near there, anymore. It took literally decades for that community to recover, and that did not occur until economic prosperity came to neighboring communities and the old public housing was torn down.  I read that real estate values have dropped 23% in Ferguson, MO.  As you might expect, house sales are stagnant.  Who would want to live there?  Also, 41% of the mortgages in Ferguson are underwater (the home owners owe more than the house is worth).  You can bet the businesses burnt in Ferguson will not return.  Others will not line up to take their places.  That means less goods and services -- and jobs -- for the residents, making their economy worse, which will drive up the crime rate.  Soon we will be hearing how the people in Ferguson do not have a grocery story or doctor's office in reasonable proximity, and how many youth have no jobs, so they are turning to drugs and crime.  And the question will be asked, "Why does no one want to invest here?"   The answer to that was all over the news the past 48 hours.

Theer is much more that could be said about the situation in Ferguson, but I'll hold my peace for now.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Correcting The Bridge

Here's a copy of my email letter to the editor of The Bridge, The Beaver County, PA, community magazine:

I am writing you concerning the article Beaver County's "American Utopia' of the 19th Century in the Fall 2014 Edition.  In the brown box on page 4, the second statement reads, "Due to religious persecution by the Lutheran Church, the Harmonists migrated to America in 1803."  That statement appears to have been taken verbatim from the Wikipedia article dealing with the subject.  However the charge of persecution against Lutherans is inaccurate and unnecessarily pejorative. I am sure no offense was intended, but I would like to set the record straight. The Harmonists, like other Anabaptists,  had been Lutherans.  They rejected Lutheran teaching and chose themselves to separate from the Lutheran Church.  Any sanctions applied to them for their actions would have not come from the Lutheran Church per se, but by the government, which was much under the influence of the Enlightenment and ostensibly Lutheran at best. A little over two decades later a group of Lutherans, persecuted by the government, would migrate to the United States and form the present day Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.  The religious milieu of the early 19th century was much too complicated to be summed up by saying one group persecuted another.  Indeed the various splits later among the Harmonists could be characterized that way as well.  To cast Lutherans, and there are many different types and styles of Lutheranism, as persecutors casts contempt on them even today.