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Darrow AND THE

danger OF

silence during such times of fearmongering is all too often interpreted as complicity. Let’s revisit Darrow and his lopsided view of

Lutherans for a moment. Some of us may fit this description. Some of us—hopefully most—do not. The flaw in Darrow’s seemingly tongue-in-cheek rhetoric was that he associated attributes to an entire group based on one or two defining characteristics. We are Lutheran, ergo, we will find the client guilty. I won’t deny my Lutheranism, but I will get my dander up if anyone makes an assumption about me based on my baptism. Labels are highly dangerous. They can be used to dehumanize and ostracize. This isn’t to say we should ignore differences.

They exist, thanks be to God. The world is a dappled place where innumerable cultures, beliefs, ethnicities, orientations, affiliations, folklore and traditions glorify God with their varied splendor. Because of sin and our human brokenness,

however, we fall into fear from time to time. Yes, individuals among us do awful, horrible things to others. This is no basis for assuming that others who fit the same description are going to do the same. We draw lines in the sand and build walls in

our hearts. Or, as we used to say in confession, “We deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” This is a sickness that leads to xenophobia, racism, disen- franchisement, gender bias, exploitation, objecti- fication and, ultimately, condemnation. It is a sick- ness that is most dangerous when it infects people

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who have the means to create a public agenda. David Wellman, a professor at the University

of California, Santa Cruz, defines prejudice as “a system of advantage based on race.” It’s the collective voice of prejudice in society that causes corruption in all aspects of our public policy and discourse. The church can and must counteract this

sickness with words of reason and compassion. This is what it means to speak prophetically, and we must continue to do so until the prophetic word becomes the normative word at home, church and in the elected office. Consider these words from 1 John 4:18: “There

is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.” Many of us are wrestling with fear, the world

around us seemingly on the verge of chaos. The omnipresent media is delivering messages that play to our anxieties. It’s good for ratings, but bad for the better angels of our nature. The writer of 1 John also exhorts us to “test the

spirits” in order to discern whether voices speak truth to power or cower behind false prophecies. We must discern and act according to our hope in Christ, not our fear of death. Though we might not see it clearly, God is turning the world around, and love will have the final word. Thanks be to God.

Zimmann is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Mechanicsburg, Pa. He holds a doctorate in American Culture Studies with an emphasis on ethnic and gender studies.

Photo illustration doesn’t reflect the political views of those pictured.


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