SD Lutheran Bishop Zellmer Responds to Fascism; Racism Is Sin

My Lutheran friends, and perhaps all Christians and South Dakotans, will want to review this pastoral message from Bishop David Zellmer of the South Dakota Synod, ELCA:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

With the events that have unfolded with ever-increasing public displays of fascism and anti-Semitism, culminating in the violence and deaths in Charlottesville, VA this past weekend; it is now more important than ever that each of us live lives that reflect our calling to follow Jesus.

We, as Lutherans, need to stand against all forms of hatred and discrimination. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America believes that all cultural, ethnic and racial differences should be seen and celebrated as what God intends them to be—blessings rather than the focus of oppression and discrimination (see the ELCA’s social statement “Freed in Christ: Race, Ethnicity and Culture”).

I have strived to live a life that is reflective of this prayer and I share it with you today. Sisters and brothers, this is the time we stand together with our neighbors and let our lives resonate with these words:

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, union;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

Prayer attributed to St. Francis

May the peace of Christ be with you all,

Bishop David B. Zellmer
South Dakota Synod, ELCA [2017.08.16]

That Lutheran Social Statement to which Bishop Zellmer refers includes these relevant lines:

Scripture speaks of one humanity, created by God. It recounts our rebellion and enslavement to sin. Scripture tells of a diverse people reconciled to God through the blood of the cross, a people set free for the work of reconciliation….

Racism—a mix of power, privilege, and prejudice—is sin, a violation of God’s intention for humanity. The resulting racial, ethnic, or cultural barriers deny the truth that all people are God’s creatures and, therefore, persons of dignity. Racism fractures and fragments both church and society.

…the Church must cry out for justice, and thereby resist the cynicism fueled by visions that failed and dreams that died. The Church must insist on justice, and thereby refuse to blame victimized people for their situations. The Church must insist on justice, and thereby assure participation of all people [Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, “Freed in Christ: Race, Ethnicity, and Culture,” churchwide social statement approved 1993.08.31].

Again, I can’t speak with any Christian authority, but I can certainly agree with solid Christian thinking. Scripture makes clear that racism is a sin. Those who believe Scripture have a duty to cry out against racism.

19 Responses to SD Lutheran Bishop Zellmer Responds to Fascism; Racism Is Sin

  1. Porter Lansing

    Islam, too. Islamaphobia be damned!!
    Islamic tradition known as Hadith states that in his final sermon the Prophet Muhammad, Allah’s Blessings and Peace be upon him, said:

    “There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab, nor for a non-Arab over an Arab. Neither is the white superior over the black, nor is the black superior over the white — except by piety.”

  2. Roger Cornelius

    You don’t need to be a member of a religion or a Christian to understand and appreciate that prayer.

  3. As the Buddha said:
    Conquer the angry man by love.
    Conquer the ill-natured man by goodness.
    Conquer the miser with generosity.
    Conquer the liar with truth.

  4. The problem is that 67% of republicans think the trump response in Charlotsville was appropriate.
    I don’t know who all goes to the ECLA Luthern, but if as the numbers attest, 67% of those republicans in the flock, don’t believe a word the good Bishop says. We can try to polish this as much as we want but until white folks get comfortable with being white, we are gonna be in for a long ride, again. Truth is, the Civil War is not over and won’t be until we start acting like a civilized country, that knows its history. We need to be more like Germany, who got rid of the hated flags and statues that brought the country so much blood letting and pain. If those Nazi’s would have been in Germany doing that goosestepping with their arms extended in the Nazi salute, they would all be in jail. Seriously, Germans will not tolerate that from anyone. For a state like South Dakota that is white Germans in most of its ethnicity, they alone should understand how it works and why they went to fight it 70 years ago. To show the good Bishop is right to say what he says, but mostly ignored, go to Gettysburg, South Dakota and see for yourself…on a policeman’s uniform. That tells the tale of where we are here more than words.

  5. meanwhile, Trump administration has been blessed: with blood and fire in a fury. jfc

  6. leslie, Robert Jeffress was who, in the immortal words of Dean Vernon Wormer: Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son was speaking of. Indeed, Robert Jeffress is one of the circus tent operators in the animal house called the trump white house.

  7. Look at the ideals to which the prayer calls us: love, pardon, union, faith, hope, light, and joy. How many of those words fit the principles of the fascists, and how many fit the principles of those of us opposing fascism?

  8. Racism is sin. There’s a whole lotta’ sinning going on at Dakotafest.

    We don’t need a wall. We need a mirror, to see what we’ve become. – wrote another.

  9. It’s instructive that the folks who have the stain of traitor in their gene pool want the statues removed. Its unfathomable what its like going through life with the genetic stain of Himmler, Goering, Goebbels, Hitler, Lee, Jackson, Davis – swimming in ones genes.

    We’ve no statues of King George III, Cornwallis, Gage, Howe, Carlton, etc. It’s beyond insane to publicly honor them, as much as it’s wrong to honor the traitors of America.

    I appreciate the calls for love, pardon, union, faith, hope, light, and joy. But the fact remains the white nationalists were not defeated by Weiss Rose, or Bonhoeffer. They were defeated by massive, over-whelming numbers of belt-feed weapons pouring love, union, faith, hope, light, and, well, resolve, into the white nationalists. Gandhi and the ideals of Martin Luther King prevailed over a government. It remains to be seen whether non-violence can turn a complacent, compliant public to its senses. It’s likely there will be a lot more blood.

    Perhaps a public humor, ridicule model may work or contribute to a social victory.

  10. John makes poignant reference to Weisse Rose and one of my favorite Lutherans, Bonhoeffer. It is worth noting that Bonhoeffer ultimately accepted the need for violence against Nazis, but only in extremis. If the Nazis build a war machine, we must respond in kind.

    Right now, the American Nazi war machine runs on propaganda, demonstrations, and organization. It is fueled now by the meathead rhetoric of a vile White House occupant. At this time, the proper response does not require violence. It requires overwhelming numbers to speak up as Bishop Zellmer is doing and to do so in the context of visible, fearless public action, such as decrying specific acts of racism and the specific people who commit those acts, joining boycotts of businesses led by racists and giving extra support to businesses that stand for American principles, and backing the specific political candidates who join that opposition to racism.

  11. Right now, the American Nazi party is fueled by money and influence directly from Russian and Putin’s money and logistics. This is nothing new and has been around for some time. Make no mistake, the Russians have invaded us with their own American Nazi allies.

  12. FeelingBlueInARedState

    Yes, there are very real ways to combat the Alt-Right

  13. Corporate America has more moral authority than Evangelical’s, that speaks clearly that Nazism and fascism have overlapped each other in America.

    Matthew Dowd ✔@matthewjdowd
    Not a single member of Trump’s Evangelical Council has resigned. We have learned corporate America has a greater moral compass. So so sad.
    12:28 PM – Aug 16, 2017

  14. Intimidated and afraid in WLC

    Unfortunately the SD Synod, in particular the Bishop, has been extraordinarily slow to respond to racism against Native Americans in our own state. He is quick to respond to racism in Charlottesville but gave a belated and half hearted statement on Standig Rock last summer where fire houses, rubber bullets, and tear gas were used against peaceful protestors. His response was much like Trump’s good people on both sides and was not supportive of Natives. The SD Synod deals with Woyatan Lutheran Church with “benevolent” Colonialism by telling us what we will do or else. Physical intimidation during our annual meeting last year was supported by the Synod representative present and not responded to by the Bishop when the victim sought support.

  15. Sorry to hear about the unfortunate circumstances you and your group endured, but maybe there is hope in that direction as I am now finding that the longer this racism sore is festering, the more it is possible to heal. I say this because finally, an Evangelical has the moral compass to quit the head Nazi. I hope change comes directly soon.

    “Most of President Trump’s evangelical advisers have stood by him this week following much criticism over his response to violent clashes in Charlottesville, even as several CEOs left business advisory councils and members of his Committee on the Arts and Humanities have announced they are leaving the panel.

    In a first for his evangelical advisory council, New York City megachurch pastor A.R. Bernard announced Friday that he had stepped down from the unofficial board of evangelical advisers to Trump. Bernard sat at the president’s table on May 3, the night before the National Day of Prayer when Trump gathered several religious leaders to announce an executive order on religious freedom.” Washington Post

  16. At peril of turning Intimidated into Outraged, is it possible that the complaint about the bishop’s response to Standing Rock, while valid in itself, is another example of the red-herring what-aboutism that Kallis has explained? Whatever the SD Synod has said or not said about the Dakota Access protests does not change the validity and usefulness of the Bishop’s statement above. Let’s not lose sight of that… but let’s also make sure that in all future interactions of Synod officials with WLC, the Synod is reminded of this statement and held to consistent application of this statement’s principles and the churchwide social statement.

  17. It is time, past the time, to have outrage. This exemplifies the result these folks seek. And yes, it appears as if oldsarg is an apologist for them.

    Somehow it’s “progress” to bulldoze graves and a cultures sacred sites for an unneeded, uneconomic pipeline; yet its ‘preserving history’ [of tyrants] to protect traitors’ monuments.

    Unable to find a cartoon with trump driving a bulldozer to destroy national monuments, while behind him he protected confederate monuments. He, and his supporters, have their heads screwed on wrong.

  18. (John, I suspect we’ll get a real photo of Trump in the driver’s seat of a bulldozer the next time a big bill is coming up for a doomed vote in Congress.)

    Detouring back to Standing Rock, for what it’s worth, churchwide Bishop Eaton issued a statement expressing the ELCA’s support for the tribal position and opposition to racism last November:

    Acknowledging the complexity of this issue and the limitations sin places on human decisions, I believe that we are called as a church to support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe: to stand with the Tribe as they seek justice, to encourage our congregations to pray for them and to offer material support, and to examine the racism inherent in our system that contributes to the current crisis. As promised in our resolution repudiating the doctrine of discovery, we will listen to tribal leaders and respect their wisdom [ELCA Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton, “Statement from ELCA Presiding Bishop Eaton on Standing Rock, 2016.11.14].

  19. mike from iowa

    Drumpf at Charlottesville-