What happens when you ask a religious man to defend changing Washington’s racist team name? You get schooled in the most respectful, compassionate way possible.
Editor’s Note: When the President of the Board of Directors of Central Atlantic Conference (a support organization for United Church of Christ churches and clergy) received a complaint that a Christian organization like the CAC was involved with the Change the Name resolution (the CAC recently voted to boycott the Redsk*ns), his response was just too good not to share. These letters are being reprinted with permission.
With all due respect … “Tell me Padre, what chapter & verse is that in the Bible?”
I am appalled that a Christian organization would embroil itself in an obvious liberal agenda aimed at defaming an organization that has had its name since the 1800’s! There are American Indians on both sides of the issue; the Oneidas are known agitators looking for headlines. It may surprise you to know that some Indian tribes enjoy the name recognition, and support the Washington Redskins.
Why don’t you call for a boycott of the team names that glorify criminals who raped and pillaged ? I’m talking about the horrible Oakland Raiders, the Minnesota Vikings, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Pittsburgh Pirates!
Let’s address those teams that clearly send the wrong message to our children; the San Diego Chargers promote irresponsible fighting or even spending habits. Wrong message to our children.
The New York Giants and the San Francisco Giants promote obesity, a growing childhood epidemic. Wrong message to our children.
The Cincinnati Reds promote downers/barbiturates. Wrong message to our children.
The Milwaukee Brewers—well that goes without saying . . . Wrong message to our children.
And how ’bout the tomahawk chop war hoop that Atlanta Braves fans sing out during games: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYc_s4vLFNI
If you’d done your homework on this, you would have avoided it and focused on what the church is called to do, save lost souls.
I’m beginning to wonder if you’re one of the churches in America where Jesus quietly removed himself from its presence, and you didn’t even see him go …
Mr. Thomas’s response:
Thank you for your thought provoking message. As long as we can engage in dialogue, we are making progress. Since you offered “due respect” in the opening of your comments, I’ll give you your due respect as well, but let me address a few of your points, if I may.
Let me start with a little history.
First of all, the NFL franchise now representing the Nation’s Capital, did not exist in the 1800’s. It was founded in 1932 and changed its name from the Boston Braves to the Boston “R” word in 1933. The owner of that franchise, at the time and in 1937 when the team moved to Washington, was George Preston Marshall, an avowed racist whose overt words and deeds would make even Donald Sterling blush. Perhaps you were not aware of the fact that the Washington NFL franchise was the very last franchise in the league to employ African-American players and did so, kicking and screaming so to speak, when then Attorney General Robert Kennedy, in 1962, told Marshall that his team would not be granted a lease to play in the brand new D.C. Stadium unless it integrated. Marshall’s steadfast determination to maintain an all white roster was motivated, in large part, by his desire to endear the team to die-hard southern segregationists and his plan was quite successful as Washington was Dixie’s team for several generations. The team’s fight song was once replete with disparaging stereotypical references to Native Americans. The fact that some Native Americans today are willing to say that the name doesn’t offend them is irrelevant to the discussion, in my opinion. There are African-Americans today who use the N-word when referring to themselves and other black people. Some of them earn significant incomes and live lavish lifestyles by exploiting that vile and denigrating term. Does the fact that some, and I dare say many black people, find nothing offensive in the N-word, in your opinion, make use of that term acceptable? You don’t have to answer that question. It was rhetorical.
You refer to members of the Oneida Nation as “agitators looking for headlines” as if the term “agitator” somehow carries a negative connotation. Let me remind you that Charles Hamilton Houston, Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers, Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony, Fannie Lou Hamer, Caesar Chavez, Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, the Freedom Riders, the Little Rock Nine, Mahatma Ghandi, Nelson Mandela and even Jesus the Christ were called agitators, or people looking for headlines, in their day. I don’t expect you to take my word for the reference to Jesus. Read it for yourself. Read John 7:12 which talks about how people accused Jesus of stirring up the crowd and read Luke 12:51 where Jesus, in his own words, said that he didn’t come to bring peace, but rather division or, in other words, to separate those who were willing to take a stand for righteousness from those who were content to go along with the status quo.
You asked for Biblical chapter and verse. You can start with those two. But here are a few more and since I suspect you may be most familiar with the King James version (please correct me if I’m wrong), these quotes are from that version:
“He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” – Micah 6:8. The United Church of Christ’s Central Atlantic Conference (CAC) has taken a stand against the use of a term which is disparaging and demeaning to a race of people because justice demands it, no matter how long that name has found safe haven or how many people, even today, profit from its merchandizing.
“And the King shall answer and say unto them, ‘Verily I say unto you, In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me’.” – Matthew 25:40. If the R-word is hurtful and offensive to some Native Americans, even if not a majority (and I suspect that it is offensive to a great majority despite the spin the team has been putting on it), we ought not be using it. That’s the bible-based position of the CAC.
“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, ‘Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled’; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” – James 2:14-17. You say the church is called to save lost souls. No argument there. But just what does that mean? Does that means bringing sinners into a building, or under a big tent, to listen to stirring sermons and heart pounding gospel music and then sending them out shouting and praising God but not committed to doing anything tangible to relieve the suffering of their fellow human beings? The United Church of Christ, and in this case, the CAC in particular, doesn’t think so. We are a body of believers who know that God is still speaking and still calling us to put our faith into action. If that means speaking out against an injustice like the perpetuation of demeaning stereotypes then so be it.
You characterized the CAC’s recent action as being defamatory. Webster’s dictionary defines defamation as “the act of saying false things in order to make people have a bad opinion of someone or something.” Blacks’ Law Dictionary defines defamation as “an intentional, unprivileged, false communication, either published or publically spoken, that injures another’s reputation or good name.” The key word in both definitions is “false”. I challenge you to identify any statement in our well crafted resolution that is false.
You also referred to an “obvious liberal agenda” as if we are supposed to see that as some kind of insult. It might surprise you to learn that we don’t. If by “liberal” you mean in opposition to the reactionary agenda of those who label themselves as political conservatives in the current lexicon, we proudly accept the liberal label. In matters such as this, what are the so-called “conservatives” trying to conserve? Bigotry? Racism? Privilege?
Now, having said all of that, it might surprise you to learn that I agree with you that there are other symbols in the world of sports and in our society in general that need to be addressed. We in the CAC have chosen to, figuratively speaking, eat this elephant one bite at a time. We’re starting with this issue, getting rid of a name and logo which we find to be an offensive throw back to a time we all hoped would have been a distant memory by now. If you would like to organize a movement to address any of the other offensive icons, be my guest. You may find that members of the CAC will join in and support your movement as well.
By the way, on a personal side note, I’m a die-hard fan of the team. A little piece of me dies every time they lose a game. But as far as the name is concerned, wrong is wrong if everybody else is doing it and right is right if nobody else is doing it.
Thanks again for engaging in this dialogue. I suspect that you are a decent person with good intentions. We just have a very pronounced difference of opinion on this topic but if you’re ever in the area, please stop into one of our CAC churches. You will be welcomed as a brother in Christ and you just might find that Jesus is still here after all.
Bradley A. Thomas
President, Central Atlantic Conference Board of Directors
Mr. Bradley …
Thank you for your quick response. I did discern what I believe to be a tad bit of defensiveness in your answer so I thought I would respond back to clear it up and make a few comments of my own. I did not intend to put you on the defensive or have you believe I would trivialize or insult the decisions you & your members made, I’m sure it was not easy and came about after much prayer and soul searching. My purpose was to convey to you that I don’t agree with the conclusion of your conference’s decision to engage in a political football – no pun intended.
Possibly I should have introduced myself before giving my opinion. I’ll do so now, though I (and I’m sure you) don’t want to turn this into a long back and forth debate, as your church’s decision has already been made. In the end we can agree to disagree.
I am most importantly to my life a born-again follower of Jesus Christ, having accepted our Lord as my Savior when I was 33 years old, the same age our Lord Jesus started his ministry; I am 67 now. That I am following Him I consider a miracle, for I was a street-hardened police officer in a city in upstate New York. I had been on the department 7 years, and one night I was ‘walking post’ on one of the business foot patrol areas on the graveyard shift. I happened to walk by a garbage can in the rear of a diner while checking the locked doors of the diner. I never looked in garbage cans while on patrol, but for some reason I did (I now know why), and there was a book on top of the litter. I picked it up. It was titled, “The Cross and the Switchblade”.
Being a police officer, the ‘switchblade’ part got my attention, so I picked it up, and on my lunch hour I began reading it. My search for spiritual truth had begun. A few years later I went to a Billy Graham crusade (not held in a tent ) and was saved. That was 34 years ago; I won’t say the journey had been easy, especially at first as I was a young, cynical, street-wise Irish/Scot-American copper who up until that time could care less about ‘religion’. I considered it a weak man’s crutch, and I was having fun with my friends just being a two-fisted drinker, womanizer, & fighter to worry about life after death. My ‘friends’ thought I had lost my mind, but my new-found spiritual friends (notice I didn’t say ‘religious’) gently led me to Christ and a new life.
I spent 29 years ‘on the thin blue line’ and retired as a Police Administrative Lieutenant. During that time I got married, found a church (Evangelical Free Church of America), later became an Elder in the church, and have grown children & grandchildren now who I am proud and humbled to say are all born-again Christians and following our Lord.
As a retired police officer, I am well aware of the rampant use of the ‘N’ word by blacks toward each other in music, on the street, in sports, etc. Many times in my LE career I’d been on raids in crack houses, safe houses, drug warehouses, many private & public places and heard it said. As a young patrolman watching over a group of handcuffed young blacks after a drug raid who were calling each other the ‘N’ word repeatedly, I asked them why they felt free to do so to each other, but if I said it to them it would upset them and they could possibly file charges & have me fired, and they told me it was because I was a white cracker, I couldn’t say it but they could, in so many words. After 29 years of seeing our society at its absolute worst, I could fill your ears with sad, hilarious, and horrible stories – I won’t.
Your knowledge of the history of the NFL’s Washington Redskins is very good; I’m sure with both being a fan and having to research the history of the team for your conference’s final decision it would be. However, I’m not grasping your connection with the ‘N’ word and the ‘R’ word. I see them as two separate issues; i.e. the long ago Washington Redskins owner’s segregationist issues with blacks on his team and today’s American Indian logo. There is no question that blacks and other minorities in the USA today are afforded wonderful opportunities, and no where is there a better example than in sports. If any issue is to be taken, it’s the lack of American Indians coaching & playing in the NFL and most other college & professional sports!
I’ve read what I believe to be a very well-written non-biased report on Washington’s logo and the American Indians’ feelings and I’ll share it with you; you may have seen it already: http://mmqb.si.com/2014/04/03/washington-nfl-team-name-debate/ At most it’s a draw.
I am well aware of the various interpretations of the verses you have used for your argument; I choose not to argue against the Lord’s Word or use His Word in my argument. Yes, I did ask for you to provide verses, and you did. No further comment.
Side note: I don’t use the King James version, I’ve read and studied the New King James Version since it came out in 1982. I am of the impression because of some of your statements you think of me as a fundamentalist damnation fire-breathing Baptist. I smile – far from it. Nice folks but I avoid them. Now living in Florida, my wife & I attend a non-denominational church (not E Free) with expository-preaching pastors and a contemporary music orchestra & choir. Speaking only briefly of my politics, which I don’t like to discuss, I’m a registered Independent Reaganesque conservative. I don’t find much of a difference between the Repubcrats and the Demolicans of today, and yearn for an independent party for the people rather than big interests and big money.
May surprise you, I am not a Washington Redskins fan, rather a die-hard since childhood NY Giants fan and enjoy when the Giants trounce the Redskins, but I enjoy even more when they both stomp on the Cowboys!! However, I believe that this attack on one NFL team by various groups is a form of gang-style bullying & a tempest in a teapot destined to become an out of control forest fire of political correctness in sports; I am especially upset with our Congress getting involved while we have matters of national interest that are being neglected! It’s my opinion that there is too much divisiveness and political correctness amongst the peoples of this country now and it has to stop! It should begin with our church leaders. Just as I would hope you wouldn’t endorse a Presidential candidate and ask your congregations to vote for him/her, I would have preferred that your church would also have shied away from this patently politically-charged and divisional controversy. Just my opinion.
But as both of us have said, we can agree to disagree. I judge not, that’s the Lord’s work. I’ve enjoyed the interaction & the debate. I’ll continue to pray that those in the center of the controversy will seek spiritual guidance through prayer. As you know, our Lord is in control.
P.S. I must comment – your subtle attempt at sarcasm by suggesting I take up the cause to attack other teams’ logos is duly noted; however, no one is attacking my NY Giants as of yet!
However, if you’re interested, I am already working on a cause, one maybe your church would be interested in taking up, and that’s the forgotten slaves of Colonial America, who outnumbered the black slaves who were brought to America from Africa and were often subjected to worse conditions than the black slaves. I am working to get the word out. These people are my ancestors. They came from the sordid bowels of famine & poverty-stricken England, Scotland, & Ireland, and WERE NOT indentured servants as the politically correct police would have us believe. When I first found out of this atrocity, I couldn’t believe it myself: The majority of the early slaves to the New World were actually caucasian! Out of the approx. 12.5 million blacks taken from Africa in the name of slavery between the 1600’s and the late 1800s, the number of blacks brought to the USA was only 322,000! The overwhelming majority of the 12+/- million were taken to the Caribbean to work on sugar plantations, and to Central and South America. http://www.theroot.com/articles/history/2012/10/how_many_slaves_came_to_america_fact_vs_fiction.html
Meanwhile, the number of Irish, Scot, and English slaves brought in the same time period numbered in the millions also, in fact more than total number of blacks. Don’t just believe me, if you’re interested, purchase a book titled “White Cargo” by Don Jordan & Michael Walsh, a very factual book dealing with this forgotten part of history – there’s not an ounce of racism in the book, just facts, one of them being the slave ships’ manifests and logs. You can also google ‘white slaves in America’ and find a lot of information about it. http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-irish-slave-trade-the-forgotten-white-slaves/31076
Now lest you label me a racist, sir, I am not! Not only do I have American Indian heritage in my ancestry (great-great-great paternal grandmother – Oglala Sioux from Dakota Territory), I have friends who are black, and I believe we are all made in God’s image and each other’s equal. I sincerely believe that atrocities were committed on the black race and the American Indians that were unbelievably cruel and an abomination to mankind, but I also believe that the same and even worse atrocities were done on the white slaves that should be known to school children and adults in this country. I challenge you to find a school book in America that mentions it! There has been a huge cover up for many years, starting in England and being repeated in this country.
Good Afternoon [Name Redacted]:
Thanks for your comments. I appreciate your background and the information you shared. You are just a few years older than I and I’m sure I can learn a lot from your experiences. I used to work in criminal justice too, for many years, as a defense attorney and I know exactly what you are referring to with respect to the cynicism born out of your experiences as a police officer. By the way, thank you for that service. I have many friends who were or are police officers and the vast majority are honest, hardworking, brave and dedicated public servants. You sound like you fit that bill.
Let me also apologize for jumping to conclusions about your political philosophy. When I hear or read the term “liberal agenda”, the first thing I think is “here’s another ditto head parroting what he’s heard from the Limbaugh’s and Hannity’s of the world without any independent study of his own.” From your thoughtful reply, that is obviously not you. I enjoyed reading about how you came to Christ. I was raised in the church but came to my own personal decision 30 years ago at an Amway rally (can’t get much more Conservative than that). I would love to meet you one day. I think we could actually be good friends (even if you do root for those accursed New York Giants :). I’ll send you a “shout out” when we trounce the Star-Heads this season.
One additional note. Even though we’re not exactly on the same page, it sounds like we agree that the dialogue about race is still one of the most, if not the most, difficult issues we face in this country but it is one we have to face and face sooner or later with honesty and open-mindedness.
Thanks for the dialogue on this topic and again, thanks for your public service.
Your new best friend,
Bradley A. Thomas
President, Central Atlantic Conference Board of Directors
Mr. Bradley …
Thank you for your kind words, and thank you for the new best friend status, which I cheerily bestow upon you also! I too will be watching the Washington … uh, whatever – Skins they become, if they do this season hoping to see them trounce the Cowboys, but not the Giants! Haha! Just in case, I’m buying a couple of Redskins jerseys, they may become collector’s items! I imagine business has been brisk for jerseys since this heated up.
One additional note: I don’t listen to Limbaugh or Hannity, I liken them to circus barkers, stirring up the customers before they enter the tent for the big show.
I was reminded of our conversations this morning when I was having my devotions (I’m an early riser) with the reader from RBC Daily Bread:
“A recent study concluded that smiling can be good for your health. Research shows that smiling slows down the heart and reduces stress.
But smiling isn’t just good for you; a genuine smile blesses those on the receiving end as well. Without saying a word, it can tell others that you like them and that you are pleased with them. A smile can hug someone with love without giving them even the slightest touch.
Life does not always give us a reason to smile. But when we see a heartfelt smile on a child’s face or through aged wrinkles, our hearts are encouraged.
Smiles are also a hint of the image of God in us. In the ancient blessing recorded in the book of Numbers we get an indication that God “smiles”: “The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Num. 6:25-26). Those words are a Hebrew idiom for the favor of God on a person’s life, asking God to smile on His children.”
Who knows, maybe someday we’ll meet up and get to smile, shake hands & swap stories.