Brickner: Viktor Orban and the invention of race
"Adored by the extremes of the GOP, Orban was already a threat: a dictator, stripping most powers from the free press, the courts, elections and other faiths. Now his open racism is endorsed," writes InForum columnist Joan Brickner. "Mr. Orban, you and your supporters are wrong."
As a child in Detroit, my parents occasionally visited a church where, not long before, Blacks were barred from membership and relegated to the balcony. Blacks held no leadership positions, while interracial marriage was forbidden until 1999.
Over the years, I’ve heard the excuses for banning interracial marriage: all bogus and unbiblical.
I can’t help but think about Bethesda lately.
The Conservative Political Action Conference hosted its event in Dallas. Speakers included former President Donald Trump and the featured speaker, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Orban was invited, even after his declaration that Hungarians "do not want to become peoples of mixed race." John Wooley of The Washington Post reported, “One former adviser, who has since resigned, referred to those comments as ‘a pure Nazi speech worthy of Goebbels [Hitler’s propaganda minister].’”
Unapologetic, at CPAC, Orban said, “a Christian politician cannot be racist” and those who think he is racist or anti-Semitic are “simply idiots.” He received a standing ovation.
Adored by the extremes of the GOP, Orban was already a threat: a dictator, stripping most powers from the free press, the courts, elections and other faiths. Now his open racism is endorsed.
Mr. Orban, you and your supporters are wrong.
For example, President Woodrow Wilson was a devout Presbyterian. The publication “Christian Century” noted “Woodrow Wilson's Troubling Faith,” since “ Wilson adopted a brand of social Christianity that justified white supremacy…”
Even pastors railed against non-whites and urged the opening of segregated “Christian” academies, after schools were integrated. Some donned white sheets to terrorize Blacks on Saturday, before climbing the pulpit to preach on Sunday.
Ironically, race is a concept that is only about 300 years old. The term was invented by European naturalists and anthropologists like Carl Linnaeus. Linnaeus went on to define not only physical but supposed character traits. Stereotypes. This false science was used to justify slavery and discrimination for centuries, as noted in Gorski and Perry’s “The Flag and the Cross.”
Race is a social classification, far more than a scientific one. God makes no such distinction.
Indeed, at Bethesda, in the 1980s, one Black visitor preached on Moses and his wife Zippora, an Israeli married to a Cushite woman. When his sister, Miriam, criticized his mixed marriage, God struck her with leprosy. Of course, this speaker was never invited back.
Look: through Eden or evolution or both, we are God’s beautiful variety. His children. His image. Christians only honor him if we honor each other, as equals: as 1 John 4:20 says, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”
My family is mixed: through DNA and marriage, we claim African, Scandinavian, Irish, English, Austrian, Jewish, Filipino and Native American blood . We can honor our varied roots as we connect. But even through friendship alone, mixing our relationships helps us reduce stereotypes and bond beyond the false frame of race.
The church could challenge Orban’s deranged view of Christianity. Will it? Or will it remain silent, even supportive as it often was during slavery, Jim Crow and the Holocaust?
Interested in a broad range of issues, including social and faith issues, Brickner serves as a regular contributor to the Forum’s opinion page. She is a retired English instructor, having taught in Michigan and Minnesota.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.