Henry Brinton, pastor of Fairfax Presbyterian Church, Virginia writes on occasion for USA Today and this past week he put forth this little ditty: With Redskins, traditions can change, equating a sports team with a politically incorrect, some say racist name, with slavery.
He cites recent efforts to get the Washington DC football team to change their name from “Redskins,” despite the fact the origin of the term was with Native Americans themselves to differentiate them from whites. Some activists nowadays consider the term racist and so pressure is mounting to get the owners to dump the name. I suspect the Chicago Blackhawk NHL hockey team is experiencing the same sort of pressure to some degree.
One of the executives of the Redksins has written “…our use of Redskins, has always been respectful of and shown reverence toward the proud legacy and traditions of the Native Americans.”
Whether some may feel use of an Indian head logo and name to be offensive and racist, it could also be taken as representative of honor and bravery and steadfastness, the sort of thing all sports teams promote in their brand. No-one ever construes the names of Eagles or Mustangs as derogatory or negative, but evocative of speed and strength.
This whole flap seems odd to me but that’s not what interested me the most about Pastor Brinton’s rather strained analogy.
He prefaces some good objective reporting of Biblical verses in favor of slavery from both OT and NT with the admonishment that “…proud legacies and cultural traditions can change.”
Then “Slavery, like the proud legacy of the Washington Redskins made sense in a certain historical period.”
Henry, not sure if you are attempting to let the Bible off the hook here or not, but slavery never made sense, ask any slave.
Yes it was part of a long-lasting economic system made possible by agriculture, city-states, and consolidation of power and legal systems, but from a moral standpoint, it never made sense.
Naming a sports team after an ethnic group in a spirit of admiration for their prowess is nothing like the ugly institution of owning other humans. Besides a slave’s unbearable loss of freedom and second class citizenship, being labored to death and subject to cruelty and living conditions worse than a draft animal was a regular occurrence worldwide and surely seems to be in a whole other league of transgression of human rights than what some may consider an inappropriately named football team.
Sorry Henry, you may be right some teams may have to change their names if enough people now interpret them as a racist throwback, but the analogy with slavery as both being mere outdated “cultural traditions” was as lame as it gets. Slavery was an incomparably worse “cultural tradition.”
The Biblical sanction of it, again in both Old and New Testament writing, says as much about religion, Xianity in particular, as it does about the “peculiar institution“.
You would think the religion of love, guided by the god who supposedly loves us all, would have made good on the promise that Liberal Xians today love to tout when defending their faith against the barbarism enshrined throughout the Bible and not restricted to owning other human beings; “Oh, but Jesus and the New Testament changed all that!”
Would that it had. Shouldn’t Paul have condemned slavery to the Ephesians (and in all his other letters to everyone else) instead of steadfastly upholding it? Shouldn’t the Gospels have told the story of Jesus liberating man with the delivery from the Mount of not just a Sermon, but the 11th Commandment; “Thou shalt not buy and sell other human beings“?
Rather, as Matthew ascribes to JC he came to change the law not one jot or tittle or iota.
It took nearly two thousand years of millions of ruined lives, a dedicated abolitionist movement, and a bloody civil war in America to overturn those Biblical sanctions.
No-one has ever died, nor been enslaved by the practice of football, hockey, and baseball teams being named after Native American groups.
It may be offensive to some, but of profound indifference to others, and it never wasted a human life, like slavery did by the millions and that other religious sanctioned cruelties like the yet lingering “proud legacies and cultural traditions” of misogyny and homophobia supported by the hopelessly patriarchal religions such as Xianity, still do.
I got a bumper sticker that reads:
“Slavery never was a good idea either, End Religion Now.”