WV Mayor Resigns Over a Racist Post, and Why I Wrote Johnny Came Home

When I wrote my first book, Johnny Came Home, I decided to set it in a fictional town in my home state of West Virginia. I’m very proud of the great state of West Virginia. It’s a place of such wondrous natural beauty. “Wild and Wonderful” and “Almost Heaven” are apt slogans. West Virginia’s people are generally good-natured. If you’re broke down on the side of the road, you can typically count on someone stopping to help. The world got to see how Mountaineers band together and pitch in to help one another when a major Flood devastated great sections of our state this past June 23rd.

And we have our flaws. We’re a poor, Calvinistic and often backwards state. We’re resistant to change.

If you’ve been following the headlines, you’re aware of a certain racist exchange on Facebook between two women from Clay, WV.

Apparently, Pamela Ramsey Taylor, the director of the Clay County Development Corporation, made the following post on Facebook:

It will be refreshing to have a classy, beautiful, dignified First Lady in the White House. I’m tired of seeing an ape in heels.”

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Clay Mayor Beverly Whaling responded to the post with:

Just made my day Pam.”

This embarrasingly crude bit of racism went viral. Taylor is more longer working as director. The mayor has resigned.

The problem of racism in West Virginia remains. I wrote Johnny Came Home to explore a possible world where super powers were explained within a Biblical creationist worldview rather than by an evolutionary POV as is common in most comic books these days. I chose Appalachia as the setting for my novel because you write what you know… and I’m an Appalachian American! It is also an undeniable fact that some Appalachians are racists or have been raised to accept some things as normative that we ought to speak out against. One reviewer thought that the “anti-redneck sentiment was a bit overdone in the first half of the book.” Fair enough. The irony is that as I was editing the final version of the novel, I overheard the following exchange between a young girl and her little sister as I was entering a store:

“Do you know what a redneck is?” the older sister asked.
The younger girl didn’t even hesitate. “That’s a racist, right?”

(Sigh.) It is what it is.

I knew I’d have to tackle some issues concerning the origins debate within the novel. As I wrote it, the issue of evolution’s relationship to racism kept coming up – and not just because the story is set in Appalachia. You see, evolution is by its very nature a racist theory. I’m not saying that everyone who beleives in microbes-to-man evolution is a racist, but rather that the theory itself is inherently racist. Even the late Stephen Jay Gould, an ardent evolutionist Marxist, admitted that:

“Biological arguments for racism may have been common before 1850, but they increased by orders of magnitude following the acceptance of evolutionary theory.” Ontogeny and Phylogeny, Belknap-Harvard Press, pp. 127–128, 1977.

Gould himself was vehemently against racism, but he admitted that evolutionary theory could readily be used as a justification for racism. This is because evolution teaches that some people groups are simply less evolved than others, that some are closer to animals than others. While the Bible has been used as a justification for racism, people have to twist Scripture and take verses out-of-context in order to make the Bible fit their prejudices; evolutionary theory on the other hand is pretty much consistent with racist ideals, especially if one views evolution as progress.

In Johnny Came Home, some of the super-powered characters have decided that they are the next stage of human evolution, a common trope in superhero fiction. The following, an exchange between the book’s villain and our protagonist, illustrates how such beliefs play out in our actions:

“You’re denying your destiny.”

Johnny was pretty sure he’d just been handed a veiled ultimatum, but he simply couldn’t buy her argument. “What destiny? Do you think you’ll actually win? Better yet, do you think you’re actually better than people without these powers? I mean, look at what you do with them,” he pointed out. “These powers certainly don’t make you morally superior or wiser; they just make you stronger than the next guy, so it’s really just might makes right.” 

“Or survival of the fittest.” 

“Yeah, I recall that Hitler had ideas like yours, and your racism is just as wrong as his was.” The conclusion that evolution was an inherently racist theory had never occurred to him until he spoke those words. No, he didn’t think that everyone who affirmed evolution was a racist, but the theory itself implied that some people groups were just more evolved than others. Johnny recalled that his father used to mention a man named Ota Benga, a pygmy who was once on displayed in the Bronx Zoo’s monkey house because men believed that people with darker skin were more ape than human. It was no longer politically or socially acceptable to voice such racist opinions, but no matter how you sliced it evolution still implied that some men were less evolved than others. 

Pandora’s voice dripped with condescension. “Oh, that’s right. Pull the race card.” 

He ignored her attempt to sideline his point. “Hitler used ideas like master races and survival of the fittest to justify the Holocaust and Germany’s bid for world domination. I don’t see how you’re any different. If anyone’s pulling the race card, it’s you.”

The sin of racism is hatred in its vilest form and respect of persons in its mildest. Jesus specifically denounced hate as murder during the Sermon on the Mount in the same way He denounced lust as adultery (Matt.5:21,22). John goes on to famously say that “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? (1 John 4:20).” James also notes that he that commits respect of persons commits sin (James 2:8,9), which only stands to reason since God Himself is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34; Rom.2:11). Genesis states that God created mankind in His own image (Gen.1:27); therefore, racism is an affront to God Himself!

Still, some claim that the Bible says that dark-skinned men resulted from the “curse of Ham,” an idea derived from a false interpretation of Genesis 9:25, or that God marked Cain by giving him black skin after he killed his brother Abel, or even, bizarrely, that blacks are the offspring of demons. None of the passages they use to try to justify their racism so much as mention skin color. As regards interracial marriage specifically, some maintain that miscegenation caused Israel to be judged by God; however, when God forbade Israel to intermarry with the Canaanites, the issue was not racial purity. A careful reading of these passages reveals that God warned them that if they married peoples of other faiths, they would forsake God for idol worship — which is exactly what occurred!

Another example of Scripture-twisting is this claim that since God made everything “after its kind” that we should maintain “racial purity.” However, a Biblical baramin, or “created kind,” has the ability to interbreed, which people of differing ethnicities can clearly do. A baramin has no reference to skin color.  According to the Genesis record, we are all the genetic offspring of Adam and Eve (cf. Gen.3:20; Deut.32:8; Luke 3:38) and of Noah and his wife. The biblical view is of one human race, who were separated into different language groups at Babel (cf. Gen.11:1-9). As they dispersed and certain physical traits became isolated, the various cultures and people groups of the world developed. The featured Punnet square shows the range of skin color coded into the gentic potential of two middle-skinned people. 

God does not judge us by the color of our skin, but by the condition of our heart (1 Sam.16:7). All, regardless of race, culture or dare I say politics, are guilty before God  and in need of a Savior (Rom.3:23; Gal.3:22). All sinned in our father Adam, but the Good News is that anyone of Adam’s bloodline may be saved through the shed blood of Christ. [John 3:16; 1 Cor 15:22] .

You can purchase a copy of Johnny Came Home at this link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/1452845506/

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