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When my book Rassismus (Racism) was published, I gave the following interview. An English translation of the book will be published in 2011.

Is a new book against racism necessary?

First of all, racism is such a seriously mistaken position that there simply cannot be enough written against it. However, you would really be astonished at how few books in the German book market there are on racism. And most of them are very technical, very specialized, and hardly understandable for the man on the street. I wanted to redress this situation.

An Evangelical opposing racism?

Yes, naturally. The word “Evangelical“ was first used for a movement in Great Britain that called for the abolition of the slave trade and then of slavery. The movement finally achieved this under the leadership of William Wilberforce (1759-1833). Evangelicals played a central role in the anti-slavery movement in the USA, for instance free church Quakers and Methodists. The best known book about it is the Evangelical classic, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. In my book I quote a historian who demonstrates that racism had a greater chance in France and Germany due to the fact that there are few Evangelicals there.

In the 18th century William Carey fought the racism found in Christian churches in India under the caste system, and his language and cultural research led to the preservation of numerous Indian languages. Many view this British missionary and language researcher as the father of Evangelicals.

So everything is just history?

Nowadays the internationalization of the Evangelical movement means that racism does not have a chance. In my Evangelical environment, from the time I was small, there were Indonesians, Kenyans and Latin Americans whom I got to know as role models, so racism was obsolete before I got to know about it on the school playground. Additionally, the World Evangelical Alliance has repeatedly and clearly taken a position against all forms of racism.

I can agree that this is the case on an international level, but in Germany?

In any event, it is a fact that the Pietists have always had a better relationship to people of other cultures than to the people around them. And Evangelicals in Germany have inherited that from the Pietists. The longtime leading German Evangelical missiologist Prof. Peter Beyerhaus wrote a small book in 1972 under the title Racism and its reasonable Evangelical Conquest. The Young Christians’ Offensive in Reichelsheim grew up during the time of its ecumenical struggle to overcome apartheid in South Africa – mind you, only with peaceful means. As far as the present is concerned, I really would not know where racism could be expected to find a home in Evangelical churches. For a long time we have been used to reading books from all over the world, taking the foremost spiritual leaders from all cultures as role models and welcoming people of all cultures and ethnic groups. Since the majority of the Evangelical movement stems from Asia, Africa, and Latin America, they set the tone in many committees.

But what about Evangelicals in the USA?

When the Evangelical movement in the USA is criticized, a lot of people forget that there are not only ‘white’ Evangelicals. Rather, a lot of African-Americans have been and are Evangelicals, and today this additionally applies to Latinos and Asians. Unfortunately, in the USA there is a broad right-wing extremist spectrum that says that America is white, English speaking, and Christian. The only thing is, that has little to do with Christian churches. And it is far removed from the National Association of Evangelicals and the US Evangelical Alliance.

But don’t Evangelicals view Islam very critically?

As a religion, yes, but they can still treat Muslims with dignity, can’t they? I would like to brazenly maintain that no German group of people is as often a guest of Turkish families as Evangelicals are or invite Turkish friends over as often as Evangelicals do.

What distinguishes racism from other forms of discrimination?

The core of racism in comparison to other ideologies that are used to oppress people (such as class, religious hatred, or disdain for the handicapped) is that what makes the other person different is allegedly in the individual’s biological ancestry and for that reason is unalterable.

Racism has namely two core elements. It constructs ancestral groups with allegedly common features and evaluates these groups and differences for the ends sought by the racist. This occurs to the detriment of the victim, legitimizing privileges and aggression.

Constructs?

Yes. In my book I compile the growing number of arguments arising from investigations into different peoples and modern genetic research. For centuries there have been attempts to classify races, but the division mostly only convinced the researchers themselves who conducted the work. Something has been clear for a long time: there is only one human race.

Do you have a vivid example you can give me?

Yes, for sure. The same blood groups are found throughout all people groups. If you have blood type A, you had better not let a ‘white’ with blood type B donate blood to you. However, the blood of a ‘black,’ ‘yellow,’ or ‘red’ with your blood type can save your life. And a person with blood type O can be a so-called universal donor for any person on earth.

But can’t races be identified by their skin color?

If you take the time to study the history of classification according to skin color, you will quickly realize that it has little to do with the actual skin color. ‘Yellows’ are often lighter than ‘whites,’ ‘reds’ are not red, but rather their spectrum of lighter to darker is found in other races.

What about the IQ tests in the USA which supposedly demonstrate that blacks on average are less gifted than whites?

If one takes IQ tests to be a measure, Jews and Japanese score about 10% higher than whites. However, one would rather keep that quiet. There are problems, however: 1. There are no culture-free IQ tests, no neutral, international intelligence. If you ask questions that relate to what is relevant for Eskimo children, Germans will always stand there and look like the dumb ones. 2. It is always only a question of averages. The same extreme spectrum is found in every group. It‘s just distributed differently. 3. Additionally, it is still an open issue as to where the differences come from. Do they lie in the educational system, in the family, or truly, as is alleged, in the genes?

How does one argue against racism?

One has to argue against racism on two levels. First, there is the argument that even a demonstrated difference among human races says nothing about the common dignity found among people. And secondly, no evidence can be produced to support the assumption that such biological differences between divisible races exist at all.

Actually the second point should suffice. Still, although it is the case that with every decade the scientific evidence increases that says there are no races, it is common up to the present day to continue to use the ancient and frequently refuted division according to skin color, for lack of an alternative. Leading encyclopedias explain under the ‘racism’ heading that there is no such thing as races, only to then nonchalantly continue to refer to the differentiation under the ‘race’ heading or the headings of these individual ‘races.’

What are the most common forms of racism?

There are three types of racism that are the most internationally widespread and can be tracked over the course of many centuries. They are directed against the co-called ‘blacks’ or people with darker skin color, against Jews, and against so-called ‘gypsies,’ which is to say against Sintis and Romanies.

The three international forms of racism are the defamation and fight against or oppression of

1. ‘Blacks’ (or of people who have a darker skin color than oneself ) – they are allegedly dumb, barbarian, and uncivilized;
2. Jews – they are allegedly devious, greedy, and domineering;
3. ‘Gypsies’ – they are allegedly asocial and thievish.

I understand you have written a two volume work about Hitler’s war religion. Is that correct?

Yes, I try to demonstrate that Hitler actually believed in a Creator. That Creator had nothing in common with the Christian God, but it was one that implied a religious exaggeration of the social Darwinist racial conflict. It is a disgrace that only a few Christians recognized that what was being dealt with in the case of Hitler was something that was in complete opposition to their religion. It was not just something political, from which an individual could simply seek to remove himself.

But is not the idea of the ‘Volk’ a creation ordinance?

No, I agree with Karl Barth on this. The Bible indicates that marriage and family as well as work are all creation ordinances prior to the fall. The state, and mostly as a multi-ethnic state, is also seen as instituted by God. Of course, God also wanted the church as an institution. But the Volk, or nation? Even the people of Israel consisted of a number of ancestral sources. In the Bible one see that people grew apart. And nowhere does it say that only one people – whatever that was – should live in one country. The moral connection of a nation-state with an ancestral people, a religion, and a language is a modern invention which does not fit with practically any country on earth.

But aren’t there Germans and French and for that reason a Germany and a France?

We are all half-breeds with a long cultural history. We are the result of centuries of migration, especially Germans, the French or, for instance, the Turks. The French and Germans are culturally and historically distinguished from each other, but thirty generations back we are talking about the same ancestral mix. Charles the Great is seen as the progenitor of the French and the Germans, but for the longest time both sides acted as if there were two different people, the king of France and the emperor of the Germans.

Are you against right-wing extremism, then?

Yes, naturally. It is scientifically indefensible, ethically questionable, and it does not escape the scrutiny of human rights questions. But I do not want to make it too easy on myself. Racism is everywhere. Just think about left wing party leader Lafontaine’s comments regarding Polish workers in Germany or think of the Marxist dictator Mugabe in Zimbabwe.

 

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