Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s murder of George Floyd, an African American man, triggered mayhem across the nation, inspired a number of peaceful marches and demonstrations that drew attention to the motto that “Black lives matter,” and raised awareness of systemic racism and the need to confront it.
Kodiak held a peaceful march last week. Rev. Rony Harden Sr., an African American pastor of Abba Father Christian Fellowship, had intended not to participate in the Kodiak march, but on the morning of the event, he felt “compelled by the Holy Spirit to get involved,” by sharing his story and speaking truth to power, he said.
Harden said that racism is a 400-year-old “spiritual curse” that has plagued our country since the Mayflower arrived at Plymouth Rock. His experience with racism goes back to his childhood in Georgia.
His father was a pastor and a share cropper, who lost his chance of getting land. Even though he was beaten by the Ku Klux Klan, he taught his children to love everyone. Martin Luther King Jr.’s contention that one should be judged by his character, rather than the color of his skin, was a guiding principle.
Harden remembered the Klan burning crosses on the field at high school football games, threatening death to the players. He left Georgia at age 17 and joined the military, which did not shield him from the racism he experienced as a child. He joined the Marines, and later the Coast Guard.
Harden said he “strove, worked hard” to excel and advance in the Coast Guard, receiving awards and commendations, but still didn’t get the promotions he wanted. He came to the realization that racism is systemic and ingrained in the military.
After serving his country in the military, Harden became a pastor. Sadly, he acknowledged, the Church is one of the most segregated institutions, he said. It’s very rare for white American Christians to sit under the spiritual leadership of a black pastor, he said. Yet many of the members of Abba Father are Caucasian.
Before Harden and his wife, Cynthia, founded Abba Father in 2012, he served as interim pastor at the Kodiak Assembly of God (Now Oceans United).
Harden is an unapologetic evangelical, who addresses topics that make some uncomfortable. Racism is a spiritual issue, he said. “The only One who can change the heart of man is God,” he said.
Evangelicals have been lured by money and power, he said, quoting II Chronicles 7:14, in which the Lord says, “If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. ”
The other clergyman who participated in the Black Lives Matter march was Larry Lundstrom, pastor of the Kodiak Community Baptist Church. He was invited by a parishioner who had helped organize the event.
Like Harden, Lundstrom was part of a minority in school. Only he was of the white minority at a Galveston, Texas, inner city high school. “Most of my friends were Black or Hispanic,” he said.
Lundstrom said the precepts of the Gospel preclude any kind of racism. “God loves everyone. Now that Christ lives within us, that gives us permission to love everyone. That means speaking up when people are being oppressed.”
Lundstrom put in a good word for law enforcement officers. Most are doing good and are in the profession for the right reasons, he said.
Lundstrom said Christians need to work together to put a stop to racism. Blind spots (such as racism) will never be revealed until “you allow God into your lives, and your brothers and sisters to hold you accountable.”
“If you don’t allow your brothers and sisters of color to hold you accountable, how will you ever get over those blind spots? God gives us each other to love each other in community,” Lundstrom said.
Pastors Harden and Lundstrom, who come from vastly different backgrounds, agree that racism is a problem that the church must deal with. In so doing, they echo the words of the late George Floyd himself, who said, “If y’all about God’s business, then that’s my business.”