Pastor’s viewpoint: June 23, 2018

Published 10:44 am Monday, June 25, 2018

He was born in Diamond Grove, Missouri, somewhere around 1864; he didn’t know the date. That’s because he lost his parents as an infant, but a family took him in and raised him. His “mom” taught him to read and, wanting an education, he left home. He attended several schools, living with foster parents until he finished high school.
He wanted more and found it at Iowa State University, where he studied and earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in botany. After college, he taught botany at Iowa and later in Alabama where he created a ground-breaking method of crop rotation. Cotton had depleted the land of nutrients, so he told the farmers to plant sweet potatoes or peanuts in alternating years. There was not a market for peanuts; so, he created one, developing over 300 ways to use the peanuts (My favorite is simply boiled peanuts; I keep a couple of bags in the freezer.) and 100 ways to use sweet potatoes. He did not, as the story goes, “invent” peanut butter, but he did help make it popular. Finally, in 1943, his birthplace was declared a national monument, the first national monument dedicated to an African American. Later Congress declared that Jan. 5 would be George Washington Carver Day.
[29] The following regulations are to be observed for all time to come. On the tenth day of the seventh month the Israelites and the foreigners living among them must fast and must not do any work. [30] On that day the ritual is to be performed to purify them from all their sins, so that they will be ritually clean. [31] That day is to be a very holy day, one on which they fast and do no work at all. These regulations are to be observed for all time to come.” (Leviticus 16)
Fast? We’ve just talked about growing food and now we’re talking about fasting. Maybe you’ve read about it in the Bible; it simply means you “sacrifice something” or “give up something” over a period of time to focus on something else … prayer for instance or Bible study or some project you’re working on. Didn’t you ever get so interested in something you “forgot to eat?” But why limit it to food? You can “fast” from anything … bitterness, hatred, smoking, drunkenness, profanity, gossip, and the list goes on.
Maybe you should meet Moses and Susan Carver, who raised George as their son after he lost his parents. They owned the farm/plantation where his parents were slaves and Susan taught him to read and apparently gave him a love for learning. What if we “fasted” from our preconceived notions about plantation owners (who raised a black orphan and taught him to read and gave him a love of learning), or preconceived notions about a black baby born into slavery (who grew up to become one of the best-known scientists in our history), or our preconceived notions about a dark-skinned baby born in a stable to a humble carpenter and his wife?
What if we “fasted” from our pre-conceived notions about people based on race or gender or social position or education or a dozen other things? What if?

Charles “Buddy” Whatley is a retired United Methodist pastor and, with Mary Ella, a missionary to the Navajo Reservation in Arizona.