A Christian Response to White Supremacy

A Christian Response to White Supremacy

After spending too much time and emotional energy watching on TV the events of Charlottesville, Virginia in August,   I attended worship in a mainstream Presbyterian church the following day.  And what did I hear about racism or violence from a Christian perspective?  Nothing.

Remembering Charlottesville

Admittedly, a breaking news story on Saturday puts ministers in a real bind.  They have to decide, and decide quickly, whether to change the planned worship and try to insert some kind of graceful word.  Will it be deemed as controversial?  Political?   As it turns out, none of those questions needed to be answered by the leaders of our church.  Sunday was Youth Sunday.   The service was tightly scripted under the direction of the youth director.  The pastors used the time to be on vacation.

[At the time of the original post the Presbyterian Church I’ve referred to had no response.  On the following Sunday, the Pastor included in the Pastoral Prayer a balanced response to the events of the previous weekend.]

Looking for some way to connect with others who were bewildered and frightened by the mayhem of the previous day, I went to an Indivisible gathering in downtown Sarasota.  The crowd of, maybe 300, was earnest, quite quiet, and forgiving of a program, presented through a malfunctioning bullhorn, that looked improvised.  We sang, “This Little Light of Mine,” after a 20 minute gathering and dispersed.

I returned to my car thinking that Christian congregations are really quite well-suited to provide clarity and camaraderie for a confused and grieving public.  But the Christians are sitting on the sidelines.   And while I’m appreciative of the Indivisible movement, I can’t escape the thought that “standing against hate” is not enough.   I also don’t believe that browbeating the President into making a statement against hate is enough either.  Ironically, the President’s eventual statements deftly placated his critics and communicated approval of the fascist groups.  Fascism may have won this round.

What Does Christian Faith Say About White Supremacy?

I’d like to argue in this article that Christian faith has a robust critique of the alt-right and all racialized ideologies.  And that’s what I propose to sketch here—two ways that biblical faith is essentially incompatible with White supremacy.

That “incompatibility” may seem obvious.  Christian churches are not violent.  They’re not Nazis.  Pew sitters and citizens in general can reject the methods of White Supremacy, namely the lurid and threatening marches, and miss entirely a seductive philosophy that underlies it. 

…Men are in a crisis of self-identity.  And White Supremacy speaks to this void.

It’s the seeming uprightness and agreeability behind the swastika and the Confederate Flag that worries me.  I wonder how many Americans, I wonder about the President, I wonder about pew-sitters, whether much more Alt-right has gone unchallenged in their personal value system.

Lamentably, these ideas are enjoying a resurgence in the United States and Europe.  The motley marchers in Charlottesville, festooned with Nazi and Southern Confederacy emblems, are only the public face—the marketing arm—of  a movement that, while degenerate, is a compelling system of ideas that every hell-raiser in Charlottesville has been thoroughly schooled in.

White Supremacy in Brief

In the interest of brevity, here’s a non-exhaustive list of the alt-right’s prominent ideas.  I’ve boiled their philosophy down to these bullet points after immersing myself in some of Richard Spencer’s thinking and enduring the adolescent ideological rants on 4chan.

  1. Western civilization, humanity’s most noble and enlightened movement has become degenerate, been systematically eroded, and at present is a barely smoldering spark on the verge of extinction.

  2. The culprits in this assault against Western (European and American) tradition are legion—liberal university culture, feminism, theologically hollowed out churches, constitutional democracy, socialism, debased amusements, Political Correctness (read Post Modernism), and racial mixing which have ground down all that is noble, masculine, brilliant, and advanced about White European culture.

  3. The Alt-right and White Supremacists wish to re-introduce traditional Western culture to all traditional White societies, including the United States and Western Europe. The ideal state would look like a reconstituted Roman Empire .

  4. Individuals derive their personal value through their identification with and defense of their ethnic cultural heritage—namely White Culture. Family, clan, and ethnicity are absolutized.

Nietzsche Olde 04.JPG U.S. Public Domain

The Importance of Frederich Nietzsche

The philosophical progenitor for these ideas is Frederich Nietzsche.  Accordingly, the alt-right is essentially atheistic.  Richard Spencer, the current ideologist in chief for the alt-right (his label),  is an atheist though he admires how Christianity allegedly breathed oxygen into Western Civilization.  And, of course Nietzsche is famous for his dictum: “God is Dead.”   In place of God or a spirituality, the Alt-right lifts up Western Tradition, which is under assault.  Richard Spencer believes that other great tribes—notably Islam—are undertaking their own attempts at recovery and re-establishment in their own homelands.

The ugliness and stupidity of White Nationalism are what we see on the TV with Nazi salutes and vile racism.  One can see how the grand awakening to one’s essence as biologically connected to magnificent civilization can evoke a kind of conversion experience in, say a young man, languishing without career, marriage , or faith—an increasing state of affairs.   That is what happened to Richard Spencer.

Two Core Biblical Principles

What does biblical faith have to teach us?

First: humanity is essentially unified.  Twice the Bible narrates that all of humanity issued from one family—first in the Garden of Eden and second, from Noah.  There’s a universality about biblical faith.  Abraham’s clan–Israel– may have been set aside in its vocation.  But it’s a vocation to serve all the other families.  Isaiah, the prophet, discovers in the destruction of exile that his God’s salvation is for all peoples.  The Great Commission, Jesus’ last and crucial instruction before his Ascension is to undertake a grand mission to all of the world.  In the Book of Revelation, all of the World’s peoples are gathered in a grand family reunion at table with Christ at the head.  The fundamental energy of biblical faith is centripetal.   All are drawn in.  Those who find themselves on the inside of God’s commonwealth are instructed to draw the others in.

The racialized construct of human reality, which is essential to all else that White Supremacists believe in has nothing to do with Biblical Faith.  The world of the Bible is an essentially different place.

Second: Christianity views the essence of the individual person in a manner fundamentally different from the view of White Nationalism.   I’m speaking now about philosophical anthropology.  A philosophical anthropology speaks of a person’s value and destiny—not what he does or how he survives or relates to others but who he or she is and why he or she was born.  The White Supremacist moves into a person’s confusion about his or (much less frequently) her purpose in life and supplies a perfectly romantic and perfectly wrong answer—to rescue Western Civilization.

If you listen carefully to the indoctrination and speeches of the new White Supremacy, you’ll hear a particular appeal to men.  Since the early 1970’s the idea of masculinity has been deconstructed.  Younger men don’t know who they are.  There have been weak movements that have attempted to fill that void.  I’m thinking of the the mytho-poetic thinkers like poet, Robert Bly and the defunct evangelical Promise Keepers.  Put simplistically, men are in a crisis of self-identity.  And White Supremacy speaks to this void.

Christian faith also offers a bold proposition as to who we are.  The audacious Christian idea is that each person is made on the pattern and likeness of God.   A flood of correlates flows from this simple idea.  If made in God’s image then each person is equipped to relate with God.  If made in God’s image, then each person shares the Creator’s tasks and desires.  Clearly, the image-of-God essence of each person precludes whacking over the head other image-of-God creations at weekend rallies.

Clearly there other essential differences between Christianity and the new White Supremecy.  Hateful rhetoric and the role of violence, an understanding of redemptive suffering are obvious areas of sharp contrast.

Christian Faith and Racism Will Never Harmonize

When I was 18, I did an independent study project on Frederich Neitzsche.  My tutor was an old philosopher by the name of Harry Cotton.  The project permitted me to read just about the whole canon of Neitzsche’s writings.  I was (an am) a committed Christian.  Late one night in a study carroll it struck me that Frederich Nietzsche understood Christianity as I never had.  He saw its boldness, its intellectual audacity, its danger.  Nietzsche helped me love and understand my faith all the more.

I proposed to Dr. Cotton that maybe I could write about Frederich Neitzsche as a kind of closet Christian, an implicit Christian, or some kind of Christian.   Harry Cotton listened for a long time without a word.  He put his pipe in his mouth and lit it with a big wooden match.  He threw, as was his habit, the still-lit match under his desk.  He leaned back in a cloud of smoke and said.   “I don’t think you’ll be able to make that work.”

He was right.  There is a fundamental incompatibility between White Supremacy and biblical faith.   White ethno-superiority and the quest to save the West will never rest easily with biblical Christianity.   You’re just not going to make that work.

Please follow and like us:
Download PDF

One Reply to “A Christian Response to White Supremacy”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *