A Question of (Alt) Right and Wrong

by John Mark Yeats January 18, 2017

It’s an annual event at our house - the celebration of the day our children became part of our family forever. “Gotcha Day” or “Adoption Day” features ice cream, pictures, favorite meals, and a recounting of their unique adoption story.

Like most families, we share these moments online. But this year, our celebration angered individuals in the recently emboldened alt-right movement. The alt-right or “white nationalists” as some call them are a grouping of far-right individuals that truly believe the best solutions for our country comes from separating races. Some have blamed the rise of the alt-right on the current political climate, others on the rapid expansion of politically-correct cultural change. Whatever the rationale, the trolls from the alt-right assured my racially mixed family that I was a disgrace to whites everywhere and that I was most assuredly “going to hell” for violating God’s racial laws.

I took a deep breath.

When the Spiritual battle rages, Christians run to the Scripture. I responded with a brief exposition of the work of Christ in unifying all races through the cross. Ephesians 2:14 is especially poignant: “For He (Christ) himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” We are one in Christ. Period.

But what followed was not an exchange over the nature of Scripture.

Instead, the attack morphed and moved toward accusations of Cuckoldry.

Perhaps you aren’t familiar with this term, but it tends to be a favorite of the alt-right to refer to Christians who take a stand for racial equality. Originally, the term “cuck,” or “cucked,” connected to the husband of an adulterous wife or to males who unwittingly raise children not connected to them biologically. It is used as an attack on masculinity. Thus, Christianity that takes a stand on race, adoption or even immigration becomes “Cuckservative Christianity,” “Cuckianity,” or “Cucked Christianity.”

For the alt-right, race is tied to cultural expression and possess cultural markers. For those cultures to then flourish and reach their natural ends, the races should be separated and become their own nations. For many, the white, European race needs to reclaim its uniqueness and primacy and therefore protect its cultural heritage.

This isn’t a new idea. Incredibly discerning, Carol M. Swain identified this Nationalist impulse present in American culture over 15 years ago. Her book, The New White Nationalism in America: Its Challenge to Integration deserves a close read by anyone seeking answers to the longer history of this movement. Swain, quotes Dan Gayman, leader of the Church of Israel (a Christian Identity/white nationalist movement located in Missouri), “Most white Americans believe in their hearts in the doctrine of racial separatism even if they are too intimidated by its current disfavor in the media and elsewhere to openly acknowledge their beliefs.”[1]

In recent days, many radicalized groups on both sides of the aisle have felt empowered; the cultural filter Gayman referenced has lifted. It’s gone. The attacks have gone mainstream.

Swain, a Professor of Political Science and Professor of Law at Vanderbilt Law School, argued that a variety of economic as well as cultural currents could ultimately lead to the challenges we are facing today if not addressed by the church.

Why?

Because the Gospel doesn’t change. Because the need for all humanity to be reconciled to God doesn’t change. Because once we trust Christ, our identity changes fundamentally as part of the family of God – we are all adopted sons and daughters and share in the inheritance of the Gospel!

But this concept is often missed by many in America. The Gospel destroys our broken and sinful concepts of race! Jesus’ victory on the cross ended the hostility between Jew/Greek, male/female, black/white/Hispanic/Asian. It doesn’t erase our ethnic heritage or unique attributes – this is not an “I don’t see race” proclamation. Instead, it is a new vision that despite these differences, we are placed into a new family where we become one because of Christ.

Can you imagine the powerful image of a room full of people from every nation, every socio-economic bracket and every generation crying out to God? This is when we begin to defy expectations since there is no other reason for all of us to gather save for the shared hope we have in Christ! The early church recognized this reality and even referred to themselves as the “third race.” They still came from places of difference, but willingly abandoned those cultural markers to embrace an identity in Christ Alone!

But every Sunday, we bring our wretched, broken souls into the gathering place of our churches carrying discrimination against each other. How should pastors respond to this reality?

1. Understand that the media does not “fabricate” or “create” stories of the rise of an emboldened, racially motivated alt-right. While I believe they are a very small, yet loud, subset of the population, they are doing everything they can to target the young, the disenfranchised, and the poor with their racially charged message. If Swain’s research bears out, this group will continue to see gains if the seed of their teaching is watered and left unchecked.

2. Your brothers and sisters in Christ who are part of a minority group may actually carry some justified fear about what might happen to them in the coming years. If you are not listening to them, please take the time to consider what they are feeling and hearing in their congregations.

3. You must remain vigilant about issues of race and racial reconciliation. Pastors must preach the peace and healing that comes through Christ alone. Beyond preaching, congregations must continue to work to reach their specific mission field. Do a census study of a five-mile radius around your congregation’s meeting place. If your congregational doesn’t mirror the racial proportions of that same space, you are missing your mission field!

4. Recognize that individuals in your congregation may carry racial discomfort or even hatred against others into your building every week. If the church really is a place where broken sinners find healing through the Gospel, this is a live issue. Since the truth of our identity in Christ is connected so deeply to the Gospel, we should expect the ideas racial division to be live issues that Satan will use to create disunity.

5. Preach the Gospel. Over and again share the hope of the Gospel. There is no underestimating, as Carol Swain states, “the enormous power that Christian religion can exert to save us from our ingrained bigotries and prejudices.”[2] The Gospel forces us to deal with our sin and the inherent racism that each of carries and annihilates it on the cross of Calvary.

Christians must hold to the higher standard that all believers are one, a new race in Christ. This is our identity that supersedes all other markers. When it comes to a question of the alt-right, they are wrong. Attitudes of racial superiority or even discrimination are morally wrong according to what we are told in Scripture. Pastors and churches must guard against this cultural moment and continue to point people to the cross where we are made new.

Notes

  1. ^ Dan Gayman as cited in Carol Swain, The New White Nationalism in America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 57.
  2. ^ Swain, 381.