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Racist ideology poisons souls

Hunter Baker | And this divided world needs the anti-venom of the gospel

People pray outside the scene of Saturday’s shooting at a supermarket, in Buffalo, N.Y., on Sunday. Associated Press/Photo by Matt Rourke

Racist ideology poisons souls

Armed with a modified weapon, a young white man went to a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y., on Saturday and killed 10 people, injuring three others. He wore body armor and had a clear plan of action. Of the 13 victims, 11 were black. Based on a 180-page manifesto the young man appears to have written, the author was motivated by a belief that white people have been subject to a “genocide” and are being replaced by people of color.

White supremacy is a low-status ideology in the United States. America’s fraught racial past has led to earnest attempts over the past 60 years to seek healing and full recognition of the dignity of African Americans and other minority groups. Those who have objected to those efforts have typically been an unwelcome presence and have been isolated from significant power and influence. In the wake of Saturday’s attack and others in recent years, it seems clear that to conflate the marginal status of white supremacists with safety and security in the public square is deeply misguided.

Out of a desire to move forward rather than constantly looking in the rearview mirror, we have often treated racial aggression, especially from whites, as a kind of artifact from our past. But massacres such as the one in Buffalo demonstrate that the impulse for race-based violence has not been exterminated, but rather has been driven underground and into corners of the internet.

What is the Christian answer to racism? The church must deliver the fully orbed content of the gospel. Jesus Christ is the king of the entire world and all the people in it. He died for sinners and loves the people of the world. The gospel makes no provision for racial categories. Rather, the New Testament and the Biblical story of the early church is one of God’s people destroying barriers and bridging gaps. The miracle of Pentecost is one in which those present understood each other’s foreign languages. Luke’s account in the book of Acts portrays the church of Jesus Christ breaking forth beyond the Jewish community and into the lives of gentiles with radical consequences. The Christian church is a community open to all who want to follow Christ. It is more apparent than ever that this gospel must be preached in its broadest scope and that application must be made to questions of race.

Massacres such as the one in Buffalo demonstrate that the impulse for race-based violence has not been exterminated, but rather has been driven underground and into corners of the internet.

The Buffalo shooter was apparently deeply concerned about the white race being replaced by others. Such a concern for the preservation of the division of people by race is not Biblical. The human race is the proper subject of Christian concern. Any ethic that treats any race as something to be especially prized or protected is, to use Carl F.H. Henry’s language, sub-Christian in nature. Christians believe in the brotherhood and sisterhood of men and women under the fatherhood of God. The nature of our gospel leads us to share the message of Christ’s sacrifice, resurrection, and provision for our redemption as one to be received by all mankind. Investing in a tribal concept of a subgroup of human beings such as white people is irrelevant in the light of eternity.

We cannot rest in the knowledge that racialized thinking is wrong and incompatible with the gospel of grace. It is clear that varieties of white supremacy (or defenders against so-called “white genocide”) have developed communities online and in isolation from the rest of the culture. We have perhaps been content to let such instincts fester, not deeming them worthy of engagement and debate. It is probably well past time to begin that discussion in earnest.

We send missionaries abroad to bring the gospel to those who have not heard it. Tragedies such as the one in Buffalo indicate that the task of missions extends to those who have become so disconnected from any kind of legitimate Christian belief that they either never have had the ability to think in Christian terms or have forgotten how. There must be a ministry to those easily dismissed because of the repulsiveness of their thoughts.

What has happened in Buffalo and other places will likely happen again as those working out frustrations cultivated in fever swamps seek to vindicate visions of racialized supremacy and survival. They must be reached. We cannot dismiss them. The ideological poison they are injecting into their spiritual veins is potent and requires the anti-venom of the true gospel.

Hunter Baker

Hunter Baker serves as dean of arts and sciences and professor of political science at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. He is a research fellow of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and the author of three books (The End of Secularism, Political Thought: A Student's Guide, and The System Has a Soul).


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