Faith

After 'Unite the Right,' Christians Must Oppose the Racism of the Alt Right and the Left

Twitter screenshot of Charlottesville rally.

On Sunday, white nationalist Jason Kessler launched a sequel to his deadly racist demonstration last year in Charlottesville, Va. “Unite the Right II” brought only about 24 white nationalists to Washington, D.C., but it unleashed a huge horde of counter protesters — some of whom affiliated with black nationalist groups like the New Black Panther Party.

Christians must stand against racism of all kinds. White supremacy has a horrific and bloody past, and the new idea that minorities cannot be racist against white people is itself a racist idea. If there is indeed structural racism, the way to fight that is to champion justice, not to deride white people based on the color of their skin. If the Holy Spirit is in us, we cannot pursue division for its own sake — especially not in terms of race.

The Judeo-Christian basis for American freedom presents all human beings as equally endowed with rights from their Creator, as articulated in the Declaration of Independence. But the Bible goes further. God made all human beings in His image, Jesus died for people of every race, and all redeemed people will find a place in the new heaven and the new earth.

The God of the Bible is not a tribal deity. Even when God selected the Jews as His chosen people, He told Abraham that all the nations and all the families of the earth will be blessed through him (Genesis 22:18, 28:14). While God favored the Israelites in the Exodus and in the conquest of Israel, He also punished them for abandoning Him. The purpose of choosing Israel had less to do with them as a tribe or nation and more to do with God making a people holy to be His representatives.

This becomes clear throughout the Old Testament. God spares Rahab and her Gentile family after she hides the Jewish spies (Joshua 2). God calls the prophet Elijah to live with and bless a Gentile widow in Zarephath (1 Kings 17). He also calls the prophet Elisha to heal Naaman, a commander of the Syrian army, of leprosy (2 Kings 5). Then there’s Jonah, who resisted God’s call to preach to Nineveh, fleeing from God at Joppa before eventually relenting and getting angry that the Gentiles listened to him and repented (Jonah 1, 3).

The New Testament becomes even more explicit about God’s love for all His people, regardless of race.

During His earthly ministry, Jesus Christ only remarks on the great faith of two people, both of them Gentiles. A Roman centurion asked Jesus to heal his servant. Jesus offered to go to his house, but the centurion said he believed that Jesus had such authority that if He said the servant would be healed, even from far away, it would be so. Jesus marveled at the statement, saying, “Not even in Israel have I found such faith” (Matthew 8, Luke 7).

Jesus also went to the region of Sidon and Tyre, the land of the Phoenicians. A woman came to Him, asking Him to heal her daughter. At first, He rebuffed her since she was a Gentile, saying, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to dogs.” She replied, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Jesus healed her daughter, and remarked, “Great is your faith!” (Matthew 15, Mark 7)

Before ascending to heaven, Jesus charges His disciples to “make disciples among all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20).

After the Holy Spirit comes on Jesus’ disciples in Acts, the apostle Peter sees a vision in Joppa — the same city where Jonah rejected God’s call to preach to the Gentiles — urging Peter to consider the Gentiles clean and on equal footing before God in Jesus Christ (Acts 10).

Indeed, the apostle Paul would pick up this theme, most memorably in Galatians 3. Writing to the church in Galatia, Paul warned against the circumcision party, which taught that salvation comes through keeping the Jewish law, rather than from belief in Jesus Christ. This emphasis on divisions between Jews and Gentiles divided the church on tribal lines.

Paul quotes Genesis, explaining that the scripture predicted that “God would justify the Gentiles by faith” in Jesus Christ. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ,” the apostle writes. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3).

Pauls writes a similar message to the church in Ephesus, calling Jewish and Gentile Christians to put aside their differences. He urges the church to remember “that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh … you were separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenant of promise.” Now, however, “in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

“For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints in the household of God,” he writes (Ephesians 2:15-29).

Ultimately, a Christian’s identity is found in Jesus. Those who believe in Jesus become children of God (John 1, John 3). Peter writes that “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of His own possession” (1 Peter 2:9). The church is to be a new unity of people, more important than race or nation.

Finally, in John’s image of the new heavens and the new earth, the kings of the earth bring their glory into the City of God, bringing “into it the glory and the honor of the nations” (Revelation 22:24-26). The ultimate union between human beings and God will include a multitude of nations, now made holy in Jesus Christ.

The tribalism that divides the Jews from the Gentiles, the “better” from the “worse” — this mindset of division is antithetical to Christianity. This does not mean Christians must support open borders or encourage violations of immigration law, but it does mean that Christians should never see their race as superior to any other race, be they black or white, Asian or Hispanic.

Christianity is the very root for the notion of equal rights before the law. The Spanish Scholastics in the School of Salamanca defended the rights of Native Americans against the Spanish conquistadors, and their arguments went on to form the basis for international law and the Scottish Enlightenment — which gave birth to the ideas of the American Revolution.

While the Bible has been twisted to support racism, the driving message throughout scripture is that God is the Lord of all, beyond tribal divisions and bringing reconciliation across racial and national boundaries. Christians must oppose all tribalism and racism, because these ideologies undermine the sovereignty of God and the universality of the gospel message.