It’s Time to Stop Giving Christianity a Pass on White Supremacy and Violence
Replacement theory's lineage shows why we must learn to use the words "white Christian nationalism" and "domestic terrorism" in the same sentence.
I’m still reeling from the experience of standing in George Floyd Square in Minneapolis on the same afternoon a white supremacist terrorist gunned down 10 people in a predominately Black area of Buffalo, New York. ICYMI, I reflected on that experience in last week’s substack post.
I’ve spent the remainder of the week in Duluth, Minnesota, talking to a range of community leaders who were involved in the creation of the Clayton, Jackson, McGhie Memorial, unveiled in 2003 to memorialize the lives of three Black men who were lynched in 1920. I’ll have more to say about that in future posts, but here is a picture of this powerful space, a plaza memorializing the victims just across the street from the place where they were murdered while a crowd of between 5,000 and 10,000 looked on approvingly. Note the moving inscription, a quote from Edmund Burke: “An event has happened, upon which it is difficult to speak and impossible to remain silent.”
I read more about the Buffalo shooter’s motivations, especially his fears about “the great replacement,” I wrote a new piece, published this morning at TIME, unpacking how this theory has been intertwined with Christianity. “Replacement,” after all, was explicit goal of Manifest Destiny doctrine, blessed by Christianity. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that when the U.S. demographics shift from majority to non-majority white and Christian (44% today), violence justified by “replacement” fears erupts.
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Below is an excerpt of my new column at TIME. Please follow the link to read the entire piece.
The massacre in Buffalo has spurred a national discussion about “replacement theory….” The fear of cultural replacement has an unambiguous lineage that gives it specific content. At the center of the “great replacement” logic, there is—and has always been—a desperate desire to preserve some version of western European Christendom…. If we fail to grasp the power of this ethno-religious appeal, we will misconstrue the nature of, and underestimate the power of, the threat before us….
Trump’s “Make American Great Again” formula—the stoking of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and anti-Black sentiment while making nativist appeals to the Christian right—contained all the tropes of the old replacement theory….
Among white Americans, there is high (two-thirds) overlap between beliefs in Christian nationalism and replacement theory. And both views are associated with higher support for political violence among whites:
White Americans who agree that "God intended America to be a promised land for European Christians” are four times as likely as those who disagree with that statement to believe that "true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country” (43% vs. 10%).
White Americans who believe that "Immigrants are invading our country and replacing our cultural and ethnic background” are nearly six times as likely as those who disagree with that statement to believe that "true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country” (45% vs. 8%).
… The clear historical record, and contemporary attitudinal data, merit an urgent discussion of white Christian nationalism as a serious and growing threat to our democracy. if we are to understand the danger in which we find ourselves today, we will have to be able to use the words white Christian nationalism and domestic terrorism in the same sentence.
The column I wrote in the wake of the leaked SCOTUS abortion opinion has become the most read story on my #WhiteTooLong Substack. If you missed it, it’s here:
And my colleague Jemar Tisby has written an important open letter to the all-white board of trustees at Grove City College, who denounced him (and some local professors who invited him) of espousing so-called “critical race theory” when he gave a 20-minute chapel address last fall. It’s worth a read to see just how CRT is being used as a weapon to extinguish any conversations in conservative white Christian spaces about racial justice and systemic racism.