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In his book, Rising Out of Hatred, Eli Saslow documents the journey of Derek Black, and how this prominent white supremacist and leader of the white nationalist movement ultimately came to renounce his beliefs.

Prior to his conversion, Black had been instrumental in popularizing the sentiments of white nationalism by introducing language that sanitized the ideology. Instead of speaking about the superiority of the white race, for instance, he depicted white America as endangered and in need of protection. White heritage and culture were under attack, he suggested, threatened by the influx of immigrants who were overtaking the country. Playing on people’s deepest fears, Black began using terms like “white genocide” and portraying immigrants as infiltrators and even invaders. And while none of this talk had any basis in reality, Black quickly recognized the power of such language to win elections. As a result, he began running local campaigns and even training politicians in white nationalist talking points.

It is not hard to see how effective Black was. Many of his terms have made their way into mainstream public discourse, coloring the way we think and talk about policies related to refugee resettlement and immigration. Instead of considering refugee resettlement from the perspective of moral responsibility, for instance, the conversation seems to revolve around the question of protection. By lowering our cap for refugee resettlement, by passing a ban on those from Muslim majority countries, by instituting measures that dissuade or prevent asylum seekers from reaching our borders, by ending birthright citizenship, we are protecting Americans from a real and certain threat—or so it is claimed.

It follows that when a caravan of Honduran mothers carrying young children on their hips, families with all their worldly possessions stuffed into backpacks, and young adults fleeing gang violence and poverty make their way on a perilous journey to the USA, we send 15,000 troops to the border to stop “the invasion.” On the surface, this may all seem appropriate, even moral. After all, the government has a moral duty to its citizens to hold back violence, keep evil at bay, and prevent the demise of American culture.

But as appropriate and moral as this may all sound, Saslow shows that the language that paints immigrants as invaders and white populations as under attack is rooted in a thinly veiled effort to safeguard white power and privilege. However sanitized the language may be, however palatable these ideas are made, however normalized such discourse may become, it still reeks of the stench of white supremacy.

For everyone, but especially for Christians, this should raise huge red flags. How can we possibly idly stand by while policies and practices that are borne out of an ideology so antithetical to the witness of Scripture are put into place? Scripture, after all, is unequivocal in the teaching that all people are made in the image of God and have inherent dignity, value, and worth. And while God did covenant with and therefore privilege one people for a time, such privilege was never meant to be an end in itself. Rather, it was the beginning of God’s work to redeem the world and draw all nations to himself.

  • God called Abraham and Sarah out from their family and their land and established them as a people so that they could be a blessing to the nations (Genesis 12:1-3). In other words, God always intended for his redemptive purposes to have a global scope, a truth which is borne out in the rest of Scripture.
  • One has only to think of Isaiah and the vision of all nations streaming to Zion (Isaiah 2:2-4).
  • Or Pentecost where the Holy Spirit is poured out so that all who have gathered from various nations and peoples can hear the gospel proclaimed in their own tongue (Acts 2:1-12).
  • Or Revelation where John envisions a time when people of every nation, tribe, people, and language will gather around the throne of the Lamb to sing their praises (Revelation 7:9).

Far from a world of racial elitism or even racial separation, the depiction of the kingdom of God in Scripture is one in which there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female…we are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).

From the perspective of Scripture, then, perhaps “white genocide” is not such a bad thing if what we mean is putting to death the notion of white supremacy and the impulse to guard white power and privilege at the expense of others.

In this day of growing tribalism, we as Christians have an opportunity to bear witness to another way forward, a way not founded on hate or fear or protectionism, but grounded in the love of God for all people as image bearers of God. And instead of trying to protect our privilege, to share it with others. For at the end of the day, have we not also been blessed to be a blessing?

Amanda W. Benckhuysen

Amanda Benckhuysen teaches Old Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her special interests include the Psalms, wisdom literature, and the classical prophets. An ordained minister in the Christian Reformed Church, Amanda enjoys hiking and biking with her husband and two daughters.

5 Comments

  • Matt Huisman says:

    Classic THE TWELVE argument: Tell a story about an irrelevant fringe group and then link it to shared political position with conservatives.

    But beyond that, I can’t even hear you on this particular argument until you address any limitations to your position. Does the whole world have rightful claim to US citizenship (and benefits)? Do they really need to come to the USA or can they just fill out some forms online? Remember, the moment you put any limit on this you’re instantly a racist/hate monger.

  • Dale Vander Broek says:

    Everyone agrees we need common sense compassionate immigration reform that addresses the nations interests and that of immigrants.
    I have also come to realize that the denigration of immigrants is the primary tool of moving toward an illiberal democracy or even a fascist state.
    This post is a welcome reminder of the dangers we face when we elevate the nation above the principles of Genesis 1:26,27.
    Utmost dignity and respect for all.

  • Leo Jonker says:

    So timely, Amanda. Thank you.

  • Donald Vander Jagt says:

    Beginning in The Garden of Eden the serpent has been spreading the lie by painting a false picture of reality! There might well be amongst those trying to ignore our laws and force entry into our Country, BUT there is a right way to enter, a way in which no American would object because it is legal and put in place for that very reason, and it would not be necessary to try to play on our hearts strings through lying about who is coming, indeed there are some mothers and children in the people coming, but the several I have heard interviewed have said to the person that they were coming for the better conditions, and at the same time many are carrying their own Countries flag and have no plans of becoming one with us. To love ones neighbor is not to sell out other neighbors, love is not blind, it is being honest and honesty is obeying the law of the land!!!!

  • Lynn Likkel says:

    Excellent article, Amanda!

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