Another racially motivated hate crime hit the news on May 14th, 2022. Once again, innocent people lost their lives because of their skin color. On the one hand, we’re making progress on racial unity. On the other hand, violent extremism keeps rearing its ugly head.
This new normal is the background for Christian life and ministry. We are called to shine our Christian light and show the way for such a time as this and in such a landscape.
Are we ready and equipped?
Dressed in tactical gear and fully armed, a white teenager walked into a grocery store and opened fire, killing ten people and injuring three. All but two of the victims were black. News articles attest that the teenager called himself a fascist, white supremacist, and antisemite. He chose Tops, the grocery store in Buffalo, NY, because of its predominantly black population.
The shooter’s digital footprints indicate he espoused the “great replacement” theory. This belief suggests whites were being replaced by people of color and immigrants from other countries. He made no attempt to hide his intentions, even writing “White Lives Matter” and other slogans on the gun he used in the attack.
When I heard about this attack, I was both surprised and not surprised. I was not surprised that haters existed, hate can incite violence, and those mass shootings became a common crime in America. I was surprised that a teenager could become so infected with wrong ideas that he was driven to kill innocent people mercilessly. This boy was convinced that the white race, being the superior one, was under attack and that the only way to preserve the purity of the nation was to get rid of people of color.
How do we Christians react to all of this?
First, we use our voices to call out racism and xenophobia. I know we might get tired of doing this because there seems to be an incident on the news almost every month. I’m guilty of being comfortable with silence because I feel I’ve done enough. But we cannot afford to be desensitized or silent. We cannot wind down.
The people who generate and promote evil and racist ideologies are relentless. As long as they’re spreading hate, our call for love and unity must be unstoppable. In fact, we need to up the ante, and our message for unity and inclusion has to be louder than racist propaganda.
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defends the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9 (NIV).
Mass shooters have guns and gear, and Christians have pulpits and pens. Our churches can be powerhouses of love and community where the gospel is preached and embodied. As individual Christians empowered by the Holy Spirit, we can blanket our neighbors and communities with loving words and actions. God has given us everything we need to fight this war.
Why are we not picking up our weapons and deploying them?
Second, we can be proactive in rooting out prejudice against other races or biases against foreigners from our hearts. I’m not saying we are all racists, but none of us is entirely free of implicit biases. We can ask the Holy Spirit to help us recognize and purge thoughts and motives that might cause us to look down on or be afraid of people from a particular race or culture.
To build bridges of understanding, Christians individually and corporately must actively seek opportunities to befriend people from other races and cultural backgrounds. As we invite diversity into our inner circle, we can better learn from each other.
Motivated by Jesus’ exhortation to serve the least of these, we can look for ways to advocate for and minister to the needs of the marginalized and oppressed (Matthew 24:34-40).
Third, we can guard ourselves against being influenced by harmful ideas by immersing ourselves in God’s Word and holding firm to biblical values. “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” Ephesians 6:11 (NIV). There has never been a better time to dig deeper into God’s Word and understand His heart and purpose for equality and unity with diversity.
In the beginning, God created diversity (Genesis 1:27). And in the end, the new heaven and new earth will explode with people from all nations, tribes, and races (Revelation 7:9-10).
Racist ideologies stem from unhealthy fears and self-preservation. Proponents of the “great replacement” theory fear that native or legacy white Americans will be outnumbered by people of color. There is no biblical basis for such a school of thought. Entertaining such theories and giving them any space in our minds is a great sin.
We must be united and vocal about our stand against such harmful notions.
The Great Replacement
Our citizenship in heaven takes precedence over our earthly citizenship. The only demographic or infographic that matters is the number of people in our zip code who are not citizens of heaven. Jesus shed His blood on the cross so all people could be saved and reconciled to God (…with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Revelation 5:9 (NIV). And He calls us to proclaim the gospel and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). This is the replacement that should concern us – the replacement of enemies of the cross with friends of God.
Against a backdrop of hate crimes and racial violence, God calls us to carry out His purpose for us —to love God and love people—with increased passion and urgency. Right now, this mandate can translate into speaking up loudly and boldly against racism. The need of the hour is to replace senseless hate with radical Christian love.
“We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command:
Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” I John 4:19-21 (NIV)
MABEL NINAN is an award-winning editorial contributor for Leading Hearts Magazine. Find out more about her and her latest book, Far From Home, at mabelninan.com.