Racism, white supremacy and guns are a toxic trio. Together, violence explodes. American culture is reeling from its toxicity. What is its REALITY? Where is REVELATION?
REALITY: Racial animosity and disparity are too prevalent in Minnesota and America. According to Everytown, in the United States, considering all types of gun deaths, Black people are 2x more likely to die by guns than Whites, 10x more likely to die by homicide, and guns are the leading cause of death for Black children and youth. In Minnesota, gun suicides by race are nearly 4x higher for Blacks than Whites, somewhat higher for Native Americans, yet less for Latinos. Gun homicides are 14x higher for Native Americans, 13x higher for Blacks and 2x higher for Latinos than Whites.
White Supremacy is alive and well. The Southern Poverty Law Center recorded histiorically high hate group numbers. “Flyering”, posting flyers and hanging banners, numbered almost 4,900 incidents in 2020, nearly 12x more than all other ideologies combined. The concept of “homeland”, that “links race or ethnicity with a sense of entitlement to territory – is central to almost all forms of extremism” according to the SPLC. Furthermore, the “Great Replacement” is a global conspiracy theory that suggests “whites are dying out.” The exponential growth of encrypted messaging using Telegram and Terrorgram are embraced by White Supremist and far-right extremists. White Supremacy coincides with the adoption of “accelerationism” which urges the dismantling of the entire economic and political system through an apocalyptic race war through a “cleansing fire” of violence to overthrow democratic government. “The system is too rotten and corrupt. It must be torn down completely.”
The vanguard of White Supremacy is the fascist Proud Boys, Boogaloo Bois and Oath Keepers. To quote the SPLC, “‘There is no political solution,’ members of the white power movement endlessly repeated. As we approached the 2020 election, their mantra shifted to ‘Voting will not remove them,’ meaning people of color, Jews, immigrants, leftists and others who stand in the way of building a fascist state.” The answer to this ethnic
scourge”? Militarization by gun. In her book, BRING THE WAR HOME, Kathleen Belew, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Chicago, traces the “overspills of state violence” from veterans who bring battlefield skills to the streets. The rigors of politics is supplanted by weaponry force. She concludes, ” . . . colorblindness, multicultural consensus, and a post-racial society were never achieved. Violent, outright racism and antisemitism were live currents . . . . waiting for the opportunity to resurface in overt form.”
Significantly, according to a poll conducted by the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics in 2020, only eight percent of 18-29 year olds believed the country is working as it should be. Also, according to a Pew survey from 2020, 71% of Americans do not believe elected officials care about ordinary citizens. (SPLC).
Where does Minnesota stand in this White Supremacy picture? According to the SPLC, Minnesota has groups of the American Identity Movement, National Reformation Party, Patriot Front, Vinlanders Social Club, The Remnant Press, Israel United in Christ, Israelite School of Practical Knowledge and the Proud Boys. The Star Tribune reported there are approximately 250 Boogaloo Bois in the state.
A personal note. While our family was living in Fort Collins, Colorado, our son, Steve, and I visited the Church of Christ in LaPorte, Colorado. It was a Christian Identity-White Supremist congregation pastored by Pete Peters, a leader in the movement. Walking into the small, white building, we looked at the many tracts in the display rack, filled with apocalyptic and racist screed. A young couple had driven from New Mexico to have their child baptized by Pastor Pete. The young father spoke of how important it was to have their child baptized by Pastor Pete. Pete preached an animated, divisive, apocalyptic, racist sermon, smothered in violent Old Testament analogies. I do not recall Jesus being a “player” in the sermon. After the “worship”, Steve and I were walking out and Pastor Pete caught up to us, apparently believing we were ripe for conversion or avid followers. We shook hands. He looked us in the eyes and asked, “Well, what do you think?” I looked him in the eyes and said, “Pete, you don’t understand Jesus Christ at all. Jesus was nonviolent and welcoming, open and loving to all.” He stood there in silence. We walked away.
REVELATION: What Biblical texts inform and transform these REALITIES? What “revelations” shine grace and hope, and call us to discipleship? The Word always engages, stirring prophetic imaginations of love and justice (Walter Brueggemann), birthing “a new and right spirit.” (Rick Barger)
First, The Creation motif of Genesis 1-2 speaks of God’s Will being nonviolent. Eden was a time and place of shalom, of harmony and balance between humanity and nature. Relationship between sexes was of oneness, complementariness and love. God did not, does not create us to kill each other.
Second, brokenness and sin was a choice. Eve and Adam chose to disobey God’s command to not eat of the apple. Similarly, Cain chose to murder Abel in Gensis 4. Evil, sin, brokenness was of people’s choosing.
Third, God chose to deliver the People of Israel from slavery in the Exodus story. Slavery, racism, was not God’s will. God willed freedom for the People of God, without constraints from outside powers. Historically, the African-American community has consistently referenced the Exodus as their foundational justification in their freedom quest. Egyptian Supremacy and slavery were precursors of modern racism and White Supremacy.
Fourth, God gave the Ten Commandments as the foundational spiritual and ethical Light for the People of God. One can argue that the ethics are a sentinel of nonviolent ethics. In the Ten Commandments, God is restating God’s original intention for the faithful life. Relationships and governance were to be leavened by nonviolent love.
Fifth, The Historical Books of Samuel, Kings, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Chronicles, Nehemiah and Esther, describe the ebbs and flows, heights and depths, hits and misses, brokenness and tranquility of Israel’s national ethos.
Sixth, the Psalms are the People’s Prayer Book, the nurturing practice of centering humanity with God, positing grace amidst brokenness, adoration blinded by disobedience, honesty wedded to holiness. Significantly, the Psalms are included following the Historical Books as if to announce a pause, a period of reflection, a time of transition from a chaotic history.
Seventh, the Major and Minor Prophets are a jarring call to repentance, a buckling of the knees, a surrendering to God’s Will of the nonviolent ethics of love and justice, recalling God’s Will of Shalom in Creation.
Eighth, Jesus is God coming to remind, redeem, restore and transform humanity to each other, creation and God. Jesus reminds us what it means to be a human being created in the Image of God. Paul states that in Christ, humanity is the New Adam(ah). What was old as in the beginning, now is happening in Christ. The Will of God is reflected in Jesus Christ’s nonviolent love.
Ninth, Jesus’ transformative ethic is unabashedly nonviolent, centered in grace-filled love, forgiveness, mercy, justice and healing. The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 and Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6 are foundational ethical injunctions, calling us to a discipleship of obedience.
Tenth, Jesus says “The greatest commandment is that you love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)
Eleventh, in Romans 13:1-5, Paul posits the authority of government to insure good conduct, to be a servant for our good, to exemplify good conduct of all citizens. Governments may need to resort to harsh judgments in this responsibility. Yet, significantly, the verses prior (Romans 12:9-21) and following (Romans 13:8-10) speak of love as the norm for behavior. Hence, governments are accountable to the transformative law of love. Governments are NOT instituted for authoritarian oppression, but for freedom mixed with love, peace and justice.
Twelfth, Paul declares Christ’s inclusive Gospel: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28)
Thirteenth, Paul is Jesus’ theologian of freedom. “For freedom, Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery . . . . For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another . . . . You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Gal. 5:1, 13-14)
Fourteenth: Slavery is the works of the flesh. Paul informs us of the expressions of the flesh, of evil, of sin: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. (Gal. 5:19-21)
Fifteenth: Paul is Jesus’ theologian od nonviolence: “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity, faithfulness and self control. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Gal. 5:22-24)
The REALITY of racism, White Supremacy and guns is informed and transformed by the REVELATION of God’s Will in Christ. God’s Will is grace active in love and justice through faith in Jesus Christ. It is the mission of the Church to engage this REALITY with the REVELATION of God’s transformative grace. It is the calling of the faithful to obey.
Blessings and Peace!
Ron Letnes (Rev. Dr.)