This week, a 21-year old white man took the lives of eight people, six of whom were Asian women, in Atlanta, Georgia. The shooter was a self-avowed Christian and a member of a Southern Baptist Church, which issued the following response.
Questions are still being asked about the shooter’s motives. The young man claimed that he was eliminating what he deemed to be a sexual temptation. Others are rightly asking if the shooting was a racially motivated hate crime. A normal response to moral failure is usually self-criticism and disappointment, not murderous rampage.
Anti-Asian attacks around the country have been on the rise during the pandemic. Hatred is being directed at people of Asian descent for the irrational reason that they are somehow to be blamed for COVID-19. We cannot allow these injustices to stand, especially in the Church.
When the source of violence like we witnessed in Atlanta is from the ranks of our own membership, the Church must pause for self-reflection. Are there reasons why any members of our churches have adopted anti-Asian attitudes?
I have never been a part of a church that explicitly taught racism. That said, there are Christians who are being drawn to ideologies that nurture racist attitudes. As shepherds of the Church, pastors cannot afford to ignore the ways our members are being formed and discipled by other forces in the culture.
There is little doubt in my mind that the divisive culture of American politics is fueling the attitude that categories of people are threats to be feared and resisted. White Christian nationalism is a growing problem that the Church must address. This is the kind of ugly mutation of the faith that results when you mix a distorted Christianity with national loyalty, racism, and fear. The time is past for churches to directly confront such idolatry as a massive distortion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Church should be leading the charge against expressions of hate in our country. If we claim to be pro-life, we must defend and promote life for all people from womb to tomb. There can be no exceptions for what lives we choose to love, because God loves all people without distinction.