This past week, a young man went to a grocery store in Buffalo, New York and started shooting. The location chosen, after a prolonged period of planning by the shooter, was in a Black neighborhood. He shot victims for one reason and one reason alone: they were Black. The white shooter was convinced that a vast conspiracy was afoot to “replace” all the white people in his world, including himself, with people of color, immigrants, and Jews. He was driven by hate cultivated by paranoia, fear, and just plain old stupidity.
“Replacement Theory” posits that officials and dark forces (they are always dark) are working to take away the power, authority, and privilege of the white population (even though, inexplicably, most of the officials are still white themselves). This “theory” has been a hate-filled motivation for shootings at Emmanuel Church in South Carolina (2015), a synagogue in Pittsburgh (2018), a Walmart in El Paso (2019), and a mosque in New Zealand (2019) – just to name few.
After decades of efforts to make this world a better place for everyone, not just white men, we come to a backlash that seeks to re-establish the injustice and hate of the past. More than 150 years after this nation tore itself apart to make the first strides to extend the promise that all people, even black ones, were created equal, we now face the radicalized hate of those who want it the way it used to be. White men now must share power, privilege, position with non-white, females, who might be LBGTQ+. We should all be dancing in the streets. We should be rejoicing that humanity is moving past its evil propensity for hate and into a more diverse, more just world.
Resentment and hatred, however, are the by-products of the progress we have made toward enacting the reign of God. Supported by mainstream politicians of a mainstream party, and on mainstream news shows, purveyors of this so-called “replacement theory” gain strength and sway. A lie is perpetuated. Hatred is peddled. All for the sake of selling ads and gaining political power among the hateful.
The truth is that there is no scheme to replace white people afoot. (There have been schemes for white people to replace red and black ones, but that is another article). Yes, the white population’s share of the population is shrinking. In twenty-six states, the death rate is higher than the birth rate among whites. Whites have increasingly smaller families. The reasons are complex, but I cannot but notice that history tells us that when we humans become affluent, privileged, and powerful, we also have fewer children. We seem to become apathetic and self-absorbed. We are less concerned about leaving a legacy and more focused on present pleasures. Kids are expensive and a terrible drain on leisure time. (Please read this with an appropriate amount of sarcasm).
What does God have to say about all this? Well first, Jesus was not a white man. He was Palestinian and Jewish. He welcomes YOU even though you do not match HIS color profile.
In this season of resurrection and the birth of the church, we see stories about Jews and gentiles brought together. We hear about Ethiopian eunuchs (black and asexual) baptized. We get this vision of heaven in Revelation:
The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. (Revelation 21:24-26)
ALL the nations and peoples of the earth will be united in the presence of God and the Lamb. God’s vision of humanity embraces everyone and everything. In the reign of God, you cannot hate another human being, regardless of the color of their skin or other category. ALL people are created in the image of God. For a man to shoot people in a grocery store because he hates them, is to hate God and call for God’s death.
For this white man, I am more than willing to give away power and privilege I possess, not because of my effort, but by luck alone, to foster unity among people created by God. Because my Lord was willing to give away his life for my sake, for the sake of all, I will with joy and thanksgiving step aside, give up my place, so that those who have been trampled, excluded, and pushed aside for far too long may take their rightful place in the reign of God and in this world.
Every time we give in to hate, we crucify God anew. Every time we draw lines of division we lay a schematic for hate – and God begins the act of erasing the drawing and replacing it with the construction of a New Jerusalem that is inhabited by people of every color and variety. The only replacement theory we should be talking about is the one that declares God is renewing and replacing the hate of this world with a reign of love, justice, and peace.
Tim Olson – Lead Pastor