What is the Alt-Right?
To state it concisely and candidly, the “alt-right” is a racist, white supremacist and patriarchal movement. Abounding in different sects, the alt-right is united by the common thread of white identitarianism. The term is prevalent and has gained prominence over the past year. Not surprisingly, it has garnered more attention after being denounced by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
However, denouncing the alt-right is not merely a Southern Baptist issue; it is a Christian issue. Further, the denunciation of the alt-right is not limited in scope to Christians in America, but to Christians globally. Globalization can turn domestic issues into international issues. As a result, the denunciation of the alt-right is not just a denominational or regional issue, but broadly a Christian issue.
Why Should Christians Denounce the Alt-Right?
Christians should denounce the alt-right for many reasons. In particular, I want to highlight three reasons concerning the effect it will have on the church and her witness.
1. The Alt-Right Blasphemes The New Humanity, a “chosen race.”
As N.T. Wright explains in his Romans commentary, Paul for Everyone, God is busy “putting the world back to rights.” God will establish his reign and put the world back to rights through his intended plan from the beginning — through the creation of humanity. In this humanity, there has always been the intention of diversity.
Diversity was a part of the beauty of the creation of humanity — i.e. different shapes, colors, sizes, languages and cultures. The gospel assures us that this intended purpose from the beginning has been re-established in Christ. Yet the vision of a diverse world does not hold true for anyone with the ideology of the alt-right. Instead, an alt-right ideology demands a homogeneous race with diverse cultures. This is not a new ideology; it is an ancient Tower of Babel ideology.
After the judgement of the flood, the people of the earth gathered together under the tyrant Nimrod. The Scriptures state,
Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord…the beginning of his kingdom was Babel… (Genesis 10:8-9a; 10)
The goal of this tyrant and the people under his authority is revealed when they suggested, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly, and they had bricks for stone…” (Genesis 11:3b). There is more than meets the eye in this text. The agenda of these ancient people was to make an empire of the earth of one people group and one language, a people that are like bricks – all the same.
The gospel will not allow it. Rather, it demands a new yet ancient idea of humanity — a humanity that resembles the uniqueness of living stones and not common bricks. Instead of us in our idolatry saying, “Come, let us make bricks” (people that are all the same), the Apostle Peter exhorts us to,
Come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood. (1 Peter 2:4-5a)
The symbolism is clear: bricks are man-made and all the same, but stones are God-made and beautifully diverse. The alt-right is man trying to make bricks; the gospel is God making man living stones.
In God’s manifold wisdom he desired to make humanity his image-bearers. In one sense, this means we reflect him, but in another sense we extend his reign on the earth. This means that God intended humanity to multiply to extend God’s reign on the earth. This mandate, restored through Christ, has been given to the new humanity in him.
But, an alt-right ideology stifles the extended reign of God over all the earth. The alt-right ideology only produces a one dimensional superior race and culture; white identity is to be glorified and it’s reign is to be extended. The gospel of the alt-right would suggest that humans were meant to bear the image of “whiteness.” In contradistinction, the gospel boasts of a new humanity that doesn’t bear His image monolithically, but in rich diversity as his reign is extended through us. Thus, when we denounce alt-right, we also affirm that God wants his church to be diverse.
2. The Alt-Right Blasphemes the New Priesthood, a “royal priesthood.”
Christians are not only called to be a new humanity, but act as a royal priesthood. In simple terms, that means that we “proclaim His excellencies” in word and deed (1 Peter 1:9). More specifically, the Christian is tasked to do as Adam was commanded to “work and keep” the dwelling place — the earth — between God and man holy. God reinstates the commands given to what is now the “fallen human race” to Christians. Therefore, the Christian is tasked with working in word and deed to make the earth the place it was intended it to be until the final restoration.
How do we “proclaim His excellencies”? Through loving God and others — for all work is done for and to this end. The Christian as priest must guard and protect against anything that will destroy these relationships in this earthen sanctuary. Yet, the church is where this practice of the priesthood is inaugurated. We learn how to love God and others within this community. The Christian must not only denounce (word), but also work and guard (deed) against this destructive ideology of the alt-right within the midst of the church. Anything less than denunciation of the alt-right is a blaspheming of the new priesthood. Alt-right ideologies harm our ability to love God and others, which means it harms our ability to be the new priesthood.
3. The Alt-Right Blasphemes the Name of God Amongst the Nations.
A lack of denunciation also magnifies irreverence to the name of God amongst the nations. If we refuse to denounce the alt-right, the church stands in danger of Paul’s rebuke to Israel,
You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For it is written, ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.’ (Romans 2:23-24)
However, denouncing the alt-right and it’s wicked ideology could be a proof of circumcised hearts of a new humanity. In other words, our efforts to denounce the alt-right show the world that God has changed our hearts and lives.
There is room to be encouraged that the denunciation of the alt-right by the SBC was the proof of circumcised hearts of a new humanity — the church. For the church will not have the outcome of the former Adam or Israel. Instead, this new humanity, this chosen race and royal priesthood will “proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light….[keeping our] conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against [us] as evildoers, they may see [our] good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:9b;12).
In short, Christians must denounce the alt-right because it proves who we are, a new humanity and royal priesthood set on glorifying God. Even more, Christians must denounce the alt-right because it proves how we act, careful to protect anything that will blaspheme God’s name in his church amongst the nations until, “the day of visitation” or the restoration to come.