I have always been bothered that people who believe in and live by the principles of white supremacy call themselves “Christian.” It has been anathema to me that one could lift up the name of the Christ, who taught by example that all people matter, even while practicing discrimination against Black people, certainly, but against other groups of people as well.
The God of white male Protestants has been alarmingly approving of racial, sexual, and Xenophobic, homophobic behavior and beliefs, as well as anti-Semitism. It has been troubling, causing many to fall away from Christianity and from the church, and some completely rejecting the person and ministry of Jesus the Christ.
That God – the God of white supremacists – was called upon by white supremacist, MAGA Trump supporters during their attack on the Capitol Building on January 6. In a scene which sickened me to my core, one of the insurrectionists called upon the rioters to stop and pray to the Lord Jesus, asking Jesus to bless their efforts to overturn the American government. (https://faithfullymagazine.com/capitol-hill-attack-video-pray/) They bowed their heads. They lifted up their hands, and they prayed.
“Jesus Christ, we invoke your name!” they cried out loud.
It should not have surprised me. White Protestant Christianity has represented the very opposite of what I was taught Jesus was about, but throughout American history, white Protestants have invoked the name of Jesus to support their racism. Racism might be wrong, some would say, but it was not a sin; slavery, they would add, was created and sanctioned by God.
It is notable that some of this nation’s most rabid racists called themselves Christian and were quite religious. Sam Bowers, who when alive was the Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, believed that God had called him to “embark on a holy war for white supremacy.” Bowers was a devout Christian; he taught Sunday School, and before he sent members of the Klan out to carry out racial violence, would lead them in a prayer, and often had them fast as well. He ordered the murder of Vernon Dahmer, a Black man who dared register to vote and get other Black people to register as well, and to his dying day (he died in prison in 1982 after finally having been convicted of Dahmer’s murder) never uttered a word of regret.
In his mind, as well as in the minds of so many white supremacists, what he did had been ordered by God.
The late Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., was also a devout Christian but was rabidly racist. He, too, felt that his racism was something God was comfortable with, because “the Bible” sanctioned it – racism, as well as slavery. He was once questioned about his Christianity and his lack of willingness to “love his neighbor as himself.” Wasn’t that racism, he was asked, an abrogation of Christian principles? Byrd said no, it wasn’t. He knew the scriptures, he told an interviewer, and he acknowledged the command to love one’s neighbors, but, he said, “I get to pick my neighbor.”
I thought about his words, and about Bowers’ devotion to his Christian faith. I have no way of knowing, but it is highly probable that, in spite of the racist violence he fomented and in which he participated, he died believing that God was smiling on him, saying, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
Many of the rioters who stormed the Capitol on January 6 are probably members of a Protestant church somewhere; many are regular church goers. Some may have had a prayer meeting before they traveled to Washington. This is what they knew: that Jesus was their savior and Trump was their president. What they believed is that their savior was going to usher in their president, with the anointing of God.
The image of them praying in the Senate chambers is sobering, but their belief in God-sanctioned violence to protect and preserve white supremacy is more than sobering. It is offensive.
Their God is not my God. It never was and it will never be. Their fervent effectual prayers are not the same ones I would pray. The God I learned about in Sunday School is not the same one that they learned about. There is but one Bible, but apparently, there are at least two Gods.
A candid observation…