From the ‘Great Replacement’ to the Great Commandment

There is an evil game being played on a large percentage of the American populace. The thing about this game is that it has potentially deadly consequences. Many “conservative” Christians in America have been sucked into this game of “us” versus “them.” It is a game in which those who are not white are cast as “the enemy.” Simply put, “the other” is the enemy.

The “game” to which I refer is rooted in what’s called “The Great Replacement Theory.” This far-right conspiracy theory involves one central belief: “Elites” (especially Jewish liberals) are attempting to replace or eliminate whites in the United States and Europe. At its core, this conspiracy theory is racist, antisemitic, and is animated by the ideology of white supremacy.

Replacement Theory has become a mainstay in the American body politic and is propagated on right-wing cable news networks. It has also been undergirded by the xenophobic and anti-immigrant rhetoric of former President Donald Trump. He infamously lamented that the United States had been receiving immigrants from “shithole” countries of darker-skinned people and not countries like Norway.    

In recent history, we have seen how one being radicalized in Replacement Theory can lead to the massacre of African Americans and other people of color. On May 14, 2022, an 18- year-old white man entered a grocery store in a predominantly Black Buffalo, New York neighborhood. Using an assault rifle, he murdered 10 Black people. This young man had written a 180-page document that was filled with references to Replacement Theory. 

Replacement Theory is nothing new. In fact, it has been around in some form for over a century. However, it has been adapted for our 21st Century context, and it has been adopted by politicians, pundits, and faith leaders, alike. Historian and author Jemar Tisby has said, “Racism does not go away; it simply adapts to the times.”

One way in which Replacement Theory has adapted is that not only is it rooted in the fear of white replacement, but it is also rooted in the protection of a particular brand of Christianity. This brand of Christianity is actually not true, biblical Christianity at all. However, it is being spread by very prominent faith leaders in conjunction with right-wing icons like Michael Flynn.  

It is a white nationalist Christianity that permeates much of the conservative evangelical world. Its ultimate goal is not spiritual transformation but political and cultural power. It is not focused on the Kingdom of God, as revealed in Scripture, but Anglo-American Empire. On January 6, 2021, the world saw the lengths to which some would go to fulfill their self-centered agenda. 

All true Christ-followers must oppose Replacement Theory, for it is antithetical to what Christ taught his disciples in the Gospels. Above all, the Lord Jesus taught them the primacy of the Great Commandment: To love the Lord their God with all their heart and with all their soul and with all their mind and to love their neighbors as themselves (Matthew 22:36-40).

The words of Jesus and the rest of the Bible are clear about what it means to love one’s neighbor:

1. Love for one’s neighbor involves love for “the other.”

Jesus taught the importance of loving anyone who is significantly different relative to their background and experiences. Consider how he was willing to engage a Samaritan woman, in John 4:1-6. He did not allow differences in terms of ethnicity and gender to interfere with the mission for which he had been sent. To Him, “the other” was not an enemy, but a person who needed to hear the Good News of the Kingdom.  

2. Love for one’s neighbor involves love for “the stranger.”

Rather than portraying immigrants as threats to the social order, the Bible presents them as persons of worth who bear the image of God. They are to be treated as such by the people of God. Leviticus 19:34 says, “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” In view of this instruction given to the Israelites, American Christians should adopt the same spirit concerning all immigrants, both the documented and undocumented. 

3. Love for one’s neighbor involves love for “the sinner”

In the Bible, a “sinner” is anyone who is either outside the family of God or someone engaged in ongoing behavior that is deemed to be sinful. Christ-followers must love such persons. While others condemned the woman caught in adultery, Jesus brought about the speedy departure of those who were prepared to stone her (John 8:1-11). Then, he presented to her the challenge to embrace a new life, submitted to God’s will. 

Whether neighbors are categorized as “the other,” “the stranger,” or “the sinner,” they should be the objects of love, not hate. They should not be viewed with derision but seen as persons of dignity. There is one thing that should motivate Christians to treat their neighbors with compassion, that is, considering how they would be treated were it not for the grace of God.  

Ephesians 2:12-13 says, “… remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

May those who have been recipients of God’s grace, show that same grace to their neighbors, whomever they might be.

By Joel A. Bowman, Sr.

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