It was all predictable. The whole mise en scene of Black Lives Matter and the woke propaganda invited the not altogether worthy spectacle of the inevitable backlash—virtually creating the racism it claims to stand against. The overreaction makes different claims, each rich in noxious argot: Personal identity is found in ethnicity; culture building is inhibited by immigrants, it’s not sinful to have a mixed marriage but you ought not to do it, white people have a common culture, favor your race above the foreigner, ethnic separations are best, white people should proudly act white, people should use skin tone to identify “their people,” flourishing is dependent on keeping ethnic tribes, cultural repair happens with the love of father and fatherland, racial unity is the key to national harmony, build white identity in your children and marry within your tribe.
Some Christians are tempted to caress the contours of these ideas. To avoid the baggage of preexisting labels, we’ll create our own and call it White Man’s Backlash (WMB). While overreactions are part of the ebb and flow of ideas, on this matter, Christians should directly examine WMB as part of the record of its dissolution in the church.
WMB seems biblically close and far away all at the same time. It is certainly virtuous to love your family, your people, and your place. Honoring one’s father and mother is biblical. Devotion to the land of your fathers is a natural extension of the fifth commandment. But WMB doesn’t just argue for subsidiarity, which is a wholly biblical principle. WMB inclines toward race-based loyalties, which is antithetical to a gospel that has torn down all racial divisions of hostility (Eph. 2:14). Such things distort Scripture and reek of vainglory, which is not only sinful but actively opposed by God (Prov. 8:13; Pt. 5:5). Paul scolded the Corinthians for their factions (1 Cor. 3:3; 11:17-22) and berated Peter for not eating with Gentiles (Gal. 2:11-14).
It’s precisely when an idea frees itself from the immediate governance of the Word of God that theology transforms into an ideology, which means the person transforms from a theologian to an ideologue. An ideologue plucks a concept and absolutizes it, failing to see, in this case, that the entire Word of God is co-extensive. Ideologues fail because they require only a very particular embodiment of a biblical concept that, in reality, has diffuse application.
The Bible has quite a lot to say on why God’s people shouldn’t sort themselves based on ethnicity. Boaz, a landowner from the tribe of Judah (Ruth 4:18-20), married Ruth, a Moabite (Ruth 1:4). Salmon, an ancestor of David (1 Chron. 2:11), married Rahab, a prostitute from Jericho (Mt. 1:5) who feared Israel’s God. Bathsheba the Israelite (2 Sam. 11:3) married Uriah, a Hittite (2 Sam. 23:39), who fought for Israel. In the logic of race-based loyalty, none of these marriages or cross-national allegiances would be allowed. Ruth, for example, would have been returned to Moab, to her kind, and Rahab would have stood with her compatriots rather than with God. Yet each is mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy to emphasize that Jesus is the “Son of Abraham” (Mt. 1:1) who has come to save not just Jews but all those who have the faith of Abraham (Gal. 3:7).
It’s the kinship of faith rather than genes that unites God’s people. Israel was commanded to “not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” (Dt. 22:21) and “You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” (Dt. 23:9). Jesus declared that those that do the will of God are his true family (Mark 3:31-35). He also taught his disciples that their love and devotion to Christ must be more than their love for parents and sisters (Luke 14:26). So, while it is true that Christians have certain creational responsibilities because of their family and nation, those are subservient to the ecclesiastical (Eph. 2:19) and heavenly (Phil. 3:20) responsibilities where it doesn’t matter if you are Greek or Jew (Col. 3:11) because you are united not by the blood of kin but the blood of Christ (Rev. 5:9).
Acts 17:26 has been clumsily used for centuries to justify enforcing racial partitions. It reads, “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.” The mistake is to assume this means that the boundaries of nations are changeless and inert. The point is something very different, as F.F. Bruce explains, “The Creator of all things in general is the Creator of mankind in particular. The Athenians might pride themselves on being autochthonous—sprung from the soil of their native Attica—but this pride was ill founded. All mankind was one in origin—all created by God and all descended from one common ancestor.” Paul is rebuking the ethnic loyalties prevalent in Greece, reminding them that God’s creative prerogative was to make a barbarian, Scythian, slave, and free all from one blood, Christ’s blood.
So, when it comes to WMB, we must be careful that we are not drawing from a tradition in a way that makes us part of the tradition. True enough, as Edward Gibbons observed, there may be insights available from those whose bigotry is accompanied by erudition, diligence, and veracity. But, identifying with such a one is not sufficient preparation for crafting a Christian position. The church has resources aplenty theologically, historically, ethically, philosophically, and politically that there is no need to cruise on a cracked carriage. Let them have their feeble reactionem. We have Christ, which means we can set ourselves outside WMB and stake a distinctively Christian position. This ensures that no genetic relationship exists between Christians and WMB and that Christians don’t get wrongly christened as racists perforce.
To call WMB an overreaction is not to say it was thought up on the morning after George Floyd’s death. WMB is a contextualized recovery of some of the most nuanced elements in the grievous history of racialist thought. While it’s possible to partially reject and partially recover an idea, that’s not what’s happening when Christians #WhiteBoySummer, which signals implicit faith in the whole, intentional or not.
The current experience of living in America, where the Left is achieving heightened levels of insanity, forces Christians to choose between an increasing number of possible reactions. The internet is a marketplace to shop for a new subculture. You read something here, latch on to something there, and post your discoveries on social media. In the process, you are not only making decisions about how to act but are remaking the core of what you think about yourself. It’s lost on people that they are transforming their very selves, sleepwalking their way to a new center, divesting themselves of the heart of the gospel, oblivious to the fact that race-based fealty is idolatry; the idolatry of skin color.
WMB is not the best way to oppose woke-ism. There is a distinction between Jesus’ command to “make disciples of all nations” and the globalist dream of borderless globalism. And Christians have all the resources necessary to make that distinction without WMB. The Left may be obsessed with race. They may force it into every conversation, put it on every form, and interpret all of life through its lens. But that doesn’t mean Christians have to fall for it. We can speak clear and honest truth about the race-hustlers, but we must demarcate the right areas.
Just as it is a mistake to artificially diversify the church to match the local demographics, it is also a mistake to have a garrison mentality with a group based on the amount of melanin in the skin. And, of course, garrisons these days are identified on the internet with hashtags. The great danger is that WMB will unwittingly lead to a frontal lobotomy where the person cannot remember the heart of the gospel, namely, that the gospel doesn’t work like WMB, and thankfully so, since the grace of God goes far beyond the border of Israel (Mal. 1:5). Jesus’ blood is thicker than blood. WMB is not the recovery of the raw vitality of nature. It’s the burial of the gospel.
You could water the flowers with a jug of water that has only several drops of herbicide in it and they might survive. But why risk it when you could sprinkle them with pure water?
F.F. Bruce, Acts, NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1979).
Jarislav Pelikan, The Vindication of Tradition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984), 18 – 40.
David F. Wells, Losing our Virtue: Why the Church Must Recover its Moral Vision (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 85f.
 Subsidiarity says that responsibility falls to the smallest possible unit. In application it means we should prioritize the smallest possible unit. We have one type of obligation to our family (1 Timothy 5:8) and another to our local church (Galatians 6:10; Hebrews 13:7, 17), and another to the magistrates of our local government (Romans 13:1ff).
Jason Cherry is an elder at Trinity Reformed Church in Huntsville, Alabama, as well as a teacher and lecturer of literature, American history, and economics at Providence Classical School in Huntsville. He graduated from Reformed Theological Seminary with an MA in Religion and is the author of the book The Culture of Conversionism and the History of the Altar Call, now available on Amazon.