At 1:45 pm on March 15, 2019, a man dressed in a flak jacket and army fatigues appeared at the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, where worshippers were gathered for Friday prayers. His helmet camera streaming live to social media, his automatic weapon blazed away, leaving 42 dead and many injured. He then drove to the Linwood Mosque six kilometres away, where another seven died. Two more died later in hospital.
Who was the shooter? White supremacist Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian. He had planned an attack for two years and spent three months scoping out the mosque. “Let’s get the party rolling,” he declared, as he signalled his intent on 8chan, a far-right anonymous message board, notorious for hate speech. Nine minutes before the shooting, more than 30 recipients, including the prime minister’s office, received copies of his hate-filled manifesto.
The 17-minute livestreamed video, which remained on Facebook for 69 minutes before it was removed, was quickly copied to other platforms—YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit. . . . One and a half million copies were later removed from Facebook.
Tarrant claimed that he’d had brief contact with Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik and received affirmation for his actions from Breivik’s associates. Breivik was responsible for killing 77 people. On July 22, 2011, after exploding a one-ton bomb in front of the government building in Oslo that killed eight people, he drove to a Labour Party youth camp on the Island of Utoeya. Dressed as a police officer to get past security, Breivik began his shooting rampage, killing 69 teenagers and wounding 152. He had used the game Modern Warfare 2 for practice, describing it as “the best military simulator out there”. His manifesto expressed white supremacist ideology. He calmly told the court that he lured youth from hiding places by telling them he was a police officer who was there to protect them. When they came out, he shot them.
Tarrant also said he’d read the writings of Dylann Roof. Twenty-one-year-old Roof, a professed Christian and regular churchgoer, is another deceitful murderer. On June 15, 2015, he joined a Wednesday night prayer meeting in the historically black Emanuel Methodist Church in Charleston, South Carolina, USA. He was welcomed with open arms.
He sat there with the group for an hour in their Bible study, before pulling out a gun and fatally shooting nine people, including the senior pastor, who was also a Democratic member of the state Senate. Why did Roof do this? He was a white supremacist trying to start a race war.
On Saturday, August 3, 2019, 21-year-old white supremacist Patrick Crusius walked calmly and confidently into Walmart, El Paso, Texas, and opened fire, killing 22 and wounding two dozen more. In his rambling manifesto, posted on 8chan shortly before the massacre, he claimed the Christchurch massacre as inspiration for his attack. According to Time magazine, so did the man who carried out the April 27, 2019 attack on the “synagogue in Poway, California, killing one woman and injuring three other people”.
A gunman in Norway, August 10, 2019, after killing his step-sister, attacked a mosque. Fortunately, there were only three people present and, while one man was injured, no-one was killed. In an online post, The Guardian revealed, the shooter claimed inspiration from the Christchurch massacre, describing himself as “chosen” by “Saint Terrant”.
The founder of 8chan, Fredrick Brennan—who has since cut ties—called for the website to be shut down after the El Paso shooting, telling ABC News he had created a “monster”. According to USA TODAY, network provider Cloudflare has now cut off services for 8chan.
A global problem
Time magazine reports that white supremacists “have become the face of terrorism in America, since 9/11” and “have been responsible for almost three times as many attacks on US soil as Islamic terrorists”. White nationalism is spreading like a cancer “across social media and the dark corners of the internet, creating a copycat effect. It is a global problem, resulting in devastating attacks from New Zealand to Norway. But it is particularly dangerous in the US, which has more guns per capita than anywhere else in the world, [with] an epidemic of mass shootings”. Citing David Hickton, a former US attorney who directs the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security: “White supremacy is a greater threat than international terrorism right now. . . . We are being eaten from within.”
“At the centre of contemporary white nationalist ideology,” states The Guardian, “is the belief that whiteness is under attack.” These individuals and groups are obsessed with conspiracy theories. “Feminists to left-wing politicians to Muslims, Jews, immigrants, refugees and black people—are all conspiring to undermine and destroy the white race.”
White supremacists are paranoid about the white race being replaced. The manifesto of the El Paso killer described his attack as “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas” and “defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion”, reports Time.
Love instead of hate
The irony of this is that many white people live in countries—the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand—where, apart from the fact that they are in no real danger of being invaded, they are in fact the inheritors and beneficiaries of the displacement of the indigenous people of their lands.
As well as that inconsistency, white extremism, with its destructive hatred, is undermining the very base that gives it the freedom to express its ideology. One of the fundamental pillars of Western culture, which many white extremists swear they’ll defend to their last breath, is the Judeo-Christian world view, especially that of the Protestant Reformation. Thanks in large part to Christianity, the West has democracy, social/economic/political freedoms and the rule of law. All early modern scientists were Christians who believed in a God who created an orderly universe and gave them minds to study it. This is why the West has progressed and is so attractive to migrants and asylum seekers. But many white supremacists seem hell-bent on turning Western countries into totalitarian states.
And then, horrifyingly, many white supremacists call themselves Christians and evangelicals—these are gross misnomers. A Christian, of course, is a follower of Jesus Christ, that revered child refugee and Teacher from the Middle East whose best-known quote is found in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (italics supplied). “The world” includes everyone, as does “whoever”. Whatever our colour, ethnicity or politics, God loves every one of us—yes, including white supremacists.
And the word evangelical that has attracted so much bad press in recent decades? The word comes from ancient Greek and means “good news”, from which we get the word gospel. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, providing forgiveness (1 John 2:2; Ephesians 1:7). More than this, He also lived a perfect life that He credits to all who accept Him as Saviour: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (see Romans 4:1–8,24; 10:13).
The greatest commandment, according to Jesus, is “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’” The second, He said, is like it: “‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” We are even to love our enemies, declared Jesus (Matthew 22:37–39; 5:44).
Renowned theologian Francis Schaeffer wrote in The Mark of a Christian that “love—and the unity it attests to—is the mark Christ gave Christians to wear before the world. Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are indeed Christians and that Jesus was sent by the Father”. Yes, love is the mark of the true Christian—its opposite is hatred, including race hatred.
Jesus showed in the parable of the Good Samaritan that everyone in need is our neighbour (Luke 10:30–37). And everyone needs the gospel. It was God’s intention that the Jews were to be a light to other nations in sharing the good news of salvation to all the world (Isaiah 49:6). Yet the Jews became exclusive, treating non-Jewish people—Gentiles—as unclean and outside of the kingdom of God. Even the apostle Peter—an early church leader—had this view. God had to show him by a dramatic vision to “not call anyone impure or unclean” (Acts 10:28).
The reality is that most people, when you get to know them, are friendly, positive and family-oriented, regardless of their ethnic or religious background. And very few of us are “racially pure” in any sense. If we researched our family background or genetic markers, many of us would find a rich ethnic diversity. We’re all just mixed-up humans in a mixed-up world, but each of us is created in the image of God and dearly loved by Him.
What can we do to make a difference in the world, where there exists such hatred and evil? Can we reach out and befriend someone from a different ethnic or religious background? If we have prejudices, can we pray that God will help us to see others as He sees them?
That old song from country music legend Glen Campbell keeps ringing in my mind: “You got to try a little kindness / Yes show a little kindness / Just shine your light for everyone to see / Don’t walk around the down and out / Lend a helping hand instead of doubt / And the kindness that you show every day / Will help someone along their way.”
What a nice thought that is—to simply begin by being kind to one another. That would make a difference!
Errol Webster is a retired church pastor who is passionate about understanding society in the West—where it has come from, where it is going and how the changes affect us. He lives in the historic town of Bathurst, NSW.