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The Christchurch mosque attacks: speaking Christ’s peace, truth and love

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Published: 21 March 2019 (GMT+10)
New-Zealand

CMI’s deepest sympathy and prayers lie with the family and friends of the victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks. This horrendous white nationalist terror attack occurred in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday 15 March that has left 50 dead and 34 wounded. We have prayed and continue to pray that the love of Christ rather than hatred and fear might dwell richly in the hearts and minds of all who have been affected by this despicable act of violence.

And we must be clear to call the origins of this violence for what they are: racism. A manifesto linked with the terror suspect says that the motivation was less concerned with a religious critique of Islam, and more to do with targeting non-whites who are outbreeding whites and ‘taking over the West’ (and whites who embraced Islam, which he regards as "traitors" to the white race).

The Christian response

How should we as Christians respond? First, we should pray. Pray for enemies, friends, and authorities. Pray that the love of Christ will dwell richly in the hearts of his people in Christchurch, that they may be salt and light in the midst of this dark tragedy. Pray that they may have the courage and compassion to speak the truth in love, not skimping on either, to be an aroma of Christ to all. And, of course, to pray for the victims of this tragedy that they may find comfort in the arms of the very human God who died and rose again to make them whole: Jesus, God the Son.

And we should always seek peace. First, God’s peace. But also, as far as it lies with us, peace with all around us too. We should promote peace, and recognize that, whatever disagreements we may have with the beliefs of those who were murdered and maimed, they were innocent victims of a horrendous hate crime. They remain fellow children of Adam, made in God’s image as much as any of us, and thus worthy of dignity and love.

And it is important for us to remember as well that the Bible provides a solid answer to tough questions about suffering and evil (Why would a loving God allow death and suffering?). This sort of evil reflects the reality of Adam’s Fall into sin, and our fall in him (The historical Adam and what he means for us and Cosmic and universal death from Adam’s fall: an exegesis of Romans 8:19–23a). Christ is the only answer to such suffering. His death and resurrection not only reconcile us to God, but will also result in the restoration of the whole cosmos (The New Earth).

And thankfully, this has been the main response from Christians both near and far.

White nationalism?

“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (Ephesians 5:11).

What does the terrorist actually believe? His manifesto is a manifestly evil document. He styles himself as an “ethno-naturalist” (clarifying that he “puts the health and well-being of his race above all else”), and an “eco-fascist”. He rejects the labels of ‘Christian’ and ‘conservative’, and is most concerned to see different ethnic groups live ‘in harmony with nature’ in their own separate homelands.

But fundamentally, concern for ‘the white race’ is what drives him. He cites ‘white’ nations having birth rates below the replacement level, and the influx of non-white immigrants championed by ‘anti-whites’ (supposed globalists, leftists, etc.) as a reason to fight for the ‘existence of the white race’. He turned to violent means because of a culture of suppression in politics and the media of his particular brand of racism.

So, he is a violent white nationalist. And such an objectionable ideology is easily refuted.

At the biological level, there is of course only one human race. All ‘races’ are interfertile, and perfectly capable of travelling to mate. There’s no biological reason why that’s a bad thing. There are of course differences between ‘races’, but they are only ‘skin deep’ (see Skin colour surprises and A troubling thesis—Nicholas Wade pushes an old view of the origin of races).

The Bible also testifies that we are One Human Family. We are one race united in Adam (Acts 17:26). All the people groups (How did all the different ‘races’ arise (from Noah’s family) and languages (Languages of the post-Diluvian World) can also be traced back to Babel. Indeed, this is crucial for the reality of the biblical picture (Pre-Adamites, sin, death and the human fossils). See Racism Questions and Answers.

At the cultural level, he clearly thinks the West is the best culture around. And the West has brought many benefits to the world, but its greatness has precisely zero to do with our skin colour. Rather, it has to do with individual freedom and responsibility (Christianity as progress), care for all the poor and needy, and the quest for truth and reason (The biblical origins of science) for the betterment of our lives that is in large part grounded in God’s gracious provision to the West of His own most holy faith. Christianity made the West great (What good is Christianity?). The Bible made the West great.1 The West hasn’t always lived up to the Bible, and it faces numerous dire problems today (e.g. abortion, promiscuity, and even in many places a crisis of meaning, largely due to the knock on impact of evolution: Evolution's Fatal Fruit), but it’s in striving toward those goals that God has blessed us with so much good. God has been very gracious to us. We should be thankful to God for the blessings he has given the West; not thankful to the relatively low melanin content in our skin.

At the social level, the days of the sedentary family lifestyle of ethnic groups ‘settling in their historic lands’ is a thing of the past, even for many ordinary people. The terrorist himself is proof of that; he has travelled the world, though from a relatively low socioeconomic bracket in Australia. Indeed, the very existence of Australia and New Zealand as ‘European’ nations is proof that ethnic majorities are not static in a given area.

And of course, murder is horrendously wrong (Exodus 20:13). And there are few more pathetic justifications for such heinous evil than that people's garbage racist ideas are not being given the light of day they think they deserve. Those who live by the sword die by it—that’s not an invitation to go down in a blaze of bullets, but a warning that violence won’t guarantee the victory they seek. It will only guarantee more violence. His manifesto declares that as the goal, but the irony is that if his dire analysis of the white race is right, it’s likely his violence will only help speed the demise of the race he wants to prolong. Sparking white vs white violence (which is a part of his plan) won’t automatically result in increased birth rates among whites.

In many respects, the terrorist mirrors Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik. Indeed, he even mentions Brievik and claims to have received a blessing from his ‘organization’ (which is thought by some to be a Dark Web group inspired by Breivik). See Norway terrorist: more media mendacity and Anders Breivik—Social Darwinism leads to mass murder.

The ugly side of tailoring a tragedy to a narrative

Many in the media have unfortunately used this tragedy to further their own divisive political agendas. For instance, a line from the manifesto where he regards current US president Donald Trump as a symbol of his racism has been used by many in the media to blame Trump for fostering an environment that made attacks like this more likely.2 They fail to note, though, that he has absolutely no respect for Trump as a leader and policy maker. The same has happened with anyone who has peacefully criticized Islam in the past, such as Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson, all of whom condemn violence against Muslims.3 Indeed, some in the media have even blamed Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of Bill and Hillary Clinton and herself on the left wing of American politics, for the attack. Why? She condemned the antisemitic comments of a Democratic Congresswoman who is also a Muslim.4

On the other hand, Australian Senator Fraser Anning used this white nationalist terrorism, which he instead dubbed “violent vigilantism”,5 as an opportunity to attack Muslims. Is Islamic violence a problem? Of course (see Unfair to Islam? and Unfair to Islam? Round 2). But the Muslims in the mosques were the innocent victims here, not the perpetrators. Whatever societal problems we think contributed to this tragedy, let’s be clear about the true cause: the guy who pulled the trigger—a hate-filled white nationalist.

And predictably, at least one ‘expert’ has managed to mislabel the perpetrator as a “Christian terrorist”.6 Of course, there isn’t anything Christian about his ideology. No ‘ethno-naturalist’ could say “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11). Or “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Or:

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. (Ephesians 2:11–16)

Christ crosses ethnic boundaries to create one people united in Him. Why? We’re all alike sinners guilty before a holy God, both through the fall of our father Adam and our own sin. Therefore, we’re all by faith made equal citizens in God’s kingdom, solely by grace through faith in Christ. This is the good news: Christ not only overcomes Genesis 3 (the Fall) for us, but also Genesis 11 (the splitting up of humanity at Babel). See also Is Christianity ‘for whites only’? and Sinners and saints regardless of race.

What do all these foolish moves in the media amount to? Unfortunately, they are exactly what the gunman wanted. According to the manifesto, his goal is to divide the West to foment war and revolution that he hopes will re-establish the West for ‘whites’. Large swaths of the mainstream media have been playing right into the hands of the terrorist’s agenda. Why should we let such a hate-filled man divide us? Why let him win? This sort of demonization of each other only undermines our ability to be civil and free, and will only foment the sort of unrest that he wants to see.

Blessed are the peacemakers

This is a tragic time. It is one of the worst ever terror attacks on New Zealand soil. So, we mourn. And when we often hear of so much persecution around the world perpetrated by Muslims, it can make it easier for us to grow callous when Muslims are the victims, as they are here. But Christians are called to a higher path. We’re called to love all—not only those who love us (Matthew 5:46). To live at peace with all, as far as it lies with us. And to overcome evil with good. This applies to white nationalists, Muslims, and everyone else. We all need Christ. Why? He is both our peace with God lost in Adam’s fall (Romans 5:1) and our peace with each other lost at the tower of Babel (Ephesians 2:14).


Note to comments below (added 3 April 2019): CMI is one of few Christian ministries that allow comments to our articles. We do not censor or cherry-pick unless they are off topic and or abusive. As you will see this article resulted in a larger than usual negative comments. And those that were negative, in general, claimed that we were soft on the religion of Islam by not mentioning Islam’s religious and political ideologies, and also atrocities committed by some Islamists around the world. In other articles we have been critical of same, so CMI was not being soft or politically correct (a ridiculous charge against CMI when we openly oppose government’s ideological teaching of evolution); but the murderer in this event, as duly noted in the article, was a racist and he targeted this group based upon the shade of their skin. Such a motive is an offence against God the Creator of humankind made in the image of God. This topic is a scientific one as much as a theological one, and as such, dealing with racism is part of CMI’s ministry mandate of origins and the creation vs evolution debate. Veering into the political wrongs of Islam, or jumping on the bandwagon of the ‘sins of Muslims’ in this article would have been inappropriate and insensitive. Although we posted these comments, in hindsight they were most likely off-topic as they sought to use the tragic event to introduce and highlight an anti-Islamic agenda, which was not the point of the article. And we are disappointed that some chose to use our article to do so. At CMI we have no empathy for the cult of Islam, but at the end of the day, no humans are righteous before God and deserve His wrath and judgment, and there go we but for the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

References and notes

  1. Mangalwadi, V., The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN, 2011. Return to text.
  2. Shapiro, B., The Battle For Narrative Dominance | Ep. 739, https://youtu.be/_vj1AvafhnI?t=1240, 18 March 2019. Return to text.
  3. Aziz, O., Our Brother, Our Executioner, nytimes.com, 16 March 2019. Return to text.
  4. Itkowitz, C., Students at center of viral Chelsea Clinton video at New Zealand vigil speak out, washingtonpost.com, 17 March 2019. Return to text.
  5. The relevant section verifying the quote from Senator Anning's press release on the Christchurch attacks can be found at: Young, M., Malloy, S., and Smith, R., Egg Boy speaks after egging Senator Fraser Anning for lashing out at Muslims, news.com.au, 18 March 2019. Return to text.
  6. Duff, M., Warning signs of terror attack in New Zealand have been apparent, experts say, stuff.co.nz, 15 March 2019. Return to text.

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