Nearly 9 years ago, I was sitting in the audience of a small Bible conference in Calgary, Alberta in Canada. I and my family had been involved with Last Days Bible Conference since its very first days in 2002. I volunteered each year in selling merchandise for the speakers, and I briefly helped run the facebook group for the conference. My parents were both founding members and held seats on the board.
My involvement with the conference came to an end in April of 2010.
Speaker, author, and founder of Milk & Honey Ministries Rob Linsted took the stage and introduced himself as the patriarch of a family and children with many different races due to both legal adoption and his involvement with orphanages in Myanmar. He presented himself as a man who appreciated all people, regardless of what skin colour they may have.
Not 30 minutes later, he shared a video with his audience. This video had gone slightly viral within conservative Christian circles back in 2009. You may have seen it show up on your Facebook (or Myspace) feed at the time. The video is called “Muslim Demographics”. This is a production designed to alarm good white (Christian) folks to the “reality” that Muslims are going to soon overpopulate the western world and outnumber the rest of us.
Make no mistake, this is a white supremacist video.
I’ve included links in this post so that you can see for yourself that this is out there and that there are Christian ministries, such as Last Days Bible Conference, which support white supremacist doctrine. The conference in question chose to upload Rob Linsted’s sermon, despite being made aware of the disturbing content, where it still remains 9 years later.
I sat through about 3 minutes of the video presentation when anger would not allow me to sit any longer. I got up and I walked out. Only one other person, in a packed church, walked out with me.
Concerns were raised privately with Mr. Linsted after his sermon, to which he responded: “We’ll have to agree to disagree.”
When we’re talking about hate speech that is directed towards a specific group of people based on faith and/or skin colour, we are no longer in a “agree to disagree” situation. Hate speech needs to be shut down immediately.
In June of 2015, pastor John Piper visited Westside Church in Vancouver for a ‘Look at the Book’ seminar. I was living in Vancouver at the time and was able to attend. After one session, John Piper held a Q&A in which audience members were invited to ask questions. Someone asked him about his thoughts on Muslims. His response was that, while Muslims were not to be feared, we should all be aware of the potential for Muslims to be radicalized.
The Desiring God website also preaches as much, when they emphasize the idea that Islam is not to be considered a religion of peace.
No one in the audience batted an eye at this.
Not long ago, I witnessed acquaintances of mine posting videos of Muslims rioting in the streets in response to Asia Bibi’s release. The message sent to the world with each post was, “look at these violent and hate-filled Muslims. Theirs is clearly an abusive and bloodthirsty faith. They need Jesus.” There has been zero understanding of how the culture of faith in Pakistan has changed over the course of the last two decades, or why. An honest investigation of Islamic extremism may show many commonalities with Christian extremism that would shock lots of Christians (but that’s a topic for another blog post some other day).
My life in conservative Christianity since 9/11 has been spent listening to the narrative that the Islamic faith is not only heretical, but it breeds violence and hate. It’s satanic. It’s evil.
This is not isolated to conservative Christian culture. Islamophobia exists all around us.
We can see it in response from world governments. Senator Fraser Anning released an Islamophobic statement in response to the Christchurch terrorist attack that placed the blame on the Muslim community.
We see it in examples where vulnerable refugees are targeted.
We see it in how the media treats mass shootings. White perpetrators are rarely named terrorists by the media. But Arab perpetrators are designated as such immediately. However, contrary to the common narrative, statistics show that it is white men who are more likely to be radicalized to the point of being a danger to the American public.
I’m not even about to address the rise of neo-Nazism and nationalism over the last few years and the impact felt against anyone who does not fit the “good white Christian” mould, because there is simply not enough space or time to properly examine that movement at this time.
What happened in Christchurch, NZ did not happen in a vacuum. It happened because, as a society, we’ve decided that it is okay to “otherize” those who look, believe, and live differently from the white Christian population. When we give license to look upon any group of people with fear, hate, or suspicion, we give license to the logical end of those emotions: alienation, abuse, and violence.
We need to stop this now. We need to be able to recognize the red flags of white supremacy, and we need to start calling it out when we see it. Whether we see that in our places of worship, our places of work, our friends, or our family, we need to name it for what it is. We need to give ourselves permission to call people on their hateful speech.
We also need to be self-vigilant and monitor ourselves for areas in our values systems that may have been unwittingly pulled from white supremacist teaching. We need to be aware of our own potential to be taken in by toxic and dangerous narratives. When something is taught by someone we deeply trust – friends/family members, teachers, political leaders, or pastors – our defences go down and we become open to being taught. We’re far more likely in this situation to accept things as fact that we might otherwise reject as nonsense.
This is an area where all people are vulnerable – not just conservative Christians or cishet white men. Every single one of us needs to be monitoring our own values and beliefs to see if they build up or tear others down.
We need to break down the walls between ourselves and our neighbours and build relationships. Once we get to know “the other” as friends, we can no longer hate or fear them. Their humanity needs to be seen in all its beauty.
Let’s be sure that 49 people did not die in vain today. Let’s change narratives and culture to make this a safe world for everyone.