This weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, a Trump-supporting Nazi enthusiast killed a 32-year-old woman who was counter-protesting a white supremacy rally featuring neo-Nazi flags and hordes of white men carrying weapons. Over 20 other counter-protesters were injured, including one man who was severely beaten by white supremacists in a parking garage. White supremacists were urged to attend the rally with weapons; right-wing militia patrolled the area with assault rifles.
Since then, if you’ve been lurking on social media much, you’ll have noticed various Christians, Republicans and alt-right sympathizers claiming that this was somehow the fault of “leftists.” At the very least, that it’s equally the fault of leftists. More probably, that leftists and “libtards” have encouraged violence against the right and specifically against white men, and the right was forced to respond in kind. Or, alternately, that leftists dressed up like Nazis and started the whole thing. Antifa, specifically. That Antifa was paid to stir up hatred against white dudes by pretending they were actually racist white dudes.
This is the kind of propaganda and blame-shifting that irks me beyond measure. Really quick: I’ve been invited to Antifa counter-protests of white supremacist functions hundreds of miles from where I live. It was the opposite of an elaborate plot to screw over white supremacists: just being present, if you wanted to be, was the goal. It was not well-publicized; anti-facist protesters are wary of agent provocateurs out to give them a bad rap. There was no offer of payment, no mention of “special busses” that would get me there. If I had gone, I would have driven and lodged myself. And of course, the Antifa counter-protests I was invited to did not make headlines. Nobody was hurt, so nobody cared.
As far as I can figure, it’s kind of a moot point, though. Video and still footage from Charlottesville shows garden-variety nonviolent counter-protestors being attacked unprovoked (unless you consider standing in a street provocation) by white men wearing homemade riot gear: helmets, shields, batons.
It seems likely that Antifa was present, however. Antifa is a loose band of anti-facist activists who function as individuals (there is no “official” spokesperson or agenda) and who generally believe that white nationalist rhetoric is inherently dangerous because it goes hand in hand with white supremacist actions. The history of racism in the United States is one of slavery, beatings, torture, rape, lynchings, denying minorities the opportunity to purchase land, voter suppression, disproportionate mass incarceration, and state-sponsored brutality against the unarmed or legally armed. It is difficult to separate racist rhetoric from systematic, historical violence against African-Americans, Native Americans (both historically and currently), Hispanics, Chinese and Japanese.
The lily-white, lily-livered alt-right believes that affirmative action, for example, which seeks to rectify centuries of policy designed to ensure that whites alone got ahead in life, somehow is “racism” that threatens their very existence. Or at least that’s what they say. It seems difficult to imagine that they’re serious, given that their government is almost entirely white (and male) and white men are still in charge of most big companies in this country. White men have yet to experience anything remotely like what they perpetuated, and continue to perpetuate, on minority populations in this country.
In the name of striking back against leftists and asserting their rights, alt-right individuals have attacked many, in real life, sometimes with lethal consequences. They post memes hoping for a liberal uprising that will allow them to “massacre” the left.
What shocks me most about this is not that it’s happening. This country was founded on the back of violent racism (killing off one people group and using the enslavement of another to build its infrastructure) and it’s never completely stopped. What shocks me is how many evangelicals, wooed by Brietbart and Fox News, parrot white supremacist and alt-right propaganda without even realizing it.
The vilification of the left, of transgender people, of gays, of Black Lives Matter, is shared by many evangelicals who maintain that racism is wrong, but claim that Black Lives Matter are the real racists, so let’s focus on their sins rather than our own.
Although I have seen many Christians protest racism — some were at the counter-protest in Charlottesville — I have yet to see any truly conservative evangelicals call out the American church’s historical ties to white supremacy, and how the alt-right is currently influencing conservative evangelicalism to the detriment of the country. Instead, they focus on bizarre made-up crises, like gay frogs. Or the claim that Christians are “taking fashion tips from sodomites” and that what is required in response is a kind of cultivated inattention to detail, because that’s what masculinity is all about.
Of course, “taking fashion tips from sodomites” isn’t what’s plaguing the church. Being “overly feminized” isn’t what made Mars Hills and nouveau patriarchs popular among American Christians. That’s certainly not what spurred evangelicals to elect Donald Trump, a serial liar, cheater and spurner of everything Jesus stood for, from care of the poor to humility. Evangelicals rallied behind Trump not because they’d grown fond of his meticulous gay-boy good looks; if anything, his shoddy appearance seemed reassuring. His combover is as poorly-coiffed as your Baptist grandfather’s; his self-tanner looks like it was purchased at Walmart.
A majority of evangelicals rallied behind Trump because he promised them their talking points. Abortion should be illegal. Muslims are dangerous. Non-English-speaking immigrants might be rapists. Trans people are losers. If the white patriarchy falls, then the world will be chaos. Trump appealed to a carefully-cultivated set of fears that have nothing to do with Christianity per se, and everything to do with the way American Christianity is leveraged by politicians.
What’s plaguing the modern conservative church, what’s driving it into the arms of those whose words and actions are diametrically opposed to those of Christ, isn’t “taking fashion tips from sodomites.” Aside from those who emulate alt-right bleach freak Milo Yiannopoulos, I can’t say I know any conservative Christians who would be confused with someone participating in a gay pride parade. What’s damning the modern church isn’t “pink hair” and it isn’t “feminization.” It’s the church’s temptation towards a certain reaction to these things; the idea that in the name of resisting the “feminization” of America, it’s now OK to behave like the worst kind of masculine-man there is. A womanizing, lying millionaire who worships the almighty dollar is nothing like Christ, but he is a lot like the pastors of the churches railing against “feminization.” He is a lot like the stereotypical in-charge capitalist man, glaring flaws and all. Arrogant, rapey, rich through allegedly nefarious means, unfaithful, bad at language, self-aggrandizing, in love with golf, fat, old, white.
If you’re convinced that the biggest problem with America is that men are getting too comfortable acting like women, and that whites dudes are in danger of losing their spot at the top of the food chain, then a guy like that might seem like the answer to your problems.