Tuesday, August 14, 2012

White supremacy: The real ‘homegrown’ terrorism. By Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite

"...the idea of white supremacy depends on a fundamental theological error, that of the ownership of the image of God by the white race..."

The most dangerous enemy is the one who most resembles you. That is why the danger of white supremacy is so underestimated as a severe domestic terror threat. White supremacy is the true “homegrown” terrorism, dating back to the 18th century in the United States. 

White supremacy is the greatest danger we as Americans face as a source of domestic terrorism, and one of the least recognized. It is difficult for law enforcement, as well as ordinary white Americans, to recognize the extraordinary threat coming from those who look like them in terms of race. That makes them all the more dangerous. 

The Southern Poverty Law Center had tracked the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting suspect Wade Michael Page (photo), a 40-year-old Army veteran with links to a white supremacist movement .

Indeed, not only was the SPLC the first to identify the shooter, according to an email from Morris Dees, sent to me and I presume others who support this reputable hate-watch group, but it had been doing pro-bono work on the dangers of white supremacy for law enforcement. The email stated, “Just two months ago, we [the Southern Poverty Law Center] distributed a special training video about the danger posed by racist skinheads like Page to tens of thousands of law enforcement officers – free of charge. This morning, [the morning after the Sikh Temple massacre] a number of law enforcement agencies told us that they would be urging their officers to watch it as soon as possible.” 

Too little, too late? Not really. This is a kind of threat that has existed since New Testament times, and probably even earlier in human history, the threat of the one who looks like me is the most dangerous threat of all. 

This summer I have been working on a book about the New Testament, and I have become aware of how those who wrote the Gospels regarded the threats in their time. The Gospel writers are aware, of course, of the threat coming from the Roman occupiers, but they are also aware of the threat posed by those much closer in their community, those Jews who do not agree that Jesus is the Messiah. 

The “reformer” Jews who were followers of Jesus, the writers of the Gospels (composed between 70 and 100 C.E.), are trying to figure out why their own religious fellows reject them, sometimes violently. Matthew shows Jesus in a titanic struggle with the Jewish religious leaders of his time, the scribes and Pharisees, whom Jesus denounces as “child[ren] of hell.”(Matthew 23:15). This struggle reaches its Gospel climax in John. 

At the deepest level, the struggle with those who are a threat to the early communities of those who follow Jesus is not with a stranger, far off, but is always actually an incredibly intimate struggle. It is not the struggle with the enemy who is very different, but with the friend, the neighbor and ultimately with the one who most resembled the followers of Jesus, other Jews. 

For white Americans, such as me, and perhaps with many in law enforcement, the greatest struggle may be to recognize the threat posed by other white Americans, the so-called “skin-heads,” or white supremacists who espouse a “Neo-Nazi” ideology. It could seem that threats to our country would more logically be from aliens who are from other countries, or those who hold religious viewpoints other than the Christian beliefs that have been so much in the American majority for so long. 

This, as the New Testament example teaches, is likely not the case... Read the full story by Susan Brooks in OnFaith / The Washington Post.

Author: Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is a Professor of Theology at Chicago Theological Seminary and its former president between 1998 and 2008. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. An ordained minister of the United Church of Christ since 1974, she is the author and/or editor of numerous books, and has worked on two different translations of The Bible... ► more

1 comment:

  1. While I agree that White Supremacists are an under-the-radar evil, I also wonder about the analogy between Jesus and the Pharisees and other Jewish rulers and our current-day concern with the hate-mongers calling themselves "Church of Aryan Nations" etc. It has been my experience that the "Aryan Brotherhood" (et al) quite frequently have a..hmm... creative association of themselves as "Christians" and that they latch on whenever possible to what might be perceived (by them anyhow) as justified hatred towards Jews in the Bible-- a validation of their anti-Jewish fervor.