The tawdry Achord affair has revealed an ugly side to a certain part of the American Christian world. Real white supremacy really exists and is a real sin. It requires real action and real repentance from those Christians who espouse it. But in reacting to this, we need to be careful not to fall into the sin of ingratitude for other things—such as the country, warts and all, that we call home.
The recent controversy surrounding Thomas Achord, a classical Christian school headmaster exposed for running a white supremacist Twitter account, has proved instructive on a number of fronts. It demonstrates that real racism and white supremacy do exist, a point that the grade inflation to which these terms have been subjected by the professional anti-racists of the last few years has served only to obscure. We must not allow the trivialization of racism to blind us to the places where it actually is. It is also a reminder that a radical right that cannot effectively operate a pseudonymous Twitter account is unlikely to be seizing control of America by force any time soon. The views Achord and his Twitter cronies expressed were vile; their impotent online posturing unintentionally comedic. And then there was the personal abuse to which Alastair Roberts, the man who exposed the situation, was subjected by professing Christians—a reminder that for some Protestants, all Scripture is inspired and perspicuous, but some parts (e.g., the imprecatory bits) are apparently more inspired and perspicuous than others (e.g., the references to kind words deflecting wrath, turning the other cheek, observing the Ninth Commandment, and those pesky sections on not insulting brothers in the faith).
Beyond the bluster, though, two other issues struck me as noteworthy. First, it is clear that identity politics has a home on the reactionary right just as it does on the progressive left. This is no real surprise: In a world where everything has become politicized, such a scenario was bound to come to pass. The danger for Christians is that the apparent polarizing of society makes the stakes of political debates seem extremely high. In such a situation, extreme positions become attractive, even irresistible. As otherwise ordinary Christians see the country slipping away from them and into the hands of those whose culture war seems to have no moral limits, there is a temptation to repay like with like and to become the mirror image of the other side. This has to be resisted.