Why This Theologian Argues a ‘Bad-Ass’ Christianity May Be Our Only Hope to Defeat Christian Nationalism

What good is the pursuit of the intellect if it does not contribute to the betterment of humanity? Eurocentric scholarship has been reduced to knowing, not transforming. For those who are minoritized by Eurocentric academics, the goal of the scholar who is prophetic is to seek harmony with what the future might bring while remaining faithful to one’s beliefs and/or worldview—providing encouragement when it leads toward justice, dire warning when it does not. Unfortunately, a perusal of our daily newspapers makes the latter seem more normative than the former. This explains why those who were prophetic during biblical times ended up being thrown into wells, sawed in half, beheaded, chased out of town. Today they are denied tenure or simply not hired, academically blocked by Euroamerican scholars who will seldom measure up to the contributions being made by those they dismiss as activists and not true scholars. The scholar who is prophetic is either engaging in a foolish act or an act of courage. Not sure if I am being foolish or courageous, I will […] boldly turn my gaze to the future, and depending on my “predictions,” seek necessary praxis if we desire a course correction.

I am neither a fortuneteller nor a soothsayer. I lack divination powers. I am no child of Orula. Again, I am a scholar—not a prophet—who nevertheless can read the signs, a skill anyone with a minimum education can cultivate. Choosing to play the prophet is a tradition as old as the biblical text. The books in the Hebrew Bible attributed to the prophets have a common thread that runs through all of them: tsedeq—justice. Prophets arose when injustices flourished. Their message was simple. One can never have a right relationship with one’s God if tsedeq does not exist within society. They looked at the injustices of the present and then exclaimed that if a course-correction does not materialize soon, the people can expect death and destruction. [… T]he United States, from the perspective of the marginalized, lacks tsedeq; ergo, it does not know God. If America continues its present course of insisting 2 + 2 = 5, of insisting racism does not exist, of insisting climate change is a hoax, of insisting Q is truth, of insisting Trump is called and ordained by God, then it does not take a psychic to predict America is doomed.

If my reading of the signs is correct, then I can ascertain that the future being faced will become more deadly for US communities of color. The overt violence experienced by non-Euroamericans throughout most of US history up to the civil rights era was mostly replaced with institutional violence. In an attempt to mask the very visible violence that established Eurochristian superiority, violence was domesticated so that the structures—as opposed to individual bigots—enforced the white supremacist status quo. The noose may have been an effective means of sustaining an apartheid political structure, but the rhetoric of being the so-called greatest democracy on earth, the leader of the free world, became too incongruent with the reality faced by those who fell short of whiteness. Laws replaced nooses as a means of keeping people of color away from the polls while distancing Euroamericans from physical violence. Clear, unapologetic racist language employed in the past to justify suppression was replaced with polite race-neutral language that misappropriates Martin Luther King Jr.’s comment concerning not being judged by the color of one’s skin but by the content of one’s character. Political correctness in speech masks Euroamerican race-based intentions.

What I ascertain faces communities of color (truly hoping I am wrong) is frightful. If we consider the terror of the past that was required to forge a Eurochristian America, and if we consider the emerging terror of the present as demonstrated on January 6th, then we can expect that as whites seemingly become a minority, they will turn to greater violence to maintain their apartheid privilege. The insurrection was simply a disorganized dress rehearsal for what can become a more streamlined attempted coup during future elections. The insurrection was no fluke, but a carefully orchestrated first violent volley in a process to reestablish an apartheid America. The choice faced—probably for the first time—is if we will become a country where every citizen has an equal voice and vote in determining who will be entrusted with leading this fragile democracy, or if a theocracy will be imposed that merges the will of God with the will of Euroamericans. And while a slow-footed Trumpish coup fell short, the response to the Big Lie, in the form of voter suppression, is bringing an end to any minimal advances people of color might have made over the past half century.

When legislation fails to maintain apartheid, the next step for Euroamericans, fearful of losing their elevated space in society, is violence. This is the violence that echoes with the bombing of little girls attending a Sunday School class, the violence that places children in cages on our southwestern borders, the violence that snatches children from their parents and forces them into schools designed to erase their identity. When laws fail to safeguard Euroamericans’ unearned power, privilege, and profit, we can expect a return to the noose. The kinder and gentler sophisticated technological lynching of a people that required a minimum of bloodshed because death came in the form of economics and political disenfranchisement will have to return with a more physical response if it hopes to be more effective in keeping us so-called barbarians at the gates.

The good news about prophecies is that they are not written in stone. Humans have the free will to change course. But this author fears the grip Eurochristianity has upon the souls of Euroamericans. Maybe salvation from the sins and evils of Eurochristianity might lead to a break with the expected as a new trajectory is mapped out. Unfortunately, I remain hopeless. “For as a dog returns to its vomit, so too do fools return to their folly” (Prov. 26:11). To embrace the hope that the oppressed will somehow avoid the reality of a death-causing America that is hostile to all who fall short of whiteness only reinforces one’s complicity with their self-discipline.

A prophet is not needed to discern that America is at war with itself, a cold race war on the verge of turning hot. We are rushing to an Apartheid America, the result of a violent confrontation. I pray I am wrong. We are left asking if as a nation we are condemned to the consequences of the prevailing cult of Eurochristianity that continues to advance the failed policies of white supremacy. Is there any hope for those who for generations bowed their knees before the white Jesus of genocide, slavery, Manifest Destiny, gunboat diplomacy, colonialism, and all manner of oppressive political structures? Maybe the only hope is a badass attempt of being un-American by totally repudiating and rejecting Eurochristianity and the political and cultural symbols it signifies. To be un-American … is a call to crucify what it means to be an American, so that a new creature can be born again. What is needed, if we wish to survive as a nation, is for Euroamericans to get “saved.” Their salvation is made possible when they crucify their white supremacy, their white theology, and their white Jesus. Only by nailing all that provides them with unearned privilege to that cross can a semblance of resurrected hope arise.

Cognizant that anyone can demonstrate courage from a safe distance, I would hope that I would possess the courage to live for my beliefs without killing or oppressing for my beliefs. What is the point of faith in the absence of justice? The best way to be faithful to the God of liberation that may or may not exist (not that it really matters) is to fight for the liberation of Others. The best manifestation of worship is to exercise free will. The best way to be human is to unshackle one’s mind from theologies that reinforce servitude. And maybe in the final analysis, this is the true definition of what it is to be a badass Christian.

Excerpted from Resisting Apartheid America: Living the Badass Gospel by Miguel A. De La Torre ©2023 (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.). Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Miguel A. De La Torre is Professor of Social Ethics and Latinx Studies at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver. He has published over 41 books, including Burying White Privilege: Resurrecting a Badass Christianity and Decolonizing Christianity: Becoming Badass Believers. His commentary has appeared in prominent media outlets including CNN, Telemundo, NPR, TIME magazine, and many others, both domestic and international.

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