In the second installment of my critique, I will be looking again at David Opperman’s essay, “A Biblical Defense of Ethno-Nationalism” which can be found here:
This post will address subsection, “Racial Pride, Loyalty, and Responsibility.”
Opperman rightly points out that all salvific merit comes from Christ alone. If we are to boast of righteousness, then we boast of the righteousness of Christ for it is in Him and through Him that we are reconciled to the Father. All of our good deeds stand as filthy rags before the righteousness of the LORD.
Opperman goes on to say, “Even Christ demands that our loyalty to himself exceed our loyalty to our immediate families and spouses! It would be a severe mistake however to conclude that attributes such as ancestry or even marriage are meaningless!” I do not know exactly what Opperman is attempting to communicate in these statements. Is he accusing non-Kinists of taking the position that ancestry and marriage are meaningless? Given the tenor of the entire essay, I’m inclined to believe that he is setting up an appeal to extremes strawman. I want to make it clear at this point that my position is not that ancestry or marriage are meaningless. However, given that I do not have an ethnocentric hermeneutic, I obviously do not attribute as much weight to ancestry as Opperman does.
Opperman then starts to build his case for the righteousness and even the importance of racial pride by referencing Romans 9 saying, “Indeed, the very same Apostle Paul who spoke those words to the Philippians also said that he was “willing to be accursed from Christ” for his “brethren, his kinsman according to the flesh.” The New International Version renders “kinsman according to the flesh” as “race.” This is a clear and unashamed expression of racial pride and loyalty.” Opperman’s case is that since Paul was willing to be accursed from Christ that his brethren according to the flesh would be saved, that Paul has racial pride and that he is endorsing racial pride. Opperman’s interpretation is flawed in two ways.
First, Paul is not expressing pride but love. Opperman conflates pride and love but the distinction between the two in scripture could not be clearer! Love is not pride. Paul loves his brethren, and why shouldn’t he? They are the people he’s been close to his entire life. They share his language, customs, and history. “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ.” (Romans 9:4-5) Paul’s lament is that of the loss of a loved one who should not have passed away! Everything was given to Israel, yet they reject the fulfillment of all that came before them. It is a tragic story, but it is the theocentric reading of Romans 9, which continues to note that in Christ blood lineage does not define who our ancestors are. “But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.” (Romans 9:6-8)
Second, there are very few instances in the scriptures where pride is condoned. Where pride is condoned it is theocentric. A few examples are:
- “In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God.” (Romans 15:17)
- “Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”(Jer. 9:23–24)
Where pride is condoned, it is pride in the LORD. It is pride in His work through us, and that we are His people. There is no hint that pride in one’s color or ancestry is acceptable. In fact, pride in the accomplishments of ancestors was exactly what Jesus warned about in Luke 3:8, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.” Elsewhere, we read that pride brings disgrace (Proverbs 11:2), that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5), that the proud are among those who are lovers of self, money, arrogant, and abusive (2 Timothy 3:2), and that pride deceives the heart of the proud. (Obadiah 3)
Though Opperman attempts to give Biblical warrant for sinful pride, he quickly switches to another argument. Opperman supports white pride because he feels white people are condemned for pride in their race while other races are patted on the back for having pride in their race. Is that unfair? Perhaps, but as Christians we shouldn’t want what the world wants. Instead of craving the right to be proud of his race like others, Opperman should be condemning racial pride altogether as there is no Biblical warrant for it. Love for our fellow white people? Absolutely. However, Paul’s lament for his fellow Jews does not tell us that Paul loved Jews more than any other group. It simply tells us that he loved his fellow Jews and hoped for their salvation. We should love our fellow white Christians, and black Christians, and Asian Christian, etc., because we are all adopted into God’s family as brothers and sisters.
Finally, Opperman states, “What Paul is teaching here is that people have familial obligations that radiate outward in concentric loyalties. Our responsibilities to humanity at large are extraordinarily small in comparison to our responsibility to our immediate family. This again demonstrates that family, clan, tribe, nation, and race have meaning in the Biblical paradigm of society.” To begin with, nobody is arguing that race is insignificant. Opperman seems to love the fallacy of appeal to the extremes by repeatedly constructing strawmen that are obviously out of a well informed Biblical worldview. If race weren’t important, the LORD wouldn’t have made us different races. This question isn’t if race is important, but how important is it?
Similar to many Kinist arguments, this one contains a half-truth. Opperman is absolutely right that Christians have concentric circles of obligation. However, Opperman’s circles of responsibility look something like this:
Family -> clan -> tribe -> nation -> humanity at large
Notice that church isn’t explicitly in this line of responsibility at all. According to Opperman’s definition of nation, church would likely reside in nation. Given Opperman’s ethnocentric hermeneutic, it’s no surprise that the first three spheres of responsibility are simply blood based.
Given the discussion above and the importance given in the scriptures to caring for those within the church, I would propose that the concentric circles should look like this:
Family -> church (local) -> extended family -> church (national) -> nation -> church (worldwide) ->humanity at large
Preeminence is given to the church and those around us that we are able to help.
In summary, pride is in our relationship with the LORD alone, which He initiated and brought to fruition, not in our race. We certainly are to love those of our own race, but not at the expense of or in the place of other brothers and sisters in Christ.