What is “Replacement Theory”? Three biblical responses

What is “Replacement Theory”? Three biblical responses May 27, 2022

NOTE: The Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention released a list last night of alleged church-related sexual abuse offenders. I will respond to this news in a Daily Article Special Edition later this morning.

Irma Garcia was one of two teachers killed in the Robb Elementary School shooting on Tuesday. Yesterday, her grief-stricken husband died of a heart attack. Her nephew said on Twitter that he “passed away due to grief.”

This tragic news reminds us that sin affects everyone it touches. Those who loved someone who was murdered in Uvalde are dealing with a grief others cannot fully fathom. The same is true today in Buffalo, New York, and wherever such tragedies occur.

While we “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15), we also owe these victims and their loved ones our best effort to understand such shootings so we can do all we can to prevent them in the future.

As I noted yesterday, many mass shootings are prompted by personal rage and animosity. Some, however, are prompted by ideology. The alleged gunman in Buffalo is an example: he left behind a 180-page document filled with hateful rants about race and ties to the “great replacement.”

I want to devote today’s Daily Article to this subject. It is a little longer than usual, but I am praying that our discussion helps us understand this issue and then take biblical steps to counter its malignant growth in our culture today.

What is Replacement Theory?

According to an insightful article written by two sociologists in The Conversation, Replacement Theory (RT) advocates “think there is an organized, conspiratorial effort across all levels of society to establish a ‘great replacement’ of white people, white civilization, and white culture.” They especially believe that immigrants are part of this plot, though RT extends to Jewish people and Black people, both of whom are seen as inferior and a threat to white people.

Four out of ten Americans identify as nonwhite and the number of white people in the US is expected to decline through lower birth rates. As a result, RT believers think they must correct this declining influence of white identity however they can.

A core belief in the white supremacist movement and RT is the fourteen-word slogan, “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children.” One scholar calls this quest “a sort of a holy war . . . where they see themselves as taking the action directly to the offending culture and people by eliminating them.”

The Buffalo shooter thus targeted victims in a predominantly Black neighborhood and because they were Black. He said in his screed that the decrease in white birth rates equates to a genocide.

What is the history of RT?

French writer Renaud Camus wrote “Le Grand Remplacement” (which translates to “The Great Replacement”) in 2011, giving rise to the term in more popular use. However, RT has a tragic history going back to the first part of the twentieth century.

In 1903, an antisemitic document titled “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” described an alleged Jewish conspiracy to dominate the world. The early twentieth-century writings of French nationalist Maurice Barrès warned that a new population of immigrants would take over and “ruin our homeland.”

Beginning in the 1960s, KKK leaders and other white supremacists reiterated replacement ideas in their racist political activism. The internet has become a main forum for recruiting more white supremacists and encouraging belief in RT.

Consequently, a shooter who killed at least fifty Muslims in New Zealand in 2019 wrote about an alleged “assault on European people.” The extremist who attacked the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburg in 2018 targeted Jewish people, killing eleven. The shooter in the Walmart attacks in El Paso, Texas, in 2019 wanted to target Hispanic people, killing twenty-three.

Is RT gaining popularity in the US?

The Conversation article writers note that “conspiracy narratives like replacement theory often find fertile ground during a period of cultural change. As the US population becomes more diverse, replacement narratives have moved from the margins of extremism into the mainstream.” For example, white nationalists marching at a 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, chanted, “You will not replace us!” and “Jews will not replace us!”

A version of RT that focuses not on alleged white superiority but on political and economic demographics has also gained in popularity.

A May 2022 Associated Press public poll reports that about one in three adults in the US “believes an effort is underway to replace US-born Americans with immigrants for electoral gains.” Three in ten respondents also worry that more immigration is causing US-born Americans to lose their economic, political, and cultural influence.

Given the surge of illegal immigrants on our southern border, some claim that Democrats want to encourage such immigration so these immigrants will vote for Democrats. Note, however, that only US citizens can vote in state and federal elections and that attaining US citizenship typically takes several years. It is also the case that roughly two in five Latino voters cast a ballot in the 2020 election for then-President Donald Trump. (For more, see Mark Legg’s “Why the ‘Great Replacement’ theory is so dangerous.”)

Why is white supremacist ideology popular?

From the garden of Eden to today, humans have been tempted to “be like God” (Genesis 3:5). Nietzsche was right: the “will to power” is the basic drive in fallen human nature.

Consequently, we are tempted to feel superior to others wherever and however we can. White supremacist ideology, with its paranoid fear of the “other,” is one expression of this sinful drive.

In his excellent book Divided We Fall: America’s Secession Threat and How to Restore our Nation, David French notes that by the election of 1860, the South came to believe that its culture and essential liberties were under threat. He writes, “[The South] was consumed with an unreasonable fear of violence and a belief that white northern radicals actively wanted to harm the people of the South.” This fear “made many southerners believe that secession was an urgent, immediate imperative.”

RT advocates are motivated by the same fear of the “other” today.

“A good man does good works”

The Bible encourages us to respond in three ways.

One: Love every person as God loves them. 

Racism is sin. “God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34). Consequently, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). God therefore rejects violence (Psalm 11:5) and calls us to do the same (Isaiah 60:18). Ask the Spirit to give you God’s heart for every person you meet today (Galatians 5:22).

Two: Embrace immigrants as God embraces them. 

Space does not permit a discussion on illegal immigration, an issue I have addressed in detail elsewhere. For today, let’s heed God’s word: “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him” (Exodus 22:21); “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers” (Hebrews 13:2; cf. Leviticus 19:33–34; Deuteronomy 10:18–19; 24:19–22; Ezekiel 47:21–23; Zechariah 7:10; Malachi 3:5; Matthew 25:35, 40). No matter how they came into our country, every person in the US is now our “neighbor.” Ask God to show you how to love them as you love yourself today (Matthew 22:39).

Three: Serve others as Jesus served others. 

It is not enough to reject evil ideology—we must counter it by putting biblical truth into action. Jesus said he “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Ask him who and how you can serve in his name.

Martin Luther noted, “Good works do not make a good man, but a good man does good works.”

How “good” will you be today?

NOTE: Bible study isn’t about getting through the Bible. It’s about God getting through to you. If you wrestle with having a consistent, personal time of Bible study, our latest book may help. Request your copy of A Light Unto My Path today. 


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