In Time, Brian McClaren pens a Dreher-like warning (“The ‘Alt-Right’ Has Created Alt-Christianity”):
In a December 2016 conversation, journalist Graeme Wood, a former high school classmate of [Richard] Spencer’s, was surprised when Spencer started talking to him about religion, not defending Christianity but “he longed for something as robust and binding as Christianity had once been in the West, before churches surrendered their power to folk-singing liberals and televangelists.”
Piccolini, Evans and Spencer himself are telling us something we need to understand: White nationalism isn’t simply an extremist political ideology. It is an alt-religious movement that provides its adherents with its own twisted version of what all religions supply to adherents: identity, a personal sense of who I am; community, a social sense of where I belong; and purpose, a spiritual sense of why my life matters. If faith communities don’t provide these healthy, life-giving human needs, then death-dealing alt-religions will fill the gap.
So as traditional Christian institutions shrink, stagnate and struggle, Spencer and his white-supremacist allies, feeling supported by Donald Trump, are creating a violent alt-Christianity, as their counterparts in the Middle East have created an alt-Islam. They are supplying their followers with alt-liturgies, alt-mysticism, and alt-magic and are willing to smash, burn, destroy and kill for it, as they idolize their vision of “America” as a white “ethno-state,” an absolutized, divinized race and nation.
In Charlottesville, I saw Nazi flags on American soil and alt religious fervor in the faces of American Nazis and white nationalists. The message I will bring to faith leaders around our nation is both urgent and clear: Aristotle was right. Nature indeed abhors a vacuum. If we don’t provide emerging generations with genuine identity, community and purpose through robust and vibrant spiritual communities, somebody else will do so. If good religion slumbers and stagnates, bad religion is the alternative.