Jesus of Nazareth, drawing on Deuteronomy and Leviticus, teaches us the Law of Love. We must love God with our whole heart and our whole being. And we must love our neighbour as we love ourselves. It is a threefold law: love God, love ourselves and love our neighbour.

In the story of the man who shows compassion to the stranger, beaten, robbed and ignored by his countrymen, Jesus teaches us that our neighbour is any fellow human being of any race, nationality, religion or social situation anywhere in the world. The beliefs of white supremacists and white nationalists, such as neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, are incompatible with this Law of Love.

Christians seeking to be faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church and to obey the Law of Love are challenged by daily headlines that have placed white supremacist movements before us in ways that we would not have expected as the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King draws near.

Some white supremacists and white nationalists represent an ideology that has the goal of ensuring the survival of the “white race” and what they consider to be the superior “white culture, history and heritage”. Many white nationalists believe that multiculturalism, interracial marriage, immigration of non-white people to the United States and the low birth rates among white people are threats to the survival of the “white race” in America.

Richard Spencer is a leading proponent of “white nationalism” (who denies that he is a white supremacist). He first began using the term “alt-right” (short for “alternative right”) about 10 years ago. His National Policy Institute circulates papers repeating Thomas Jefferson’s claims of the superior intelligence of white people over African American people and stressing the crime rate in African American and Hispanic communities. Speaking at a conference of the National Policy Institute, after the presidential election, he saluted his audience saying: “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!” His followers responded with the Nazi salute.

In August, Spencer led alt-right marchers who opposed the city council’s decision in Charlottesville, Virginia, to move a prominent statue of Confederate General Robert Lee from the city’s central square. They walked through Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia carrying torches and proclaiming “white lives matter”, “Jews will not replace us”, “take back our country” and the Nazi slogan “blood and soil”, while performing Hitler salutes.

​How to continue reading…

This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week

The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection