While some are focusing on the news that Long seems to have been motivated by sexual shame, Asian-Americans (Christian and otherwise) have found the idea that he was not motivated by race to be disingenuous and offensive. “I cried a lot today. More than I’ve cried in years,” tweeted Raymond Chang the day after the shooting. Chang is president of the Asian American Christian Collaborative (AACC). “This was a racial hate crime,” he said. “What’s sad is that he is a self professed Christian, who professed a love for ‘God and guns.’”
Timothy Isaiah Cho, Associate Editor at Faithfully Magazine said, “[Long] isn’t a member of some fringe church, but in a church that is similar to what many of us call home.” Said Cho, “One of the unsettling realities about the fact that the shooter was an active member of a White Evangelical church is that it makes people of Asian descent wonder if another Robert Aaron Long is sitting with them in the pews every Lord’s Day.”
Kwon commented, “You may distrust or despise the concept of ‘intersectionality,’ but I’d like to suggest that you cannot truly grasp what happened in Atlanta without seeing the cumulative force of the victims’ overlapping identities as women, as Asians, and as economically vulnerable immigrants.” The potential dangers of intersectionality and critical race theory (CRT) is another controversy that has plagued the SBC over the past year. Many Black Christian leaders have the left the denomination as a result.
This violence against our Asian American neighbors is from the mouth of hell. Hate acts. It does not stay confined to the heart & mind. It incites the tongue. Untreated, it travels to hands & feet. Hate is murderous. (1Jn 3:15) Stand against it. Speak against it. Pray against it.
— Beth Moore (@BethMooreLPM) March 17, 2021
Samuel Perry, a sociologist and scholar who wrote “Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States,” also sees a racial motivation for the shooting:
He intentionally went to places he’d frequented before. He knew those would be Asian faces he’d be shooting. Ludicrous to think “It could’ve been anybody.”
— Samuel Perry (@socofthesacred) March 18, 2021
Some commentators have pointed out that Long’s actions could have been both sexually and racially motivated.
Dr. Russell Moore, president of the SBC’S Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, condemned the shooting in a statement, saying:
These murders are shocking and repulsive. The killer should be brought to justice, and the roots of this violence should be made known as soon as it is revealed to investigators. While I do not yet know the reports from law enforcement as to the motives in this particular case, I am hearing increasingly from Asian Americans, including Asian American Christians, who face escalating bigotry against them in this sick time. Such is immoral and unjust.
SBC president J.D. Greear also commented on the tragedy, saying, “We are grieving the tragic loss of the eight victims, including many Asian-Americans, who were killed in Atlanta. We know that our words can never compensate for their loss. We pray that the Prince of Peace might bring healing and peace in the midst of the pain.”
Reports indicate that Asian-Americans have faced increasing discrimination over the past year. Many attribute this to the fact that COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, China, and to the rhetoric used by some, including former President Donald Trump, referring to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus.”
In April 2020, the AACC released a statement decrying racism against Asian-Americans due to COVID-19. After this week’s violence, the AACC is working with local leaders in Atlanta to combat anti-Asian sentiments.