An Open Letter On Anti-Asian Racism & Christian Nationalism

Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR)

As of 2014, Sen. Cotton was a lifelong member of the First United Methodist Church of Dardanelle, AR. He has impugned the faith of Barack Obama and former senator Mark Pryor, implying that they are less devout Christians than he is. According to a Stop AAPI Hate report, Sen. Cotton is one of 3 Republicans whose tweets collectively accounted for 93% of all anti-Chinese rhetoric from GOP candidates between January 1 and August 31, 2020 (3). During that period, Sen. Cotton's account featured 2.5 times more anti-Chinese tweets than Donald Trump's.

Sen. Cotton has not only used the racist terms “China virus” and “Wuhan virus” (see Senator Marsha Blackburn), but also claimed on April 21, 2020 that the virus probably originated in “Wuhan labs studying bats and coronavirus.” According to a June 5 Nature report collecting evidence on the matter, there is no sign that the virus escaped from a lab, and genetic analysis suggests that it developed naturally, rather than being artificially created. On May 27, 2020, Sen. Cotton co-sponsored the SECURE CAMPUS Act, described above (see Senator Marsha Blackburn). On July 20, 2020, Sen. Cotton cosponsored the "Civil Justice for Victims of COVID Act" (see Senator Marsha Blackburn).

The UMC’s Social Principles state, “Racism, manifested as sin, plagues and hinders our relationship with Christ, inasmuch as it is antithetical to the gospel itself. … We commit as the Church to move beyond symbolic expressions and representative models that do not challenge unjust systems of power and access.” The First United Methodist Church of Dardanelle, headed by pastor Jim Benfer, says on its website, "We believe in the sanctity of human life and affirm that all people, regardless of gender, race or nationality, can and should be transformed by the life-giving word of God and faith in Jesus, our Lord."

As of 2019, Arkansas’ Asian population totaled 46,078. Between March 19 and August 5, 2020, 3 hate crime incidents in Arkansas were reported to Stop AAPI Hate (8).

1.23.21 update. A Salon report has revealed that Sen. Tom Cotton repeatedly lied about his experience as an Army Ranger in Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite Sen. Cotton's claims that he "served" as a Ranger, the report found that Sen. Cotton merely attended Ranger School and met minimum qualifications to serve as a Ranger, a critical distinction for actual Army Rangers.

Sen. Cotton's dishonesty is part and parcel of his disingenuous attacks on China and Chinese people during the pandemic. In addition to being racist, his claims about the virus' origins in a Wuhan lab, not to mention his attempted legislation that casts suspicion on Chinese graduate students, constitute self-serving fabrications. Just like his lies about serving as an Army Ranger, his lies about China are calculated to win him votes and donations. Coupled with his confession of Christian faith, such flagrant dishonesty warrants the most urgent of responses from the American church.

For possible responses from Cotton's church, see the Timeline.