|Voices of Hate: Christian Identity / Racist Religion
By James Latham
The third installment of Voices of Hate, The Far Right on
We once again surveyed, in early May, 1998, the
programming broadcast from five different U.S. based shortwave stations for far-right
content. The total hours per week was 238.5 -- an increase from 152 hours per week in
November, 1997 when last we surveyed. The number of different far-right program hosts was
up to 37. The biggest increase in far-right programming was on shortwave station WGTG in
Georgia. WGTG did a sharp turn-around and headed back into the ranks of airtime providers
to the militant far-right. This places WGTG in the second spot behind WWCR, Nashville in
airtime hours of hate.
I have classified the 37 different far-right programmers
into five distinct groups involved in shortwave broadcasting. They are: Survivalists,
Christian Identity, militias, neo-Nazis, and conspiracy theorists. There is a another,
smaller group that runs in far-right circles and could be considered a sixth group, except
that it has no political agenda. These are the many purveyors hocking medical magnets that
cure cancer and perpetual energy devices. In this edition we will look at one of the five
groups: Christian Identity.
Christian Identity's basic beliefs
- The white Anglo, Saxon, Celtic, Germanic, Scandinavian, and
kindred people are the members of the "ten lost tribes of Israel." They are the
only descendents from Adam, the only chosen descendents of Abraham.
- Eve and Satan had sexual intercourse, which produced Cain.
Thus, a two-seed line was formed.
- As a result of this two-seed line, the people known as Jews
today, the descendents of Cain, are the sons and daughters of Satan.
- Other non-white races were created before Adam, sometimes
referred to as pre-Adamite or "mud people," and these pre-Adamites are related
to the beasts of the world. As "proof" Identity cites Genesis 1:24, which
contains a list of created beings that came before Adam, "cattle and creeping things
and beasts of the earth." Identity claims these beasts are the non-white races.
- The lost tribes migrated from the land of Assyria into Asia
Minor, Europe, the British Isles, the Scandinavian countries, and finally into America.
- A final apocalyptic battle is now being fought between good
and evil, between White Aryans and a Jewish conspiracy aligned with pre-Adamic peoples.
How large is Christian Identity?
In his definitive book on Christian Identity, Religion
and the Racist Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement, author Michael
Barkun states: "Christian Identity as a religious orientation is virtually unknown.
Its texts are not studied in universities. Its books and magazines are not available in
bookstores. It goes unmentioned in all but the most encyclopedic accounts of American
religion. No one is sure how many believe in it. It is not organized as a denomination, so
that no central organization can be consulted for membership statistics. Made up of
numerous small churches, Bible study groups, and Identity-oriented political
organizations, it is too fragmented to permit anything but rough estimates. These cover a
wide range from two thousand to over fifty thousand..." 1
A recent edition of Intelligence Report, published
by Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project, reports: "Fifty years ago, as
its tenents were being thrashed out among a band of racist West Coast preachers, the
Identity movement had fewer than 100 followers. As recently as the early 1990s, it had
spread to thousands, but they were limited largely to members of neo-Nazi, Klan, and
similar radical right groups. Today, with Identity tenents leaking into significant
numbers of fundamentalist churches, the religion is growing, with more than 50,000
followers in North America." 2
Identity churches, such as Pete Peters' in LaPorte,
Colorado, has a reported membership of fewer than 100 people.3 Most Identity
gatherings tend to draw hundreds of followers, not thousands. It should be pointed out,
however, that through shortwave broadcasts and tape distribution, small Identity churches
are extended well beyond their geographical boundaries.
A highly synthesized belief system
Christian Identity has its roots in British-Israelism, a
belief that was first propagated in England by Rev. John Wilson, a non-conformist minister
in the mid 1850s through his writings and lectures. Wilson offered proof of his
extraordinary "discovery" by the fact that many English words were related to or
had Hebrew counterparts. British-Israelism did not vililfy non-British Israelites, as did
later its racist, anti-Semitic outgrowth, Christian Identity. British-Israelism did,
however, look down on Jews in a condescending way.
By the early 1900s British-Israelism had migrated to North
America, largely due to the work of Edward Hine and his book Identification of the
British Nation. As British-Israelism spread out across the continent, factions started
to undergo a metamorphosis. Many individuals in the period 192050 were exposed to
British-Isrealism and contributed to changes that would result in Christian Identity as it
is today. British-Israelism from the 20s to 40s saw influence from the likes of Portland,
Oregon clergyman Reuben H. Sawyer, who was also an organizer for the Ku Klux Klan in
Oregon; publisher A. A. Beauchamp who published a magazine dealing with British-Israelism;
Howard Rand, founder of The Anglo-Saxon Federation of America; and William J. Cameron who
served as a Ford Motor Company public relations man; among others.
By the 1950s the racist, anti-Semitic seeds planted a
decade earlier had started to show signs of activity with the efforts of Gerald L. K.
Smith. Smith, a one time staff member of Louisiana Senator Huey Long, had associates such
as well known anti-Semitic radio personality Father Charles Coughlin and Industrialist
Henry Ford, among others.
In Blood In The Face author James Ridgeway
describes Smith's role: "Among the most important figures on the far-right indeed,
the chief link between the Fascism of the thirties and the white resistance groups of
today was Gerald L. K. Smith, founder of the Christian Nationalist Crusade."4
Much of Smith's contribution to the Identity movement was
that of political activism, not in theology evolvement or in preaching. His strong
connection with various right wing political ideologists of the 50s gave his close
associates, most notably William Potter Gale and Wesley Swift, an early boost in their
Swift and Gale both had a hand in creating a para-military
organization in the early 60s called Christian Defense League. (There is a dispute over
which one founded the CDL). The CDL had as its first national director Richard Girnt
Butler. Both Swift and Gale also had a hand in another para-military group the California
Rangers. Both these groups had a remarkable semblance to current day militia offerings.
Swift also founded the Church of Jesus Christ Christian in
1946. It was this church that would later, under the control of Richard G. Butler, evolve
into Aryan Nations, located near Hayden Lake, Idaho. William Potter Gale also played a
role, along with Henry Beach, in the founding of the Posse Comitatus in the early 70s.
It should also be noted that both Gale and Swift added
substantially to the theology of Identity during the 50s and 60s, as well.
Another Christian Identity leader who inspired many of the
Identity "pastors" of today was the late Sheldon Emry.
Sheldon Emry came into Identity under the guidance of
Christian Identity minister C. O. Stadsklev, whom he studied under for 6 years. In 1967 he
started the Lord's Covenant Church and began a daily radio program that was later to be
syndicated around the U.S. reaching at its peak around 40 local stations. Emry wrote
numerous books, his most widely read being Billions for the Bankers, Debts for the
People. Many of the Identity "pastors" on the radio dial today have been
influenced by Emry's successful radio programs.
Today, Identity provides the glue that binds together
racist anti-Semitic and diverse groups such as the militia, Aryan Nations, Ku Klux Klan,
Posse Comitatus, neo-Nazis, and other far-right groups.
Violent words, violent actions
With so much hate and scapegoating in the Identity
movement, adherents have turned words of hate into actions of violence. A chronological
listing of a few of the violent actions perpetrated by Christian Identity adherents
- February 13, 1983: Gordon Kahl, North Dakota farmer,
Posse Comitatus member, shoots and kills two federal marshals near Medina, North Dakota.
- June, 1984: Richard Wayne Snell, member of the
Identity compound Covenant, Sword and Arm of the Lord, shoots a Arkansas state trooper
- June 8, 1984: Members of The Order follow Denver
Colorado radio talk show host Alan Berg home and as he steps out of his car gun him down.
- July 19, 1984: Members of The Order, half of which
are Identity adherents, rob an armored car using assault rifles near Ukiah, California,
netting 3.6 million dollars.
- April 15,1985: David Tate, member of The Order, is
stopped by a highway patrolman. Tate shoots and kills one patrolman, wounding another.
- August 17, 1985: On a remote farm near Rulo,
Nebraska a police search party uncovers two bodies, one a five year old boy. In a later
trial Mike Ryan, a Christian Identity adherent, is found guilty of the murders. The reason
given for his actions is that he and others on the farm thought the five year old to be a
"mongrel," a product of race mixing, an offense in the eyes of Identity
teaching. The other body found, that of a young man, had been brutally tortured.
- August 21, 1992: White separatist and Identity
adherent Randy Weaver, indicted for gunrunning, refuses arrest resulting in a ten day
siege at Ruby Ridge and the death of his wife, fourteen-year old son, and U.S. Deputy
Marshall William Degan.
- March 8, 1996: "Freeman" figure and
Identity adherent Rodney O. Skurdal mails a 100 billion dollar bogus lien to Pastor Jerry
Walters of Zion Lutheran Church in Roundup, Montana demanding payment.
- March 25, 1996: "Freeman" leader and
Identity adherent LeRoy Schweitzer is arrested in Jordon, Montana on charges of income tax
evasion, bank and mail fraud, conspiracy, and threatening a federal judge.
- April 1, 1996: Three Identity adherents from
Sandpoint, Idaho plant a pipe bomb that explodes at The Spokesman Review in
Spokane, Washington. Immediately following the explosion they rob a nearby bank.
- July 12, 1996: Another pipe bomb planted by the
three explodes at the Planned Parenthood office in Spokane. Immediately following the
explosion, the same bank in Spokane is robbed.
- October 8,1996: Three men, Charles Barbee, Robert
Berry, and Jay Merrell, are arrested in connection with a failed bank robbery in Portland,
Oregon. The three are linked to the successful bank robberies in Spokane, Washington, and
the related bombings.
- January 30, 1997: Mark William Thomas, an Identity
minster, is indicted along with four others calling themselves the Aryan Republican Army
on conspiracy to commit bank robbery and receiving money stolen in a bank robbery. The
four are believed to have robbed 22 banks of $250,000 in a two year period with Thomas
assisting in the recruiting and planning.
In the next edition of VISTA we'll take a look at
Christian Identity figures that use shortwave, including one who has been called the
"Pastor of Hate."
1 Barkun, Michael, Religion and the Racist
Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement, The University of North
Carolina Press, 1994, p. viii.
2 Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty
Law Center, Intelligence Report, #89, Winter, 1998, p. 7.
3 ADL Special Edition, Theologian of Hate
"pastor" Pete Peters, February, 1994.
4 Ridgeway, James, Blood in the Face: The Ku
Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, Nazi Skinheads, and the Rise of a New White Culture, Thunder
Mouth Press, 1990, p. 47.