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CHRISTIAN IDENTITY MOVEMENT

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Included within the Christian Identity movements are: Anglo-Israelism, British-Israelism, and some white supremacists, anti-semitic and other hate groups.

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Terminology:

The term "Christian Identity" has two distinct meanings:

bulletAnglo-Israelism (a.k.a. British-Israelism): A theological belief that the Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, Scandinavian, Germanic and associated cultures are the racial descendents of the tribes of Israel. Thus, by extension, Americans and Canadians, are composed of the descendents of the ancient Israelites of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament).
bulletRacist, Christian-based faith groups: A number of small, extremely conservative Fundamentalist Christian denominations which have accepted Anglo-Israelism, and grafted it to racist, sexist, anti-communist and homophobic beliefs. They view the Jewish people as descendants of Satan. Followers tend to be involved in political movements opposing gun control, equal rights to gays and lesbians, and militia movements.

The second meaning has become dominant in the U.S. and Canada. We will use it for the remainder of this essay.

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History:

The Christian Identity movement is a movement of many extremely conservative Christian churches and religious organizations, extreme right wing political groups and survival groups. Some are independent; others are loosely interconnected. According to Professor Michael Barkun, one of the leading experts in the Christian Identity movement, "This virulent racist and anti-Semitic theology, which is practiced by over 50,000 people in the United States alone, is prevalent among many right wing extremist groups and has been called the 'glue' of the racist right."

The largest Christian Identity movement has traditionally been the Ku Klux Klan which was reorganized in 1915 by William Simmons, a Christian pastor. He had been inspired by the film The Birth of a Nation which portrayed the KKK as a champion of white civilization. The KKK slid into obscurity by the second World War, but was revitalized in the mid 1950's as a reaction to enforced racial integration in the southern US.

Quoting the FBI's Megiddo Report on domestic terrorism: 5

"Wesley Swift is considered the single most significant figure in the early years of the Christian Identity movement in the United States. He popularized it in the right-wing by 'combining British-Israelism, a demonic anti-Semitism, and political extremism.' 6 He founded his own church in California in the mid 1940s where he could preach this ideology. In addition, he had a daily radio broadcast in California during the 1950s and 60s, through which he was able to proclaim his ideology to a large audience. With Swift’s efforts, the message of his church spread, leading to the creation of similar churches throughout the country. In 1957, the name of his church was changed to The Church of Jesus Christ Christian, which is used today by Aryan Nations (AN) churches."

"One of Swift’s associates, William Potter Gale, was far more militant than Swift and brought a new element to Christian Identity churches. He became a leading figure in the anti-tax and paramilitary movements of the 1970s and 80s. There are numerous Christian Identity churches that preach similar messages and some espouse more violent rhetoric than others, but all hold fast to the belief that Aryans are God’s chosen race."

Other current organizations which follow Christian Identity beliefs are: American Nazi Party; Aryan Nations; Church of Jesus Christ Christian, Aryan Nations; Confederate Hammerskins; Jubilee, National Association for the Advancement of White People; The Order; radical modern offshoots of the original Posse Comitatus; Scriptures for America, White Aryan Resistance (WAR) and White Separatist Banner. Many small groups fade in and out of existence frequently.

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Beliefs about Armageddon:

Quoting again the FBI's Megiddo Report on domestic terrorism: 5

"Christian Identity also believes in the inevitability of the end of the world and the Second Coming of Christ. It is believed that these events are part of a cleansing process that is needed before Christ’s kingdom can be established on earth. During this time, Jews and their allies will attempt to destroy the white race using any means available. The result will be a violent and bloody struggle -- a war, in effect -- between God’s forces, the white race, and the forces of evil, the Jews and nonwhites. Significantly, many adherents believe that this will be tied into the coming of the new millennium."

"The view of what Armageddon will be varies among Christian Identity believers. Some contend there will be a race war in which millions will die; others believe that the United Nations, backed by Jewish representatives of the anti-Christ, will take over the country and promote a New World Order. One Christian Identity interpretation is that white Christians have been chosen to watch for signs of the impending war in order to warn others. They are to then physically struggle with the forces of evil against sin and other violations of God’s law (i.e., race-mixing and internationalism); many will perish, and some of God’s chosen will be forced to wear the Mark of the Beast to participate in business and commerce. After the final battle is ended and God’s kingdom is established on earth, only then will the Aryan people be recognized as the one and true Israel."

"Christian Identity adherents believe that God will use his chosen race as his weapons to battle the forces of evil. Christian Identity followers believe they are among those chosen by God to wage this battle during Armageddon and they will be the last line of defense for the white race and Christian America. To prepare for these events, they engage in survivalist and paramilitary training, storing foodstuffs and supplies, and caching weapons and ammunition. They often reside on compounds located in remote areas."

The leadership of the more radical "CI" groups advocate, but do not themselves engage in violence against Jews, Blacks, and Homosexuals now, rather than waiting for Armageddon to begin.

The Watchman web site contained a quote from a Christian Identity leader which gives a flavor of their style of rhetoric, and their predictions for the future of North America:

"We are going to build the Kingdom of our God on this continent if we have to turn it into a Bosnia first! Death may find you in front of your one-eyed church of Satan or in the filthy bingo parlors where you worship your devil god, but be sure that you will not escape the consuming fire that is the real baptism of the Holy Ghost, The God of Racial Israel.2

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Other beliefs:

Such groups have hijacked the benign religious concept of Anglo-Israelism, (also known as British-Israelism). The latter teach that the British (and by extension Americans, Canadians, and others) are the spiritual and literal descendants of the 10 lost tribes of ancient Israel. After the invasion of the Northern kingdom of Israel, the Assyrians scattered the indigenous population. They resettled in the Caucasus Mountains, and later drifted into Europe. The Christian Identity movement extended that theory and generated their own profoundly racist doctrine. They believe that the white race (or the "Aryan peoples" or "White Anglo Saxon Protestants", or the "British Peoples", or "White Americans") represent God's chosen people, as mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). They have taken these beliefs in an extreme direction to justify their hatred of Blacks, Jews, homosexuals and communists.

Some beliefs held in common by many Christian Identity (CI) groups are:

bulletA very conservative interpretation of the Christian Bible. This has led to a hatred of homosexuality and of homosexuals and a rejection of followers of other religions.
bulletA view of the white race, the "Adamic race" or "True Israelites" as superior. Other races are the "Satanic spawn" of Cain. This leads naturally to a hatred of Blacks, Native Americans, and immigrants from "non-Aryan" lands
bulletThat Adam and Eve were white. Many other "pre-Adamic" and non-white people were already in existence when Adam was created. This leads to the belief that Anglo-Saxon Protestants are the "true identity" of God's chosen people of the Hebrew Scriptures. Non-whites are considered sub-human. These Biblical beliefs confirm their concept of white racial superiority. As a minimum, they call for racial separation; some call for extermination of what the call the "mud races" (non-white races). 
bulletThat the Commandment which forbids adultery does not refer to extra-marital sexual relationships. Rather, it forbids "racial adultery"; i.e. inter-racial marriages. Their reasoning is that the 10th Commandment which forbids coveting one's neighbor's possessions already bans adultery; one of those "possessions" is the neighbor's wife. And, God would not have repeated Himself.
bulletThey consider themselves to be the direct descendants Adam's son Abel and thus are God's chosen people. They regard the Jewish people as having descended from Cain. Thus the Jewish belief that they are the chosen people is invalid. This has led to an extreme anti-Semitism within the Christian Identity movement.

They frequently promote complex conspiracy theories. For example, 1

bullet"Mainstream Christianity is acting in concert with the Jews through a group called "Cult Awareness Network" which is a front for the ADL [Jewish Anti-Defamation League] to destroy 'The Family'". (The latter is an international group of small intentional Fundamentalist Christian communities which has been called a cult by the Counter-cult Movement).
bulletThe "New Age movement can best be described as a 'Counterfeit Identity'. It is being raised up by Jews to provide a substitute for the real truth."
bullet"..all that is commonly known as modern Christianity is the creation of the Jews."

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Recent developments:

bullet1999-FEB-4: FBI director Louis Freeh warned that: "With the coming of the next millennium, some religious/apocalyptic groups or individuals may turn to violence as they seek to achieve dramatic effects to fulfill their prophecies." He also talked about another disturbing religious trend:  "Many white supremacist groups adhere to the Christian Identity belief system, which holds that the world is on the verge of a final apocalyptic struggle...and teaches that the white race is the chosen race of God." He warned that in late 1999, some Christian Identity members might prepare for their anticipated Armageddon by committing robberies to finance their activities. Director Freeh said that the government, Jews and non-whites are likely targets. 4
bullet1999-AUG-13: Women Leaders Online reported that a number of the most serious urban U.S. terrorism acts were perpetrated by members of Christian Identity groups, including:
bulletEric Rudolph, a suspect in bombings at a Birmingham AL abortion clinic and at the Atlanta Olympics
bulletArsonists who torched three synagogues in Sacramento CA in 1999-JUL
bulletMurder of a gay couple near Redding, CA
bulletBuford O'Neal Furrow Jr, suspect in the murder of a postal service employee and the attempted murder of 5 individuals at a Jewish community center in Los Angeles CA in 1999-AUG.
bullet"and many other violent crimes across the country."

In addition, three men who were charged with two bank robberies, and three bombings in Spokane, Washington in 1996-APR were linked to the CI movement. The crimes were apparently motivated by a need to raise money for the group. 

These terrorist acts appear to be planned and executed by individual Christian Identity followers, and not by Identity churches or the movement itself. Because of the freedom of speech and religion guaranteed in the 1st Amendment of the Constitution, the FBI is prohibited from general monitoring and infiltrating of Christian Identity and similar groups.

bullet1999-OCT-20: The FBI announced completion of their Project Megiddo report. This followed an intensive study of the possibility of domestic terrorism during the millennium. It included a section on the Christian Identity movement. 5
bullet

2003-JUN-25: South Africa: White supremacist, conservative Christianity spreading rapidly: A decade after the collapse of white minority rule and apartheid, scores of right-wing white supremacist Christian faith groups are being founded. They believe that black majority rule is a punishment sent by God because of the disobedience by the Afrikaner people. They view themselves as descendents of the ten lost tribes of Israel -- white people whose destiny is to rule over all races who are forbidden to mix with other races.

Reverend Willie Smith, who was formerly a Baptist minister for 26 years, founded Lewende Hoop (Living Hope) in Kroonstad in the Free State in the late 1990s. He said: "I looked around and saw the need of my people, the Afrikaners. They do not know who they are. The other churches are not preaching the truth. But I tell them, you are the people of the Bible. The Bible was written for you....We strayed from the teachings of the Bible. Our leaders sold us out. They want us to mix with the other races. But it is not working. The other churches are preaching that you must love all. But we don’t want that. We don't want to overthrow the Government. We have to wait for deliverance from the Lord....We are suffering under this ANC-communist regime. We want blacks, coloreds and the other races to return to their traditions. If we rule, it will be a blessing for all of Africa." Smith's group allegedly consists of thirty congregations with a total of 6,000 believers. 8

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Useful references:

  1. Mark Thomas, Editor, The Watchman 1993-OCT. They have no connection with the "Watchman Fellowship", an counter-cult group.
  2. "The Watchman" periodical for 1995-NOV-24. It was available at: http://www2.stormfront.org/watchman/terror.html Link is now defunct.
  3. "The Watchman", the voice of the Pennsylvania Christian Posse Comitatus. It was available at: http://www2.stormfront.org/watchman/index.html However, it has recently been discontinued, and replaced with a message: "According to published news reports, Watchman editor Mark Thomas has pled guilty to involvement in a series of bank robberies and has agreed to become a government witness. I have therefore shut down his page, which Stormfront had designed and hosted free of charge...."
  4. Patricia Wilson, "FBI Director Freeh Warns of Millennium Violence," Excite News/Reuters, 1999-FEB-4.
  5. "Project Megiddo, III Christian Identity," online at the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR) at: http://www.cesnur.org/testi/FBI_006.htm 
  6. Michael Barkun, "Religion and the Racist Right," The University of North Carolina Press, (1997), Page. 60.
  7. Michael Barkun, HateWatch broadcast on 1998-JAN-26.
  8. "Apartheid cults on the rise in South Africa," ReligionNewsBlog.com, 2003-JUN-26, at:  http://www.gospelcom.net/

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Christian Identity Web Sites:

bulletAmerica's Promise Ministries" is a worldwide Christian Ministry of Identity believers." at: http://amprom.org/
bulletGod's Order Affirmed in Love (GOAL) is a reference library for reconstructing a national identify for Christian whites at:  http://www.melvig.org/
bulletThe Gospel Broadcasting Association is "a ministry of God-fearing, Bible-believing Christians who understand that the peoples of the world who historically have embraced Christianity —the Caucasians, the Anglo-Saxons, the Celts, the Scandanavians, [sic] &c.— are the racial descendants of Biblical Israel, the covenant people of God." at:  http://www.broadcaster.org/
bulletKingdom Identity Ministries is a "Politically Incorrect Christian Identity outreach ministry to God's chosen race (true Israel, the White, European peoples)." at: http://www.kingidentity.com/
bulletOrange Street Congregational Church, in London, UK, was originally founded by Huguenot refugees from France. See: http://www.orangestreet.demon.co.uk/
bulletPosse Comitatus "is dedicated to the education of the Children of Yahweh, the Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, Teutonic, Scandinavian, Lombardic, Celtic peoples of the earth, the so-called 'Lost Tribes of the House Of Isra'el' and to the total destruction of the yehudi-shatan!" at: http://www.posse-comitatus.org/

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Articles and books on Christian Identity:

bulletMichael Barkun, "Religion and the Racist Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement", University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill NC (1994), ISBN 0807844519
bulletW.L. Ingram, "God and Race: British-Israelism and Christian Identity" , P. 119 - 126 in T. Miller, Ed., "America's Alternative Religions" , SUNY Press, Albany NY, 1995
bulletOrigins of Nations magazine at: http://users.netinfo.com.au/~quokka/hrp/index.html#resources
bulletJames Ridgeway, "Christian Identity Politics," Freedom Writer, 1998-JUL/AUG. Available online at: http://www.ifas.org/fw/9707/identity.html

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Copyright © 1997 to 20065 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2006-MAY-30
Author: B.A. Robinson

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