Christian Identity: The scary religion you don’t know about

Sadly, Michigan is home to an awful lot of racist bastards with guns. The Hutaree group arrested in May 2010 for stockpiling guns and explosives is a pretty good example. Once again, Americans were shooting and plotting terrorism and they were doing it in the name of Christianity.

To those of us who have been targeted by Christian Identity folks, this isn’t all that surprising. Christian Identity is a particularly virulent (and violent) form of creationism and apocalyptic thinking. It disguises racism, antisemitism, and brutality under happy, Christian sounding churches and groups. Can you spot the hate group in this line up?

  • America’s Promise Ministries
  • By Yahweh’s Design
  • Church of Jesus Christ Christian
  • Church of True Israel
  • Ecclesiastical Council for the Restoration of Covenant Israel (ECRCI)
  • Fellowship of God’s Covenant People
  • Gospel Ministries
  • House of Yahweh
  • Kingdom Identity Ministries
  • Present Truth Ministries
  • Scriptures for America Ministries
  • Tabernacle of the Phineas Priesthood
  • United Identity Church of Christ
  • United Church of YHWH
  • Yahweh’s Truth

I probably didn’t fool anyone “they are ALL recognized Christian Identity hate groups. Church of Jesus Christ Christian is the new happy name of Aryan Nations.

These racists are actually a special flavor of creationist. Here’s a brief outline of one of their core beliefs:

  • Anglo-Saxon-Celtic peoples (whites) are God’s real chosen people, and descend in an unbroken line from Adam and Eve. They are by nature a superior race.
  • Jews derive from Cain, himself the product of a sexual liaison between Eve and the Serpent (the original sin) in Eden, and so are biologically evil, the synagogue of Satan.
  • Non-whites are pre-Adamic beings, soulless and akin to the Biblical beasts of the field. Cain mated with these peoples to produce today’s Jews.
  • Jews are part of a Satanic plot to unite the world under a single government, to be taken over ultimately by the Devil himself. The plot is thousands of years old.
  • Whites in America (the true House of Israel) must battle bloodily to usher in a period of Godly rule prior to the Second Coming. That means a race war.

There are many different flavors of the Identity creation story that lays out exactly how the origins of emud people are separate from (white) Adam and Eve but the gist is the same. Jews, Folks of Color, Homosexuals, and whoever else you happen to hate today are Demonic in origin. Or soulless animals. In other-words, non-white people are literally spawn of the devil. And, so, it’s your CHRISTIAN DUTY to kill them.

Christian Identity theology neatly sews together the idea of a religious base for racism and antisemitism, and an ideological rationale for violence against non-whites and their allies. It’s a two-fer!

You almost always see the words paramilitary or militia associated with Christian Identity believers. Why are they so violent? Their world is an absolute dichotomy: God or Devil. Angel or Satan.

There is no nuance, no compromise, no coalition building when you see your opponent as Lucifer Incarnate. People that oppose you are dupes. The federal government is controlled by the Devil. It’s a conspiracy you must resist. And resist violently.

Because, as mentioned above, a race war is needed to bring Christ back. It’s even got it’s own name: RAHOWA” Racial Holy War.

Why would someone buy into this? Generally, these sorts of racist, anti-governmental groups swell when economic times are bad. It’s a handy explanation for why there is so much Evil (and unemployment) in the world, despite the promises of a loving and caring God: the Devil is responsible.  These Christians have lost control of their lives but they can take control back with sufficient ammunition and mayhem.

How many people believe this crap? The numbers vary hugely. The official number floats around 45,000 or so in the US; however, those are only people that openly espouse this particular theology. The real question is how much influence these groups wield, and how much violence they cause.  Nearly all major US terrorist incidents in the 90s–including the Oklahoma bombing and the Atlanta Olympics bombings–involved Christian Identity believers.  I started to make a list of more recent shootings, but I got too depressed. I couldn’t read any more ugly, hatefilled screeds. Let’s just say, they’re still out there, and they’re still heavily armed.

I can’t say for sure that the violent rhetoric of the Christian right–and its racist expression in the Tea Party–are derived from these white-power creationists. But I sure do see a lot of echos. And what makes me most uncomfortable is that US political conflicts are being framed as absolutes, between the godly and the godless.

I am worried.

I am also concerned about how all this hateful bloviating bleeds over into the teaching of evolution, and understanding of science.

I ran into an intriguing version of this alternate creation myth once; a student told me she wasn’t threatened by learning evolution, because that only explained how black people evolved from Apes. White folks like her, you see, were created specially. I linked last week to a document produced by the Institute for Creation Research (you know, the guys who invented “creation science“) in which Henry Morris lamented that no one was drowning evolutionists.

As the rhetoric of the religious right gets more and more Us-vs-Them on topics like evolution or other issues, I worry that more people will adopt the absolute dichotomy of good and evil that’s made the Identity movement so disastrously violent.  Hate is the ultimate social disease, and it’s spreading.

Read more about Christian Identity:

Michigan Racist Bastards of Note (Not all Identity Christians, but still bastards)

[also posted at the Bug Blog]


Bug_girl has a PhD in Entomology, and is a pointy-headed former academic living in Ohio. She is obsessed with insects, but otherwise perfectly normal. Really! If you want a daily stream of cool info about bugs, follow her Facebook page or find her on Twitter.

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  1. I doubt many of them are as “white” as they would like to think. I’m from KY and look very Caucasian (ignore the user name) but discovered Indian (Cherokee) and Black heritage as recent as my great grandparents. I was pleased to find this, but I’m sure it would be a shock to some members of these groups from areas near Appalachia to find that maybe they’re not so “white”.

  2. Creationists are scary enough. Creationists with guns are terrifying!

    The news the last couple days has been filled with the Arizona shooting and the blame that has been placed on the media and Sarah Palin for her use of graphics. What I find interesting is that these groups do use key buzzwords to rile up their followers.

    I had the good fortune to attend the Creationist Expo that happens every year in Indianapolis. After a day of listening to one “Dr.” spew his hate and how awful evolutionists and gays are they concluded their day with “declaring war on evolution”

    I periodically follow their website and shortly after the expo an essay was written called “There is Evidence: Are we really at war?” This essay references war at least a half dozen times, it calls for troops into battle and so on and so forth. All in the name of God.

    And people wonder why I believe in gun control!

  3. I am sorry, but why single out Michigan? Is Michigan worse than any other state on this behalf? There are a lot of racist hateful people in every state.

  4. “Jews derive from Cain, himself the product of a sexual liaison between Eve and the Serpent (the original sin) in Eden, and so are biologically evil, the “synagogue of Satan.”

    And we say that fundie christians don’t know their bible. How wrong we were.

  5. Not all Christians are crazy.

    THESE Christians ARE crazy.

    And teh crazy gets passed down through example to the next generation.

    Why can’t we remove these people from society? Oh yeah, religionists get a pass to be batshit insane. If they were doing these things in the name if “Bimbly the tree monster” they would rightfully be locked up, but since they are referencing a “god” that is familiar we let it slide.

    So who are the insane ones again?

  6. The further Right these “Christians” go the less Christian they get, an odd dichotomy. The Christian Right seem fixated on the fire and brimstoney God of the old testament and completely ignore the tamer “Jesus died for ALL our sins” God of the new testament. Apart from Revelations that is, the part is like a nihilistic theological acid trip….

    Ghandi had it right when he said “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ”. Oh yes, I just quoted Ghandi!

  7. BG, I was born in Henry Ford Hospital, raised within the city limits of Detroit and ran away to sunny Southern California.
    Which, it turned out, was just as batshit insane.
    It’s not a particular state, or our particular country, or even a particular religion that brings the crazy.
    The crazy is apparently built into the species. Have no idea why. But there doesn’t seem to be a culture or philosophy that’s immune.

  8. I’m curious about your reaction to the student who explained why they weren’t threatened by being taught evolution because whites were made special. I have a feeling I may have just gone into a corner and cried a little bit. That kind of ignorance just becomes too real when confronted with it in ‘real life’ as oposed to the internet.

  9. Ahh, this brings back memories. A little more than 10 years ago… when I was in my hippy Celtic pagan phase, and just starting in college… my younger brother started agreeing with one of these groups, as did a friend of mine. It was… interesting… spending the summers down the hallway from him, but he’s got a good enough head on his shoulders that he walked away from it. The friend who got him into it is now pretty damn hippy himself.

    However, neither were going to compounds or shit like that… just talking on the internet with eloquent idiots.

  10. these are crazies who use religion to justify their hate-filled agenda. they are no more christian than the man in the moon. most religions preach tolerance and mercy. theirs is not a religion, it is a political philosophy shrouded in religious rhetoric.

  11. So easy to find hate groups when a violent act happens, and then try and infer some connection with the person who commits a violent act. Except it is looking more and more that the AZ shooter was a fairly normal kid over three years ago and he fairly rapidly descended into a significant mental illness like schizophrenia or some other kind of delusional psychosis. It is very common for a delusional or psychotic person to form their obsessions and delusions from what they have already been exposed to or what they find to confirm their faulty thinking. Religious people who go crazy often have a religious component to their crazy, political folk have crazy political delusion and so on. I think there is a substantial difference when a crazy delusional person acts out, and we have no evidence that I’ve heard that the AZ shooter was in any way motivated by right wing or religious hate speech, and where you have the groups mentioned above whose members are otherwise normal people who make the choice to hate and espouse violence and bigotry. I do not think this type of post serves the current situation very well, not that these groups shouldn’t be discussed in another context.

  12. In re this:

    Jews derive from Cain, himself the product of a sexual liaison between Eve and the Serpent (the original sin) in Eden, and so are biologically evil, the “synagogue of Satan.”

    If someone you know is falling into this kind of lunacy, maybe you could talk them back by using a source they trust: the Bible.

    Genesis 4:1 And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.

    Look, it’s right there, in all capitals even!

    This was supposed to be where the name Cain came from — it sounded similar to the Hebrew word for “to get”. (Folk etymology: if a name derives from an older language or has no clear meaning, cook up a story so that it does.)

  13. @angrymonkey: My response was to stare at her with my mouth hanging open for a rather extended period of time in complete and udder shock.

    I honestly don’t remember what I said exactly, but I vaguely remember trying to discuss species concept in a very silly attempt to show her premise was invalid.

    Clearly, just saying “that’s incredibly racist!” would not be effective. Neither was my floundering around with science.

  14. @James Fox: As bug_girl points out, she didn’t mention the AZ shootings, but since you did, see Mark Potok’s blog entry about it. There isn’t a lot of evidence tying him to these groups, but there is some. He seems to have gotten his “grammar” memes from David Wynn Miller, and some of his other ideas from Jon Ronson’s old “friend”, David Icke. (Whether Icke is actually a right-winger or just an out-and-out loon is difficult to tell. When Icke says the international banking system is run by lizard-aliens, he seems not to be using anti-semitic code words. He seems to actually believe that they are extraterrestrial lizards, which confuses the other right-wingers no end.)

  15. @Buzz Parsec: @bug_girl: The timing seemed like an obvious inference to me. If that’s not the case I apologize, however sense you only state that you did not mention the events or individuals involved I still think there appears to be a clear and intentional inference to address the issues brought up in the aftermath of the shooting.

  16. Sorry James, but I think that is something you’re projecting on to me. This post has been in the draft stage for months, and it’s publication now has more to do with slow holidays when I could sit and write than anything else.

    It was something I had experience with, and really wanted to write about as someone who teaches evolution. The way in which a warped creation myth is part of what fuels their hate is both fascinating and horrible.

    I do think the absolutism seen in the Identity rhetoric is becoming more common–but as I said in the post, I don’t know how much influence the Identity people have.
    Just wanted to document that here’s where that attitude took one group–and it’s freakin’ scary as hell.

  17. @bug_girl: Not a projection, just the conclusion I came to; and I’m happy to admit that my conclusion was incorrect. Also I totally agree that these groups are nasty and dangerous.

  18. Going through my inbox, and re-discovered this:

    Compared to the vile hatred of the Identity folks, this blog is practically charming. However, look at the kind of language they use:

    “Pastor Boyd declared war on evolution and all of its humanist supporters. We need to widen the battle in order to reach as many people as we can so that we can achieve our goal of burying the forces behind evolution….
    We can only win this war when we attack our enemy….
    We need ground troops that will help in this war ….
    We are in a serious conflict with the forces of humanism! This is a war that we can’t afford to lose.”

  19. I’ve never understood the “Jew” argument. I was raised Catholic and was taught that Jesus was a Jew and that he was the savior. The Jews that exist now just didn’t see him as THE savior.
    Am I off there?

    I worked with a guy (In the Engineering dept of an airline) who believes Jews run the world.

    If they run the world why do they get shit on so much?

    That’d be like saying Haitians run the world, or South Ossetians, or fat people.

    Full disclosure, I’m a fat disgusting blob of a fat man trapped in a fatter man’s body that’s wearing a fat suit. Sort of a turducken of fat dudes.

  20. And I guess it’s good that Michigan is losing house seats.

    I once went on a double date and the other dude wouldn’t eat anything black. That’s how pure he was. My date and I left shortly after that.

    If it wasn’t scary it’d be hilarious.

  21. @T-Storm:

    “A foreign substance is introduced into our precious bodily fluids without the knowledge of the individual….Fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face. “

    Cue Dr. Strangelove…

  22. @bug girl that is actually the same article I was referencing. Seriously, they are scary, even if they seem slightly more benign that those you were referencing!

  23. It should be noted that Christian Identity members are also part of violent neo-Nazi skinhead groups and the Klan. These people are fascists and I shudder to imagine a dystopian totalitarian world under their rule.

  24. While I agree with you about these things being scary, there is nothing new here. For example, the KKK has always been a “Christian” group.

    Throughout history most religions have relied upon violence and the threat of violence to force their views on everyone else.

    In pursuit of their goals, the law, common sense, and even human decency have never been obstacles to the religious reich.

    Most of the problems of the world are, and always have been, cause by religion. Humanity will never truly be free until the black yoke of religion is lifted by the clear light of truth and rational thinking.

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