Christian Identity is an ideology which asserts that the white Aryan race is God’s chosen race and that whites comprise the ten lost tribes of Israel.19 There is no single document that expresses this belief system. Adherents refer to the Bible to justify their racist ideals. Interpreting the Book of Genesis, Christian Identity followers assert that Adam was preceded by other, lesser races, identified as “the beasts of the field” (Gen. 1:25). Eve was seduced by the snake (Satan) and gave birth to two seed lines: Cain, the direct descendent of Satan and Eve, and Able, who was of good Aryan stock through Adam. Cain then became the progenitor of the Jews in his subsequent matings with the non-Adamic races. Christian Identity adherents believe the Jews are predisposed to carry on a conspiracy against the Adamic seed line and today have achieved almost complete control of the earth.20 This is referred to as the two-seedline doctrine, which provides Christian Identity followers with a biblical justification for hatred.
The roots of the Christian Identity movement can be traced back to British-Israelism, the conviction that the British are the lineal descendants of the “ten lost tribes” of Israel. It is a belief that existed for some time before it became a movement in the second half of the 19th century. The writings of John Wilson helped to extend the idea of British-Israelism to Anglo-Israelism, which included other Teutonic peoples -- mostly northern European peoples from Germany, Italy, France and Switzerland. British-Israelism was brought to America in the early part of the 1920s, where it remained decentralized until the 1930s. At that time, the movement underwent the final transformation to become what we know as Christian Identity, at which time its ties to the original English movement were cut and it became distinctly American.
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.”21 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.
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.
As the millennium approaches, various right-wing groups pose a threat to American society. The radical right encompasses a vast number and variety of groups, such as survivalists, militias, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, Christian Identity churches, the AN and skinheads. These groups are not mutually exclusive and within the subculture individuals easily migrate from one group to another. This intermixing of organizations makes it difficult to discern a singular religious ideology or belief system that encompasses the right-wing.
Nevertheless, Christian Identity is the most unifying theology for a number of these diverse groups and one widely adhered to by white supremacists. It is a belief system that provides its members with a religious basis for racism and an ideology that condones violence against non-Aryans. This doctrine allows believers to fuse religion with hate, conspiracy theories, and apocalyptic fear of the future. Christian Identity-inspired millennialism has a distinctly racist tinge in the belief that Armageddon will be a race war of Aryans against Jews and nonwhites. The potential difficulty society may face due to the Y2K computer glitch is considered by a number of Christian Identity adherents to be the perfect event upon which to instigate a race war.
There are a number of issues concerning the Christian Identity belief system that create problems when determining the threat level of groups. First, Christian Identity does not have a national organizational structure. Rather, it is a grouping of churches throughout the country which follows its basic ideology. Some of these churches can be as small as a dozen people, and some as large as the AN church, which claims membership in the thousands. In addition, some groups take the belief to a higher extreme and believe violence is the means to achieve their goal. This lack of structure creates a greater potential for violent actions by lone offenders and/or leaderless cells. It is important to note that only a small percentage of Christian Identity adherents believe that the new millennium will bring about a race war. However, those that do have a high propensity for violence.
Secondly, there are many factions of the right-wing, from Christian Identity to militias, all of which are intermingled in ideology and members. In some cases it is easy for a person to be a member of more than one group or to move from one to another. Often, if a member of one group believes the group is lax in its convictions, he or she will gravitate to a group that is more radical.
The third concern is the increased level of cooperation between the different groups. This trend can be seen throughout the right-wing. Christian Identity followers are pairing up with militias to receive paramilitary training and have also joined with members of the Ku Klux Klan and other right-wing groups. This cohesiveness creates an environment in which ideology can easily spread and branch out. However, it makes the job of law enforcement much more difficult as there are no distinctive borders between groups or ideology.
Lastly, the formation of splinter groups or state chapters from larger organizations presents an increased level of threat due to the likelihood that the leader has diminished control over the members and actions of the smaller groups. The AN is a large group that adheres to the Christian Identity belief system. The group espouses hatred toward Jews, the federal government, blacks and other minorities. The ultimate goal of the AN is to forcibly take five northwestern states -- Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington and Montana -- from the United States government in order to establish an Aryan homeland. It consists of a headquarters in Hayden Lake, Idaho, and a number of state chapters, which often act as their own entities. While the leader may not support or encourage acts of violence, it is easy for small cells of members or splinter groups to take part in violent acts without the knowledge of the leader. The individuals are associated with the group as a whole and carry the name of the group, but may perpetrate acts on their own.
These factors make a threat assessment concerning millennial violence difficult to determine. There is a moderate possibility of small factions of right-wing groups, whether they be members of the same group, or members of different groups, acting in an overtly violent manner in order to initiate the Apocalypse.
Several problems associated with the assessment for violence can be seen when looking at the structure and actions of the AN. The AN has been headquartered at Hayden Lake since the late 1970s and remains a focal point for the group’s activities. Its annual World Congress attracts a number of different factions from the right-wing, including members and leaders of various right-wing groups. The World Congress is often viewed as a sort of round table to discuss right-wing issues. These meetings have led to an increased level of contact between AN members and members and leaders of other groups. This degree of networking within the right-wing may further the AN’s base of support and help advance its cause.
One of the greatest threats posed by the right-wing in terms of millennial violence is the formation of a conglomeration of individuals that will work together to commit criminal acts. This has happened with some frequency in the past. Bob Mathews formed a subgroup of the AN, called The Order, which committed a number of violent crimes, including murder. Their mission was to bring about a race war and there are several groups that currently exist which hold these same beliefs. Dennis McGiffen, who also had ties to the AN, formed a cell called The New Order, based on Mathews' group. The members were arrested before they could follow through on their plans to try to start a race war. Chevie Kehoe, who was convicted of three homicides, conspiracy and interstate transportation of stolen property also spent some time at the AN compound. Most recently, Buford O. Furrow, Jr., the man accused of the August 10, 1999, shooting at the Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles, California, also spent some time at the AN compound working as a security guard.
A relatively new tenet gaining popularity among Christian Identity believers justifies the use of violence if it is perpetrated in order to punish violators of God’s law, as found in the Bible and interpreted by Christian Identity ministers and adherents. This includes killing interracial couples, abortionists, prostitutes and homosexuals, burning pornography stores, and robbing banks and perpetrating frauds to undermine the “usury system.” Christian Identity adherents engaging in such behavior are referred to as Phineas Priests or members of the Phineas Priesthood. This is a very appealing concept to Christian Identity’s extremist members who believe they are being persecuted by the Jewish-controlled U.S. government and society and/or are eagerly preparing for Armageddon. Among adherents today, the Phineas Priesthood is viewed as a call to action or a badge of honor.
Part IV - White Supremacy
Table of Contents
19 There were 12 tribes of Israel but they were divided into two different kingdoms after the death of King Solomon. The northern kingdom was called "Israel" and consisted of ten tribes and the southern kingdom was called "Judah" and was comprised of two tribes. There is a record of the two tribes making up the southern kingdom, but the ten northern tribes were "lost" after they were conquered around 722 BC by the Assyrians.
20 Jeffrey Kaplan, Radical Religion in America (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1997), p. 47-48.
21 Michael Barkun, Religion and the Racist Right (Chapel Hill, N.C.: The University of North Carolina Press, 1997), p. 60.