“Christian Identity” is the name of a religious movement uniting many of the white supremacist groups in the United States. Identity’s teachers promote racism and sometimes violence. Their roots are deeply embedded in movements such as the Ku Klux Klan and the Nazis. They consider themselves true Israel and view the Jews as half-devils and arch enemies. They believe all but the white race are inferior creations. Identity’s religious views are bizarre and occultic, and their view of history is often informed by conspiracy theories. Identity’s use of the name “Christian” to promote racism and violence is blasphemous. Jesus Christ as redeemer of all races is God’s supreme answer to Identity’s outrageous claims.
The headline read “Separatist Surrenders in Idaho.” The story was about Randy Weaver, a man indicted for selling two sawed-off shotguns to undercover federal agents. During the FBI’s attempt to force Weaver to leave his Idaho home and return to court, three people were killed: a federal agent and Weaver’s wife and son. When the standoff was over, 15 handguns, shotguns, and rifles were collected from his cabin. Randy Weaver is a member of a religious movement called “Christian Identity.” This “Christian” wing of the larger white supremacist movement is composed of adherents who variously give allegiance to the burning cross of the Ku Klux Klan and the sun sign — the twisted swastika — of the Neo-Nazis.
The movement, also called “Israel Identity,” has become the uniting force among many white supremacist groups. Included in most religious teaching produced by its leaders are racist statements that echo the statements of other white supremacists. The most moderate groups publish hate literature; the more radical groups turn to violence, including murder. Among those attracted to Identity in recent years are racist and violent young “skinheads” — some of whom were a part of the crowd of three hundred people who chanted racial slurs at federal marshals attempting to capture Weaver.
Although Identity groups are small in number and diverse, their penchant for social agitation attracts widespread media attention. The recent discovery that racist groups in the United States are supplying both literature and organizational help to racist groups in Germany is of concern to the whole Western world. One article by the Associated Press states that “violent acts perpetrated by far-right German extremists rose from 270 in 1990 to 1,483 last year, mostly attacks on foreigners.” The article goes on to say that “police investigating KKK activities in Germany raided some 30 buildings in May.”
Not understanding the violent and racist nature of Identity, Christians sometimes connect with this movement because of Identity’s espousal of issues such as right-to-life and anti-Communism. Because of this vulnerability it is important for Christians to know and understand Identity’s false and racist teachings. For the sake of non-Christians, it is also important for Christians to differentiate between biblical Christianity and Identity. Finally, it is the moral duty of Christians to stand against the evil intent of this form of white supremacist teaching. It is to further each of these three purposes that this article has been written.
Pastor Arnold Murray, an Identity preacher from Gravette, Arkansas, calls them “Kenites” (an Old Testament people he identifies as “Cainites”) and believes they were associated with Judah until they took over leadership of that tribe. These “Jews” were the people who killed Christ. Pastor Murray teaches that calling the Jews the chosen people of God is the gravest of sins. He says, “Bless your heart if you have ever been deceived by the Kenite, and I am speaking now on the spiritual level, if you have ever really believed that group was the chosen of God you were deceived by Satan. Repent of that even more so than your personal sins in the personal sense.”
Some other Identity teachers believe the Jews are children of Satan only in a figurative sense. But this really does not change their attitude toward Jewish people — their statements about the Jews still reflect a deep hatred. One writes about the Jew: “We know that as a race, they have the sly characteristics of the serpent…We know they have intimidated and imposed their will on our own government and every government in the nations of Christendom, through their dominance of finance, government, church, education, and the media.” In this scenario, a political position begins to emerge: the Jews are placed in a position of conspirators with Satan to take dominion over the world. In an awful reversal of their biblical role, the true Jewish people are now cast as the archenemy of God and humanity. Claiming the sacred history and the sacred Book for themselves, Identity teachers remove all that is a part of the Jew’s humanity.
Because Identity teachers hold that the other races are of a different creation, they consider interracial marriage a sin. Identity teachers insist that interracial marriage was the cause of God’s judgment on the people of Noah’s time. Consistent with this twisted view of Scripture, they believe that to marry someone of another race is treason to one’s own race. Pastor Pete Peters of La Porte, Colorado informs us that he teaches his children to never marry a person of another race. He adds: “I teach them also that if they ever did such a thing — never to come around my house with their mate or their half-breed children because they’ve been traitors to their own sires.” Some teachers — such as Richard Butler and his Aryan Nations, and Dan Gayman and his Church of Israel — see the black race as aliens and cohorts with Satan, and all other races as creatures who, like animals, have no spirits. In the fantasy world of extreme Identity, when Lucifer rebels he uses spacecraft and fights battles against God with the help of beings from other planets. The alien beings are forced to earth according to one tape: “For the fleet…came to earth like crumpled birds and…some survived and…some were wiped out….the dark and curly-headed ones never before seen upon the earth, the coming of the Negroid race.”
Although Arnold Murray affirms that all the other races are good, he offers the public, without apology, the book Tracing Our Ancestors by Frederick Haberman. Haberman writes: “It must be noticed that there is a great difference between the three principal races of mankind…and there exists little relationship between the three. The white race were unquestionably the last comers, being in every way superior to the other two and constituting their leaders and teachers.” Pastor Murray also teaches that even among Christians the different races should have no fellowship. All Identity groups certainly see the white race ruling over the other races.
The movement, Anglo-Israelism, began in 1870. It was founded by the Rev. John Wilson, a nonconformist minister who expounded the idea that the Anglo-Saxons were the supposed ten lost tribes of Israel. Believing the nations of western Europe and the United States to be God’s chosen people, they expected them to receive all the promises God gave to Israel in the Old Testament.
Mr. Edward Hine brought the Anglo-Israelism movement to the United States in 1870, the same year the movement began in England. His efforts were mostly unfruitful, but his book, Identification of the British Nation with Lost Israel, is still used by adherents of Identity in the United States. Hine’s book was first among a spate of Anglo-Israel literature published in the U. S. — including a periodical published by Yale Professor Charles A. L. Totten called, Our Race, Its Origins and Its Destiny. Today, with few exceptions (the Worldwide Church of God being one), most adherents of Anglo-Israelism are in the Identity movement.
The merging of Klan and Nazi extremism into the Anglo-Israelism movement — which then produced the Identity movement — can largely be traced to one man: Wesley Swift. However, it was not Swift but Howard B. Rand (whose writings are published by Destiny Publishers) who first coined the term Identity. According to James Coates, Rand’s intention was “to describe Hine’s concept of Anglo-Israelism, in which Jesus was not a Jew of the tribe of Judah but an Aryan of the ten lost tribes of Israel and an ancestor of the present British, Germanic and Scandinavian people.”
Wesley Swift was a prolific speaker and his tapes and written messages are frequently used by Identity speakers. His connections to the Nazism of Hitler’s Germany are unquestionable. Swift was at one time both a friend and advance man for Gerald L. K. Smith, a racist whose radical career began when he joined the “Silver Shirts,” an American Nazi group formed by Willam Pelley. James Ridgeway, author of Blood in the Face (a “who’s-who of hate”), notes that “with Pelley as their ‘Chief,’ the Silver Shirts openly supported Hitler, cooperated with the pro-Nazi German-American Bund, and embarked on a program of vicious anti-Semitism.”
Swift was also a member of the Ku Klux Klan when he founded the Identity Church of Jesus Christ Christian in 1946. Richard Butler, who was led into the Identity movement by Wesley Swift, inherited Swift’s church and founded an Identity compound called the Aryan Nations, located near Hayden Lake, Idaho. Butler is an advocate of Nazism, and his yearly Aryan Nations meetings attract Klan members, Nazi groups, and skinheads. Some Identity teachers, although racist, reject Nazism in name, attributing its cause to the Jews. This trend has started a new controversy within the ranks of Identity. The Identity groups who reject Nazism also do so because they are perceptive enough to recognize Nazism’s ingrained hatred of true Christianity.
Wesley Swift used occult legends as “truths” in his sermons. His bizarre teachings included stories about Atlantis and Lemuria, fictional civilizations included in most occult philosophy. Identity teachers of today such as Pastor Arnold Murray maintain that the great Pyramid was built by the Israelites and is a second revelation of God. The idea that the measurements of the pyramid are encoded with a revealed message is occultic, since the message is both supernaturally given and esoteric, known only by those initiated into that knowledge. Identity also embraces astrology and occultic tales of Jesus visiting Britain.
For instance, many Identity groups offer books by E. Raymond Capt and also use him as a speaker, since his specialty is supposedly archaeology and history. Capt’s writing includes such books as Stonehenge and Druidism and The Traditions of Glastonbury: The Silent Years of Jesus between 12 and 30. Another speaker used by most groups is Lt. Col. Jack Mohr, whose specialty is anti-Communism. Mohr offers such tapes as “Background to Betrayal: How America Has Been Betrayed by Zionists Both Jewish and Christian.” Many racist groups, including Identity groups, sell or refer to the book, Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This fraudulent book is supposedly a document of conspiracy by Jewish leaders to take over the world.
Most conspiracy theories have developed from a particular fear — and the need to master that fear, by identifying a cause and then supposedly gaining control of the situation. For instance, the cause of the Black Plague in the Middle Ages was attributed to the Jew. The solution espoused was to kill or remove the Jews. Then the plague would supposedly end. The disastrous condition of Germany after the First World War was attributed to the Jew by some fearful Germans. Eventually their evil solution brought about the Holocaust. And while the John Birch Society changed most of the leading players in their conspiracy theory to what they call the “insiders” rather than Jews, many others still see the Jew as the monster controlling world events. For these anti-Semites the Jew is often referred to as the “International Banker.”
All of these groups together, both Identity and non-Identity white supremacist, hold a dangerous sociopolitical view. Their mutual solution to this supposed “Jewish control” is a race war. This war is considered by many Identity teachers to be the last great battle, Armageddon.
According to these teachers, at the head of this conspiracy that leads to the final battle is ZOG: Zionist Occupation Government. Zionist Occupation Government simply means to Identity adherents that the Jewish conspiracy has taken over the government of the United States. Since they also believe that Jewish leaders are using other races to destroy the white race, the final battle pits the white race against virtually all others. And, because they constantly feed on conspiracy theories that involve those whose beliefs or politics oppose their own, Identity’s political and religious opposites are also considered their enemies. Furthermore, they do not have to love their enemies because they consider most of them subhuman.
Many Christians find they are facing a bewildering morass of social problems. For some this has led to a deeper understanding of God’s sovereignty, and a greater dependence on His grace and mercy to sinners. For others there is the enticing reach for the quick answer. And this has meant a return to philosophies that are void of grace. At this point it is possible for the bits and pieces of Identity to seep in. Christians who are far from Identity’s blatant racism nonetheless allow Identity’s attitudes and world view — including conspiracy theories — to touch the core of their faith. Turning to ideas, news sources, and leaders who lack an understanding of the true gospel, these Christians accept into their beliefs and their publications concepts that are not biblical.
In the Nazi era a great deal of Old Testament Scripture had already been rejected by many liberal scholars, mainly in Germany. Unlike the Identity movement of today, which accepts all of the Bible as inspired, the Nazis who considered themselves “Christian” were able to divorce the Jewish foundation of Christianity by simply disconnecting Christianity from both the Old Testament and Paul. Most of the “German Christians” — those loyal to Hitler — based their religious views on a kind of nationalistic nonsectarian ethic.
Franklin Littell, Professor of Religion at Temple University, points out that this German understanding of Christianity was not unlike John Birch Society founder Robert Welch’s “ecstatic affirmation of non-sectarian religion,” found in Welch’s The Blue Book. Littell writes: “The ‘German Christians’ were at least logical enough to press the religion of the ethnic base, infused with spirituality, to its logical conclusion: antisemitism.” The point is: without a biblical basis, without Jesus Christ as Lord, any religion, even one named Christian — especially one named Christian, can produce gross evil.
Although the religious teachers of “Christian Identity” do not reject the Old Testament or Paul, they distort and twist Scripture until little is left of God’s revelation of good news. The Identity teachers’ conclusion that the British, Scandinavian, and Germanic peoples are the lost tribes of Israel is a case in point. None of the tribes of Israel have been lost. While many of the northern tribes of Israel — carried into exile by Assyria — intermarried with the peoples they lived among, there is no biblical reference that would encourage this teaching of lost tribes.
Christ’s statement that He “was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24) is not a reference to tribes that had physically disappeared, but to a people who were lost in sin. Earlier in the text Jesus had sent His twelve disciples “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:6), and the disciples did not need to search for the people they were sent to help. After the captivity of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Babylonian captivity of the Southern Kingdom of Judah, all twelve tribes — whether living outside of the homeland or within the homeland — were referred to as both Jews and Israel. Both the Book of Ezra and the Book of Nehemiah, books about the return of God’s people to Jerusalem after their captivity, use the two terms, Jews and Israel, to refer to the same people (e.g., Ezra 2:26; 4:12; Neh. 1:6; 4:1-2).
Paul refers to himself as both a Jew and an Israelite. Writing of God’s enduring of the “vessels of wrath” for the sake of those He would show mercy to, he notes: “And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon the vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles” (Rom. 9:23-24). In the same chapter he writes: “For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites” (Rom. 9:3-4). Luke in the second chapter of Acts records the fact that Jerusalem was filled at Pentecost with Jews from many lands, and when Peter addresses them he refers to them as “men of Israel.” Jesus explained to the Samaritan woman that “we worship that which we know, for salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22), not only calling Himself a Jew but pointing her toward the Jewish people, whom God had chosen to bless the world through the promised Messiah.
Once the error of Anglo-Israelism is exposed it leaves the Identity believer in a very damning position — Identity adherents are not the chosen people, rather they are the ones attacking the chosen people, the Jews. And they are also the ones ranting against the true church of Christ. They are, in fact, attacking God, for their attempt to relegate other races to an earlier and inferior creation is an attack on the love of God, as well as the image of God in all humanity. It is the image of God in humans that sets them apart from all other creatures and prepares the way for Christ to take unto Himself human flesh and redeem people of all races. The biblical themes of redemption, the Incarnation, and the unity of humanity (“every nation and race”) are constantly blended together in Scripture.
When Paul preached to the Athenians on Mars Hill he appealed to their common humanity as creations of the true God when he stated: “And He made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:26-27). Genesis 10:1-32 names most of the nations that developed from the three sons of Noah. Derek Kidner, author of Genesis in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, writes: “Not every nation known to the Old Testament is enrolled here, but enough are present to make the point that mankind is one, for all its diversity, under the one creator. Possibly the seventy names (Lxx 72) influenced our Lord’s choice of this apparently symbolic number of emissaries in Luke 10:1.”
Jesus Christ is God’s answer to racism. Paul admonishes the Galatians that they are to make no distinctions among those belonging to Christ; they are to be as one: “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:27-28). In the Book of Revelation, where Christ is pictured as both “the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah” and “a Lamb standing, as if slain,” the 24 Elders sing to His glory: “For Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. And thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth” (Rev. 5:9-10).
The church, those redeemed not by race but by the blood of Christ the Lamb, understand Christ as both lion and lamb, both sacrifice and King. Wilhelm Niemoller, one of the members of the Confessing Church in Germany during the time of Hitler, wrote of what it meant to confess Christ as the only Lord under that regime: “One of my friends concluded a sermon of his in 1934 or 1935 by saying: ‘O Lord, Thou alone art our hope, apart from Thee, I know none!’ He was arrested, put on trial, and later released. The enemies that listened to him had noticed that the Third Reich was put in a difficult position wherever the ‘One Word of God’ made its appearance.” The Neo-Nazi groups and those who feed on their hate literature are simply a part of the rising paganism in America. They are also an extreme example of groups who like to use Christian terminology while laying foundations on extrabiblical revelation. The need for present security, elitism, power, and a revelation not anchored in Christ and the Word of God is the mark of anti-Christian religion.
The believer’s only haven is Christ. This means there is no present worldly security — the believer is not an elite person. Instead, members of Christ’s church are often the ones hated and despised by the nations. The only power given is that which Christ gives, so that His followers may be able to faithfully love, serve, and suffer in this present world. Finally, the believer finds racial pride to be sin, because the only exaltation a Christian knows is God’s unmerited grace, freely offered to all in Jesus Christ.
Previously the director of Apologetics Resource Center, Sacramento, California, Viola Larson is a graduate student in history at California State University, Sacramento.
2. “U.S. Hate Groups Spread Their Venom to Germany,” Sacramento Bee, 14 August 1992, part A.
4. Arnold Murray, Grace: Baptism (cassette #406) (Gravette, AR: Shepherd’s Chapel, n.d.).
5. Jack Mohr, “Seed of Satan: Literal or Figurative?” (Louis, MI: n.p., n.d.) 26.
6. Pete Peters, Inter-Racial Marriage, part l (cassette 170) (La Porte, CO: Scriptures for America, n.d.).
7. Wesley Swift, Dwellers in the Deep (cassette 350) (Waynesville, NC: New Beginnings, 1964).
8. Federick Haberman, Tracing Our Ancestors (n.p., n.d.), 10. Reference is made within the book to Hitler in Germany, dating the book sometime before World War II.
9. Murray, Grace: Baptism.
10. Thomas F. Gossett, Race: The History of an Idea in America (New York: Schocken Books, 1965), 71.
11. James Coates (New York: Hill and Wang, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1987), 181; Gossett, 192. [Back] 12. Gossett, 259-60.
13. Ibid., 260.
14. Coates, 33-36.
15. Ibid., 93.
16. James Ridgeway, Blood in the Face: The Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, Skinheads, and the Rise of a New White Culture(New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1990), 45.
17. George L. Mosse, The Crisis of German Ideology: Intellectual Origins of the Third Reich (New York: Schocken Books, 1981), 75, 116, 277.
18. Pete Peters, A Biblical Look at the Farm Problems (cassette 161) (La Porte, CO: Scriptures for America, n.d.).
19. Frank H. Littell, “Church Struggle and the Holocaust,” in The German Church Struggle and the Holocaust, ed. Frank H. Littell and Hubert G. Locke (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1974), 25-26.
20. One excellent reference for the subject of Anglo-Israelism is Walter R. Martin’s The Kingdom of the Cults, ch. 12 (Bethany, revised and expanded edition, 1985). Also see, J.K. Van Baalen, The Chaos of Cults: A Study in Present-Day Isms, ch. 9 (Eerdmans, 1967), and Anton Darms, The Delusion of British-Israelism (Loizeaux Brothers, Bible Truth Depot, n.d.), written before the establishment of the State of Israel. This latter book is written from a dispensational view.
21. Derek Kidner, Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary, Old Testament Commentaries, ed. D.J. Wisemam (Downer Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 104-5.
22. Wilhelm Niemller, “The Niemller Archives,” in Littell and Locke, 55.
Larson, Viola. “Identity: A ‘Christian’ Religion for White Racists” Christian Research Journal, Fall 1992, p. 20
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