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
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 “mud 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 often 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 just got too depressed. I just 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:
- The Order, probably the best known/most violent Identity group
- Religion and the Racist Right. 1997. M. Barkun. Univ. of North Carolina Press.
- An ATF Official’s view on Christian Identity
- Anti-Defamation League’s Profile of Christian Identity Groups
- Encyclopedia of White Power: A sourcebook on the radical racist right.
- Bitter Harvest: Birth of Paramilitary Terrorism in the Heartland
Michigan Racist Bastards of Note (Not all Identity Christians, but still bastards)