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The identity christian movement ideology of domestic terrorism

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Abstract

Many acts of domestic terrorism in the United States are connected to a religious ideology that has created the climate for and given legitimacy to violence aimed at all non-whites, Jews, gays, Catholics, abortion doctors and so on. The Identity Christian movement provides motivation for many acts of terrorism in our country today. This aberrant form of Christianity is an outgrowth of White separatist underground movements. The concept of Identity Christianity is the resulting amalgamation of the following five components: (a) the theories of British Israelism; (b) a perversion of fundamentalist Christianity; (c) an antigovernment, paramilitary survivalist/conspiracy mentality based on a fear of the elimination of the White race; (d) a polygenist view of origins of humanity; and (e) the notion of White supremacy. Threads of this perspective are found on internet sites worldwide.
JOURNALOFBLACK STUDIES / MARCH 2000Sharpe/THE IDENTITY CHRISTIANMOVEMENT THE IDENTITY CHRISTIAN
MOVEMENT
Ideology of Domestic Terrorism
TANYA TELFAIR SHARPE
Georgia State University
We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white
children.
—Lane, 2000, p. 1
In past years, terrorism has been most often associated with
countries other than the United States. Concomitantly, acts of ter-
rorism on American shores were formerly linked to foreign resi-
dent extremists. However, an increasing body of evidence suggests
that domestic terrorism in the United States perpetuated by Ameri-
cans is increasing, especially in the past 20 years. The causes of
violent acts directed at the government and its officials, ethnic and
other minorities, synagogues, and Black churches have con-
founded law enforcement agencies. These acts of violence include
from the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in
1995; mail bombs directed at federal judges and NAACP leaders;
random acts of violence targeting homosexuals, Blacks, Jews, His-
panics, and Asians; the burning of Black and mixed congregation
churches in the South; the July 24, 1998 shootings at the nation’s
capitol;andmostrecently,thebeatingdeathofagayWyominguni-
versity student and the June 1998 dragging death of a Black man in
Texas. On the surface, these appear to be separate and unrelated
incidents. None of these events can be linked to a grand conspiracy
604
AUTHOR’S NOTE: A version of this article was presented at the Southern
Anthropological Society Annual Meeting, April 1994.
JOURNAL OF BLACK STUDIES, Vol. 30 No. 4, March 2000 604-623
© 2000 Sage Publications, Inc.
or plot perpetuated by a single organization. However, acts of
domestic terrorism in the United States may be connected to a
religiousideologythathascreatedtheclimateforand givenlegiti-
macy to violence aimed at these specific targets (White, 1989).
The Identity Christian movement provides motivation for many
actsof terrorism inourcountrytoday.This aberrant formofChris-
tianityis an outgrowthof the White supremacistphilosophy;how-
ever, the definition of White is narrowed to include only White,
Anglo-Saxon Protestants (Aho, 1990). The theology is fully ex-
pressed in socalled Christian Identity churches and Christian
patriot organizations. However, tenets of the belief system are
found among the long lists of White supremacist groups, neo-
Nazis, skinheads, some militia and survivalist organizations, and
other White racial separatists. This belief system is a common link
amongthese fragmented groups (FalsePatriots,1996; Intelligence
Report, 1997a).
White’s (1989) journal article “The Road to Armageddon:
Religion and Domestic Terrorism,” suggested that identity theol-
ogy was capable of inspiring violence; however, his prophetic
warning went unheeded. The purpose of this research is threefold.
First, the etiology of the Identity Christian movement is analyzed
by examining its foundations and tenets. Second, the communica-
tion strategies and organized activities that link the belief system’s
worldwide proponents are examined. Third, evidence of Identity
Christian underpinnings in domestic terrorist acts was sought.
METHOD
Literature and Internet searches were conducted on the areas of
White supremacy in general and on specific organizations that
adhere to the philosophy (e.g., neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, mili-
tias, and the Aryan Nation) to find threads of Identity Christianity.
Publications dating from June 1995 to January 1999 were obtained
fromthe Southern PovertyLawCenter, the nation’sleaderin track-
ing White supremacist activity. Underground literature was
ordered from bookstores. Field observation was conducted at two
Sharpe / THE IDENTITY CHRISTIAN MOVEMENT 605
local gun and knife shows. Gun and knife shows are known to
attract right-wing extremists. These shows also display and mer-
chandise their literature and paraphernalia.
Qualitative content analysis was conducted on the aforemen-
tioned print and cyberspace sources to identify the following
issues:(a) the beliefs, doctrines, and practicesofIdentityChristian-
ity; (b) organizations that subscribe to these beliefs; and (c) violent
and criminal acts associated with Identity Christianity.
THE DOCTRINE OF IDENTITY CHRISTIANITY
A small group of right-wing extremists (Bertrand Comparet, a
Californialawyer; WilliamPorter Gale, aWorldWarIIaidetoGen-
eral Douglas MacAuthur; and Wesley Swift, who founded an early
Identity Christian Church) developed the Identity Christian move-
ment and doctrine in America in the mid-1940s (False Patriots,
1996; Intelligence Report, 1998a). The concept of Identity Christi-
anity is the resulting amalgamation of the following five compo-
nents: (a) the theories of British Israelism; (b) a perversion of fun-
damentalist Christianity; (c) an antigovernment, paramilitary
survivalist/conspiracy mentality based on a fear of the elimination
ofthe White race; (d) a polygenist view of origins of humanity;and
(e) the notion of White supremacy.
First, British Israelism grew out of the 19th-century search for
thelosttribes of Israel spoken of in theBible.In1840,John Wilson,
a Scotsman, wrote Our Israelish Origin, which claimed that Eng-
lishmen were the true chosen people of God and are the original
Israelites of the past and not the present-day Jews (Aho, 1990;
White, 1989; Young, 1990). The theological basis for Identity
believers rests on this idea. The Bible is therefore not a recorded
history of the Jews but rather a recorded history of Aryans or
Whites (Aho, 1990). Others who have written books in support of
thisdoctrine are Mackendrick(1928),Carpenter (1874), and Jar-
rold (1927). These authors identify Aryans as the true characters
represented in the King James Version of the Bible. The following
quote from the doctrinal statement of Identity Christianity gener-
606 JOURNAL OF BLACK STUDIES / MARCH 2000
ated by the Kingdom Identity Ministries in Harrison, Arkansas
demonstrates the concept of identity.
We believe the White, Anglo-Saxon, Germanic and kindred people
to be God’s true, literal Children of Israel. Only this race fulfills
every detail of Biblical Prophecy and World History concerning
Israeland continues in these latterdaysto be heirs and possessorsof
the Covenants, Prophecies, Promises and Blessings of YHVH God
made to Israel. This chosen seedline making up the “Christian
Nations” (Gen. 35:11; Isa. 62:2; Acts 11:26) of the earth stands far
superior to all other peoples in their call as God’s servant race (Isa.
41:8, 44:21; Luke 1:54). (Kingdom Identity Ministries Doctrinal
Statement of Beliefs, 1999)
Second, the Fundamentalist Christian doctrine added the literal
interpretation of the Bible to the belief system as well as the view
that Armageddon or the second coming of Christ and the destruc-
tion of the world are near (Aho, 1990; White, 1989). Again, the
doctrinal statement of the Kingdom Identity Ministries concisely
states the beliefs concerning the Bible for many Identity
subscribers.
Webelievethe entire Bible, both Old and NewTestaments,as origi-
nally inspired, to be the inerrant, supreme, revealed Word of God.
The history, covenants, and prophecy of this Holy Book were writ-
ten for and about a specific elect family of people who are the chil-
drenof YHVH God(Luke 3:38; Psalm82:6) through theseedline of
Adam....Webelieve the ultimate destiny of all history will be the
establishment of the Kingdom of God upon this earth (Psalm 37:9,
11, 22: Isa. 11:9; Matt. 5:5, 6:10; Rev. 21:2-3) with Yahshua our
Messiah (Jesus Christ) reigning as King of kings over the house of
Jacob forever, of this kingdom and dominion there shall be no end
(Luke 1:32-33; Dan. 2:44, 7:14; Zech. 14:9). When our Savior
returns to restore righteous government on earth, there will be a day
of reckoning when the kingdoms of this world become His (Rev.
11:15;Isa.9:6-7) and all evil shall be destroyed (Isa.13:9;Mal. 4:3;
Matt. 13:30, 41-42). (Kingdom Identity Ministries Doctrinal State-
ment of Beliefs, 1999)
However,theanticipatedcalamityis altered and restatedintermsof
race wars that are predicted to destroy the world as we know it
Sharpe / THE IDENTITY CHRISTIAN MOVEMENT 607
today. Identity followers believe that wars between and among the
races will lead to an Aryan victory and restructuring of society that
will reinstate the White man to his dominant place on earth and
therebyrestore“order.Defying history and logic, they believethat
their savior Jesus Christ is White, Anglo-Saxon, and Protestant.
Some believed that Armageddon would be triggered by the turn of
the century computer problems associated with the year 2000 date
change (Intelligence Report, 1998b).
The third component of Identity Christianity, the antigovern-
ment, paramilitary survivalist/conspiracy mentality (henceforth,
APSCM) is complex. It contains two interconnected subcompo-
nents. The first subcomponent is the belief that reestablishment of
White sovereignty depends on the use of organized aggression
against the enemies of the true Christians, all non-Whites and all
non-Protestants. The first two letters of race holy war make up the
battlecry “RAHOWA”often usedinIdentityspeeches and publica-
tions (Intelligence Report, 1998a). Moreover, preparation must be
made for the coming race wars. Survivalist groups prepare arse-
nals; learn to make bombs and other antipersonnel devices; stock
up on nonperishable, bomb-shelter type foods and other survival
goods;and some groupspracticewargames inclandestine,wooded
areas (Aho, 1990; False Patriots, 1996; Klan Watch Intelligence
Report, 1995; Intelligence Report, 1998b). They have become pro-
ficient at using a variety of guns and other weapons to ensure their
survivalwhenthewarsbegin. Their effortsto prepare were doubled
in preparation for the Y2K computer difficulties that were
predicted. Many computers all over the world were predicted to
read the date change to the year 2000 as 1900, thereby setting off
difficulties in conducting local and global business. Because few
significant problems were realized on January 1, 2000, perhaps the
Identity Christians have turned their attention to the year 2001, the
actual first year of the new millennium, as the bench mark for the
beginning of Armageddon. Nevertheless, the Identity Christians
and other White separatist factions believe that this is a critical
junctureintheirhistory.Theybelievethatracewarswill be sparked
in the new century (Intelligence Report, 1998b).
608 JOURNAL OF BLACK STUDIES / MARCH 2000
Thesecond subcomponent of theAPSCMis the fear ofanorgan-
ized world conspiracy against Whites and a paranoid fear of the
extermination of the White race. The leaders of this alleged anti-
Whitemovementarethought to be thefederalgovernmentandJew-
ish people. These two leader factions are thought to be aided by
Blacks, liberals, gays, Catholics, Hispanics, and so on, and are
believed to have the goal of controlling, eliminating, or restricting
therightsof White people (Aho, 1990; Young,1990; White, 1989).
The conspiracy is termed the “New World Order.” The federal gov-
ernment, which supports the New World Order, is termed the
“Zionist Occupation Government” (ZOG) by the Identity follow-
ers. Identity followers consider the government an illegal, foreign
occupying force (False Patriots, 1996). The government is consid-
ered pro-Israel and therefore anti-White Christian and ultimately
not worthy of trust. They frequently do not pay taxes to support the
government that they disdain, and it follows that many have prob-
lems with the Internal Revenue Service (Aho, 1990). These com-
plications serve to reinforce their distrust of the government. In
addition, the aforementioned campaign of organized aggression
necessary to reestablish White sovereignty must include over-
throwing the federal government. Therefore, acts of violence
against government representatives and agencies are considered a
strategic plan toward that end (Aho, 1990; False Patriots, 1996). A
quote from the goal statement of the National Alliance, an amalga-
mation of White racial separatists and Identity believers, sums up
commonly held ideas concerning the government.
With the growth of mass democracy (the abolition of poll taxes and
other qualifications for voters, the enfranchisement of women and
ofnon-whites),therise in the influence of the mass media on public
opinion, and the insinuation of the Jews into a position of control
over the media, the U.S. Government was gradually transformed
into the malignant monster it is today: the single most dangerous
and destructive enemy our race has ever known. (National Alliance
Goal Statement, 1996)
The goals of the alleged New World Order are given in another
National Alliance publication titled Free Speech.
Sharpe / THE IDENTITY CHRISTIAN MOVEMENT 609
The truth of the matter is that the New World Order people ulti-
mately aim to create a New World Population of serfs for their
global plantation, a homogeneous population of coffee-colored
serfs—a population of docile, predictable, and interchangeable
serfs—and they definitely don’t want any large reservoir of White
people any where who might rebel. (Pierce, 1997a)
BeliefinthisNew WorldOrder places Whites againsttherestofthe
world and creates an atmosphere of alienation, fear, and paranoia.
Coupled with their anticipation of race wars to reinstate Whites as
the dominant force in the world, a volatile situation is prevalent
among Identity believers.
The fourth component of the Identity Christian doctrine is an
unusualinterpretation of the creationofhumankind. Identity Chris-
tian believers have adopted a unique version of the polygenist view
ofman’sorigin.Polygenistsholdthathumanityhadseveral distinct
origins and is opposed to the belief that all mankind comes from
onegenetic source, for example, the biblical figure Adam (Fortney,
1977; Haller, 1971; Johnston & Selby, 1978). Although Identity
Christians generally cling to literal interpretation of the Bible, they
believe that Whites were created by God in his likeness and are the
descendants of Adam and Eve. In contrast, they believe that all
non-Whites evolved from pre-Adamic, lower species (Aho, 1990;
Young, 1990; White, 1989). Thus, they combine a creation origin
for Whites with an evolutionist origin for non-Whites. In other
words, Whites are the result of a Divine creation and others are the
result of evolution and are considered less-than-human, “mud peo-
ple.The doctrinal statement from the Kingdom Identity Ministries
makes this clear as well.
We believe that the Man Adam (a Hebrew word meaning: ruddy, to
showBlood, flush, turn rosy) is thefatherof the White race only.As
a son of God (Luke 3:38), made in His likeness (Gen. 5:1), Adam
and his descendants, who are also the children of God (Psalm 82:6;
Hos.1:10; Rom. 8:16;Gal.4:6; I John3: 1-2),canknow YHVHGod
as their creator. Adamic man is made trichotomous, that is, not only
of body and soul, but having an implanted spirit (Gen. 2:7; I Thes.
5:23;Heb. 4:12) givinghim a higher form ofconsciousnessand dis-
tinguishing him from all the other races of the earth (Deut. 7:6,
610 JOURNAL OF BLACK STUDIES / MARCH 2000
10:15; Amos 3:2). (Kingdom Identity Ministries Doctrinal State-
ment of Beliefs, 1999)
Blacks,specifically,are frequently referredtoas“talking apes or
talking beasts” (Aho, 1990). Jews are a special hybrid product of a
union between Eve and the Devil (Aho, 1990; White, 1989). Iden-
tity Christians believe that Cain was, in actuality, the son of Satan.
Another quote from the doctrinal statement identifies Cain’s
descendants as the present-day Jews.
We believe in an existing being known as the Devil or Satan and
called the Serpent (Gen. 3:1; Rev. 12:9), who has the literal seed or
posterityin the earth(Gen: 3:15) commonlycalledJews today(Rev.
2:9, 3:9; Isa. 65:15). These children of Satan (John 8:44-47; Matt.
13:38; John 8:23) through Cain (I John 2:22, 4:3) who have
throughouthistory alwaysbeen acurse to trueIsrael, the Childrenof
God,because of anatural enmity betweenthe tworaces(Gen. 3:15),
because they do the works of their father the Devil (John 8:38-44),
and because they do not please God, and are contrary to all men (I
Thes.2:14-15), thoughthey oftenpose as ministersof righteousness
(II Cor. 11:13-15). The ultimate end of this evil race whose hands
bearthe blood of our Savior(Matt.27:25) and all the righteous slain
upon the earth (Matt. 23:35), is Devin judgment (Matt. 13:38-42,
15:13; Zech. 14:21). (Kingdom Identity Ministries Doctrinal State-
ment of Beliefs, 1999)
The connection between Eve and the Devil in Identity Christian
theology yields a dualistic view of women. The White woman is
considered the most beautiful creature in the universe, desired and
soughtafter by males of all races.However,femininity carries with
it the legacy of Eve and her indiscretion with Lucifer. Women are
portrayed as weak and virtueless and above all corruptible, desper-
ately needing White masculine leadership and strength. Women
reach their highest fulfillment in the supporting roles of wife and
motherhood (Aho, 1990; Shanks-Meille & Dobratz, 1991). Her
sole purpose in this culture is to maintain a comfortable home for
her man and to bear “beautiful, healthy white babies” (Shanks-
Meille& Dobratz, 1991, p.79;Aho, 1990). Todeviatefrom the per-
formance of these roles is to become relegated to the ranks of a
Sharpe / THE IDENTITY CHRISTIAN MOVEMENT 611
“sickfeminist” traitor to the White race (Shanks-Meille&Dobratz,
1991). The role of women is problematic for this organization in
that it limits recruitment of women participants. This factor adds
fuel to the fire concerning their views on miscegenation (Aho,
1990; Shanks-Meille & Dobratz, 1991). A major concern for this
philosophy is pollution of the White race though miscegenation.
Interracial marriage, dating, and sex are strictly prohibited and
are attached to every form of social ill conceivable. Diseases,
germs, viruses, bacteria, and general uncleanliness are associated
with race mixing (Aho, 1990; Dobratz & Shanks-Meille, 1988;
Shanks-Meille& Dobratz., 1991). There is fear thatthepure White
racewillbecorruptedanddefiledby mixing with the “mud people”
(non-Whites) and the penalty for miscegenation is death (Aho,
1990). Jews, then, are the result of the first incident of race mixing.
Becausetheyare thoughtof as spawnof the Devil, anti-Semitism is
oneofthemostpowerfulthemes in the doctrine. As indicated inthe
quoteabove,Jews are thought to be at the root of many,if not all the
problems on earth (Aho, 1990). Most of the Identity Christian
groups propagate fear of the repercussions of interracial sexual
contact.Onone hand, they fear extinction of the White race. On the
other hand, they appear to loathe the idea of Black men having
access to White women. The Identity literature is filled with nega-
tiveimages of White women caring for mixed-racebabies (Carroll,
1995). Race mixing in and of itself is a cause for an organized and
radical plan to separate the races. The National Vanguard Maga-
zine, a leading neo-Nazi publication, suggests that “the cult of mis-
cegenation,” which, according to them, has proliferated over the
past 30 years, has placed the White race on the “precipice of bio-
logicalextinction.”Furthermore, theyarguethat only radical action
will end the “morality of death” (“Miscegenation,” 1997).
To combat the fear of the extermination of the White race
through race mixing, recent initiatives have emerged in some Iden-
tity Christian groups that promote polygamy among their believers
to enhance the White population (Intelligence Report, 1998b). In
another effort to promote the proliferation of White progeny, these
extremists have declared war on doctors, practitioners, and clinics
thatperform abortions for White women. The most violent extrem-
612 JOURNAL OF BLACK STUDIES / MARCH 2000
ists in the pro-life movement are closely connected to the Identity
Christian movement (Intelligence Report, 1998c). Moreover,
White homosexuals are considered traitors to the White race. They
take the fundamentalist Christian stance on homosexuality to the
extreme. Homosexuals, according to Identity Christians, deserve
the death penalty (Intelligence Report, 1997b; Kingdom Identity
Ministries Doctrinal Statement of Beliefs, 1999).
The fifth component of Identity Christianity is the notion of
White supremacy. This doctrine undergirds the entire ideology.
White supremacy stems from misconceptions in European 16th-
centurylinear models used to explain human diversity. These mod-
els ranked humankind by physical and cultural characteristics on a
highest-to-lowest continuum (Feagin & Feagin, 1993; Fortney,
1977;Haller,1971). Darker-skinned people were ranked at the bot-
tomofthesehierarchies.Thesemodelslinkedphysicalcharacteris-
tics to cultural characteristics and to the potential for the develop-
ment of complex civilizations. Using this analysis, Whites are
considered the creators and owners of modern civilization (Pierce,
1997b).
The most well-known and vocal proponent of Identity Christian
theology is Rev. Richard Butler, who leads the Aryan Nations
Church. This organization moved from California to Idaho in 1973
and has associations with numerous White supremacist groups.
Idaho is now considered a hub for Identity Christianity and White
supremacy (Aho, 1990; Young, 1990). The Aryan Nations Church
holds a yearly conference during the summer and is considered an
umbrella organization for the splintered factions that make up the
White supremacist underground community (Klan Watch Intelli-
gence Report, 1992). Organizations that defend and support White
supremacy and advocate hate of non-Whites have been loosely
connected and scattered in the past. Often, they harbored conflict-
ingbeliefsand theories. However, the IdentityChristian movement
is frequently the common denominator in present-day White
supremacist organizations and serves as a cause under which they
all can rally. Many of the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, skinheads, and
other similar groups adhere to Identity beliefs (Klan Watch Intelli-
gence Report, 1992).
Sharpe / THE IDENTITY CHRISTIAN MOVEMENT 613
The tenets of Identity Christianity provide justification for ter-
rorism against and extermination of Jews and non-Whites because
only Whites are human. And, because God is White, he only hears
the prayers of Whites. Prayers offered by non-Whites are termed
voodoo prayers and are not answered by the Divine Creator (Aho,
1990). Considering their insistence on literal interpretation of the
Bible, it is plausible to ponder how these interpretations are
extractedfrom thesame King James versionof the Bible that main-
stream Christians use.
IdentityChristianbelieversuse the Bible in conjunction with the
apocrypha or the books not included when the Bible was officially
canonized(Aho, 1990). Identity Christians believethat these books
were not included due to the Jewish world conspiracy discussed
earlier and that this was a part of the plot against the true people of
God (Aho, 1990). It is noteworthy to mention that the books were
actually omitted because of their dubious nature or authorship.
Interpretationof these worksoftenemploys creativeword etymolo-
gies, tracing modern English words back to the Hebraic language
(Aho, 1990). This in and of itself is questionable because ancient
Hebrew is considered a derivative of the Afro-Asiatic Semitic lan-
guage subfamily and English is a Germanic language (Aho, 1990).
The apocrypha incorporate myths of dragons and Black devil
mutants that feed directly into the Identity Christian theology. The
Bibleand the apocrypha are thustransformed andrestatedusing an
erroneous linkage of English to ancient Hebrew to represent the
history of Whites rather than Semitic people, and are enshrouded
withmythology concerning the Whiterace.Thesemyths are spread
in pulpits by preachers and tracts written by pseudo-historians and
areembraced by the White supremacist communities as revelations
of hidden truths.
COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES,
ORGANIZATIONS, AND VIOLENT ACTIVITIES
Identity Christian organizations promote their causes with a
variety of literature and other media strategies. The Jubilee, pub-
614 JOURNAL OF BLACK STUDIES / MARCH 2000
lishedbyPaul Hall, is the country’sleading Identity periodical. The
American’s Bulletin is another popular source for Identity rhetoric
and is produced by Robert Kelly of Medford, Oregon. There are
many other books, tracts, and audio- and videotapes that provide
followers with reinforcement for their beliefs (False Patriots,
1996). Their media vehicles make use of the sensational and emo-
tion provoking, colorful use of language, and creative composite
name calling—for example, “Negro flesh eating beasts,” “sodo-
mite homosexual rapist,” or “pornographic pushcart peddlers.”
These descriptive devices invoke powerful imagery and stir the
emotions of the disenfranchised Whites who are often recruited
into Identity churches (Aho, 1990).
The Internet has become a primary means for disseminating
information for these groups. Currently, there are 25 Web sites and
13 newsgroups specifically devoted to Identity Christianity on the
World Wide Web, as well as 130 other Web sites that are devoted to
similar and related topics (Intelligence Report, 1998a). Individuals
cantapintothese Websites and findproceduresformaking bombs,
obtain hate propaganda tracts, and request catalogs that market
White supremacist books and paraphernalia. They may also share
Jew, Black, gay, Asian, and Hispanic bashing sessions with like-
minded individuals in chat rooms.
TheInternetsites maintained by Identity followers havebecome
outlets for scholars who promote eugenics and theories of Black
genetic and cultural inferiority. Links to the theories of J. Phillipe
Rushton of the University of Western Ontario and Glayde Whitney
of Florida State University can be found among the literature on
their web sites.
Rushton’s controversial 1996 journal article “Race, Genetics
and Human Reproductive Strategies” outlines a linear classifica-
tion scale that rates human reproductive patterns based on parental
investment by race. Rather than using a vertical scale, his contin-
uum is horizontal and places Asians at one end of the scale and
African people at the other. Whites fit squarely in the middle. He
suggests that Black people have more offspring and care for them
less. In contrast, Asians have fewer offspring and invest more time
and energy in their progeny, and Whites are moderate parental
Sharpe / THE IDENTITY CHRISTIAN MOVEMENT 615
investors. Furthermore, he argues that the propensity for nurturing
children is genetically inherited (Rushton, 1996). Whitney, past
president of the Behavior Genetics Association of Florida State
University, argues, among other things, that negative human char-
acteristics, for example, potential for murder, are linked to racial
distinctions(Whitney,1995). Blacks, according to Whitney, have a
higher propensity for murder. Ironically, the Identity Christians
accept the dubious notion that Blacks are biologically predisposed
for violence, but somehow view differently the violence and mur-
der that runs rampant in their own circles.
Violence plays a critical role in Identity publications and cyber-
space communications. Furthermore, violence and terrorism is
legitimized as a means to correct real or imagined injustices to the
White race. A prime example of such publications is The Turner
Diaries. A career White supremacist and hate monger, William
Pierce, a self-described neo-Nazi, penned The Turner Diaries
under the pseudonym Andrew MacDonald in 1978. This novel
chronicles a coup d’etat of the federal government by White
supremacist revolutionaries from the point of view of a fictional
character named Earl Turner (Pierce, 1978).
In The Turner Diaries, the war with the government begins with
the passing of the Cohen Act, federal legislation that outlaws the
private ownership of firearms. One of the terrorist acts featured in
the narrative is the bombing of a federal building by a small group
of“patriots.”Militia and similar groups use the novelas a model for
their organizations and proposed terrorist activities. Timothy
McVeigh, convicted perpetrator in the April 1995 bombing of the
Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, allegedly frequently
carried a copy of the book with him. There are striking parallels
between the fictional bombing described in the book and the actual
incident (False Patriots, 1996).
It is clear from the preceding example that the militia or patriot
movement frequently overlaps with the Identity Christians.
Although some of the militia organizations have Blacks and other
non-White members, the majority subscribe to Identity beliefs.
Many of the early Patriot leaders were White supremacists, whose
616 JOURNAL OF BLACK STUDIES / MARCH 2000
principal wrath shifted from minority groups to the federal govern-
ment. Pierce is generally designated as a founder of the Patriot ini-
tiative in America and is the director of the National Alliance, a
group of White racist extremist organizations. Pierce also sponsors
a weekly radio show, American Dissident Voices, from Hillsboro,
West Virginia. Through these vehicles, he details complex theories
ofthe Jewish-controlled,worldconspiracy againstWhitesand calls
for a revolution to restore power to Anglo Saxons, globally.
Another prominent player promoting violence in the Identity
phenomenon is Louis Beam. Beam, a former Texas Klansman,
called for a leaderless resistance strategy among Whites and
became a powerful advocate for the overthrow of the federal gov-
ernment in the 1980s (False Patriots, 1996). He encouraged White
freedomfightersto formphantom cells,small underground organi-
zations designed to take action against the government, all over the
country, thus eliminating the need for national leadership (False
Patriot, 1996). This strategy was outlined in his newsletter The
Seditionist in 1992. Beam also opened the door for White racists
and Identity Christians to use the Internet for communication by
developing the first White supremacist computer network site
(False Patriot, 1996). He has been linked to numerous terrorist
plots, including federal building bombings and railroad sabotages.
In 1987, he made the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Ten Most
Wanted List (False Patriot, 1996). Beam is an ally of Richard
Butler of the Aryan Nations Church and a frequent contributor to
the Jubilee, the leading Identity Christian periodical (Intelligence
Report, 1998a). The infamous Beam has the dubious honor of
developingthe point system for White revolutionarieswho assassi-
nate federal officials, civil rights leaders, Blacks, gays, and others.
In other words, White radicals can obtain points to become Aryan
warriors by assassinating enemies, and thus murder is not only
legitimized but serves as a symbol of honor (Intelligence Report,
1998a).
Likewise, murder of doctors who perform abortions on White
women is legitimized. Identity Christians have correctly perceived
that White women seek abortions for unplanned pregnancies in
greater numbers than Blacks. Bombing abortion clinics and killing
Sharpe / THE IDENTITY CHRISTIAN MOVEMENT 617
the doctors who perform them are viewed as justified acts to stop
the killing of White unborn babies. Eric Robert Rudolph, the sus-
pect at large in the bombing of a Birmingham, Alabama abortion
clinic, has ties to the Identity Christian movement (Intelligence
Report, 1998c). The other acts of violence that Rudolph is alleged
to have committed confirm this as they fit in nicely with Identity
rhetoric. The Atlanta Olympic Park bombing in 1996, a symbol of
multiculturalism,and a gay nightclub bombing, alsoin Atlanta,are
both unofficially linked to Rudolph. These targets are classic Iden-
tityenemies.ItisnosurprisethatRudolphhasremainedatlargefor
more than a year and has successfully eluded government appre-
hension. He is a hero among his peers and has probably received
assistance from the Identity Church near his home in North Caro-
lina (Intelligence Report, 1998c).
One of the most violent Identity Christian groups is the Phineas
Priesthood. They take their name and philosophy from the Book of
Numbers(chapter28, verses1through18) in the Old Testament.In
this chapter, God (Yahweh) praises Eleazar, the son of Aaron, for
murdering an Israelite man and his Midianite wife. This act of
homicide is interpreted as an atonement for the transgression of
race mixing. Furthermore, they believe that the passage provides
justification for violence against any violator of their White God’s
law. The Phineas Priesthood has been linked to bank robberies
employing pipe bombs as weapons, as well as the bombing of a
newspaper office in Spokane, Washington in 1995 (Intelligence
Report, 1998c). Richard Kelly Hoskins, an Identity Christian
leader, outlined the history of this subgroup in The Vigilantes of
Christendom (1990). To become a member of the Phineas Priest-
hood, one must take action, primarily violent action, toward the
goal of restoring the White man to world domination (Klan Watch
Intelligence Report, 1996a, 1996b).
The most horrific act to date associated with the philosophy is
the dragging death of James Byrd Jr. in Jasper, Texas. John King,
whowasconvictedof themurder,and his coconspirators havebod-
ies covered with White supremacist tattoos. When apprehended,
Kingallegedly statedthat“we’restartingThe TurnerDiaries early”
(Intelligence Report, 1999, p. 9).
618 JOURNAL OF BLACK STUDIES / MARCH 2000
DISCUSSION
The principles of Identity Christianity provide the divine justifi-
cation for acts of violence against the government, non-Whites,
homosexuals, and Jews. To the Identity Christians, the government
isbogus and must be dismantled.Likewise,because peopleofcolor
and Jews are not human, and White homosexuals are traitors to the
White race and God, violence and murder against them all is sanc-
tioned as long as it is inthe interest of restoring their White God’s
law. The Bible is filled with acts of murder. Therefore, their literal
but revisionist interpretation of the Bible gives legitimacy to mur-
der targeting specifically identified victims. The under-siege men-
tality harbored by Identity Christians creates paranoia that encour-
ages violence and in some cases, special status is conferred upon
those who execute some heinous act against the targets listed
above. Although a grand conspiracy is unlikely, individuals or
small groups of individuals exposed to the doctrine through relig-
iousmeetings, literature, or Internet connectionsmaybeinspired to
send a mail bomb, torch a church, or attack a gay, Black, Hispanic,
or Asian person and achieve status in his or her own mind or within
their circle of associates. There are many dangers associated with
Identity Christianity, but a number of primary concerns tower
above the others.
First, the link between Christian fundamentalism and Identity
Christianity was consistent throughout the review of the literature.
This element bears further study because fundamentalism is
becoming a strong force in society and in politics. Young people
seekingmeaningful livesareattracted to these nondenominational,
fundamentalistgroups with charismatic leaders. Many mainstream
Christian fundamentalist views come close to, but fall just short of,
full-blown Identity ideology. Fundamentalists are generally
against the practice of abortion and frown upon the ideas of multi-
culturalism and diversity. Furthermore, many fundamentalist
groups are suspicious of the federal government. Although most of
theorganizationsdo not openly advocate race hatred, inlight ofthe
polarization among Blacks and the emergence of an inner-city
underclass frequently given media coverage, it would not be diffi-
Sharpe / THE IDENTITY CHRISTIAN MOVEMENT 619
cult for a paradigm shift to occur. The fundamentalists believe that
Armageddon is very near as evidenced by the crime rates and the
overall devaluation of human life. Some future charismatic leader
could indeed cite Blacks and other non-Whites as the cause of
social problems and the uninformed masses could believe it. The
White supremacists have already adopted this position.
Second, the Identity Christian movement is considered by some
to be a religion of the extreme Right. Identity organizations are
radical, subversive, and dangerous and should be relegated to cult
status and not considered a mainstream Christian religion. Identity
rhetoricshouldnot be considered right-wing either.The right-wing
perspectivein America is associated with political and social con-
servatism. The label conservatism suggests that there is some-
thing correct, stable, and normal about it. The right wing label
gives these dangerous groups a semblance of legitimacy. The
Identity Christian association with the right wing, in and of itself,
shouldcall into question the popularuseofthe left wing/right wing,
liberal/conservative continuum in political discourse. The concept
of conservatism should not reflect racist attitudes toward non-
Whites. Racism in any form should be considered radical and not
desirable.The use of the liberal versus conservativecontinuum as a
descriptive device should be changed to remove the color/ethnicity
variablefrom thedebate.It should be conservativetoreflectthe val-
ues of family, religion, goodness, respect for the law, cleanliness,
and so forth without attaching any particular race/ethnic group to
those values. Values transcend race. As mentioned earlier, the con-
nection between virtue and color was the result of inaccurate 16th-
century European assessments of human diversity and should not
continue in today’s rhetoric. By the same token, liberalism should
notsuggestpermissivenessand should not beattached to skincolor
as well. The rise of the Identity movement demonstrates that the
linear continuum of liberalism versus conservatism is not valid for
explaining political and social views.
Third,spreading literature overtheInternet opens their views up
tomanydisenfranchisedyoungpeople who may not have the bene-
fitof stable andnurturinghomelives.Givinglegitimacytoviolence
620 JOURNAL OF BLACK STUDIES / MARCH 2000
and murder may influence immature adolescents to plot violent
acts, falsely believing that they are a part of some holy war sanc-
tioned by God.
Fourth, the merger of the work of neoeugenics scholars with
these and similar perspectives is particularly disturbing. Eugenics
proponents’ theories of biological determinism give legitimacy to
the belief in White supremacy. Dubious findings of pseudo-
scientific researchers at a few mainstream universities are consid-
ered proof that non-Whites are genetically inferior and therefore
less human. Studies of this nature combined with the ideological
underpinnings of Identity Christianity provide believers with
irrefutable evidence that killing non-Whites is justified and no
more ominous than killing an animal. Thus, this connection pro-
vides another avenue by which the Identity ideology may filter
itself into the mainstream of society.
CONCLUSION
Identity Christian ideology is a desperate attempt to cling to the
past. It is ironic that the past as viewed by followers of the doctrine
never really existed. A mythical and perfect place inhabited by
Whites only, full of harmony, without crime, and festooned with
blue-eyed blondes has never existed. The utopian mentality har-
bored by Identity followers should be exposed for the wishful
thinkingthat it is. Diversityamong humans has always existed, and
alwayswill exist. Diversityis an asset, not a liability in ensuring the
survivalof the species. Identityideology does not acknowledge the
reality of the human condition and denies the obvious connections
between all humanity.
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Tanya Telfair Sharpe earned a master’s degree in anthropology from Florida State
University and is currently a doctoral candidate in sociology at Georgia State Uni-
versity.Hergeneralresearchinterestsincluderace,class, and genderstudies aswell
as qualitative and quantitative research methods. In particular, her focus is the
impact of race, class, and gender on public health. Ms. Sharpe is the recipient of a
National Research Service Award Predoctoral Fellowship from the National Insti-
tutes of Health/National Institute on Drug Abuse for her dissertation “Sex for Crack
Exchange, Poor Black Women and Reproduction.” Her most recent publication is
“GrandisonHarris: The Medical College ofGeorgia’sResurrectionMan” in Bones
in the Basement: Postmortem Racism in Nineteenth-Century Medical Training,
edited by Blakely and Harrington (1997).
Sharpe / THE IDENTITY CHRISTIAN MOVEMENT 623
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