- For the general identity of an individual with certain core essential religious doctrines, see Christianity.
Christian Identity (also known as Identity Christianity) refers to a wide variety of loosely affiliated believers and churches with a white supremacist theology. Most promote a racist interpretation of Christianity.
According to Chester L. Quarles, professor of criminal justice at the University of Mississippi, some of the Christian Identity movement's followers believe that non-Caucasian peoples have no souls, and can therefore never earn God's favor or be saved. Believers in the theology affirm that Jesus Christ paid only for the sins of the House of Israel and the House of Judah and that salvation must be received through both redemption and race.
Some of Christian Identity's ideas have root in British Israelism, which teaches that many white Europeans are the literal descendants of the Israelites through the ten tribes which were taken away into captivity by the armies of Assyria. Christian Identity asserts that these white European Israelites are still God's chosen people, that Jesus was an Israelite of the tribe of Judah, and that modern Jews are neither Israelites nor Hebrews, but are instead descended from people with Turco-Mongolian blood, or Khazars, or are descendants of the biblical Esau-Edom, who traded his birthright for a bowl of red stew (Genesis 25:29–34).
The Christian Identity movement first received widespread attention by mainstream media in 1984, when the white nationalist organization known as The Order embarked on a murderous crime spree before being taken down by the FBI. Tax resister and militia movement organizer Gordon Kahl, whose death in a 1983 shootout with authorities helped inspire The Order, also had connections to the Christian Identity movement. The movement returned to public attention in 1992 and 1993, in the wake of the deadly Ruby Ridge confrontation, when newspapers discovered that former Green Beret and right-wing separatist Randy Weaver had at least a loose association with Christian Identity believers.
No single document expresses the Christian Identity belief system; however, adherents draw upon arguments from linguistic, historical, archaeological and biblical sources to support their beliefs. Estimates are that these groups have 2,000 to 50,000 members in the United States, and an unknown number in Canada and the rest of the British Commonwealth.
Christian Identity believers reject the beliefs of most contemporary Christian denominations. They claim that modern Christian churches are teaching a heresy: the belief that God's promises to Israel (through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) have been expanded to create a spiritual people of "Israel", which constitutes the Christian "Church". In turn, most modern Christian denominations and organizations denounce Christian Identity as heresy and condemn the use of the Christian Bible as a basis for promoting white supremacy and anti-Semitism. Adherents of Christian Identity claim that Europeans are the true descendants of the biblical Jacob, hence they are the true Israel, and that it is those who are against the interests of European-descended Christians that are the true anti-Semites.
- 1 Origins
- 2 Ideology, tenets and beliefs
- 3 Groups
- 4 See also
- 5 Footnotes
- 6 Bibliography
- 7 External links
Christian Identity (CI) as a movement emerged as an offshoot sect of British Israelism in the 1920s and 1930s. However, the idea that "lower races" are mentioned in the Bible (in contrast to Aryans) was posited in the 1905 book "Theozoology; or The Science of the Sodomite Apelings and the Divine Electron" by Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels, a volkisch writer seen by many historians as a major influence on Nazism. Hitler, however, did not subscribe to the belief that the Israelites of the Bible were actually Aryans; in a speech he gave in Munich in 1922 titled "Why We Are Anti-Semites", he referred to and disparaged Abraham as racially Jewish.
Relation to British Israelism
Paradoxically, while early British Israelites such as Edward Hine and John Wilson were philo-semites, Christian Identity emerged in sharp contrast to be strongly anti-semitic. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) describes the emergence of Christian Identity from British Israelism as an 'ugly turn':
Once on American shores, British-Israelism began to evolve. Originally, believers viewed contemporary Jews as descendants of those ancient Israelites who had never been "lost." They might be seen critically but, given their significant role in the British-Israel genealogical scheme, not usually with animosity. By the 1930s, however, in the U.S., a strain of anti-Semitism started to permeate the movement (though some maintained traditional beliefs—and a small number of traditionalists still exist in the U.S.)
Another source describes the emergence of Christian Identity from British Israelism as a "remarkable transition", also noting that traditional British Israelites were advocates of Philo-Semitism which paradoxically changed to antisemitism and racism under Christian Identity. In fact, British Israelism itself had several Jewish members and it received support from rabbis throughout the 19th century and within British politics it supported Benjamin Disraeli who was descended from Sephardic Jews. However, Christian Identity which emerged in the 1920s, began to be antisemitic teaching that the Jews are not descended from the tribe of Judah (as British Israelites maintain) but are instead descended from Satan or Edomite-Khazars. The British Israel form of the belief held no anti-Semitism, its followers instead held the view that Jews made up a minority of the tribes of Israel (Judah and Benjamin), with the British and other related Northern European peoples making up the remainder.
Rand was a Massachusetts lawyer who obtained a law degree at the University of Maine. He was raised as a British Israelite, and his father introduced him to J. H. Allen's work Judah's Sceptre and Joseph's Birthright (1902) at an early age. While Rand's father was not an antisemite, nor was even Rand in his early British Israelite years, Rand first added an antisemitic element to British Israelism in the 1920s. He claimed as early as 1924 that the Jews were not really descended from the tribe of Judah, but were instead the descendants of Esau or Canaanites. However, Rand never claimed that modern Jews were descendants of Satan, or that they were in anyway inferior, he just claimed that they were not the true lineal descendants of Judah. For this reason Rand is considered a 'transitional' figure between British Israelism and Christian Identity, but not its actual founder. However Rand first coined the term 'Christian Identity'. Rand had set up the Anglo-Saxon Federation of America in 1933 which promoted his view that Jews were not descended from Judah, which marked the first key transition from British Israelism to Christian Identity. Beginning in May 1937 there were key meetings between British Israelites in America who were attracted to Rand’s new theory that the Jews were not really descended from Judah. This provided the catalyst for the eventual emergence of Christian Identity, and by the late 1930s the Jews were considered to be the offspring of Satan and were heavily demonised, as were non-Caucasian races. William Dudley Pelley, founder of the fascist Silver Shirts movement, also promoted an anti-semitic form of British Israelism in the early 1930s. Links between Christian Identity and the Ku Klux Klan also emerged in the late 1930s.
Wesley Swift (1913–1970) is considered by the FBI to have been the single most significant figure in the early years of the Christian Identity movement. Swift was born in New Jersey, and eventually moved to Los Angeles in order to attend Bible college. It is claimed that he may have been a "Ku Klux Klan organizer and a Klan rifle-team instructor." In 1946, he founded his own church in Lancaster, California. In the 1950s, he was Gerald L. K. Smith's West Coast representative of the Christian Nationalist Crusade. 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 was retired Col. William Potter Gale (1917–1988). Gale had apparently been an aide to General Douglas MacArthur, and had coordinated guerrilla resistance in the Philippines during World War II. Gale became a leading figure in the anti-tax and paramilitary movements of the 1970s and 80s, beginning with the California Rangers and the Posse Comitatus, and helping to found the militia movement. Numerous Christian Identity churches preach similar messages and some espouse more violent rhetoric than others, but all hold to the belief that Aryans are God's chosen race. Gale introduced future Aryan Nations founder Richard Girnt Butler to Swift. Until then, Butler had admired George Lincoln Rockwell and Senator Joseph McCarthy, and had been relatively secular. Swift quickly converted him to Christian Identity. When Swift died, Butler took over the Church, to the apparent dismay of both Gale and Swift's family. Neither Butler nor Gale were anything like the dynamic orator that Swift had been, and attendance dwindled under the new pastor. Butler eventually renamed the organisation "The Church of Jesus Christ Christian/Aryan Nations" and moved it to Hayden Lake, Idaho.
Lesser luminaries were also present as Christian Identity theology took shape in the 1940s and 1950s, such as Baptist minister and California Klansman San Jacinto Capt (who claimed that he had introduced Wesley Swift to Christian Identity), and one-time San Diego Deputy City Attorney (and lawyer for Gerald L. K. Smith) Bertrand Comparet (1901–1983). But for the most part, today's Christian Identity groups seem to have been spawned by Wesley Swift, through his lieutenants William Potter Gale and Richard Butler.
Ideology, tenets and beliefs
Christian Identity asserts that the white people of Europe or Caucasians in general are God's servant people according to the promises that were given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It further asserts that the early European tribes were really the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel and therefore the rightful heirs to God's promises, and God's chosen people. Professor Colin Kidd wrote that in America Christian Identity exploited "the puzzle of the Ten Lost Tribes to justify an openly anti-Semitic and virulently racist agenda."
Two House Theology
Like British Israelites, Christian Identity (CI) adherents believe in Two House Theology. However the major difference between British Israelism and CI is that British Israelites have always maintained that Jews are descended from the tribe of Judah. In contrast, while also maintaining a Two House distinction, Christian Identity proponents believe that the true lineal descendants of Judah are not contemporary Jews, but are instead White Europeans whose ancestors settled mainly in Scotland, Germany, and other European nations, alongside the House of Israel. They are Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, Germanic, Nordic, and kindred peoples. Some CI scholars teach that many contemporary Jews are the descendants of Cain, citing Genesis 3:12,John 8:44 and 1 John 3:12) in support of their position and they also teach that Cain was the spawn of Satan.
Identity teaches that "Israel" was the name given to Jacob after battling the angel at Peniel in Genesis 32:26-32. "Israel" then had twelve sons, which began the twelve tribes of Israel.:101 In 975 B.C. the ten northern tribes revolted, seceded from the south, and became the Kingdom of Israel.:101 After being subsequently conquered by Assyria, the ten tribes disappear from Biblical record, becoming the Lost Tribes of Israel.:101
According to Identity doctrine, 2 Esdras 13:39–46 then records the history of the nation of Israel journeying over the Caucasus mountains, along the Black Sea, to the Ar Sereth tributory of the Danube in Romania ("But they formed this plan for themselves, that they would leave the multitude of the nations and go to a more distant region, where no human beings had ever lived. … Through that region there was a long way to go, a journey of a year and a half; and that country is called Arzareth").:101 The tribes prospered, and eventually colonised other European countries. Israel's leading tribe, the Tribe of Dan, is attributed with settling and naming many areas which are today distinguished by place names derived from its name – written ancient Hebrew contains no vowels, and hence "Dan" would be written as DN, but would be pronounced with an intermediate vowel dependent on the local dialect, meaning that Dan, Den, Din, Don, and Dun all have the same meaning.:101 Various modern place names are said to derive from the name of this tribe::101
- Macedonia – Macedonia – derived from Moeshe-don-ia (Moeshe being "the land of Moses")
- Danube – Dan-ube, Dneister – Dn-eister, Dneiper – Dn-eiper, Donetz – Don-etz, Danzig – Dan-zig, Don – Don
Some followers claim that the Identity genealogy of the Davidic line can be traced from its beginnings right down to the Royal rulers of Britain and Queen Elizabeth herself.:102–105 Thus Anglo-Saxons are the true Israelites, God's chosen people who were given the divine right to rule the world until the Second Coming of Christ.:101
Adamites and pre-Adamites
A major tenet of Christian Identity is Pre-Adamism. Christian Identity followers believe that Adam and Eve are ancestors of whites alone, and that Adam and Eve were preceded by lesser, non-Caucasian races often (though not always) identified as "beasts of the field" (Genesis 1:25); for example, the "beasts" which wore sackcloth and cried unto God (Jonah 3:8) are identified as the black races by Christian Identity adherents. To support their theory on the racial identity of Adam, Christian Identity proponents point out that the Hebrew etymology of the word 'Adam' translates as 'be ruddy, red, to show blood (in the face)' often quoting from James Strong's Hebrew Dictionary #119 (1890) and from this conclude that only Caucasians or people with light white skin can blush or turn rosy in the face (because hemoglobin only appears under pale skin). Proponents of Christian Identity believe that Adam was only created 6,000 years ago, while the other non-Caucasian races were created during far older epochs that occurred on the other continents.
"Dual Seedliner" Christian Identity proponents—those who believe that Eve begat children by Satan as well as Adam—believe that Eve was seduced by the Snake (Satan), shared her fallen state with Adam by lying with him, and gave birth to twins with different fathers: Satan's child Cain and Adam's son Abel. Cain then became the progenitor of the Jews in his subsequent matings with the non-Adamic races. This is referred to as the two-seedline doctrine. This doctrine is a revival of a medieval folk belief ascribing the ancestry of legendary monsters such as Grendel to Cain.
A seminal influence on the Christian Identity movement's views on pre-Adamism was a book published in 1900 by Charles Carroll entitled The Negro a Beast or In the Image of God?. Carroll concludes in the book that the White race was made in the image and likeness of God and that Adam gave birth to the White race only, while Negros are pre-Adamite beasts and could not possibly have been made in God's image and likeness because they are beastlike, immoral and ugly. Carroll claimed that the pre-Adamite races such as blacks did not have souls. Carroll believed that race mixing was an insult to God and spoiled God's racial plan of creation. According to Carroll the mixing of races had also lead to the errors of atheism and evolutionism.
Christian Identity proponents are Old Earth Creationists, but they believe that Adam (who was the father of the white race or Caucasians) was only created around 6,000 years ago, while they also believe that both the universe and Earth are billions of years old and that non-Caucasian races were created hundreds of thousands or even millions of years ago.
Wesley Swift strongly criticised Young Earth Creationism and the traditional Judeo-Christian view that Noah's flood was global. He instead believed that the flood was only local and that the Earth was billions of years old. Christian Identity adherents claim that the flood in Genesis only rose high enough to drown the region of the Tarim Basin below sea level (Gen. 7:20) and that therefore the Hebrew word "eretz" which appears in those verses should be rendered "the land" (as in a specific place) rather than "the earth."
Racialism, or race-based philosophy, is the core tenet of Christian Identity, and most CI adherents are White Nationalists or support racial segregation. Some believe that Jews are genetically compelled by their Satanic or Edomite ancestry to carry on a conspiracy against the Adamic seedline and today have achieved almost complete control of the Earth through their illegitimate claim to the white race's status as God's chosen people. As a general rule, Christian Identity followers adhere to the traditional orthodox Christian views on the role of women (See Biblical patriarchy), abortion (Exodus 21:22), and homosexuality (Leviticus 20:13), and they believe that racial miscegenation is a sin and a violation of God's law in Genesis 1:24–25 which commands that all creatures produce "kind after kind."
In addition to their strict fundamentalist racial views Christian Identity adherents distinguish themselves from mainstream Protestant Fundamentalism in various areas of theology. Some Christian Identity adherents follow the Mosaic law of the Old Testament (e.g., dietary restrictions, the seventh-day Sabbath, certain annual festivals such as Passover). It is also commonplace for adherents to follow the Sacred Name Movement and they insist on using the original Hebrew names when referring to God (Yahweh) and Jesus Christ (Yahshua). Some Christian Identity writers criticize modern Bible editions as well as the Jews for the removal of the original Hebrew name of God from the Bible. Although their adherence to Old Testament Mosaic law may make them appear "Jewish"; they claim that the Jewish interpretation of the law has been corrupted through the Jews' Talmud. Unlike many Protestant Fundamentalists, Christian Identity adherents reject the notion of a Rapture, believing it to be a Judaized doctrine which the Bible does not teach.
World's end and Armageddon
Christian Identity supporters believe in the Second Coming and Armageddon. Predictions vary, including race war or a Jewish-backed United Nations takeover of the US, and they endorse physical struggle against what they see as the forces of evil.
Anti-Jewish and anti-homosexual
Identity Christianity asserts that disease, addiction, cancer, and sexually transmitted diseases (herpes and AIDS) are spread by human "rodents" via contact with "unclean" persons, such as through "race-mixing".:85 The first book of Enoch is used to justify these social theories; the fallen angels of Heaven sexually desired Earth maidens and took them as wives, resulting in the birth of abominations, which God ordered Michael the Archangel to destroy, thus beginning a cosmic war between Light and Darkness.:85 The mixing of separate things (e.g., people of different races) is seen as defiling both, and is against God's will.:86
Identity preachers proclaim that, according to the King James Bible, "the penaltys for race-mixing, homo-sexuality, and usury are death.":86 The justification for killing homosexuals is provided by Leviticus 20:13 "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them." Exodus 22:25, Leviticus 25:35–37 and Deuteronomy explicitly condemn usury.:92 Ezekiel 18:13 states "He who hath given forth upon usury, and hath taken increase: shall he then live? he shall not live: he hath done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him" and is quoted as justification for killing Jews, since Jews have traditionally had a large presence in the usury business.
Identity followers reject the label of "anti-Semitic", stating that they can't be anti-Semitic, since in fact the true Semites "today are the great White Christian nations of the western world", with modern Jews in fact being descendants of the Canaanites.
Identity doctrine asserts that the "root of all evil" is paper money (in particular Federal Reserve Notes), and that usury and banking systems are controlled by Jews.:87 The creation of the Federal Reserve System in 1913 shifted control of money from Congress to private institutions and violated the Constitution. The money system encourages the Federal Reserve to take out loans, creating trillions of dollars of government debt and allowing international bankers to control America. Credit/debit cards and computerised bills are seen as the fulfillment of the Biblical scripture warning against "the beast" (i.e. banking) as quoted in Rev 13:15–18. Identity preacher Sheldon Emry claims "Most of the owners of the largest banks in America are of Eastern European (Jewish) ancestry and connected with the (Jewish) Rothschild European banks", thus, in Identity doctrine, the global banking conspiracy is led and controlled by Jewish interests.:91
Christian Identity is a major unifying theology for a number of diverse groups of white nationalist Christians. It is a belief system that provides its members with a religious basis for racial separatism. Herbert W. Armstrong is inaccurately described by some of his critics, as well as by supporters of Christian Identity, as having supported Christian Identity, due to his belief in a modified form of British Israelism, and the fact that during his lifetime, he propounded observances favoured by many Christian Identity groups, such as seventh-day Sabbatarianism and biblical festivals. The Worldwide Church of God that Armstrong founded did not subscribe to the anti-Semitism commonly espoused by the Christian or Israel Identity groups but instead adhered to the traditional beliefs of British Israelism; i.e., the belief held that modern day Jews were descendants of the Tribe of Judah whereas the Anglo-Saxons, Celts, Danes, etc. were descendants of the remaining Ten Tribes of Israel formerly known as the Northern Kingdom.
Christian Identity groups include "The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord", the Phineas Priesthood, the Oklahoma Constitutional Militia, also known as The Universal Church of God. Christian Identity is also related to other groups such as Aryan Nations, the Aryan Republican Army (ARA) and the Patriots Council, Church of Jesus Christ Christian, Thomas Robb, Mission To Israel, Folk And Faith, Jubilee (newspaper), Yahweh's Truth (James Wickstrom), Church of Israel and Kingdom Identity Ministries.
Israel Identity / Preterist groups include the Heritage Christian Church and Legion for Survival of Freedom.
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The Aryan Nations (AN) is a group that adheres to the Christian Identity belief system. The group espouses dislike towards Jews, blacks and other minorities, as well as the United States federal government. The original 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. This particular ideology is known throughout the White power movement as the Northwest Territorial Imperative. The AN was headquartered at Hayden Lake, Idaho from the late 1970s until February 2001. Its annual World Congress attracted a number of different factions from the far-right. The World Congress was a sort of round table to discuss racialist issues. Since the main Aryan Nations property in Idaho was dismantled following a costly lawsuit against the group and the death of Richard Butler, there have been several struggles over control of the movement that are as yet unresolved.
- August Kreis III
- Byron De La Beckwith
- Chevie Kehoe
- Christian Patriot movement
- Dewey H "Buddy" Tucker
- Elohim City, Oklahoma
- List of organizations designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as hate groups
- Positive Christianity
- Richard Girnt Butler
- Samuel Bowers
- Wesley Swift
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- Barkun, Michael (1996). "preface". Religion and the Racist Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement. University of North Carolina Press. pp. x. ISBN 0-8078-4638-4.
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- Quarles, pp. 13–19
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- Race Over Grace: The Racialist Religion of the Christian Identity Movement, Charles H. Roberts, p. 9
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- Barkun, pp. 45-60.
- Charles H. Roberts, p. 9
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- Charles H. Roberts, pp. 11-15.
- Lobb, David. 'Fascist Apocalypse: William Pelley and Millennial Extremism', Paper presented at the 4th Annual Conference of the Center for Millennial Studies, November 1999
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- Christian Defense League by D. Boylan 2004 Revision.
- Colin Kidd, The forging of races: race and scripture in the Protestant Atlantic world, 1600–2000, 2006, p. 44
- Charles H. Roberts, pp.40-60
- Bosworth, F. E, The Bible Distinction Between the House of Israel and the House of Judah, Radio Address, 1920
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- Jewish Rabbis recognize Serpent Seedline as well as Sumerians, Targums and Biblical Accounts
- James Alfred Aho (1995). The Politics of Righteousness: Idaho Christian Patriotism. University of Washington Press. p. 86. ISBN 029597494X.
- Charles H. Roberts, pp.23-60
- "Basics for Understanding Yahweh's Kingdom". Anglo-Saxon Israel. 2009-06-04. Retrieved 2011-09-19.
- Charles Carroll The negro a beast"; or, "In the image of God"; the reasoner of the age, the revelator of the century! The Bible as it is! The negro and his relation to the human family! The negro not the son of Ham, 1900
- Colin Kidd, The forging of races: race and scripture in the Protestant Atlantic world, 1600–2000, 2006, p. 150
- WHO ARE THE JEWS? By: Bertrand Comparet.
- I Come As A Thief.
- Kaplan, Jeffrey (2002). Millennial violence: past, present, and future. Routledge. p. 38. ISBN 978-0-7146-5294-8.
- "Extremism in America: Dan Gayman". Anti-Defamation League. 2005. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
- Max McCoy, "Separatist by faith: Church of Israel's patriarch rebuts claims of racism", Joplin Globe, January 28, 2001.
- Martin Schönteich and Henri Boshoff (2003). 'Volk' Faith and Fatherland: The Security Threat Posed by the White Right. Pretoria, South Africa, Institute for Security Studies. ISBN 1-919913-30-0.
- Barkun, M. (1994). Religion and the racist right: the origins of the Christian Identity movement. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
- Hill, David. The Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981.
- Ingram, W.L., (1995). God and Race: British-Israelism and Christian Identity, p. 119–126 in T. Miller, Ed., America's Alternative Religions, SUNY Press, Albany NY.
- Kaplan, Jeffrey, (1997). Radical Religion in America, Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press. pp. 47–48.
- Lakeland, P. (1997). Postmodernity: Christian identity in a fragmented age. Guides to theological inquiry. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.
- Quarles, C. L. (2004). Christian Identity: the Aryan American bloodline religion. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland.
- Roberts, Charles H. (2003). Race over Grace: The Racialist Religion of the Christian Identity Movement, Omaha, Nebraska: iUniverse Press. ISBN 0-595-28197-4.