Christian Identity

INDOCTRINATION OF domestic terror

POLITICAL THEOLOGY

Christian Identity is a religious sect and one of the longstanding influences within the white supremacist movement. Its beliefs center on a racist and anti-Semitic variation of British-Israelism or Anglo-Israelism, a political theology that holds that white people were the true lost tribe of Israel and that people of color and Jewish people descended from animals or Satan. Additionally, the sect believes that white people would be in charge of clearing the world of non-white people before the return of Christ. This ideology required followers to be survivalists, called to arm themselves as combatants for an apocalyptic holy war leading to a survival movement within the white power movement. 

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Wesley Swift, a former Methodist minister from Southern California, is credited with the transformation of British-Israelism into what was increasingly called "Christian Identity." In 1946, he started his own church, the Church of Jesus Christ Christian in California. He was active in extreme right-wing groups, including the Ku Klux Klan. Christian Identity increasingly became linked with extreme right-wing ideologies. By the 1960s, a new group of Christian Identity leaders emerged. Prominent among them were California disciples of Wesley Swift: James K. Warner, William Potter Gale and Richard Butler. Warner was the head of the Christian Defense League and the New Christian Crusade Church. Gale was an early leader in the Christian Defense League as well as its paramilitary arm, the California Rangers. Butler moved Swift's Church of Jesus Christ Christian to northern Idaho in 1974, where he renamed it as the neo-Nazi group Aryan Nations. 

Christian Identity was embedded in most of the major extreme-right movements. Klan leaders such as Thomas Robb and Louis Beam adopted the faith, as did some racist skinheads, such as the Hammerskins. Christian Identity members were involved in extreme anti-government activism, the tax protest movement, the sovereign citizen movement and the militia movement. There were Christian Identity Churches in almost every state, and the church had a prison outreach program to recruit white prisoners. Christian Identity's racist and apocalyptic beliefs lead to several well-known incidents of domestic terrorism during the past quarter century, including the killing of two US Marshalls and later a local sheriff in 1983 by a member of the Posse Comitatus movement, a series of armed robberies and murders by the white supremacist terrorist group The Order, and bombings by The Order II and the Arizona Patriots, all Christian Identity groups.  Randy Weaver believed in Christian Identity, and his standoff with US Marshalls in 1992 in Ruby Ridge, Idaho would spark the militia movement of the 1990s.

PROPHETIC BIBLE CONFERENCE

The National Message Prophetic Bible Conference for white racist groups was held at the Glendale Masonic Lodge on April 28-30, 1989, led by Escondido- based pastor Robert Record. Leaders in the Christian Identity organization included Richard Butler, head of the Aryan Nations, and Thom Robb, the chaplain of the KKK. Record, producer of the Los Angeles-based radio program National Message, denied that they were spreading racism. Two of the scheduled speakers, Dan Gayman of Missouri and Karl Schott of Spokane, Washington, were theological leaders of the Christian Identity movement. 

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The Conference was shut down early and all participants left a day early. Despite this, demonstrators gathered as scheduled outside the Masonic Temple. Members of SHARP (Skinheads against Racial Prejudice) joined People Against Racist Terror (PART), ACT-UP L.A., the International Music workers Union and concerned Glendale residents in a picket line.

Notable for the police response to the anti-racism activist groups, it attracted the largest number of Glendale police personnel since white supremacist and anti-racists groups clashed in 1987. Approximately 80 Glendale police officers were on site, taping and photographing the participants. The demonstration drew front page coverage in local papers and TV news that emphasized the racism of the Christian Identity movement. The Masonic Temple claimed to have no knowledge of the nature of the gathering despite having held the same conference in the previous year. 

Copyright notice: Any materials under copyright in this exhibit are covered by the Fair Use provision of the Copyright Act.  Permission and preferred attribution were requested of all copyright holders.

Citations:

 

O’Donnell, Santiago. "Anti-Racist Activists Picket, but Targets are no-shows." Los Angeles Times, May 01, 1989, pp. 1. ProQuest. Reprinted by permission of the Los Angeles Times.

Ritzenthaler, Rob. “Racist Conference to Be Picketed.” Glendale News-Press, 28 April 1989. Glendale Library, Arts & Culture. Reprinted by permission of the Los Angeles Times.

PBS. American Experience: Ruby Ridge. Ark Media and WGBH, 2017.

Advocate Bulletin, vol.1, no. 5. League of PACE Amendment Advocates, July 1987. Glendale Central Library. Glendale Library, Arts & Culture.

 

ADDITIONAL RESEARCH:

ADL, Extremism, Terrorism and Bigotry, Christian Identity https://www.adl.org/resources/backgrounders/christian-identity accessed 2/18/21

ADL, Combating Hate https://www.adl.org/sites/default/files/documents/assets/pdf/combating-hate/Gayman-Dan-EIA-1.pdf

Christian Identity. Southern Poverty Law Center, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/ideology/christian-identity.

“How America's White Power Movement Coalesced After The Vietnam War.” Fresh Air, NPR, 25 April 2018, https://www.npr.org/transcripts/605661710.

Taylor, Thomas Eugene. The Emergence of the White Supremacist Movement: A Criminal Justice Issue. Summer 1988. Internet resource. https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a213620.pdf

Turning The Tide Vol. 2 #4 May-June 1989, Anti-Racist Action-L.A./People Against Racist Terror, https://antiracist.org/ttt-vol-2-4-may-june-1989/