Sunday, March 31, 2019

Not even wrong

”Religion and the Racist Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement” is a classical book by Michael Barkun, originally published in 1994. An expanded edition was brought out in 1997. The book tells the extremely complex and convoluted story of Christian Identity, a White supremacist and virulently anti-Semitic form of “Christianity” mostly associated with the Neo-Nazi Aryan Nations and The Order (although the latter group probably wasn´t Identity sensu stricto). 

Barkun traces the roots of Christian Identity to British Israelism, a philo-Semitic (sic) movement within Protestantism which emerged during the 19th century in Britain. Through a series of intermediary steps, American supporters of British Israelism became increasingly more anti-Semitic until they morphed into the Christian Identity movement. Barkun was clearly worried that this fringe of the fringe phenomenon would somehow insinuate itself into the broader far right, conspiracist and alternative knowledge milieux in the wake of the Ruby Ridge standoff, Waco and the Oklahoma City bombing. I think he may have been wrong in this – today, you hardly hear of Christian Identity anymore. Even the once successful crypto-Nazi David Duke, who cavorted with Identity supporters back in the days, has faded from the lime light. I guess we have other far right fads now…

What distinguishes Christian Identity from other currents are two distinct theological positions. First, Identity believers assert that Aryans, Anglo-Saxons or Whites are the lost tribes of Israel. In some versions, the remaining tribes of Judah and Benjamin were racially contaminated by intermarriage with Edomites and other alien breeds, effectively placing them outside the Biblical Israelite fold. In other versions, Whites are the true descendants of all Israelite tribes, both the 10 lost tribes and the two remaining tribes, whereas Jews are really Khazars and hence have nothing to do with Biblical history whatsoever. Thus, we are dealing with a very extreme form of replacement theology, in which Jews are written out of their own history (and holy scripture) altogether.

The second idea associated with Christian Identity goes even further in anti-Semitism, essentially claiming that Jews are the *literal* children of Satan. According to this idea, Eve was seduced by the serpent in Eden, and the result of this sexual liaison was Cain, who is thus half-demonic. Full humans (i.e. White Aryans) are descended from Adam and Eve, while Jews are a “serpent seed line” descended from Eve´s sinful transgression with the Devil himself. Blacks and other colored races are neither human nor demonic, but simply “beasts of the field” and lack souls altogether. However, these speculations exist in many different versions, some of which assert that the serpent was a Black man, others claiming that the evil seed line began with Cain who married a Pre-Adamite woman (in this version, Cain was White while the Pre-Adamites were colored). The bottom line in all versions is that race mixing is a sin and that only White people are God´s direct creation.

Barkun points out that Christian Identity has another curious trait. It´s dualism between the good Adamites and the evil Jews (and colored races) is sometimes so strong, that the outcome of the apocalyptic battle at the end of days is an open question. It´s not entirely clear from some Identity narratives whether the Whites (and God) will really carry the day, Identity belief being a kind of spiritual “black pill”, to use contemporary Internet slang. The flip side of this pessimism is the idea that Christian warriors might make a difference if only they exert themselves to the maximum – which could include terrorist acts against the U.S. federal government, seen as Jew-controlled (and therefore Satanic). The fulfillment of the millennium is dependent on the violent actions of God´s chosen ones…

Barkun discusses the incredibly complicated history of this particular current, its multiform interfaces with others on the far right (including militias and conspiracy theorists) and the lure of the cultic milieu on these kinds of fringe movements. The cultic milieu is the subculture where society´s “rejected knowledge” finds a home, a milieu in which UFO believers, Theosophists or pyramidologists might rub shoulders (and, above all, share ideas) with extreme racists, conspiracy mongers or really weird religious sects. Christian Identity is clearly influenced by the cultic milieu, for instance when it claims that the war in Heaven between God and Satan was fought with interstellar spaceships, one of which later crashed on Earth. This is obviously incorporated from UFO beliefs. Conversely, Christian Identity itself has become part and parcel of the cultic milieu, potentially influencing others. As already noted, Barkun feared Identity influence on the so-called militias.

Personally, I consider Christian Identity to be downright bizarre. It seems to be the only religious current which isn´t right about *anything*. I´m almost tempted to call it “not even wrong”! Where do I even begin? Genetic evidence suggests that the Ashkenazim really are Jewish, Adam or Cain are purely mythological characters, Whites evolved from colored people, Jesus has at least one Canaanite (“Cainite”) in his family tree, and how the hell can demons or beasts interbreed with humans anyway? And no, Anglo-Saxons aren´t Semitic but Indo-European. By Identity logic, Hitler was presumably an Israelite, perhaps even a Judahite! Atheists of Jewish extraction are said to call Christianity a Jewish joke on the Gentiles. I suppose Aryan Nations is a Jewish joke on the Gentiles gone awry. Or a Jewish joke on the Gentiles coming home to roost, if you´re more critical of Jacob…

Christian Identity is also misogynist in a near-paranoid fashion. This is obvious in the story of how Eve was seduced by the serpent. Note: not raped but willingly seduced. In some versions by a Black man “from the field”, in others by the father of all Jews. Presumably, White supremacists fear that White women might find colored people (or rich merchants?) more erotically alluring than your average hard-working White boy. The racist stereotypes encoded in this scenario doesn´t need further elaboration.

“Religion and the Racist Right” can be a tedious read, due to the sheer mass of details the author has put into it, but if the cultic milieu is your primary interest in life, I think you have to read it anyway!


  1. It just struck me that Christian Identity are, as far as I know, globe-earthers and heliocentrists, so I suppose they are right about *something*, after all. LOL.

  2. Jag tentade på den i forskarutbildningen i religionshistoria. Jag har för mig att jag föreslog den som tentalitteratur själv. Och, ja, just vad jag mest fascinerades av var att deras historia var så oerhört komplicerad. Och hur en från början ganska mild rasism (inte värre än den genomsnittliga 1800-talsrasismen, och alltså INTE anti-semitisk) gradvis, via en serie av teologiska förändringar, inte endast blev elakartat anti-semitisk, utan också kombinerade detta med en önskan att förinta även alla andra icke-vita "raser" (kallade "mud people", om jag minns rätt).

    Ja, Christian Identity har förstås fel i alla ståndpunkter som är specifika för dem - att de troligen skulle ha rätt om de ex.vis hamnade i en diskussion med Flat Earth Society om jordens form ändrar ju inte på detta!

  3. Såg först nu att du också noterat det sistnämnda i din kommentar 4.36. Det finns förstås några andra exempel också... om man letar...

  4. Det är en väldigt märklig metamorfos, och Barkun kan egentligen inte förklara den, bara notera att den ägt rum. Det är helt enkelt "one of those things" (mitt uttryck). Han nämner vissa faktorer som kan ha gjort metamorfosen enklare, t.ex. att British Israelism var decentraliserade och allmänt heterodoxa, att de tillhörde the cultic milieu, att de blev negativa till sionismen under andra världskriget, etc. Intressant att du tentade på just denna bok!

  5. Ja, men då måste man leta väldigt länge, ha ha. Den här strömningen verkar leva i en slags absurd fantasivärld där svart är vitt och vice versa. De verkar dessutom basera sina idéer på ett slags pseudo-historisk forskning och vidlyftig bibelexeges, inte på påstådda gudomliga uppenbarelser, vilket gör det hela ännu knäppare! Fast de kanske tror motsatsen...

    Visst var det Anna-Lena Lodenius som i "Extremhögern" kallade Christian Identity för pseudo-religion, fast jag tror att de verkligen tror på sin förkunnelse...

    British Israelism finns förresten fortfarande, både i en så att säga ursprunglig form, och i form av grupper som följer Herbert W Armstrong (som även figurerar på denna blogg).

    Själv håller jag mig som bekant till Atlantis. ;-)

  6. En potentiellt intressant diskussion utspinner sig just nu på tråden till föregående posting om "Chad" Thomas.