southern poverty law center

Hate In God’s Name – Part 2

September 25, 2017 Daryl Johnson
White supremacists

Last year, Duane Eugene Bond fatally stabbed an elderly man in Grants Pass, Oregon, during a domestic dispute. An Oregon couple was also indicted for chasing down and killing a 19-year-old black man with their vehicle. During 2015, the FBI arrested three men in Chesterfield, Virginia, for plotting to blow up African-American churches and Jewish synagogues as part of their plan to incite a “race war.” In 2014, Larry Steven McQuilliams fired more than 100 bullets into the Mexican Consulate and Austin Police Department in Texas before dying in a shootout with police. Frazier Glenn Miller also killed three people during a shooting rampage at Jewish facilities in Overland Park, Kansas, that same year. These violent white supremacists not only embraced the violent tenets of white supremacy, they also adhered to racist religious concepts that encouraged them to hate, conduct criminal activity and engage in violence. This article will discuss white supremacist use of religious concepts and scripture, specifically from Christian and Norse mythology, into their extremist ideology, group rituals and calls for violence. White supremacists have literally hijacked these religions, by twisting their beliefs and parables, and using them to justify threats, criminal behavior and violent attacks.

Use of Christian Concepts

Dating back decades, many white supremacists have embraced religious concepts and scripture borrowed from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. This is particularly applicable to Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members, Christian Identity adherents and some neo-Nazis. White supremacists believe mainstream religions, including Christian denominations and their institutions, have fallen astray from God and are under the control and influence of Satan. As a result, white supremacists interpret scriptures and spiritual parables through the lens of racial discrimination and hate. In this way, they can justify their beliefs (which are vile and deplorable) as good, moral and responsible.

According to their propaganda, KKK members and Christian Identity adherents believe the Bible is the family history of the white race. They believe that white Christians are morally and spiritually superior to other races and that the Old Testament‟s Twelve Tribes of Israel represent the origins of the white race (e.g. Anglo-Saxons, Teutonic, Scandinavian, Celtic, Basque, Lombard, Slavic, etc.). Their beliefs advocate that God created other races as “mud people” who have beast-like roles and lower standing to white men. They condemn race-mixing and Jews, who they perceive as enemies to God. They further believe whites are the only race that continually followed Jesus Christ. Such religious interpretation de-humanizes non-whites and provides spiritual justification — and perhaps motivation — to attack their enemies.

KKK ideology uses the Bible along with its universal handbook, the Kloran, as primary sources. The Kloran, first published in 1916, is the KKK‟s rule book and a guidebook for “Klancraft” — a term used to describe the KKK‟s beliefs, positions, symbols and rituals. There are many biblical references in the Kloran. Biblical symbolism is incorporated into KKK tradecraft, such as cross burnings, wearing white robes and hoods (symbolizing purity and cleanliness), baptisms and induction ceremonies. For example, KKK members equate cross burning to sending out the light of Christ to the world. Also, the KKK‟s primary symbol, the MIOAK (which stands for “Mystic Symbol of a Klansman”) or the Blood Drop cross, features a white cross with a red tear drop at the center. The Blood Drop cross symbolizes the atonement and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, as well as others who have shed their blood for the white race. Surprisingly, some KKK leaders are actually ordained ministers and some have even organized churches which enjoy tax-exempt status. Examples include the Church of the National Knights of the KKK, Christian American Knights of the KKK, Knights of the White Disciples and the Soldiers of the Cross Training Institute.

The Christian Identity movement is a racist religious philosophy sustained by a network of churches and ordained ministers. It claims that white people, not the Jews, are God‟s chosen people. The movement is comprised of both self-proclaimed followers who operate independently and organized groups that meet regularly or even live within insular communities. Its religious doctrine can be found online as well as in various books, pamphlets and recorded speeches. Many Christian Identity adherents believe they are living in the end times, thus mobilizing them to stockpile food, water, weapons and ammunition in anticipation of an impending apocalypse. Some groups, such as the now-defunct Covenant, Sword, Arm of the Lord and Elohim City, believe they have a role to play in hastening the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

“Phineas Priest” [sic] is a unique concept within Christian Identity. Phineas Priests believe they have been called to be “God‟s Holy Warriors” for the white race. The term “Phineas Priest” is derived from the Biblical story of Phinehas (Book of Numbers, Chapter 25), which adherents interpret as justifying the killing of interracial couples. Phineas Priesthood followers have advocated martyrdom and also violence against homosexuals, mixed-race couples, and abortion providers. White supremacist author Richard Kelley Hoskins wrote about the alleged history of the Phineas Priesthood in his book Vigilantes of Christendom. Also, a unique, and dangerous, brand of Christian Identity called “dual seed-line doctrine” teaches that Jews are the literal offspring of Satan through Eve‟s impregnation by the snake at the tree in the Garden of Eden. According to dual seed-line doctrine, the white race continued through Adam and Eve‟s son, Abel, and other children, while the Jewish race began with their other son, Cain. Further, they believe the Bible story of Cain slaying Abel suggests a Jew murdered the first white offspring — starting a war between whites and Jews, which continues to this day.

Finally, some neo-Nazis believe the swastika has biblical origins dating back to the time of Adam. According to Aryan Nations literature, “the swastika represents the Revolving Resurrection Cross and the promise of the Messiah which was fulfilled in Jesus Christ‟s death on the cross.” Further, Aryan Nations members were taught that the open-handed salute (e.g. “Sieg Heil” salute) has “always been used by the white race to acknowledge God in the heavens and our dependence on Him for strength and succor,” the group‟s literature states.

Use of Norse Mythology Concepts

Racial Nordic mysticism is most commonly embraced by neo-Nazis, racist skinheads, and Aryan prison gang members. It is most prolific among younger white supremacists. Followers of Norse mythology worship Nordic gods such as Thor and Odin. It operates through an autonomous, loose-knit network of adherents who congregate online and meet in person. White supremacists typically recruit others into racial Nordic mysticism either online, through group meetings or within American correctional institutions.

Odinism and Asatru are the most popular Norse mythological religions embraced by white supremacists. These non-Christian religious philosophies are not inherently racist, but have been exploited and embraced by white supremacists due to their symbolically strong image of “Aryan” life and Anglo-Saxon heritage. Aryan prison gang members may also have another reason for declaring affiliation with Odinism and Asatru due to prison privileges, such as special dietary needs or extra time to worship, given to those inmates who claim membership in a religious group. For many white supremacists, Norse mythology features folklore of revenge and battles between forces of good and evil which resonate with white supremacist views of today‟s society. The story-like nature of Norse mythology also appeals to a younger generation of white supremacists who reject Christianity as a weak religion (e.g. Jesus Christ submitting himself to the Jews to be killed) and who may find it difficult to understand biblical language and hidden messages in parables. Norse mythology also predicts a coming apocalypse or end times (called Ragnarok) where the forces of good will unite in a great battle against a devil-like figure (called Loki) and many will die. Further, ancient Norse warriors, called Berserkers (known for their explosive rage), continue to inspire some white supremacists today who depict these fearless soldiers in prison drawings and may attempt to emulate them.

Chip Berlet, senior analyst for Political Research Associates, points out that some white supremacists may be attracted to Norse mythology as a result of their affinity toward Greek mythology, Celtic lore or interest in Nazi Germany. Nazi leaders celebrated Nordic myths and used Nordic symbolism for their image of heroic warriors during World War II. “These myths were the basis of Wagner's Ring opera cycle, and influenced Hitler who merged them with his distorted understanding of Nietzsche's philosophy of the centrality of will and the concept of the Ubermensch, which Hitler turned into the idea of an Aryan „Master Race,‟” Berlet says.

Lastly, neo-Nazi groups, such as the National Alliance and Volksfront, have used symbols of Norse mythology, such as the life rune, in their group insignias and propaganda. Similarly,

Aryan prison gangs have also been known to write letters and inscribe messages on tattoos using the runic alphabet.

Other Religious Concepts

Another example of a white supremacist religious concept is the Creativity Movement. Ben Klassen is credited with creating this religion for the White race in Florida in 1973. Klassen authored two primary religious texts for the Creativity Movement — Nature’s Eternal Religion and the White Man’s Bible. Creativity emphasizes moral conduct and behavior for the white race (e.g. “your race is your religion”) including its “Sixteen Commandments” and the “Five Fundamental Beliefs of Creativity.” Klassen had a vision that every worthy member of the Creativity religion would become an ordained minister in the Church of the Creator. Followers of the Creativity Movement have carried out violent crimes such as mass shootings, arson, attempted bombings and murder.

Sovereign Citizens Movement

It was February 13, 1983. Gordon Kahl, who often referred to himself as a “Christian Patriot,” had just murdered a Deputy U.S. Marshal (execution-style) on a lonely stretch of highway outside of Medina, North Dakota. Two other lawmen were shot as well as Kahl‟s son, Yori. A second U.S. Marshal later died of his wounds. Yori and a deputy sheriff survived. The gun battle — between a group of sovereign citizens leaving a Posse Comitatus meeting and four lawmen — erupted while authorities were attempting to serve an arrest warrant on Kahl during a traffic stop for failure to appear. After rushing his son to the local medical clinic for aid, Kahl fled the scene in the sheriff deputy‟s car. While on the run, Kahl wrote a 16-page letter to a fellow sovereign citizen stating the motive behind his attack. He wrote, “We are engaged in a struggle to the death between the people of the Kingdom of God, and the Kingdom of Satan. It started long ago, and is now best described as a struggle between Jacob & Esau.” He also wrote, “If you've been paying tithes to the Synagogue of Satan, under the 2nd plank of the Communist Manifesto to finance your own destruction, stop right now, and tell Satan's tithing collectors, as I did many years ago, „Never again will I give aid and comfort to the enemies of Christ.‟ Mystery Babylon with all its greatness will be destroyed.”

On June 4, 1983, Gordon Kahl died in a shootout near Smithville, Arkansas, but not before he killed another lawman who attempted to confront Kahl in a burning farmhouse. Today, Gordon Kahl is looked upon as a modern-day patriot martyr by many sovereign citizens, militia extremists and other radicals on the alt-right.

The Sovereign Citizen Movement (SCM) is a loosely organized collection of groups and individuals who believe that virtually all forms of state and federal government are illegitimate. Sometimes referred to as constitutionalists, freemen or common law advocates, they use tactics such as harassment, threats and intimidation against their enemies. Sovereign citizens have been known to establish “common law courts” to issue fake indictments and bogus arrest warrants against public officials. Sovereign citizens have also been known to violently attack — even kill — government officials and others. Sovereign citizens have a strong presence on the Internet and exploit the public‟s frustration over tax increases, mortgage and credit card interest rates and perceptions of government greed and corruption to recruit new members. Due to the high level of sovereign citizen encounters and related criminal activity, law enforcement, government officials and academics are keenly aware of it. Few, however, understand that sovereign citizen actions are oftentimes based on religious beliefs.

“For most sovereigns, beliefs about the law are explicitly religious beliefs,” says Spencer Dew and Jamie Wight of the University of Chicago‟s Martin Marty Center for the Advanced Study of Religion. “This cannot be overstated: they link their beliefs to points across a broad constellation of existing religious traditions.” Core sovereign citizen beliefs are based on their own version of law that is derived from a combination of the Magna Carta, the Bible, English common law, and various 19th century state constitutions. Central to their argument is the view of a Supreme Being having embodied every person with certain inalienable rights as stated in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the Bible.

Author Verl K. Speer (often referred to as the “Doctor of Common Law”) in his book Pied Pipers of Babylon (considered sovereign citizen propaganda) summarizes his view of our society in religious terms. “It is time that we came to the realization that we are engaged in a spiritual war against powers and principalities, contracting parties in high places who have entangled us in their web of deceit via a multitude of non-disclosed adhesion contracts,” he writes. 

SCM ideology appeals to a wide range of people separated by generations, cultural and ethnic differences, and spans the political spectrum. As a result, religious concepts among sovereign citizens can fall anywhere along the theological continuum. For example, some extremist insular communities, such as the Church at Kahweh in California and the Christ County Kingdom of God sect in Michigan, have merged sovereign citizen tradecraft into their religious organizations.

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) faction in Hildale, Utah, also embraces and uses aspects of sovereign citizen tactics, such as engaging in welfare and tax fraud, disregarding federal and state laws or authority, and creating their own police force (which is neither certified nor recognized by the state). As individuals, other sovereign citizens have taken a more common approach to their religious views, such as Bible-based Christian Patriotism or holding end times/apocalyptic beliefs. In contrast, some sovereign citizens, particularly those who are younger, reject organized religion — its institutions, doctrine and scriptures. According to the 2009 Global Sovereigns Handbook, “Religion is the greatest form of mind control through manipulation of fear, guilt, and shame. Spirituality is the opposite of religion.”

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