Christian Identity

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Christian Identity





The religious belief system known as Christian Identity (or just “Identity”) serves as a faith foundation for innumerable white supremacists worldwide, with as many as 50,000 adherents in the United States alone (as of mid-2005). It is a complex amalgamation of pseudo-Christian ideas, virulent anti-Semitism, historical revisionism, occultism, apocalyptic fantasies, conspiratorial paranoia, and classic notions of racial superiority. This blend of religion and racism has not only led to some of the most heinous hate crimes in America, but has also given rise to an extensive network of independent churches and organizations that cater to the social, political, and theological needs of racists, ranging from neo-Nazis to Klansmen. Identity’s doctrinal paradigm, however, has no centralized authority structure, individual founder, core group of recognized leaders, or standard creed. Consequently, it cannot be classed as either a sect or a “cult.” And it certainly is not a mainstream Christian denomination. Identity, therefore, might best be described as an amorphous movement of self-styled leaders and affiliates that reflect racist religious beliefs and sociopolitical ideals.

Although the views expressed by Identity adherents may differ on peripheral issues—such as whether Hitler should be idolized; the best “solution” for ridding America of nonwhites (exportation vs. extermination); Jewish history; the significance of occult concepts (e.g., pyramidology); and the efficacy of violence over political activism—most followers of the faith agree on six tenets:

  1. Adam and Eve were not the first humans; they were the first white people (Aryans).
  2. Old Testament Israelites were Aryans and their descendants are today’s Caucasians.
  3. Non-Aryans represent a different species than “whites.”
  4. Jews are descended from either Satan or the Khazars (an Asiatic tribe).
  5. Jesus was a white man, and not a Jew.
  6. Armageddon, which will be a race war between whites and nonwhites, is imminent.

These doctrines encompass a total worldview, complete with an alternate historical framework stretching back to the dawn of time, as described in Genesis. But unlike mainstream Christians, Identity believers put a racist twist on the classic Adam and Eve story.


Identity teaches that Caucasians were created after God had already brought forth a host of other “races” (commonly called “mud people” or “beasts of the field”). This doctrine was noted in Bertrand Comparet’s The Cain-Satanic Seed Line. Richard Butler, the founder of the Aryan Nations, likewise taught that Adam was “the father of the White Race only” (Who, What, Why, When, Where: Aryan Nations, p. 3). The divine plan was for Adam and his wife, Eve, to populate the world with a new race of superior humans created in God’s image. But Satan (i.e., the “serpent”) greatly hindered the plan by launching a series of attacks against the Lord’s chosen people. These attacks started when the Devil literally seduced Eve.

The unholy union (i.e., original sin) produced Cain, who murdered his half-brother Abel—the son of Adam and Eve. Cain subsequently left the Garden of Eden and during his wanderings he supposedly fathered the Jewish race (the “Seed Line” of Lucifer) through the pre-Adamite “mud people.” All Jews, therefore, are Satan’s spawn. As page 6 of the Doctrinal Statement of Beliefs for Kingdom Identity Ministries says, “We believe in an existing being known as the Devil … who has literal ‘seed’ or posterity in earth (Gen. 3:15) commonly called Jews.” As for Adam and Eve, they subsequently sired other children, who in turn propagated the white race. This race, contrary to the standard view of historians and theologians, became the “Israelites” of the Old Testament, represented by the twelve tribes of Israel’s northern and southern kingdoms.

Here the mystery surrounding the legendary Ten Tribes (or “Lost Tribes”) of Israel’s northern kingdom becomes relevant. Historians assume that these tribes (Asher, Dan, Gad, Issachar, Joseph, Levi, Naphtali, Reuben, Simeon, Zebulun), after being led into captivity by the Assyrians (c. 722–721 BCE), were assimilated into the populace of surrounding nations. But Identity asserts that the tribes remained a distinct people who wandered the earth, and in so doing scattered their white “seed” throughout the world. This theory, initially called “British-Israelism,” first gained acceptance in Victorian England (1837–1901) as Protestants began embracing the notion that they were descendants of Old Testament Israelites.


Early proponents of British-Israelism included Richard Brothers (1757–1824), John Wilson (d. 1871), and Edward Hine (1825–1891). Their writings helped spread British-Israelism not only in England, but also America. By the late 1870s, in fact, their concepts were firmly established on U.S. soil. Throughout America, however, a far broader belief took root—that all Anglo-Saxons were Israelites. This position was labeled “Anglo-Israelism.”

Interestingly, during its formative years, British/Anglo-Israelism was neither racist nor anti-Semitic. Followers considered “Jews” to be fellow kinsmen descended from the two tribes of Israel’s southern kingdom (Judah and Benjamin). But such benign views started changing as America moved into the twentieth century, especially during the 1920s, as a nationwide revival of the Klan injected radical anti-Semitism into British/Anglo-Israelism.

The most notable figure of this era to advance anti Semitism was William J. Cameron, the editor of Henry Ford’s Dearborn Independent (1919–1927). Cameron authored The International Jew, a four-volume series that included anti-Semitic material from more than ninety issues (1920–1922) of Ford’s newspaper. Cameron’s series were also based in part on information taken from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the now infamous forgery of minutes reportedly transcribed during a meeting of Jewish leaders plotting world domination.

In 1923 Cameron added two more Dearborn Independent stories to his anti-Semitic writings: “Are the Jews ‘God’s Chosen People’?” and “‘Was Jesus Christ a Jew?’—An Inquiry.” These latter works planted serious doubts in the minds of British/Anglo-Israelites about whether or not “Jews” were indeed separated brethren. According to the articles, “Jews” were actually evil descendants of the Khazars, an Asiatic race from the Black Sea region. This theory initiated the transition of British/Anglo-Israelism from a decidedly European belief system into a distinctly American hybrid of mythology, historical revisionism, and hate.


From the 1920s through the 1940s, America’s newest religion was coalescing as British/Anglo-Israel leaders found common political and theological ground. Many notable figures emerged to shape not only Identity doctrines, but also the network of racist churches and organizations that would become Identity’s framework. These leaders included the Klansman Reuben H. Sawyer (1866–1962), Howard B. Rand (1889–1991), and Wesley Swift (1913–1970), who was perhaps the first true “Identity” preacher. Swift’s potent brand of anti-Semitism literally blazed the trail of hatred eventually taken by those who would form the backbone of Identity. Important successors of these men include Bertrand Comparet (1901–1983), William Potter Gale (1917–1988), and Gerald L. K. Smith (1898–1976).

Despite the voluminous amount of literature produced by these Identity proponents and their protégés, it was not until the late 1970s to early 1980s that Identity reached full stature. By that time, Identity believers had incorporated into their faith the idea that Jesus was a white man who came to save only whites. Moreover, so-called “race-mixing” had become a paramount abomination to Identity followers, primarily in response to social and cultural changes in post-1960s America.

Identity’s hatred of interracial childbearing is rooted in white supremacist fears that their race will be obliterated via dilution of the “white” gene pool. This is seen as being part of an alleged Jewish conspiracy to destroy God’s people. It is the same conspiracy that supposedly inspired America’s civil rights movement and subsequent attempts to foster multiculturalism. As the Identity preacher Charles Wiesman noted in 1991:

“Jews are the ones promoting multi-racial immigration and multi-culturalism… . [Jews want to] destroy God’s order of things by getting the white race to ignore the natural barriers of distinction between races. The Jew thus runs to the aid and cause of the Negro and colored races to elevate them while lowering the status of the white man… . Jews, who are mongrels, desire the entire world to be mongrelized, especially the white race” (Who Is Esau-Edom?, pp. 108–109).

Contempt for “race-mixing” also plays a significant role in the apocalyptic visions of Identity adherents, who believe that the United States is teetering on the brink of a catastrophic race war (i.e., Armageddon) that will mark a new beginning for America (the New Jerusalem), which God created for whites only. This war will cleanse the Promised Land of all nonwhites in a manner perhaps not too different from the storyline of TheTurnerDiaries, a horrifically violent screed by William Pierce. In this way, the United States will be delivered from its Zionist Occupational Government (ZOG) and transformed into God’s “Heavenly Reich” on earth.

Such a scenario has led some Identity believers to not only adopt the battle cry RAHOWA (i.e., RAcial HOly WAr), but also to manifest violence toward Jews and people of color. The most notorious example of such conduct involved The Order (or Bruder Schweigen—the “Silent Brotherhood”), which went on a nationwide rampage in 1984 that included multiple robberies and the murder of Jewish radio talk show host Alan Berg. Other Identity-linked crimes include Timothy McVeigh’s 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building, the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing by Eric Rudolph; and the 1998 shootings by Buford Furrow at a Los Angeles Jewish community center.

Mainstream Christians have responded to Identity by arguing that neither racism nor anti-Semitism represents historic Christianity. The Bible declares that there is “neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ” (Galatians 3:28). The unity of humankind is also exalted in the New Testament, where it is explained that God made from Adam “every” nation of men (Acts 17:26).

Interestingly, many Identity believers have come to reject the “Identity” label because it has become too closely associated with racism and violence. As the Identity pastor Pete Peters put it, “Identity” has been “transformed into an evil icon in the minds of the populace.”

SEE ALSO Swift, Wesley.


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Richard J. Abanes

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