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Because the Bible Tells Me So: Violence and the Christian Identity Movement in the United States

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CHRISTIAN IN AMERICABy Jennifer Popich

(Submitted to  Westminster College in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Science in Sociology Presented April 23, 2007)

Abstract. Religion and religious beliefs in the United States are often believed by many to exert a positive influence on individuals and the society they reside in. Several studies have indicated a strong religious foundation influences the development of the individual‟s identity as well as the group identity they choose to belong to. While the influence of religion and the beliefs associated with it often provide a positive influence on the development of identity, this influence can be equally negative. The focus of my research was on the negative influence religion can have on shaping individual and group identity. In particular I concentrated on the influence the Christian Identity Movement exercises in the development of individual and group identities and their commitment to a violent confrontation with those who do not share their values, beliefs, and Aryan Christian identity.

Through a secondary and qualitative analysis I examined how the Christian Identity ideology provides the basis, justification, and legitimization for the Christian Identity Movement‟s beliefs and values. In addition I also examined how the Christen Identity Movement uses modern communications technology and popular culture to recruit new members and reinforce their message of individual and group superiority. Finally, within this paper I demonstrate how E. H. Sutherland‟s theory of differential association and R. A. Ackers theory of differential association and reinforcement describes and explains the conditions under which such a confrontational identity develops and grows, which can ultimately lead to violence.

Society often views religion and religious beliefs as a positive influence on an individual and the society in which he or she resides in. However, does religion and the beliefs often associated with it have an equally negative influence? We can look to the history of the world to see not only the positive but the negative aspect religious beliefs can have on the individual and society. To understand the impact that religion and religious beliefs have on an individual and society, it is important to first understand the role and function religion plays for an individual and the society in which he or she live in.

Sociologist Emile Durkheim believed adherence to religious norms produced an individual who is emotionally stronger. “It is as though he were raised above the miseries of the world, because he is raised above his condition as a mere man; he believes that he is saved from evil, under whatever form he may conceive this evil” (Durkheim 1912/1947: 416). In essence Durkheim believed religious beliefs and norms provide individuals with additional emotional strength so they can cope with the difficulties and crises individuals may encounter in their life.

Durkheim is not alone in acknowledging the impact religion and religious beliefs can have on an individual. Sociologist Hans Mol (1976) believes religion provides a stabilizing force for both the individual and group identity. To understand the influence religion has on the individual and their identity which Durkheim and Mol spoke of, Jeffrey Seul (1999), in his article, “Ours Is the Way of God: Religion, Identity, and Intergroup Conflict,” examined Herbert Kelman‟s theory on how an individual‟s identity is formed and maintained through three different processes of social interactions; compliance, identification and internalization.

Kelman (1998) theorizes the process of compliance occurs when an individual conforms to another‟s expectations just as a child conforms to their parents‟ demands. Individuals who choose to belong to a social organization reflect the process of identification, which occurs when an individual adopts the behavior of another person or group to establish a positive self-concept. The final social process Kelman emphasizes is internalization, which occurs when one aligns themselves with others because their values are consistent with one‟s own values. Seul, in his study, extended the social process outlined by Kelman in the development and maintenance of an individual‟s identity and applied it to the development and maintenance of an individual‟s religious identity.

A religious belief, just as non-religious beliefs, held to be true by an individual leads to actions and/or behaviors which ultimately bolsters the development of their own religious identity. James D. Faubion (2003) in his article “Religion, Violence and the Vitalistic Economy” identifies these actions and behaviors as components in the individual‟s vitalistic economy. The vitalistic economy refers to all things in life which provides energy within an individual and the society in which they reside in. The positive components of religion, or the actions and/or behaviors which bolster the individual‟s religious identity include adhering to society‟s norms and values, demonstrating compassion and/or assisting their fellow citizen. These positive components of the  vitalistic economy both bolster the individual‟s religious identity and the society in which they live in.

Religious beliefs and the organizations associated with these beliefs can and often do provide a stabilizing force and a strong foundation for an individual and group to form a positive identity. However, just as religious beliefs can form the basis for a positive identity, religious beliefs can also provide a negative basis for both the individual and group identity. Faubion believes religion in the vitalistic economy has a duality; it has both a positive and a negative component. Just as the positive components of the vitalistic economy can bolster an individuals‟ identity and the society he or she resides in, the negative component of religion can create social differentiation among individuals and groups which may ultimately lead to violence.

Francisco Diaz De Velasco (2005) in his article “Theoretical Reflections on Violence and Religion: Identity, Power, Privilege and Difference,” also believes religion has an impact on an individuals identity and how they perceive themselves. De Velasco identifies four aspects of what he defined the normal social human condition. These four aspects include the concern for identity, individual and collective; the acquisition and distribution of power; the experience of having privilege, over and against others; how an individual confronts differences because of their identity. De Velasco theorized it is how an individual confronts differences which create the opportunity for religion and violence to combine. Religious differences can and often do provide a basis for discriminating against others who are different and ultimately justify the use of violence.

Researchers Seul, Faubion and De Velasco indicated religion can and does often have a tremendous impact on the development of one‟s identity. However, as the  research has suggested while religion can provide a sense of unity, religion can also create an opportunity for an individual or groups to differentiate themselves from others and ultimately create an environment for conflict to arise. The history of the world, as well as current events, has demonstrated how dangerous conflicts over religious differences can be. From the Christian Crusaders attacking Muslims in the Middle East and Jerusalem to the attack by Muslims on the symbols of Western economic and military power on September 11, countless generations have witnessed the destructive forces of religious conflict.

September 11, 2001 marked the day for many Americans when an extremist form of religion attacked citizens within our own country, it was a day in which terrorist violence occurred within the borders of the United States. However, in truth, extremist forms of religion have been attacking citizens in the United States since the formation of our country. While the terrorists of 9/11 may have used the Qur‟an as a source of inspiration there are many extremist forms of Christianity in the United States which have used the Bible as their inspiration for the violence they have committed against their fellow citizens. John J. Collins (2003) in his article “The Zeal of Phinehas,” discusses how religious violence is not unique to Islam and the Qur‟an, but can also be found in the attitudes and assumptions present in both Jewish and Christen Scripture. The Southern Poverty Law Center has also demonstrated the potential for Christian violence in the Unites States with their verified number of over 800 hate groups operating in the United States, with many of these groups following the religious teachings of the Christian Identity Movement.

The Christen Identity Movement has been linked with many of the known hate groups within the United States. However, Michael Barkun (2003) in his article “Religious Violence and the Myth of Fundamentalism,” discusses the importance of distinguishing the difference between the Christen Identity Movement and that of religious fundamentalism within the United States. Barkun in his article highlighted how violence committed by religious believers, in order to promote religious purposes or goals, or to protect the religious community from perceived harm, is often “explained” by characterizing the religious outlook of these violent believers as fundamentalist. However, while many hate groups may use Christian fundamentalist beliefs, Barkun argues, such views about religiously justified violence are not common to or essential for most common forms of American Protestant fundamentalism.

Barkun is not alone in defining the differences between religious fundamentalism and the Christen Identity Movement in the United States. Appleby and Martin (2002) in their article “Fundamentalism,” outlines the characteristics of religious fundamentalists which include unconditional obedience from its members, a clear line which divides the pure from impure and also see their version of religion as being the absolute truth. Tom Smith (1999) in his study “The Religious Right and Anti-Semitism,” finds the religious rights (fundamentalist) are more concerned with the religious belief systems that conflict with their view of Christianity; however, the differences in religious beliefs are eliminated through conversion and not the violence often associated with the Christen Identity Movement.

Mark Juergensmeyer (1998) in his article “Christian Violence in American,” identifies two different religious militant type groups. The first group Juergensmeyer outlined was the Reconstructionists who advocate Christianity must reassert the dominion of God over all things. In addition Reconstructionists often include a component of Dominion theology to their system of beliefs which ultimately defines the social and moral evils of secular society. Over the past ten years, within the United States, we have seen an increased presence of Dominion theology in groups which are responsible for lobbying government representatives for the passage or the revocation, of existing laws. Examples would include attempts to overturn Roe v. Wade or the many recent amendments to state constitutions which define a marriage as only between a man and a woman. In addition, not all actions of Reconstructionist groups are non- violent, members of Reconstruction type groups, such as captured bomber Eric Rudolph, have been responsible for the bombings of multiple abortion clinics and the creation of “most wanted” lists consisting of doctors who have performed abortions with both activities resulting in the deaths of clinic employees and physicians.

The second militant religious group Juergensmeyer discusses is the Christian Identity Movement which ultimately provides the background for such groups as the Posse Comitatus, The Order, Aryan Nation, Sword of Phinehas and the Ku Klux Klan. The Christian Identity Movement distrusts most modern churches, has rallied against the separation of church and state and is seeking a new society governed by religious law. Christian Identity ideas were a part of the beliefs of Timothy McVeigh, the bomber of the Oklahoma City federal building. The Christian Identity Movement is strongly anti-Semitic and racist and ultimately believes in the superiority of the white Anglo protestant over all other races, ethnic groups and religions.

Tanya T. Sharpe (2000) in her article “The Identity Christian Movement: Ideology of Domestic Terrorism,” theorizes that over the past twenty years the increased incidents of domestic forms of terrorism in the United States can be attributed to many of the religious militant type group Juergensmeyer identified as the Christian Identity Movement. Sharpe detailed how many of these groups use fundamentalist and Dominion theologies to not only justify their actions but also provide the basis which allows members of these groups to de-victimize their victims by reducing them to less than human. The targets for Christen Identity Movement groups are individuals or groups who are non-white, non-American and non-protestant.

The targeting of individuals or groups based upon their race, ethnicity or religion is not a new phenomenon in the United States. The treatment of individuals by Christen Identity groups such as the Ku Klux Klan has been documented throughout history; however, these acts of violence are not only a part of our past, they are also part of contemporary America. One of the most heinous acts of racial violence involved the dragging death of an African American man, James Byrd, in Jasper Texas on June 7 1998; those found guilty of the crime did have established links to the Sword of Phinehas, a group with ties to the Christian Identity Movement. To become a member of the Sword of Phinehas, potential members must first commit a “blood tie” (kill) on an individual from a targeted racial, ethnic or religious group.

The Christian Identity Movement targets specific groups based upon their race, ethnicity and/or religion. The targeting of groups based upon specific characteristics is the process of scapegoating. James G. Williams (1996) outlines in his book “The Girard Reader,” Girard‟s scapegoat theory. According to Girard the scapegoat focuses the pent  up hostilities of the individuals within a community thus preventing violence within the community itself; as a result the scapegoat serves the purpose of unifying the group against an identified common enemy, threat, or cause of harm to their community. In essence the scapegoat serves as an excuse for the community to protect itself by imagining this scapegoat to be a source of potential harm or danger to the community. But according to Girard attacking the scapegoat is a form of self deception which prevents the community from recognizing that the violence lies within itself.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice (2006) “Hate Crime Statistics, Incidents and Offenses,” for the year ending 2005, there were almost 9,000 reported victims of hate based crimes with over 54% being racially motivated. However, it is important to understand the figure of 9,000 reflects only those crimes reported and classified as a hate crime by law enforcement, thus the actual incidence rate of hate based crimes is likely much higher. According to the U.S. Department of Justice (2005) “Hate Crime Reported by Victims and Police,” approximately only 44% of hate victimizations were reported to the police. In addition hate crimes are also more likely to be among the most serious of crimes. In 38% of hate crimes, victims were raped, robbed, injured, or threatened with a weapon. However, only 12% of victims from non hate based crimes reached the same level of seriousness as those of hate based crimes.

While the statistics on hate crimes committed and the number of hate groups operating within the United States demonstrate why American society should be concerned, these statistics do not reveal the motivation for the targeted violence. Within this paper I will be focusing on religious inspired or justified violence by examining the link between the Christen Identity Movement and hate based violence. I will also  examine the religious theology which provides the basis or justification for acts of violence along with why an individual would choose to become a member of a hate based group. Finally, I will examine the means in which hate based groups recruit and communicate their values, beliefs and traditions.

Theory. The literature review I conducted reflects the theory that religion and religious belief‟s have a strong influence on the development of both individual and group identity. In addition, this influence can have both an equally positive or negative impact; however, within this paper I will be focusing on the negative aspect of religion and religious beliefs, specifically the religious inspired violence linked to the Christian Identity Movement in the United States. I will be utilizing the Social Process Approach, specifically the theories of Differential Association and Reinforcement to explain how the theology of the Christian Identity Movement provides an individual with a sense of individual and group identity while also providing the justification for acts of violence.

Differential Association and Reinforcement are classified under the social learning theory branch of the social process approach. The social process approach consists of three branches: social learning theory, social control theory, and social reaction theory (labeling theory), which views criminality as a function of an individual‟s interactions within society. The social learning theory assumes people are not predisposed to engage in criminal behavior, rather they learn their criminal behavior through social interactions. In essence people learn their norms, values, and behaviors about crime from their close intimate relationships. In contrast to social learning theory, the social control theory maintains that all people have the potential to engage in criminal conduct and ultimately human behavior is controlled through close associations with institutions and individuals. The last branch of the social process approach, which roots are found in the symbolic interaction theory, is the social reaction theory. The social reaction theory maintains that the labels placed on an individual in society impacts the individual‟s perception of themselves and ultimately their behavior, including criminal behavior (Siegel 2006).

The theories of social learning, social control and social reaction share the view that criminal behavior is the result of an individual‟s socialization and the interactions they have with various organizations and institutions. However, it is within the theory of social learning I will evaluate religiously motivated violence as a learned behavior through the process of differential association and reinforcement within the Christian Identity Movement.

The social learning approach to criminology operates on the basic premise that both conforming and deviant behaviors are learned in the same way. The social learning approach was first introduced into the study of criminology in 1947 by sociologist Edward H. Sutherland with his revolutionary theory of Differential Association. It is important to understand that up until Sutherland introduced his theory of Differential Association the study of criminology was dominated by physicians and psychiatrists who viewed criminal behavior as a result of biological and psychological abnormalities. Sutherland‟s Differential Association theory consists of nine points; however, there are two basic elements which form the basis of Differential Association:

The content of what is learned includes specific techniques for committing crimes which includes motives, drives, rationalizations, and attitudes. The process of learning takes place with other people in close intimate personal groups (Vold, Bernard, and Snipes 2002:160).

Sutherland‟s theory of Differential Association has remained unchanged since 1947; however in 1966 sociologist Ronald Akers reformulated Sutherland‟s differential association theory into what he titled Differential Association and Reinforcement.  The reformulation of Sutherland‟s differential association by Akers was not intended to be an alternative to Sutherland‟s theory; rather Akers reformulation broadens Sutherland‟s original propositions. Sutherland believed the principal part of the learning of criminal behavior occurs within intimate personal groups; however, while Akers concurs with Sutherland‟s statement Akers also believes nonsocial situations were a source for learning deviant behaviors. Akers differential association and reinforcement theory consists of seven points; however, Akers theory focuses on four major concepts:

The most important sources of social learning is differential association. Akers retains Sutherland‟s argument that differential associations vary according to priority, duration, frequency, and intensity, but argues that they include both the direct transmissions of the definitions through interpersonal communication, and the indirect transmission through identification with more distant reference groups. Differential reinforcement refers to the actual or anticipated consequences of a given behavior. Whether or not a behavior will be imitated depends on the characteristics of the person being observed, the behavior the person engages in, and the observed consequences of the behavior (Vold et al. 2002:173).

The theories of differential association and reinforcement holds that individuals are not born deviant or criminals and those individuals who are deviant and/or engage in criminal behavior do so as a result of socially learned and reinforced ideas, behaviors and techniques.

Method. The method of research I chose to conduct was an unobtrusive, qualitative approach consisting of a literature review of archived documents relating to the Christen Identity Movement. The choice to conduct a literature review of primary sources among groups associated with the Christian Identity Movement was based upon the nature of the study. Religious beliefs are often considered to be extremely sensitive; in addition my study focuses on beliefs which ultimately support racial biases, ethnic hatred, and nationalism. The potential for participant bias is high among individuals associated within the groups associated with the Christen Identity Movement. Individuals could respond in a manner Violence and Christian Identity 15 which would put them or their group in a better light. Additionally, individuals may also be hesitant to respond because of potential illegal acts of violence in which they have been involved in.

The first step I took before analyzing and reviewing archived documents and other literature was to examine the history of the Christen Identity Movement. By examining the origins of the Christen Identity Movement it provides a basis for understanding the theology which ultimately provides the basis and justification for hate based religious violence.

CHRISTIAN IN AMERICATo examine the link between the Christen Identity Movement and hate based violence I examined the religious theology of groups associated with the Christian Identity Movement. Through the examination of the religious theology of groups associated with the Christian Identity Movement I will demonstrate how their theology and religious beliefs provide the justification for acts of violence committed against targeted groups. To examine the theology I reviewed the following:

  • The Kingdom Identity Ministries “Doctrinal Statement of Beliefs.
  • ”Stormfront‟s archived documents “The Curse of Cain”
  • Michael Barkun “Religion and the Racist Right”

To obtain a profile or gain insight into the individuals who belong to or are interested in joining an organized hate group I examined the following:

  • Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Report “Age of Rage”
  • Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Report “Youth and Hate.”
  • National Victim Assistance Academy “Hate and Bias Crime.”

The development of a group identity and the process of differential association and reinforcement rely on the transmission of the group‟s beliefs, values, and acceptable behaviors. To understand how the Christian Identity Movement transmits their beliefs, values, and behaviors I examined the Internet. The Internet is a popular resource for many hate based Christen Identity groups to communicate their values, beliefs and traditions. In addition the Internet also provides access to individuals throughout the country to increase their memberships. The web sites examined include: Web sites of individual white supremacy groups such as Kingdom Identity Movement, Ku Klux Klan, and the Creativity

Movement. National Alliance News features news stories designed to promote their message and reinforce their message of white nationalism. Resistance Records provides a resource for purchasing white pride music, games, memo boards, advertisements for white pride music festivals. All White Community provides chat rooms, an all white dating service, and news stories.

Results. History and Theology: The history of the theological beliefs of the Christian Identity Movement actually dates back to various Anti-Semitic sources. These sources include traditional Christian New Testament and other Christian writings composed after the New Testament period, popular Anti-Semitic beliefs dating from the mid-evil period to the modern period. These source beliefs include racial and political anti-Semitic beliefs of the nineteenth and twentieth century and a strange collection of beliefs know as British Israelism which  started in the late nineteenth century. With all of these sources in mind Author Michael Barkun characterized the theology of the Christian Identity Movement as:

The anti-Semitic Theology of Christian Identity has been woven from many strands. The most commonplace consist of various racial explanation of Jewish origins, all designed to cast doubt on Jewish connections to the biblical Israel and to give to Jews a variety of unsavory characteristics (1994:121).

Because of so many different sources for Christian Identity beliefs I am focusing on the more traditional Christian anti-Semitic beliefs and the Christian Identity Movements own highly questionable biblical interpretations. These two sources shape the core beliefs of the Christian Identity Movement today in the United States and provide the foundation and justification for use of violence in service of their religious beliefs.

When examining the theology of the Christian Identity Movement it is important to understand that some of the specifically anti-Semitic beliefs are not original thoughts or ideas rather they are copies or variants of beliefs formerly taught by mainstream or orthodox Christianity. Some of these anti-Semitic beliefs may unfortunately be traced back to the New Testament. Among orthodox Christians there was a body of teachings regarding Jews and Judaism, these beliefs are often referred to as the teaching of contempt. It is important to note the teaching of contempt has been formally condemned and prohibited by the Roman Catholic Church and many other mainstream Christian communities. However, the Christian Identity Movement does not repudiate the teachings of contempt; rather they embrace it (Barkun 1994).

The Christian Identity Movement has built its belief system on the teaching of contempt. Located on the Stormfront website, a Christian Identity organization, I retrieved a twenty-five page document written by Thomas Sparks (2000) “The Curse of Cain.” This document reinforces the “justified repudiation of the legitimacy of the Jews to claim to be the true people of Israel as well as perpetuating the religious stereotypical image of the Jews with such statements as: “We shall first establish that the Jews as a people murdered Christ and the prophets, as that is the necessary foundation for a theological insight into the Jewish condition (2).” Additionally this document also reinforces the stereotypical image of Jews seeking world domination with statements such as:

According to their Talmud, “the goyim” are soulless cattle created to serve the Jews, and whom he has an historical destiny to conquer and subject in world domination; and he seeks to make them of their religion, their cultural decency, their race and nationhood, their political sovereignty and economic independence: the helpless, pliable herd of the Jew World Order (32).

This claim in particular combines ideas from the teaching of contempt with the claims made against the Jews in the infamous forgery known as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Not only does this material reinforce stereotypical beliefs of Jews it also gives the appearance of rationality to members of the Christian Identity Movement.

The Christian Identity Movement and the groups affiliated with this type of belief system believe the Bible is literally the revealed truth from God about his plans and designs for human beings. Thus, this truth may not be altered or modified by human  beings. The Kingdom Identity Ministries, a group associated with the Christian Identity Movement, has published a pamphlet which they describe as a “brief statement of our major doctrinal beliefs as taught by the Holy Scriptures.” Several doctrinal points on the pamphlet emphasize that the Jews today are not the true Israel or genuine covenant people of Yahweh, rather the Aryan people are the real descendents of Adam and Eve and are the true people of Israel. Additionally, people of other or mixed race are the descendants of inferior pre-adamic beings (before Adam).

The Christian Identity Movement‟s belief that the real descendents of Adam and Eve are the Aryan people leads to their version of the origins of the Jew. The Jewish people are the descendents of Cain who was conceived through an illicit relationship between the Devil and Eve. It is because of their origins, just as Cain was to Able, the Jewish people pose a threat to the true people of Israel, the Aryans. Additionally, because of their origins the Jewish people have no place in the kingdom of God, not even by conversion. Finally, the Christian Identity Movement believes the Jewish people and their allies must be resisted in their influence in the world today. Ultimately the Jewish people and their allies will be defeated and cast into eternal damnation in a final apocalyptic battle between the forces of God (Jesus) and the forces of Satan (Jews and other).

Membership Profile. Bob Moser (2004) in his article, “Age of Rage,” sought to explain why and who are motivated to join organized hate groups. In his article Moser referenced social ecologist, Ronald Huff, who states hate activity is no longer dominated by white young men; there has been a sharp increase in young women who have joined racist groups. Huff estimates  “anywhere from a third to 50% of group members are now young women.” The sex of racist group members is not the only demographic shift which has occurred within these groups. According to Moser (2004) the majority of hate activity occurs in the suburbs among middle and upper-class white youths. Hate crime expert Jack Levin attributes this shift as a result of more and more minority families moving into the suburban areas. Levin stated: “These kids aren‟t prepared for people who are different. They see them as a threat. They come home in the afternoon to their empty houses, log onto the Internet, visit hate sites, chat rooms, bulletin boards and get ideas.”

Sociologist Randy Blazak (1999) theorizes in the article “Youth and Hate,” that the changing racial and ethnic demographics in the United States have created a sense of confusion as to what the role is for whites in a multicultural society. Blazak likens this sense of confusion to that of what French sociologist Emile Durkheim termed “anomie,” a state of normlessness. Blazak believes the largest contributing factor to this sense of confusion among contemporary youths is because they were born after the civil rights era and as a result do not have a frame of reference. Contemporary youths didn‟t see the racial segregation of the past or the battle for southern African Americans to have access to voting or even the violence perpetrated on non-whites and, as a result, contemporary youth do not have the context to understand why multiculturalism is important. Blazak also emphasizes that in the 1980‟s we as a society stopped talking about race and, as a result contemporary youth believe that racism ended in 1965. Additionally Blazak also pointed out that the vital component of dialogue that we never got to was “the notion of white privilege” and how all white people have benefited from racism.

The National Victim Assistance Academy (2002:6), which has developed a university-based foundation level course of study in victim assistance and victimology, incorporated professors Levin and McDevitt of Northeastern University three general types of hate/bias offenders in their section on Hate and Bias Crime. The three general types are:

  • Thrill-seeking offenders which usually are groups of teenagers who go outside their “turf” and spontaneously vandalize property or attack members of groups they consider to be inferior to them.
  • Reactive offenders who have a sense of entitlement with regards to their rights and privileges that does not extend to their victims.
  • Mission offenders who are often psychotic and suffer from mental illnesses that cause them to hallucinate and that impairs their ability to reason. They typically perceive their victim groups as evil or sub-human, and believe they have been empowered by a higher force to rid the world of evil.

Transmission of Belief’s, Values, and Behavior: The development of a group identity requires the transmission of beliefs, values, and appropriate behaviors. The means of transmitting these values can vary among different groups. Organized religious groups have the ability to transmit their beliefs and the values they ascribe to through regular meetings and church services. However, the Christian Identity Movement is not a conventional organized religion; rather it is movement of loosely related groups who ascribe to the beliefs of white supremacy, the teaching of contempt for Jews and nationalism. The Internet has provided a valuable  resource for many of these groups to convey their theology, their message of hate, and also provides a viable vehicle for reaching out to new recruits. Some of the Internet websites include:

CHRISTIAN IN AMERICA1The Kingdom Identity Ministries The Kingdom Identity Ministries website which states it is a “Politically Incorrect Christian Identity outreach ministry to God’s chosen race (true Israel, the White, European peoples).” This site also sells books, tapes, and videos. Other programs the Kingdom Identity Ministry administers are the American Institute of Theology Bible Correspondence Course, Herald of Truth Radio Broadcasts, a Prison Ministry, Biblical Counseling, and Seminars.

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The Knights Party. The Knights of the Ku Klux Klan was founded in Louisiana in 1956 and boasts David Duke as its first national director. Their website prominently emphasizes there is only one requirement for joining “for every person who decides to associate with The Knights, and that is that they conduct themselves with Christian character. We want our Klansmen and Klanswomen to live their lives as honorable, decent, dignified white people.” Available on this website is access to an assortment of literature and information forms, message boards, and chat rooms, all of which focus on white pride and nationalism. In addition there are links to White Pride Internet TV Show, White Pride Radio, Youth Corps, White Heritage Store, and information about the White Christian Heritage Festival which is held every year in Pulaski, Tennessee.
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The Creativity Movement. The Creativity Movement, whose motto is “RaHoWa” (Racial Holy War), proclaims that its belief system, Creativity, “is a racial religion” whose primary goal is the “survival, expansion, and advancement of [the] White Race exclusively.” The Creativity Movement also is mostly associated with the Skinheads and a direct link to a Skinhead site is provided. The Creativity Movement was also formerly known as the World Church of the Creator. The Creativity Movement has five fundamental beliefs‟ in which members are to memorize and recite five times a day.

  • WE BELIEVE that our Race is our Religion.
  • WE BELIEVE that the White Race is Nature’s Finest.
  • WE BELIEVE that racial loyalty is the greatest of all honors, and racial treason is the worst of all crimes.
    WE BELIEVE that what is good for the White Race is the highest virtue, and what is bad for the White Race is the ultimate sin.
  • WE BELIEVE that the one and only, true and revolutionary White Racial Religion is Creativity, is the only salvation for the White Race. To the fulfillment of these religious beliefs, we Creators forever pledge our Lives, our Sacred Honor, and our Religious Zeal.

What these three websites share in common is the appeal to white pride and the belief the white race is in danger of being eradicated. Each website has the same disclaimer which states, “We do not promote, tolerate nor incite illegal activity.” However, many of the statements on these websites appear to be designed to incite or serve as a call to action. An excellent example of this type of statement was found on the Creativity Movement‟s website. “Remember that the inferior mud races are our deadly enemies, and the most dangerous of all is the Jewish race. It is our immediate objective to relentlessly expand the White Race, and keep shrinking our enemies.” This statement identifies who the enemy of the white race is and calls for the shrinking of their enemies. The means for shrinking the enemy is left open to the interpretation of the viewer.

An additional similarity found on the majority of white pride or supremacy websites is they provide the same or similar links to other white supremacy websites including websites dedicated to white only news and avenues for distribution of white only entertainment. While these websites, such as National Alliance News, Resistance Records, and White Forum, communicate values, beliefs, and behaviors as the groups specific websites, they also provide legitimacy to white supremacy groups and provide a vehicle to target and recruit new members through various forums of popular culture.

CHRISTIAN IN AMERICA3National Alliance News National Alliance News is an on-line news source which is designed to present the standard news in an edited form which promotes their racial interpretation on national and international news stories. Examples of the stories include:

  • North Carolina: 80% of Drug Traffickers Hispanic
  • Illinois to Issue 250,000 Drivers Licenses to Non-White Invaders
  • Negro-Only Scholarship Acceptable: Whites-Only Scholarship would be “racist”
  • Negro Violence Forces D.C. Suburb to Close Night Clubs.

Each story written could not be challenged legally because they did not change the facts of the story, rather they changed the language to report the facts in a more racially bias and threatening man.

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Resistance Records Resistance Records is much more than a distributor of Aryan or White Pride Music. Resistance Records now has a full catalog of merchandise for the dedicated Aryan. Resistance Records sells 873 different music CD‟s. The top selling titles includeJohnny Rebel – Classic Klan Kompositions. Angry Aryans – Racially Motivated Violence and Rahowa – Cult of the Holy War. In addition, Resistance Records is also the distributor of Aryan Games such as the video game “Ethnic Cleansing.” The objective of “Ethnic Cleansing” is stated as: “The Race War has begun. Your skin is your uniform in this battle for the survival of your kind. The White Race depends on you to secure its existence. Your peoples enemies surround you in a sea of decay and filth that they have brought to your once clean and White nation. Not one of their numbers shall be spared……..” Additional merchandise sold by Resistance Records includes: Books, Home Décor, Clothing, Calendars, Flags, Jewelry, Magazines, Mouse pads, Patches, Pins, Post Cards, Posters, Stickers and Videos.

CHRISTIAN IN AMERICA5All White Community website provides an online community for whites only. While this website provides access to online articles and recent news stories the main focus is an all-white online dating service which provides individual profiles with galleries and audio/video, personal web blogs and friends list, and audio and video chat. I was only able to gather limited information about “All White Community” because the majority of information is limited to members.

Analysis and Conclusion. The role of religion is often perceived as a providing a positive influence on society. Sociologist Emile Durkheim believed organized community religion brought people together and created a cohesive community. Durkheim also believed organized religion established and enforced many of society‟s norms and values. In essence organized religion can be a source of social control for society.

In addition to building a cohesive community and serving as a form of social control organized religion also has an influence on the development of individual identity as well as group identity. However, as Faubion discusses in his article, “Religion, Violence, and the Vitalistic Economy,” religion has a duality. Just as religion can build a cohesive community it can also create social differentiation among members in the community. It is within this category the Christian Identity Movement operates, creating social differentiation among members in society through the process of social interaction.

The process of social interaction is the foundation upon which an individual‟s identity is formed as well as their group identity. It is through the social interactions we have in which we form our norms and values which ultimately provides the basis for our acceptable or deviant behavior and/or actions. Edward Sutherland and Ronald Ackers theories of differential association and reinforcement provides a structural description of the developmental process by which individuals become members of a group committed to deviant behavior as the norm.

The means and process of differential association and reinforcement are found through an evaluation of the Christian Identity Movement‟s theology and the websites of groups associated with it. One of the basic elements of Sutherland‟s differential association theory is that  the learning process of criminal behavior occurs through the transmission of the group‟s belief system which includes their motivations, drives, rationalizations, and attitudes.

The belief system of the Christian Identity Movement is found within its religious theology which emphasizes “white Aryan superiority” through their teachings of contempt and the belief all non-white people have evolved from inferior pre-adamic beings. Through these teachings the Christian Identity Movement establishes social differentiation between the “true people of Israel,” the white Aryans, and those of other origins. Through the creation of this social differentiation, the Christian Identity Movement establishes the scapegoat, which includes all Jewish and non-white Aryan people.

The hatred of the scapegoat ensures group unity among members of the Christian Identity Movement and ultimately serves as the target for individual and group frustrations and anger. The second basic element of Sutherland‟s theory of differential association is that the process of learning the groups‟ belief system takes place with other people in close intimate personal groups. This process of learning often begins within the family unit, among close friends, and organizations such as church and social groups. However, the requirement that the learning take place with other people in close intimate groups provides only an explanation for those individuals who have grown up in an environment and/or have had close interaction with individuals who are actively engaged with the Christian Identity Movement.

To understand how individuals who do not have these types of close interactions become involved with groups associated with the Christian Identity Movement we need to look at Ackers reformulation of Sutherland‟s theory of differential association. Ackers agrees with Sutherland‟s theory the process for learning a group‟s belief system occurs in close intimate groups; however, Ackers theorizes this learning process could also occur with more distant reference groups.

The largest increase in hate activity has been committed by middle and upper-class white youths who live in the suburbs. It is these youths who do not have the close interactions with the organized groups associated with the Christian Identity Movement Ackers reformulation applies to, middle and upper-class white youths who are experiencing confusion as to what their role is in a multicultural society. The United States is coming upon a major shift in demographics, whites will no longer be the majority, and as a result of this shift in demographics there has been an increase in white youths who are experiencing a state similar to what Durkheim labeled anomie, a state of normlessness.

These youths do not have the understanding of past racial struggles, they view racism as “a thing of the past,” and they do not understand the negative impact white privilege has had and continues to have on countless generations of minorities. In addition, these white middle and upper-class youths also have access to home computers and the Internet, as hate crime expert Jack Levin stated: “They come home in the afternoon to their empty houses, log onto the Internet, visit hate sites, chat rooms, bulletin boards and get ideas.”

The Internet has proved to be a valuable resource for the Christian Identity Movement to recruit new members by creating access to the distant reference groups Ackers spoke of. Access to the Christian Identity Movement is only a “Google” away. An individual does not have to know the name of a particular website they can simply enter “whites only,” “white pride,” “I hate blacks,” or any other combination which indicates a preference for sites dedicated to white superiority. Once one website is located, through the links provided on the site, an individual has access to hundreds of other websites which proclaim white Christian superiority.

White Christian superiority websites not only provide access to the system of beliefs or their theology, these websites also provide the opportunity for individuals to meet others online through chat rooms and message boards who share the same or similar beliefs. These sites also provide directories so an individual may locate groups within their geographic vicinity. Ultimately, the white Christian superiority websites provide individuals the opportunity to identify themselves with and develop a sense of belonging with these more distant reference groups.

The theory of differential association provides an explanation of how individuals through social interaction learn the values and beliefs of white Christian supremacy groups; however, these beliefs and values must also be reinforced, for the beliefs to turn to deviant behavior. Ackers in his reformulation of Sutherland‟s theory of differential association theorized that the probability for a person to commit deviant behavior increases by the presence of “normative statements, definitions, and verbalizations” (Williams and McShane 1998: 85.)

The reinforcement of white Christian supremacy beliefs and values are also transmitted through the websites of groups associated with the Christian Identity Movement. There are several websites which are dedicated to white Christian supremacy which also serve to reinforce their beliefs and values through symbols and various forms of popular culture. Prominently featured on many of the white Christian supremacy websites are symbols which represent their specific group and their beliefs.

The symbol of the Kingdom Identity Ministries is a crown with a cross going through the center and the words, “conquer we must for our cause is just.” This symbol represents the Kingdom. Identity Ministries belief that the “true” kingdom of God can only be achieved through Jesus and Christianity. In addition, the message “conquer we must for our cause is just,” indicates the start of a new Christian crusade that must be fought and won. These websites also include news stories which emphasize that white Christian‟s safety and civil liberties are in danger of being destroyed by the Jewish and/or non-Aryan people. In addition many of these websites provide the opportunity to purchase and/or download books, articles, music CD‟s and video games. While these forms of media reinforce the message of white Christian superiority many of them also promote violence against the enemies of the true Aryan people, Jews and non-Aryan‟s, with the most notable being the video game “Ethnic Cleansing.” Ironically, these websites have a disclaimer which emphasizes they do not “promote, tolerate, or illicit illegal activity;” however, their beliefs and values along with the perceived threat of danger to “whites,” ultimately incites and serve as a call to action which includes violence.

The theories of differential association and reinforcement illustrate that the violence committed by members of the Christian Identity Movement is a learned behavior which occurs through the internalization of the movement‟s belief‟s and values. Among these beliefs and values is the justification for using violence to overcome the enemies of the true people of Israel, the white Aryan. As long as the falsehood of these beliefs and values is concealed within the rhetoric of the teaching of the Christian Identity Movement the membership and violence will continue.

As Rene Girard (2003) eloquently stated “In order for the mechanism of violence to be effective, they must remain hidden.” In essence, as long as we continue to allow these falsehoods to go unchallenged the violence will continue. The first step we as society must take is to create an open dialogue with our youth about race and ethnicity. If we continue to avoid talking about race and ethnicity, our youth will continue to find the answers they are searching for on the internet and among groups who can provide an easy answer and a viable scapegoat.

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source: http://content.lib.utah.edu/utils/getfile/collection/wc-ir/id/7/filename/6.pdf


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