The Creation Of A Radical Christian Identity
Terrorism is the use of violence to incite fear and mass hysteria; often times this violence is motivated by a desire to ignite change, or to simply send a message. Because of its diverse uses, acts of terrorism do not fit into a specific mold or follow a pattern. It is a misconception that all (or most) terrorist acts are committed by radical Islamic extremists. While terrorism can be secular, it is often used by religiously motivated groups or individuals to further their cause; no religion is exempt from having its extremist branches than engage in terrorism. It is for this reason that this essay will be focusing on the phenomenon of Christian terrorism.
In fact, far-right wing extremists were responsible for 73 percent of terrorist attacks in the United States between September 2001 and December 2016. This is significant because there is high correlation between violent acts carried out by far-right extremists and Christianity. Most (if not all) far-right extremists align themselves with a unique, radical, Christian movement known as ‘Christian Identity’ whose ideology is centered around being anti-Semitic, racist, anti-government, conspiratorial, and apocalyptic. This leads to the question of how this ‘Christian Identity’ provides biblical justification for violent actions. A main way this accomplished this is though fundamentalism – the strict adherence to specific passages in a sacred text interpreted in a specific way, while ignoring passages that may refute this. By analyzing the rhetoric used by radical Christian extremists, 2 patterns emerged; first was the explanation of racial superiority through creation stories, the second was contrast of their justifications for violence supported by apocalyptic scripture.
The first pattern discovered was on the use of creationism by ‘Christian Identity’ to justify racial superiority (which they later use to justify violence). The founders of ‘Christian Identity’ use selective passages in Genesis to geneologize their hatred for non-white Anglo-Saxon groups. The two prominent interpretations that demonstrate this includes the Serpent Seed Doctrine and the Pre-Ademic man. The Serpent Seed Doctrine (also referred to as “two-seed” or “seedliner” theory) was developed by Wesley Smith, a former Methodist minister from Southern California known for his racism and denial of the holocaust in the 1960s. This doctrine is centered around the belief that Jews are the Satanic offspring of Eve and the Serpent. Arnold Murray – the pastor and founder of the radical Christian church sect known as the Shepherd’s Chapel in Arkansas – used 2 Corinthians 11:3 to interpret the word “beguiled” to mean “wholly seduced” to support his interpretation that Genesis 3:1-8 when Eve was convinced by the Devil to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, she also had sexual intercourse with the Devil and became pregnant with their child, Cain. Cain would then become the father of the “serpent seed” line who Murray and his followers, among others, believe are the people of the Jewish faith. This belief is shared by many extremist groups like Aryan Nations, Army of God, and the Phineas Priesthood, just to name a few, and can often serve as inspiration for terrorist acts against these people. An example of this could be Buford Furrow, a former Aryan Nations security guard (who believed in ‘Christian Identity’) who went on a shooting spree at a Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles.
The hypothesis of the Pre-Ademic man is used by ‘Christian Identity’ to justify all other forms of racism against anyone who is not white Anglo-Saxon. Some translations of the Bible can lead to the interpretation that there might have been humans already residing on Earth before the creation of Adam and Eve. While the Pre-Ademic man hypothesis is not always coupled with racism, ‘Christian Identity’ uses it to describe all non-whites as inferior “mud-people.” The Ancient Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate (c. A.D. 331-363) and Calvinist theologian Isaac de La Peyrére (1596-1676) are two early, notable supporters of the Pre-Ademic hypothesis. Peyrére’s strongest support comes from the fact that Cain’s marriage was to an unknown woman (which could have just as likely been his sister), along with the fact that Cain founded a city (because he argued there would not be enough people for that) (Genesis 4:14-17).
However, this interpretation is a stretch because of the insurmountable evidence that suggests the opposite like how Genesis 2:5-8 blatantly states “there was no man to cultivate the ground,” Eve was created for Adam because he was completely alone (Genesis 2:18,20), or even how Even means the ‘mother of all the living’ (Genesis 3:20). Along with the fact that Cain’s wife was most likely his sister since it was alluded to that Adam and Eve had other children because of Cain’s fear for his life when he killed Abel (Genesis 4:14). People who truly want to find a justification for hate will refute these passages by either explaining how all non-white people are not real humans – a belief held by the KKK for example – or by acknowledging that while Adam and Eve might not have been the first people, they were the first white people. This they would say makes whites superior because Adam and Eve were white, and Adam was describes as being created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Interpretations of creation that support racism are clear examples of eisegesis and show how ‘Christian Identity’ will use whatever they can to justify their beliefs instead of considering alternative interpretations.
These are two perfect examples of fundamentalism in action to create a narrative. This cultivated racial superirotiy through not really refutable, but not supported interpretations gives Christrian extremists the belief that they are the ones chosen by God to carry the responsibility of delivering justice to the world, even if that means through acts of terrorism. Extremists go so far as to believe that this gives them the sociopolitical agenda to reshape the country through the creation of a Christian republic in order to undo the separation of church and state which is a driving force in the corruption of the world. (footnote: because of the anti-government and conspiratorial nature of ‘Christian Identity) “They have used the language of tradional religion to build bulwarks around aspects of modernity that have threatened them” –which is largly the lack of a white world which causes a bunch of other problems in their eyeys.
Revelation is the text known to be very apocalyptic in nature, and it is the most prominent place where justification for Christian motivated terrorism comes from. The second pattern seen is in the coupling of the depiction of a violent jesus to support violence as a means to expedite his return during the apocalypse. “One of the oldest ethical questions of Christianity is about when it is permissible to use force, even violence on behalf of a righteous cause.”
‘Christian Identity’ believe that Armageddon is approaching because of how the religion is being threatened by aspects of modernity such as the decline of the bible as a guide, change in sexual morality, decline of political morality, and the decline of the family through the strive for women’s emancipation” which is in part due to the “secular, liberal forces of globalization and multiculturalism that have allowed the “mud-people” (nonwhite, non-Christian, nonpatriarchal, non-heterosexual) to take over the country.” It is a belief in certain sects of Christianity that Christ will not come again until a perfect kingdom has been established on Earth as seen in . Christian extremists, because of their superiority, believe that they carry the responsibility to initiate the second coming of Christ. A further explanation of why they believe this is their responsibility is seen in Dominion Theology which is the belief that Christians must assert the dominion of God over all things including secular society and politics. Dominion Theology, also known as Christian reconstructionism, believes that because of the negative influences ‘ruining the world’ society should be reconstructed according to God’s law. Matthew 28:19-20 which states “ “is the most powerful example that supports Dominion Theology, but Revelation 19:11-20 and Revelation 20:4 are also commonly used.
This still does not fully explain how they are able to justify their violent acts. The justification for violence could be constructed through the image of Jesus they could create. ‘Christian Identity’ sees Jesus as an antigovernment figure because he was executed by the Romans via crucifixion – the punishment allocated, accustomed for enemies of the state. Because of this, Christian extremists see Jesus as a relatable figure because they share a similar responsibility in being defenders of the faith and standing up to secular government. (J34). This detest for government by Jesus is supported by passages in the Gospels like John 12:31 and 14:30 where Jesus said the Devil is the ruler of this world. Other passages that support this include 2 Corinthians 4:4 and John 18:36. A violent view of Jesus could have been created from passages like Matthew 10:34 and Luke 12:51-52 which state: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Luke 19: 26-27 is also really powerful in justifying violence because of how Jesus talks about having his followers bring his enemies to be slaughtered in his presence.