Religion and the Racist Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement

Submitted byWUSAMaster onSun, 12/29/2013 - 17:44

From Library Journal

While the Christian Identity cult is numerically insignificant, its ideology informs and influences American racist powers of every stripe. Identity's bizarre conceptual stew stirs together peculiar interpretations of biblical scripture to "prove" inherent Caucasian superiority. Its literal demonization of Jews fuels not only white racist groups such as WAR but also Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam. Barkun (political science, Syracuse Univ.) here proffers the first sustained study of Identity from its origins in 19th-century British-Israelism, which held that the Anglo-Saxons were the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. While James Aho's fine Politics of Righteousness (Univ. of Washington Pr., 1990) addresses Identity's political activity, this work remains the only complete analysis of its more pervasive religious teachings. Essential to every academic collection concerned with racism, anti-Semitism, and American religious cults. Bill Piekarski, Southwestern Coll. Lib., Chula Vista, Cal. From Kirkus Reviews A fascinating and terrifying account that is at once a work of academic scholarship and a startling expos‚ of a particularly virulent form of religious extremism. Barkun (Political Science/Syracuse Univ.) examines the origins and ideology of the so-called Christian Identity Movement. This small movement (upper-range estimates figure its adherents at no more than 50,000 and lower guesses say they number only 2,000) has nevertheless succeeded in dominating the discourse of the extreme right--even among groups not even distantly related to it. White supremacist and anti-Semitic, the Christian Identity Movement (composed of groups like the Aryan Nation, the Posse Comitatus, and David Duke's element of the Ku Klux Klan, among others) has three core beliefs--whites are the true descendants of the biblical Israelites and as such have a providential role to fulfill; Jews are unrelated to the biblical Israelites and are instead the spawn of Satan; and the world is on the verge of a fiery apocalypse in which the Aryans must battle the Jews and their allies to redeem the world. In this last regard, the Israel of the traditional apocalyptic accounts becomes identified with the United States rather than the ancient land of Palestine. Barkun convincingly demonstrates the direct roots of these Christian Identity groups in an obscure school of 19th-century thought in England known as British-Israelism. This philosophy saw Britons as the descendants of the ten lost tribes of Israel, and thus linked to the Jews, with a role as a chosen people. Unlike its violent American progeny, however, the previous movement was not anti-Semitic and, in fact, recognized a kinship with Jews. Compelling and well presented, this volume deserves to be read by anyone concerned with Christian or political extremism in America.