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Monday, June 06, 2005

Christian Identity: its Beliefs Are Bizarre But Its People Are Normal

“Christian Identity”: Its Beliefs Are Bizarre But Its People are Normal

A review of Soldiers of God: White Supremacists and Their Holy War for America by Howard Bushart, John Craig, and Myra Barnes (N.Y.: Kensington Books, 1998)

By Forrest W. Schultz

If you want an accurate portrayal of the “Christian Identity” adherents and their beliefs I highly recommend the book under review here. In order to insure this accuracy the authors spent many hours interviewing – and even living with – the Christian Identity adherents (and similar white supremacist groups) and reading their literature. Their report is based almost entirely upon these direct observations and direct quotations from these interviews and these writings.

When I first heard of Christian Identity I thought it was merely a new name for “British Israelism”. Such is not the case. Christian Identity is much worse!! It has concocted a bizarre theological infrastructure to support a militant anti-semitic white supremacism. Although the Christian Identity people claim to believe in the inspiration, authority, and inerrancy of the Bible, their theological distinctives are not only radically unscriptural, but also constitute one of the looniest and most ludicrous thought-systems I have ever come across! (And I do a lot of reading!)

The unscriptural elements of Christian Identity are focused in its anthropology (doctrine of man). According to the Christian Identity anthropology, Adam was the progenitor only of the white race; only members of the white race have a spirit: members of the lower non-white races are the “beasts of the field” of Gen 1:24 and they only have a body & soul but no spirit; and the Jews are descended from Cain, who was produced by sexual intercourse between Satan and Eve, and thus are “Satan’s seed”: devilish and incorrigible workers of iniquity. In short, the Christian identity theologians have done for white racism what Elijah Mohammed did for black racism, namely provide a theological anthropology to justify it and motivate it.

There is also a similarity between the theology of these two racisms which might escape the notice of most people but which is readily discernable by anyone who is familiar with and appreciative of the science fiction and fantasy genres, and who realizes how powerful these genres can be in communicating ideas and world-views. Although, of course, they were not intending to write fiction, it is clear that the anthropology of Elijah Mohammed (the white race produced by an evil scientist) is science fiction, and that the anthropology of Christian Identity is fantasy. Additional fantasy elements in Christian Identity are found in the mythology incorporated into its historiography: e.g. the supposed exploits of the Tribe of Dan in ancient Europe and the notion that the Stone of Scone is Jacob’s Beth El pillar brought to the British Isles by the Prophet Jeremiah. As an aside, and to give another example of this, it is interesting to note that Mormonism is based both on fantasy (the Angel Moroni and the Golden Tablets) and science fiction (Mormons in the afterlife will be astronauts colonizing outer space and populating it with their descendants). –1-
It is very unfortunate that, despite its clearly unbiblical teachings, that Christian Identity might possibly be confused with Christian Reconstruction because it too believes in the contemporary applicability of Biblical Law! Christian Identity is also appealing to some of the same people as Christian Reconstruction is, namely those who are concerned about the current decadence and who see the solution lying in a return to God and His laws and principles. This points up the need for a rigorous definition of Christian Reconstruction as a belief in the application of all of Scripture, not just the Law. If, of course, as is usually the case, the contrast is being made with mainstream Protestant conservatism, then the distinguishing feature of Christian Reconstruction is belief in Biblical Law. However, since the total American religious scene includes groups such as Christian Identity, which believes in Biblical Law but is heterodox in its doctrine of man, then it behooves us, for the sake of avoiding confusion, to emphasize that Christian Reconstructionists are adherents to the principle of the applicability of all of Scripture, not just the Law. The table below depicts this state of affairs: unlike mainstream Protestant conservatism, which is orthodox in anthropology (man) but heterodox in nomology (law), and Christian Identity, which is heterodox in anthropology but orthodox in nomology; Christian Reconstruction is orthodox in both.


Christian Identity Mainstream Conservatism Christian Reconstruction

heterodox anthropology orthodox anthropology orthodox anthropology

orthodox nomology heterodox nomology orthodox nomology

Before I conclude I would like to issue a warning: do not be deceived into supposing that we can take the Christian Identity movement lightly because of its preposterous theology. It is not only growing, but it also now has some well-educated theologians and scholars and pastors in its ranks. Also, unlike so many of these studies, which attempt to explain the origination and acceptance of these bizarre beliefs as due to an aberrant psychology, the Soldiers of God report indicates that these people are surprisingly normal! And that is scary!

Research into Christian Identity is not easy because most of the written materials needed are not available in libraries and book stores: in most cases they need to be obtained directly from Christian Identity groups. The Soldiers if God book is helpful because it provides a list of these materials and where they may be obtained.

Forrest W. Schultz has degrees from Drexel University (B.S. in Chemical Engineering, 1963) and Westminster Theological Seminary (Th.M. in Systematic Theology, 1971). He can be reached at 770-583-3258 or


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