Hating in the Name of God
By Benjamin Radford
"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from
In the past few years there have been many high-profile criminals who share
more than just notoriety and a penchant for racism and violence; they share
a common religion.
Buford Furrow Jr. shot at a Jewish community center in Los Angeles on August
11, 1999, wounding five people. He later killed Joseph Ileto, a Filipino-American, before he was apprehended. Furrow was apparently
distraught over his relationship with Debbie Mathews, the widow of Robert Mathews, who founded the neo-Nazi group The Order, an offshoot of Aryan
Nations. He was an adherent of the Christianity Identity religion and had ties to hate groups such as The Order and the Phineas Priesthood. In a
statement he said that he hoped what he had done would be taken as a "wake
up call to America to kill Jews."
Eric Rudolph is a fugitive wanted for bombing abortion clinics in Alabama
and Atlanta. He was hailed by the racist group Posse Comitatus, who exalted
him as "a true warrior of YJWH [God]" on their Web site.
Tim McVeigh, convicted in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, had links to Christian Identity movements and placed two calls to an Oklahoma Identity
group just days before the bombing.
Benjamin Smith, a former member of the World Church of the Creator, went on
a rampage in July 1999, shooting at a Black former basketball coach, six Orthodox Jews, and an Asian-American couple in Chicago. Nine were wounded
and two died before Smith killed himself.
Despite its name (and some media portrayals), the World Church of the Creator is in fact not a Christian organization. The reason why it is not is
described on its Web site by its founder, Reverend Matt Hale, in an introduction titled "The Value of Hatred":
Until this century, Christianity has indulged in hatred as a matter of
policy. Now, Christianity is being slowly divested of hatred, and the result
is that Christianity in any meaningful form is being turned away from by a
higher percentage of people than any time in history. It is a dying religion, for too much mush and no fire is unattractive to strong men and
women alike, who yearn not only for a friend but also for an enemy.
It appears that Hale turned away from Christianity when forming his own
church because it was not hate-filled enough for his own taste.
Two brothers, Benjamin and James Williams, were charged with killing a gay
couple July 1, 1999, in Happy Valley, a rural northern California community.
Benjamin Williams told the Sacramento Bee that he killed the men because their homosexuality violated God's laws, and hoped his actions would incite
more killings. "I'm not guilty of murder," he said. "I'm guilty of obeying
the laws of the Creator." Investigators also found hate literature and evidence linking the brothers to fire bombings at three Sacramento area
synagogues on June 18.
Byron de la Beckwith, the man convicted in the 1963 slaying of civil rights
leader Medgar Evers, was a Christian Identity follower and member of the Phineas Priesthood.
Thom Robb, a Detroit-born son of a builder, attended a Colorado seminary
under Kenneth Goff, a minister with anti-Semitic views. Robb then became a
Baptist minister, opened up a print shop, and began publishing right-wing tracts and promoting White supremacist causes. In 1989 the Baptist minister
became a Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
Religion and Christian Identity
The reason that racism and religion are linked isn't hard to discern:
All religions delineate a clearly defined in-group, and most religions
have historically been ethnically and culturally bound. For example,
before colonialism, proselytizing, and missionary work spread religion in the
past few centuries, race and religion were intimately interwoven. Each
group believes that its tenets are true, correct, and divinely inspired.
Adherents of other religions are thought of as unclean, unenlightened worshippers
of false gods, with atheists and freethinkers deemed immoral heathens.
By far the most prevalent racist religious movement in America is Christian
Identity. According to Christian Identity theology, contained in their statement of doctrine, the "Israel Message," White Christians are God's true
chosen people and Jews are the literal descendants of Satan, a product of a
second creation. God's first creation produced people of color, "the beasts
of the field" or "mud people." They are sub-humans who are to be destroyed
in an apocalyptic battle. In this battle, the forces of good-the White Israelites-will be pitted against Satan's armies and the Jewish-controlled
federal government. America is seen as the New Jerusalem, where only White
Christian men are "true sovereign citizens" of the Republic.
Size estimates of the Christian Identity movement range from 30,000 to 50,000. Christian Identity groups such as The Covenant, Sword and Arm of the
Lord (CSA), the White Patriot party, the Posse Comitatus, Aryan Nations, the
Phineas Priesthood, and The Order have been responsible for many of the racist right's most violent episodes in recent years. Largely driven by
Christian Identity theology, violent incidents have increased since the Oklahoma City bombing. Plots have included plans to bomb federal buildings,
a natural gas refinery, several IRS buildings, and abortion clinics.
Mainstream and Minority Religious Racism
Racism doesn't just exist on the fringes of religion. In early 1999 the
Reverend Jerry Falwell told an audience in Kingsport, Tennessee, that the Antichrist was probably already alive and living among us, and that
furthermore, "Of course, he'll be Jewish." The idea that the Antichrist would be a Jew circulated widely during the Middle Ages, and was repeated in
the classic anti-Semitic propaganda book Protocols of the Elders of Zion. That a century-old, discredited anti-Jewish hoax book would perpetuate the
Antichrist myth is one thing; that the leader of the Moral Majority, an influential religious group, would say that in 1999 America is quite
The problem is also not limited to White racism. The Nation of Islam leader
Minister Louis Farrakhan, for example, has for years repeatedly railed against gays, Whites, and Jews. As Patrick Inniss, a Seattle columnist [and
contributor to the AAH Examiner] wrote, "Even the most cursory study of the
Nation of Islam's philosophy reveals it to be one of blatant racism . . . [with] constant references to Whites as 'devils.' . ."
Miami's Yahweh ben Yahweh cult, the most notorious sect of the Black Hebrew
Israelites, was implicated in a reign of terror in the 1980s that included
fire bombings, extortion, and 14 murders. The leader, Hulon Mitchell Jr., is
in prison for conspiracy in connection with the murders. Mitchell ordered the slayings of defectors as well as the murder of random Whites as part of
an initiation to an inner circle within the cult.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a Black supremacist group
named the Stream of Knowledge is being investigated in six states. They are
described as an offshoot of the Black Hebrew Israelite religion, and have been amassing weapons and followers for years. The Stream allegedly recruits
at military bases and in prisons, preparing for a race war.
Both the Black Hebrew Israelites and Louis Farrakhan are in some ways mirror
images of the Christian Identity groups: Both see Jews as the spawn of Satan
and accuse them of secretly controlling modern America.
Racist messages embedded in religion are nothing new. But the medium for
disseminating such hatred has changed dramatically. No longer limited to short wave radio transmissions and blurry, grammatically challenged flyers,
Christian Identity is spreading in the form of White power rock music, slick
magazines, and the Internet. According to Susan DeCamp of the Montana Association of Churches, Christian Identity families have also infiltrated
small fundamentalist churches, at times trying to incorporate their racist
beliefs into their church's doctrines.
Ultimately, of course, violent religious racists are responsible for their
own actions. But the racism inherent in most religions plays an undeniable
role in fomenting hatred. Instead of religion uniting people in brotherhood,
it pits them against each other.
Four days after the Oklahoma City bombing, at a national Christian Identity
gathering in Missouri, W.N. Otwell, who runs an armed compound in east Texas, spoke. "You go look in the Old Testament," he said. "God did not mind
killing a bunch of women and kids. God talks about slaughter! Don't leave one suckling! Don't leave no babies! Don't leave nothing! Kill them!" Sadly,
he's quite correct; that is indeed God's message.
Ben Radford is a writer and Managing Editor of Skeptical Inquirer