Christian Identity

Christian Identity
For the general identity of an individual with certain core essential religious doctrines, see Christianity.

Christian Identity is a label applied to a wide variety of loosely affiliated believers and churches with a racialized theology. Many promote a Eurocentric interpretation of Christianity.

According to Chester L. Quarles, professor of criminal justice at the University of Mississippi, some of the Christian Identity movement's followers hold that non-Caucasian peoples have no souls, and can therefore never earn God's favor or be saved.[1] Believers in the theology affirm that Jesus Christ paid only for the sins of the House of Israel and the House of Judah and that salvation must be received through both redemption and race.

In many variations of Christian Identity thought, a key commonality is British Israelism, which teaches that many white Europeans are the literal descendants of the Israelites through the ten tribes which were taken away into captivity by the armies of Assyria. Christian Identity asserts in addition that these (White European) Israelites are still God's Chosen People, that Jesus was an Israelite of the tribe of Judah, and that modern Jews are not at all Israelites nor Hebrews, but are instead descended from people with Turco-Mongolian blood, or Khazars, or are descendants of the Biblical Esau-Edom, who traded his birthright for a bowl of lentil stew (Genesis 25:29–34).

"...Modern Identity Christianity evolved from the nineteenth-century doctrine of British Israelism. The ideological transformations that would arise from [a theology originally favorable to the Jews] into the racist and anti-Semitic doctrines of Christian Identity took place in the interwar years of the twentieth century....While it is impossible to locate the precise moment at which modern Identity Christianity was born, several key events are particularly notable. A 1930 Bible conference brought together a number of leading American British Israelites, including Howard Rand, the head of the Anglo-Saxon Federation of America...” [2]

The Christian Identity movement first received widespread attention by mainstream media in 1984, when the white nationalist organization known as The Order embarked on a murderous crime spree before being taken down by the FBI. Tax resister and militia movement organizer Gordon Kahl, whose death in a 1983 shootout with authorities helped inspire The Order, also had connections to the Christian Identity movement.[3][4] The movement returned to public attention in 1992 and 1993, in the wake of the deadly Ruby Ridge confrontation, when newspapers discovered that former Green Beret and right-wing separatist Randy Weaver had at least a loose association with Christian Identity believers.[5]

No single document expresses the Christian Identity belief system; however, adherents draw upon arguments from linguistic, historical, archaeological and Biblical sources to support their beliefs. Estimates are that these groups have 2,000 to 50,000 members in the United States,[6] and an unknown number in Canada and the rest of the British Commonwealth.

Christian Identity believers reject the beliefs of most contemporary Christian denominations. They claim that modern Christian churches are teaching a heresy: the belief that God's promises to Israel (through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) have been expanded to create a spiritual people of "Israel", which constitutes the Christian "Church". In turn, most modern Christian denominations and organizations denounce Christian Identity as heresy and condemn the use of the Christian Bible as a basis for promoting anti-Semitism. Adherents of Christian Identity claim that Europeans are the true descendants of the Biblical Jacob, hence they are the true Israel, and that it is those who are against the interests of European-descended Christians that are the true anti-Semites.



Christian Identity (CI) emerged as an offshoot sect from British Israelism in the 1920s and 1930s.[7][8]

Relation to British Israelism

Paradoxically while early British Israelites were philo-semites such as Edward Hine and John Wilson, Christian Identity emerged in sharp contrast to be strongly anti-semitic.[9] The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) describes the emergence of Christian Identity from British Israelism as an 'ugly turn':

...An Ugly Turn - Once on American shores, British-Israelism began to evolve. Originally, believers viewed contemporary Jews as descendants of those ancient Israelites who had never been "lost." They might be seen critically but, given their significant role in the British-Israel genealogical scheme, not usually with animosity. By the 1930s, however, in the U.S., a strain of anti-Semitism started to permeate the movement (though some maintained traditional beliefs - and a small number of traditionalists still exist in the U.S.)[8]

Another source describes the emergence of Christian Identity from British Israelism as a 'remarkable transition', also noting that traditional British Israelites were advocates of Philo-Semitism which paradoxically changed to antisemitism and racism under Christian Identity.[10] In fact, British Israelism itself had several Jewish members and it received support from Rabbi's throughout the 19th century and within British politics it supported Benjamin Disraeli who was descended from Sephardic Jews.[11][12] However, Christian Identity which emerged in the 1920s, began to be antisemitic teaching that the Jews are not descended from the tribe of Judah (as British Israelites maintain) but are instead descended from Satan or Edomite-Khazars.[13] The British Israel form of the belief held no anti-Semitism, its followers instead held the view that Jews made up a minority of the tribes of Israel (Judah and Benjamin), with the British and other related Northern European peoples making up the remainder.

Early Years

Christian Identity (CI) has first been traced back to the 1920s to Howard Rand (1889–1991).[14][15]

Rand was a Massachusetts lawyer who obtained a law degree at the University of Maine. He was raised as a British Israelite, and his father introduced him to J. H. Allen's work Judah's Sceptre and Joseph's Birthright (1902) at an early age.[16] While Rand's father was not an antisemite, nor was even Rand in his early British Israelite years, Rand first added to British Israelism in the 1920s an antisemitic element. He claimed as early as 1924 that the Jews were not really descended from the tribe of Judah, but were instead the descendants of Esau or Canaanites.[17] Rand never though claimed that modern Jews were descendants of Satan, or were in anyway inferior, just that they were not the true lineal descendants of Judah.[18] For this reason Rand is considered a 'transitional' figure between British Israelism and Christian Identity, but not its actual founder.[19] However Rand first coined the term 'Christian Identity'.[20] Rand had set up the Anglo-Saxon Federation of America in 1933 which promoted his view that Jews were not from Judah, which marked the first key transition of British Israelism to Christian Identity. Beginning in May 1937 there were key meetings between British Israelites in America who were attracted to Rand’s new theory that the Jews were not really from Judah. This provided the catalyst for the eventual emergence of Christian Identity, and by the late 1930s the Jews were considered to be the offspring of Satan and were heavily demonised, as were non-Caucasian races.[21][22] William Dudley Pelley, founder of the fascist Silver Shirts movement, also promoted an anti-semitic form of British Israelism in the early 1930s.[23] Links between Christian Identity and the Ku Klux Klan also emerged in the late 1930s.[24]

Key Developers

Wesley Swift (1913–1970) is considered by the FBI to have been the single most significant figure in the early years of the Christian Identity movement. Swift was born in New Jersey, and eventually moved to Los Angeles in order to attend Bible college. It is claimed that he may have been a "Ku Klux Klan organizer and a Klan rifle-team instructor."[25] In 1946, he founded his own church in Lancaster, California. In the 1950s, he was Gerald L. K. Smith's West Coast representative of the Christian Nationalist Crusade. In addition, he had a daily radio broadcast in California during the 1950s and 60s, through which he was able to proclaim his ideology to a large audience. With Swift's efforts, the message of his church spread, leading to the creation of similar churches throughout the country. In 1957, the name of his church was changed to The Church of Jesus Christ Christian, which is used today by Aryan Nations (AN) churches. One of Swift's associates was retired Col. William Potter Gale (1917–1988). Gale had apparently been an aide to General Douglas MacArthur, and had coordinated guerrilla resistance in the Philippines during World War II. Gale became a leading figure in the anti-tax and paramilitary movements of the 1970s and 80s, beginning with the California Rangers and the Posse Comitatus, and helping to found the militia movement. Numerous Christian Identity churches preach similar messages and some espouse more violent rhetoric than others, but all hold to the belief that Aryans are God's chosen race. Gale introduced future Aryan Nations founder Richard Girnt Butler to Swift. Until then, Butler had admired George Lincoln Rockwell and Senator Joseph McCarthy, and had been relatively secular. Swift quickly converted him to Christian Identity. When Swift died, Butler took over the Church, to the apparent dismay of both Gale and Swift's family. Neither Butler nor Gale were anything like the dynamic orator that Swift had been, and attendance dwindled under the new pastor. Butler eventually renamed the organisation "The Church of Jesus Christ Christian/Aryan Nations" and moved it to Hayden Lake, Idaho.

Lesser luminaries were also present as Christian Identity theology took shape in the 1940s and 1950s, such as Baptist minister and California Klansman San Jacinto Capt(who claimed that he had introduced Wesley Swift to Christian Identity), and one-time San Diego Deputy City Attorney (and lawyer for Gerald L. K. Smith) Bertrand Comparet (1901–1983).[26] But for the most part, today's Christian Identity groups seem to have been spawned by Wesley Swift, through his lieutenants William Potter Gale and Richard Butler.

Ideology, Tenets and Beliefs

Christian Identity asserts that the white people of Europe or Caucasians in general are God's servant people according to the promises that were given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It further asserts that the early European tribes were really the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel and therefore the rightful heirs to God's promises, and God's chosen people.

Two House Theology

Like British Israelites, Christian Identity (CI) adherents believe in Two House Theology.[27] However the major difference between British Israelism and CI is that British Israelites have always maintained that Jews are descended from the tribe of Judah.[28] In contrast, while also maintaining a Two House distinction, Christian Identity proponents believe that the true lineal descendants of Judah, are not modern Jews, but instead are also White Europeans, alongside the House of Israel[29][30] and that the modern Jews are the descendants from Cain.

Adamites and pre-Adamites

A major tenet of Christian Identity is Pre-Adamism. Christian Identity followers believe that Adam and Eve gave birth to the White race only and that that Adam and Eve were preceded by lesser races non-Caucasian races often (though not always) identified as "beasts of the field" (Gen. 1:25); for example, the "beasts" which wore sackcloth and cried unto God (Jonah 3:8) are considered Blacks.[31] To support their theory on the racial identity of Adam, Christian Identity proponents point out that the Hebrew etymology of the word 'Adam' translates as 'be ruddy, red, to show blood (in the face)' often quoting from James Strong's Hebrew Dictionary #119 (1890) and from this conclude that only Caucasians or people with light white skin can blush or turn rosy in the face (because hemoglobin only appears under pale skin).[32] Proponents of Christian Identity believe that Adam was only created 6,000 years ago, while the other non-Caucasian races were created during far older epochs that occurred on the other continents.[33][29]

Dual Seedliner Christian Identity proponents (see Serpent Seed), believe that Eve was seduced by the Snake (Satan), shared her fallen state with Adam by lying with him, and gave birth to twins with different fathers: Satan's child Cain and Adam's son Abel. Cain then became the progenitor of the Jews in his subsequent matings with the non-Adamic races. This is referred to as the two-seedline doctrine. This doctrine is a revival of a medieval folk belief ascribing the ancestry of legendary monsters such as Grendel to Cain.[29]

A big influence on the Christian Identity movement's views on pre-Adamism was a book published in 1900 by Charles Carroll entitled The Negro a Beast or In the Image of God. Carroll concludes in the book that the White race was made in the image and likeness of God and that Adam gave birth to the White race only, while Negros are pre-Adamite beasts and could not have possibly been made in God's image and likeness because they are beastlike, immoral and ugly.[34] Carroll claimed that the pre-Adamite races such as blacks did not have souls. Carroll believed that race mixing was an insult to God and spoiled God's racial plan of creation. According to Carroll the mixing of races had also lead to the delusive errors of atheism and evolution. Carroll claimed that Miscegenation became in time "the parent of atheism, with it's theory of evolution".[35]


Christian Identity proponents are Old Earth Creationists, but believe that Adamic man (who they believe was the father of the white race or Caucasians) was only created around 6,000 years ago, while they also believe that the Universe, Earth is billions of years old and that non-Caucasian races were created hundred's of thousands or even millions of years ago.[36]

Wesley Swift strongly criticised Young Earth Creationism and the traditional Judeo-Christian view that Noah's flood was global, but instead believed that the flood was only local and that the Earth was billions of years old.[29] Christian Identity adherents claim that the flood in Genesis only rose high enough to drown the region of the Tarim Basin below sea level (Gen. 7:20) and that therefore the Hebrew word "eretz" which appears in those verses should be rendered "the land" (as in a specific place) rather than "the earth."[citation needed]


Racialism, or race based philosophy is the core tenet of Christian Identity, and most CI adherents are White Nationalists or support racial segregation. Some believe that Jews are genetically compelled by their Satanic or Edomite ancestry to carry on a conspiracy against the Adamic seedline and today have achieved almost complete control of the Earth through their illegitimate claim to the white race's status as God's chosen people.[37] As a general rule, Christian Identity followers adhere to the traditional orthodox Christian views on the role of women, abortion, and homosexuality, and view racial miscegenation as a sin and a violation of God's laws as dictated in Genesis of "kind after kind" (Ex. 21:22, Lev. 20:13).

In addition to their strict fundamentalist racial views Christian Identity adherents distinguish themselves from mainstream Protestant Fundamentalism in various areas of theology. Some Christian Identity adherents follow the Mosaic law of the Old Testament (e.g., dietary restrictions, the seventh-day Sabbath, certain annual festivals such as Passover). It is also commonplace for adherents to follow the Sacred Name Movement and they insist on using the original Hebrew names when referring to God (Yahweh) and Jesus Christ (Yahshua). Some Christian Identity writers criticize modern Bible editions as well as the Jews for the removal of the original Hebrew name of God from the Bible. Although their adherence to Old Testament Mosaic law may make them appear "Jewish"; they claim that the Jewish interpretation of the law has been corrupted through the Jews' Talmud. Unlike many Protestant Fundamentalists, Christian Identity adherents reject the notion of a Rapture, believing it to be a Judaized doctrine which the Bible does not teach.[38]

World's end and Armageddon

Christian Identity supporters believe in the Second Coming and Armageddon. Predictions vary, including race war or a Jewish-backed United Nations takeover of the USA and endorse physical struggle against what they see as the forces of evil.[39]


Christian Identity groups include "The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord", Phineas Priesthood, the Oklahoma Constitutional Militia, also known as The Universal Church of God. Christian Identity is also related to other groups such as Aryan Nations, Aryan Republican Army (ARA) and the Patriots Council, Church of Jesus Christ Christian, Thomas Robb, Mission To Israel, Folk And Faith, Jubilee (newspaper), Yahweh's Truth (James Wickstrom), Kingdom Identity Ministries and White Separatist Banner. Christian Identity is a major unifying theology for a number of diverse groups of white nationalist Christians. It is a belief system that provides its members with a religious basis for racial separatism. Herbert W. Armstrong is inaccurately described by some of his critics, as well as by supporters of Christian Identity, as having supported Christian Identity, due to his belief in a modified form of British Israelism, and the fact that during his lifetime, he propounded observances favoured by many Christian Identity groups, such as seventh-day Sabbatarianism and Biblical festivals. The Worldwide Church of God that Armstrong founded did not subscribe to the anti-Semitism commonly espoused by the Christian or Israel Identity groups but instead adhered to the traditional beliefs of British Israelism; i.e., the belief held that modern day Jews were descendants of the Tribe of Judah whereas the Anglo-Saxons, Celts, Danes, etc. were descendants of the remaining Ten Tribes of Israel formerly known as the Northern Kingdom. Note: LaPorte Church of Christ is often mischaracterized as sympathetic to Christian Identity, but the organization explicitly rejects this association.

South African branches of Christian Identity have been accused of involvement in terrorist activity, including the 2002 Soweto bombings.[40]

Aryan Nations

The Aryan Nations (AN) is a group that adheres to the Christian Identity belief system. The group espouses dislike towards Jews, blacks and other minorities, as well as the United States federal government. The original ultimate goal of the AN is to forcibly take five northwestern states – Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington and Montana – from the United States government in order to establish an Aryan homeland. This particular ideology is known throughout the White power movement as the Northwest Territorial Imperative. The AN was headquartered at Hayden Lake, Idaho from the late 1970s until February 2001. Its annual World Congress attracted a number of different factions from the far-right. The World Congress was a sort of round table to discuss racialist issues. Since the main Aryan Nations property in Idaho was dismantled following a costly lawsuit against the group and the death of Richard Butler, there have been several struggles over control of the movement that are as yet unresolved.

See also


  1. ^ Quarles, Chester L. (2004). Christian Identity: The Aryan American Bloodline Religion. McFarland & Company. p. 68. ISBN 978-0786418923. 
  2. ^ Kaplan, Jeffrey (2000). Encyclopedia of white power: a sourcebook on the radical racist right. McFarland & Company. p. 68. ISBN 0-7425-0340-2. 
  3. ^ "Sovereign Citizen Movement - Extremism in America". Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  4. ^ King, Wayne (August 21, 1990). "Books of The Times; A Farmer's Fatal Obsession With Jews and Taxes". The New York Times. Retrieved April 30, 2010. 
  5. ^ Reason Magazine – Ambush at Ruby Ridge.
  6. ^ Barkun, Michael (1996). "preface". Religion and the Racist Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement. University of North Carolina Press. pp. x. ISBN 0-8078-4638-4. 
  7. ^ Religion and the racist right: the origins of the Christian Identity movement, Michael Barkun, 1997, Preface, xii, xiii.
  8. ^ a b "Christian Identity". Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  9. ^ Barkun 2003, p. xii.
  10. ^ Christian Identity: the Aryan American bloodline religion By Chester L. Quarles, 2004, p. 13.
  11. ^ Quarles, pp. 13-19
  12. ^ Life From The Dead, 1875, Vol. III, p. 154.
  13. ^ Barkun, pp. 62-97.
  14. ^ Barkun, p. 27.
  15. ^ Race Over Grace: The Racialist Religion of the Christian Identity Movement, Charles H. Roberts, 2003, pp. 9-10.
  16. ^ Race Over Grace: The Racialist Religion of the Christian Identity Movement, Charles H. Roberts, p. 9
  17. ^ Barkun, pp. 45-54.
  18. ^ Barkun, pp. 45-60.
  19. ^ Charles H. Roberts, p. 9
  20. ^ The Phinehas Priesthood: Violent Vanguard of the Christian Identity Movement, Danny W. Davis, 2010, p. 18
  21. ^ Barkun, p. 140.
  22. ^ Charles H. Roberts, pp. 11-15.
  23. ^ Lobb, David. 'Fascist Apocalypse: William Pelley and Millennial Extremism', Paper presented at the 4th Annual Conference of the Center for Millennial Studies, November 1999
  24. ^ Barkun, pp. 60-85.
  25. ^ Christian Defense League by D. Boylan 2004 Revision.
  26. ^
  27. ^ Charles H. Roberts, pp.40-60
  28. ^ Bosworth, F. E, The Bible Distinction Between the House of Israel and the House of Judah, Radio Adress, 1920
  29. ^ a b c d "BASIC CHRISTIAN IDENTITY : Dr. Wesley A. Swift : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive". 2001-03-10. Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  30. ^ Charles H. Roberts, pp.40-60
  31. ^ Charles H. Roberts, pp.23-60
  32. ^ "Basics for Understanding Yahweh's Kingdom". Anglo-Saxon Israel. 2009-06-04. Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  33. ^
  34. ^ Charles Carroll The negro a beast"; or, "In the image of God"; the reasoner of the age, the revelator of the century! The Bible as it is! The negro and his relation to the human family! The negro not the son of Ham, 1900
  35. ^ Colin Kidd, The forging of races: race and scripture in the Protestant Atlantic world, 1600 - 2000, 2006, p. 150
  36. ^
  37. ^ WHO ARE THE JEWS? By: Bertrand Comparet.
  38. ^ I Come As A Thief.
  39. ^ Kaplan, Jeffrey (2002). Millennial violence: past, present, and future. Routledge. p. 38. ISBN 978-0714652948. 
  40. ^ Martin Schönteich and Henri Boshoff (2003). 'Volk' Faith and Fatherland: The Security Threat Posed by the White Right. Pretoria, South Africa, Institute for Security Studies. ISBN 1919913300. 


  • Barkun, M. (1994). Religion and the racist right: the origins of the Christian Identity movement. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
  • Hill, David. The Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981.
  • Ingram, W.L., (1995). God and Race: British-Israelism and Christian Identity, p. 119–126 in T. Miller, Ed., America's Alternative Religions, SUNY Press, Albany NY.
  • Kaplan, Jeffrey, (1997). Radical Religion in America, Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press. pp. 47–48.
  • Lakeland, P. (1997). Postmodernity: Christian identity in a fragmented age. Guides to theological inquiry. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.
  • Quarles, C. L. (2004). Christian Identity: the Aryan American bloodline religion. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland.
  • Roberts, Charles H. (2003). Race over Grace: The Racialist Religion of the Christian Identity Movement, Omaha, Nebraska: iUniverse Press. ISBN 0-595-28197-4.

External links

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