Below is an article that I wrote some time back when we were doing a spread on the Oklahoma City bimbing. I am placing it here because it deals with the religion called Christian Identity. CI is adhered to by a number of racists and is prominently linked to the group known as the Aryan Nations. Their teachings are much more complex than what is talked about here, but I thought it would, at least, give some better perspective on just how far all of this runs the gamut.
For more than a decade, federal lawmen have sternly advised all visitors not to go near the place. When US marshals tried to fly surveillance missions across the nearby hills, the pilot suddenly pulled away when he saw what he thought were muzzle flashes from the ground. Rumors hold that everyone who lives there, down to the smallest child, is trained and armed; that great underground bunkers hold vast stores of munitions, even chemical and biological weapons. It is a place that federal informants seek to infiltrate, and for which federal agents have laid out secret contingency plans for a Waco-type siege. And it is a place where everyone knows that to appear uninvited risks being shot on sight.
The place is Elohim City, an isolated religious community in the Ozark Mountains of eastern Oklahoma. Founded by a bearded former Canadian Mennonite preacher named Robert Millar, and currently being led by his son John, it is home to seventy-five men, women, and children who are true believers in the religious doctrine known as Christian Identity.
Clearly, this is a religious community with a difference. Its members believe that government is the enemy, that America's secular, multicultural society is a present-day Gomorrah, and that Elohim City is a bunker in a great battle between the children of darkness (the Jews) and the children of light (the Aryan race).
Elohim City became the subject of scrutiny in the last year when telephone records revealed thatTimothy McVeigh made calls to the rural enclave in the weeks prior to the bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City. More recently, however, it has been learned that Timothy McVeigh was heavily involved with the domestic terrorists who frequent Elohim City and who practice Christian Identity. But McVeigh's involvement is just one of a host of links that connect the increasingly violent activists of the racist far right to the doctrine which helps to inspire them. Christian Identity, which elevates white supremacy and separatism to a Godly ideal, is the ideological fuel that fires much of the activity of the racist far right.
By reinterpreting the biblical story of creation, practitioners of Christian Identity believe they have discovered a cosmic justification for modern-day racism. According to this reinterpretation, the origins of the Asian and African races lie in biblical "beasts of the fields" — beings of an order lower than humans, whose existence predates God's creation of Adam "in his own image." Adam was not the first man, but the first white man. As the Christian Identity version of the Creation story unfolds, the serpent, disguised as a white man, gets into the Garden of Eden and seduces Eve, who bears the devil — a son in the form of Cain. That's how the Jews get into the picture. Demonizing Jews has a lengthy history in Western culture, but for contemporary racists, Christian Identity provides the ultimate proof that Jews are indeed the "spawn of Satan." Their evidence is even more convincing than the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the faked 19th-century document which purported to be proof of a worldwide Jewis h conspiracy. Identity followers draw their antisemitism and racism from the Bible.
Although the connections are seldom made by the media, Christian Identity provides the ideological backbone of such groups as the Aryan Nations, which seeks to claim the western mountains as a white homeland; the Midwestern Posse Comitatus, a militant un derground which believes that the local sheriff is the highest legitimate elected official in the land; and Freemen groups like the one that held law enforcement authorities at bay in Montana in 1996.
On a more practical level, Christian Identity enclaves provide a trail of safe havens for movement activists, stretching from Hayden Lake in northern Idaho to Elohim City on the Oklahoma/Arkansas border. When Posse leader Gordon Kahl — eventually killed i n a shootout with federal marshals in 1983 — was on the run, he found shelter with Christian Identity followers in Arkansas. When the FBI was closing in on the Order gang, which had robbed banks and murdered Denver talk show host Alan Berg in the mid-1980 s, its members sought refuge in Bull Shoals Lake, Arkansas, encampment of the Covenant, Sword & Arm of the Lord, a Christian Identity religious community. And 1996 court documents indicate that members of the Aryan Republic Army, a Midwest gang of bank robbers who vowed to use their loot to finance a white revolution and who McVeigh became involved with, had ties to Elohim City.
Given the extraordinary prominence of Christian Identity in defining racial ideology and its political expression on the far right, it is astounding how little serious attention has been paid to the subject by mainstream Christian denominations. It is, after all, the most deeply held beliefs of Christian theologians and clergy — and the doctrines of their religious orders — that have been seized and twisted by Christian Identity practitioners to justify their very "un-Christian" acts. And these religious leaders have both the moral authority and — by virtue of their familiarity with the Bible and with Christian doctrine — the expertise needed to fight back. Yet with few exceptions, the mainstream denominations have remained curiously silent in the face of these modern-day crusades.
"I think one of the reasons is a great many clergy and others who would be equipped to deal with the theology don't really know much about it," says Michael Barkun, whose 1994 book Religion and the Racist Right explores the history and culture of Christian Identity. "They have some sense these are renegade groups that often espouse a white supremacist doctrine, but I think they are unfamiliar with the theology in many cases and not equipped to take it on. And even when they are equipped and k now something about it, I think there is a tendency to regard it not as worthy of attention because it's repugnant or because the numbers of people involved are small and because the groups lack much in the way of public visibility." Theologians who could confront it, says Barkun, "may feel that by doing so that would dignify it and give it a stature they don't wish to have."
In his research Barkun ran across just one graduate student at a seminary studying Christian Identity. When he talks about his book to religious groups, Barkun says, "It's as if they are hearing it for the first time. ...It strikes them that it is so unimaginably distant from the intellectual universe that they inhabit, I might as well be talking about a subject from another planet."
Finley Schaife, minister of the progressive Park Slope Methodist Church in Brooklyn, believes that the mainstream churches do not take the Christian racists seriously because "They don't have power in the mainline church. Nobody pays attention to the powerless. That's why they are blowing up things."
And that is precisely what this writer believes. Those living in Elohim City and other compounds across the country have been seen as impotent and thus regarded as a non-threat to our society. As they have been allowed the luxury of privacy from public scrutiny, so have they been afforded the opportunity to nurture and promulgate their brand of hatred. That hatred has manifested itself over the last few decades in increasingly more violent and heinous acts culminating most recently in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City.
Timothy McVeigh was an agnostic. There is nothing indicating that he ascribed to the Identity religion. His political ideology, however, was the same as those who follow the Identity teachings. That he made friends with those who were the most extreme in their beliefs and actions is now well documented. That he was involved in the robberies and actions of the Aryan Republican Army has been attested to.
That Christian Identity adherents have spawned some of the most violent domestic terrorists of recent history is unquestionable. And that they have the blood of one-hundred and sixty-eight Americans on their hands is undeniable. And in view of recent evidence and intelligence reports obtained from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Christian Identity adherents of Elohim City are known to be implicated in the domestic terrorist attack of April 19, 1995. Every Citizen Against Hate should be outraged. Every Citizen Against Hate should demand that each and every one of them be held accountable. Every Citizen Against Hate should demand justice.