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The Human Nature Review  2001 Volume 1: 1-27 ( 23 October )
URL of this document http://human-nature.com/nibbs/01/ogilvie.html

Original Article

Children of a White God:

A Study of Racist “Christian” Theologies

 by Matthew C. Ogilvie

Introduction

The Context of this Issue.

It is common knowledge that Islamic extremism has been associated with numerous terrorist attacks around the world. It remains, though, that racist Christian theologies have also animated violent movements. One key example concerns the Oklahoma City bombing. Bomber Timothy McVeigh has been connected to white supremacist movements such as White Aryan Resistance and the Christian Identity Movement, both of which promote racist theology.[1] In Australia, racist theologies have gained attention through the medium of racist politician Pauline Hanson. Apart from her generally anti-Indigenous and anti-Asian stance, Hanson has advocated giving preference to Christian migrants over those from non-Christian backgrounds. The media attention given Ms Hanson has been accompanied by an increase in race-based violence within Australia. While one acknowledges that Ms Hanson has not articulated a “race-theology” her movement has brought out many others who do present such racist religion.[2] 

The seriousness of the threat presented by supremacist groups is reflected in the US Army's approach to anti-terrorism. In the prepublication edition of Force Protection: Antiterrorism 1997, it is noted that there exists within the United States, “an eclectic array of extremist organizations, which do not officially condone terrorism but may serve as breeding grounds for terrorist activities.” Of those extremist groups, there are those that either espouse supremacist causes, or foster discrimination or the deprivation of civil rights based on race or religion.[3] What concerns us most is the combination of the powerful factors of supremacist feeling and race discrimination with a militaristic attitude. With that combination, race-based theologies have turned from parlour talk into matters of life and death. Of much concern is that white racists, who call themselves “Christian” and who believe in a theology that gives divine justification to their beliefs, possess arsenals of high-technology weapons, the likes of which many Middle-East terrorists would be most jealous.[4]

Racist theology has today found itself powerful and influential voices. Of these, most prominent would be David Duke, former Ku Klux Klan leader, who was elected to the Louisiana  House of Representatives. Duke proclaims that he has always been a believing Christian and that an integral part of his Christianity has been a theology of racial segregation. We read in his own work that in the name of race preservation, God has commanded genocide, segregation and anti-miscegenation, and today forbids racial intermarriage and the crossing of racial boundaries.[5] Duke's views are certainly on the fringe of Christian thinking, but he is only the visible voice of a wider movement of people whose theology conceives violence, hate, intimidation and race conflict to be in the name of God. 

In studying racist theologies, one is also struck by the connection between the racist Christians and extreme elements of the pro-gun lobby. In his reflections on “Race and Christianity,” Duke proceeds directly from proposing racial segregation to outlining a theology of gun possession, in which he proclaims Christ's command for his followers to possess guns.[6] The Christian Identity movement also follows such teaching, simultaneously demanding of its followers a theology of racial separation and a belief in Christ's command for Christians to own and be ready to use the most advanced available weapons of their day, such as an M-16 assault rifle.[7] In addition to these beliefs, we note that racist Christians generally preach a theology of rebellion against gun control, on the grounds that it is part of a “New World Order,” which is supposed to be an anti-White, anti-American and anti-Christian movement.[8] While we shall discuss these beliefs in detail below, it should suffice for our introduction to note that there are many who call themselves Christian and who teach a racist theology that is not only intellectually unacceptable to mainstream Christianity, but also poses tangible dangers to society.

This Paper's Methodology.

Having stated something of the context of racist theologies, this paper shall now present a study of the various racist theologies and propose some responses to these theologies. This study will be unorthodox in terms of its subject matter, for the doctrines of fringe groups are not normally the subject of serious philosophical or theological investigation. However, even if the theologies with which we are dealing are uncritical and somewhat unsophisticated, the seriousness of their impact warrants earnest investigation and thoughtful response. The subject matter of this paper shall also affect the technical aspects of its presentation. Much of the paper is based not on books and articles, but on primary sources closer to the movements themselves. One would appreciate that racist Christian theology is not the sort of material one would find resting on a university library shelf. So the reader's forbearance in the course of this paper will be much appreciated.[9] One should also acknowledge freely that this paper, like its author, is decidedly anti-racist. Even if this study has given both some sympathy for the people involved in racist Christianity and an insight into their life concerns, the paper remains unsympathetic to many of the opinions studied in this investigation.

To analyze and respond to racist theologies, this paper shall first clarify what is presented in the variety of racist Christian theologies. We shall next reflect upon the theological methodologies used by such movements. Before drawing some conclusions, we shall then propose some parallels with Biblical fundamentalism and some motives for the use of religion that help us in understanding racist theologies. The paper shall not present a chronology of racist Christianity or a group-by-group analysis of racist theologies. While such an analysis may be helpful for many purposes, it would result in a work that would be too large and unwieldy for the confines of this article. Rather, we shall present a study ordered to the presentation of our material so that the reader can best understand what exactly is believed across the range of racist religions. From the basis of this understanding, we trust that the reader will be better equipped to recognize racist material, identify its type and be better able to deal with it.

The Varieties of Christian Racist Theologies

White Supremacists

The first and perhaps most socially undesirable form of racist theology rests on the notion of white supremacy, which holds that “white people” are superior to all other races, and that their destiny in this life is to dominate those other peoples. White supremacist thinking in Christianity is not altogether unfamiliar, and can easily be found, for example, in the earlier writings of the Jehovah's Witnesses.[10] Their founder, C.T. Russell asserted that:

If nature favors the colored brethren and sisters in the exercise of humility it is that much to their advantage, if they are rightly exercised by it. A little, and our humility will work out for our good. A little while, and those who have been faithful to their Covenant of Sacrifice will be granted new bodies, spiritual, beyond the veil, where color and sex distinctions will be no more. A little while, and the Millennial kingdom will be inaugurated, which will bring restitution to all mankind.[11] 

We also note that the Watchtower made use of bizarre pseudo-science in its race theologies. In answer to the Biblical question, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin?” the Watchtower replied “no,” but that God can do it, and will do so in the coming kingdom, citing the case of a Missouri boy who spontaneously turned from having black to white skin.[12] We would observe first, that contemporary Watchtower doctrine proclaims the equality of all races. However, in their infant days, the Jehovah's Witnesses certainly accommodated themselves to the prevailing view that black people were inferior to whites. While the Watchtower attempted to add a positive dimension to this supposed reality, by holding that the inferiority of black people would serve them well in God's service and the coming kingdom, it remains that their reading of Biblical texts was overshadowed by the assumption that society was right in presuming the inferiority of blacks.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) represents another group with supremacist beginnings, but which has now turned to a reformed position. In 1978, Spencer W. Kimball, the church's twelfth president, proclaimed that the “long-promised day” had arrived, in which every worthy man, black or white, could take up priesthood in the Latter Day Saints.[13] What makes the Latter Day Saints' position different to other Christians is the presence of scriptures not recognised outside of the church and belief in ongoing revelation within the church. Those scriptures found within the book of Mormon deal with the issue of race in a distinct manner. By way of example, Second Nephi recalls how God caused to come upon the iniquitous brethren a cursing so that, “wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.” This black skin, would cause them to be “loathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their iniquities.”[14] Elsewhere, black skin is stated to be a mark set upon the Lamanites. Dark skin would also serve as a sign of a people who were loathsome, “a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations.”[15] Such Latter Day Saints scriptures clearly manifest texts written in the social spirit of their times. The rhetoric of savage people, cursed by God and given to idleness and iniquity could serve very well to justify enslaving such people. One observes that such attitudes are not presented in the canonical scriptures of mainstream Christianity, which has lead to difficulties of interpretation for the Latter Day Saints. To be fair to the Latter Day Saints, it must be said that blacks have now been admitted to the lay priesthood. Moreover, the Mormon scriptures do mitigate the harshness of the texts described above. By way of example, Second Nehpi tells us that God invites all people to himself, “black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.” Moreover, even though the Lamanites were cursed by God, the God-fearing are commanded not to revile the dark-skinned, but to remember their own filthiness and to remember that filth of dark skin came only because of their fathers' sins.[16] In spite of such mitigation of hatred, though, we still see the presumption of cursing, filthiness and inevitable subjugation of people on account of their blackness. That such scriptures exist explains why, despite the efforts of non-racist Latter Day Saints, the spectre of racism still hangs over that church. 

While some churches have struggled to reform a history of white supremacy, others still boldly proclaim a gospel of white power. David Duke declares that God's program of genocide in the Old Testament was intended to preserve both Israel's bloodline and its place of superiority over all other peoples. In this way, the life-and-death struggle between Israel and its neighbours was seen not as a merely territorial conflict, but an effort to protect the God-intended superiority and separation of the Israelites. Duke continues by proclaiming the supremacy of European Christianity over and above that embraced by other “sub-white” races. He writes that:

Whatever the ethnic origins of the precursors of Christianity, over the centuries Christianity adopted a European cultural overlay both in its artistic expression and its religious tones. We can see those expressions in the breath-taking paintings of the Sistine Chapel, the sculpture of the Madonna and Child, the gothic cathedrals of Europe, and even in the classic Christmas carols that so deeply touch our hearts. Christianity is tightly wound within the heritage of Western Man. No race is so intrinsically Christian as the European, and I view all denominations that follow Christ whether they be Baptists or Catholics, Russian Orthodox or Methodist, Pentecostal or Mormons, as brothers in Christ. We may differ somewhat in our interpretation of the Scriptures, but all of us share our faith in Him.[17]

In contrast to European forms of Christianity, Duke holds that African and Black Caribbean Christianity can only stray from genuine Christianity. He proposes that when white missionaries and their superior influence are absent, Christianity inevitably degenerates into idol worship, witch doctoring, voodoo, or other non-Christian practices.[18] Duke's assumption is that black people are simply incapable of leading themselves into true Christianity, and that they need the guiding, sometimes coercive, hand of white missiondom to herd them into the gates of salvation.

 One may ask, from Duke's assertions, how one reconciles the dominance and apparent “chosen status” of white Europeans, with the Biblical presentation of the chosen people and the Christian messiah as being of the Israelite people.[19] Such objections are met by the race-theory of British Israelism. This theory, to which we shall give more attention below, holds that the ten Northern Hebrew tribes, which were deported in 720 BCE to Assyria, never actually returned to Israel, but migrated, though successive generations, eventually landing in the British Isles and becoming the Anglo-Saxon people. While the theory is historically baseless, it provides another theological basis for white supremacy. By claiming to be the true people of Israel, white Anglo-Saxon supremacists lay claim to being God's chosen people, a race set above all others.

We have so far covered white supremacist theology insofar as it deals with supremacy primarily by divine election. Another, more insidious, supremacist theory seeks to prove from Biblical texts that black people are not fully human. Taking some inspiration from British Israelism, but moving far beyond it, movements such as Christian Identity propose that only the white race is descended from Adam. They assert that “Adamah” refers to redness in the cheeks, which is not possessed by non-whites. Other races, they hold, were created prior to Adam, the first fully human being. Without really explaining how they come to their conclusion, Identity teachers propose that of the cattle, creeping things and beasts created before Adam, black people were among those beasts and that they, like other animals, have no spirits. In fact, Identity teachers assert that the word “beast” covers all the non-white races and that non-whites were among the beasts rounded up by Noah to escape the flood. From the presumption of their animal status, Identity preachers and their allies prohibit racial intermarriage, holding it to be an act of treason to one's own white race.

Separatists

Separatist racism does not claim overtly that any one race is inherently superior to another. Rather, separatist racism holds that it is the will of God that all races be kept separate in terms of family, national boundaries or social and economic development

he typical form of separatist theology is expressed by D .F. Malan, Prime Minister and President of South Africa, who had earlier been a Dutch Reformed Church Minister. When Prime Minister, he asserted that Apartheid was based upon the Afrikaner's “divine calling” to “convert the heathen to Christianity without obliterating his national identity.” That is, Apartheid was necessary to the Christianisation and conversion of “the heathen.” Malan's reasoning assumes that the first step towards civilising peoples is their Christianisation. While he acknowledges that in the past, the Church had used the blessings of civilisation as a means of Christianisation, modern missionary practice is to ensure the full social, economic and educational development of non-Whites. However, proceeding from the presumption that "God helps him who helps himself" it was the Afrikaner's responsibility to encourage and assist the non-European in their development, but to do so by ensuring that “the various Black races [upheld] the right and duty to retain their national identities.”[20]

Corresponding to this desire to ensure that non-Whites maintained their distinct identities, Malan asserted that the racial purity of Whites was a matter of divine law and had to be protected by segregation. He wrote that: 

The traditional fear of the Afrikaner of racial equality (equalitarianism) between White and Black derives from his aversion to miscegenation. The Afrikaner has always believed very firmly that if he is to be true to his primary calling of bringing Christianity to the heathen, he must preserve his racial identity intact. The Church is, therefore, entirely opposed to inter-marriage between Black and White and is committed to withstand everything that is calculated to facilitate it. At the same time it does not begrudge the non-White the attainments of a social status commensurate with his highest aspirations. Whereas the Church, therefore, opposes the social equalitarianism which ignores racial and colour differences between Black and White in everyday life, it is prepared to do all in its power to implement a social and cultural segregation which will redound to the benefit of both sections.[21] 

Some concepts used in Malan's theology may sound like a theology of multiculturalism. Yet the concept of separate development cannot be confused with true multiculturalism, even though Malan's rhetoric seems calculated to create such confusion. Apartheid does not present multiculturalism, but bounded polyethnicity, which is essentially a large-scale ghettoism. In contrast to the confusion created by separatist thinking, we note that multiculturalism does not separate communities or individuals. Rather, a multicultural state fosters the growth of cultures within it, provides for the cultures' positive interactions, their mutual benefit and education and mutual contribution to each's ongoing cultural evolution. 

On this point, we can note that racism by separation is based upon what Bernard Lonergan called a “classicist” notion of culture, which is the notion that there is one culture for all people for all times, to which all are expected to aspire. The classicist notion of culture assumes that culture, strictly speaking, is static. On the other hand, an empirical notion of culture, which maintains history in mind, realizes that cultures are and have been manifold, that at any time there exists a multitude of cultures and that each of these cultures is never static, but in a process of progress or decline, evolution or degeneration.[22] Such an empirical notion of culture is not appreciated by separatist racists who, for various reasons ranging from blind prejudice to racial paternalism, fear the encounter of cultures and look upon such activity not as fertilisation, but infection.[23] 

Such an attitude is manifested in Malan’s stated horror of miscegenation (racial intermarriage), which embodies multiculturalism in its deepest form. The theology of separate development is based ultimately upon this fear of racial contamination. However, the reason that intermarriage is looked upon so negatively is neither theological nor Biblical, but simply the result of prejudice and aversion to such practice. The only theological status one can give this belief is that based upon the experience of believing Christians, but in this case it is an experience of fear which is not complemented by the effort to understand that fear or the drive to inquire into the reasonableness of that fear or otherwise. What is interesting though, is that an aversion to racial intermarriage is typical of most other separatist racist theologies. 

From within more traditional fundamentalism, Bob Jones asserted that, “Intermarriage of the races is a breakdown of the lines of separation which God has set up and, therefore, is rebellion against God.” To support his viewpoint, Jones cites Paul's statement in the Acts of the Apostles, that of all peoples, God “hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.” (Acts 17:26) Jones then asserts that God has fixed those boundaries so that people, should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him.” (Acts 17:27) For Jones, racial divisions and boundaries are present for “man's spiritual good.” In contrast, the cry of those who rebel against God is “One World, One Race, One Church.” Jones thus subscribes to an anti-Christian conspiracy theory which aims for a “corrupt and evil world, a mongrel race, and the church of Antichrist.”[24] 

The citation of Acts 17:26-27 appears many times in the literature of racist theologies. However, the text means nothing in terms of racism, and says nothing about racial intermarriage or the setting up of Apartheid-like policies. It is simply Paul's attempt to appeal to the philosophical system of his Athenian hearers. It is helpful in this matter to remember that Paul can hardly be held up as a champion of racial separation. He was after all the one who had opposed Peter “to his face” for his failure to mix with the non-Jewish Christians (Galatians 2:11-14). 

Notwithstanding such Scriptural evidence, contemporary separatist theologies play upon both the misreading of Acts and other ideas in an effort to show that intermarriage and racial interaction is anti-Christian. An extreme example is Peter Peters' statement on Martin Luther King. In an attack on Dr King, Peters asserted that King's agenda was to pursue racial integration and intermarriage as part of a wider communist conspiracy to weaken the United States.[25] In another tract, Peters linked racial intermarriage with “racial problems” and the “killing plague” of AIDS. To support his theology, he cites the story of Phinehas, who stopped a deadly plague by killing an Israelite man and a Midianite woman who had been “committing whoredom” (Numbers 25:7,8).[26] What one notices upon reading Numbers for oneself is that God did not command racial separation or genocide for the primary purpose of segregation, as Peters and others would have us believe. Rather, racial segregation in the Old Testament was for the purpose of maintaining the purity of the Israelites' faith. We note that just prior to the text cited by Peters, Numbers yields the real problem with intermarriage in Phinehas' time, namely that the Israelites bowed down before foreign gods, and found themselves “yoked to the Baal of Peor” (Numbers 25:2-3). We recall that in the Old Testament God had no problem with foreigners who were happy to embrace the faith of Israel, and that according to the scriptures, God chose foreign, non-Israelites, to be the ancestors of Jesus Christ.[27] 

We find similar separatist reasoning in the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. We note that their race ideology is based upon the United States being a great Christian nation. However, rather than holding that black people should be maltreated or despised for their race, they claim to be interested solely in the advancement of white people. In practice, this advancement must mean separate development and existence of different races. Interestingly, Klansmen also make a connection between intermarriage and disease:

Until 20 or so years ago, nearly all states had 'sodomy' and miscegenation laws and statutes that were strictly enforced. Since that time they have been repealed or are ignored, the results are obvious with the plague of AIDS now ravaging our land. Both of these abominations against God and nature must be stopped if America is ever to return to the great Christian nation it once was.[28] 

We shall cover later the connection between racist theologies and anti-homosexual activism. For the moment, though, we note that even though the Klansmen in question do not advocate a strict white supremacy, but a policy of racial separation, they employ the aforementioned ideology of negativity towards racial and cultural development. To the Klansmen, white society cannot be advanced, except within the narrow confines of race “purity.” That the white peoples and others could advance by means or paths as yet unknown to this Klan, or anyone else, is not possible for the Klansmen. 

From another perspective, separatist theology has been expressed in terms of “race rights.” In a manifesto of race theology, the Christian Identity movement promotes a notion that, in the eyes of God, each race has the right (and duty) “to exclusivity, reproductive isolation and geographic separation, to be free, safe and secure from the racially destructive effects of racial intermixture and replacement.” The context of these so-called rights is explained in the preamble to this article, which states that to be faithful in caring for God's creation means preserving the world as God has created it.[30] Notwithstanding the aforementioned problems with this theology, we can only disagree that anti-miscegenationism could possibly express any “rights.” We maintain that rights are expressions of human freedom, which, for good reason, one can forego. Christian Identity's presentation is not of “race rights,” but of coercive measures which do not express human freedom. In other words, they are imposed conditions that do not convey rights but subjugated and limited living conditions.[31] 

Before leaving this section, we should clarify the beliefs of the Jehovah's Witnesses and Latter Day Saints. First, the writings of the Watchtower suggest that Jehovah's Witnesses do not practice race-based discrimination of any sort. While in the past, the Witnesses have bowed to greater or lesser degrees of congregational segregation, contemporary Witness congregations are promoted as models of racial equality. However, the artwork in Watchtower literature gives reason for concern. While Watchtower books and magazines portray Jehovah's faithful people of many races, it is hard to find any interracial couples portrayed in Jehovah’s kingdom. Whether this artistic separatism is intended or not, we do not know, nor are the Jehovah's Witnesses helpful in clarifying the issue. What is clear, though, is that the artwork of Watchtower publications raises questions about its approach to race. 

The Latter Day Saints are also in an awkward position. While they have moved towards a more equalitarian position, they are still burdened by scriptures that insist on strict segregation. Of the accursed, Second Nephi teaches that they are cursed with black skin. Moreover, “And cursed shall be the seed of him that mixeth with their seed; for they shall be cursed even with the same cursing.  And the Lord spake it, and it was done.”[32] However, positive reform is possible from a reading of Alma 3:8 and Helaman 3:16. These texts make it clear that racial segregation is needed because intermarriage with the dark-skinned cursed races results in wickedness and rebellion against God. Such reasoning follows the line of thought present in the Hebrew Scriptures, that intermarriage with pagan nations would defile the Israelite faith. However, just as with the Hebrew Scriptures, the Mormon texts leave open the possibility of racial integration if the curse of wickedness is lifted from the Lamanites. 

To conclude this section we may question a key assumption made by separatist racism. All scriptures and theological resources of separatist theology proceed from the belief that racial integration and racial mixing are evils and acts of destruction. In reflecting upon his Indian experience, David Duke puts the point in emotional terms thus:

I wondered if, in a few hundred years, some half-black descendant of mine would be sitting among the ruins of our civilization, brushing away the flies, waiting to die. Every day our nation grows a little darker from the torrential immigration of non-whites, high non-white birthrates, and increasing racial miscegenation; and with each passing day, we see the quality of our lives decline. Crime is ever on the increase, drug activity proliferates, educational quality declines, and the American standard of living suffers. The healthy racial values of our forefathers are ridiculed and replaced by the pseudo-science of egalitarianism. Treason to our heritage prospers and corruption feeds in the highest places.[33] 

In essence, the assumption made is that racial interaction or the development of a race by encounter and sharing with another race will be to the sole end of destruction. This argument is not new, however, and was also put succinctly by Hitler, who also reveals the base of racial separatism. “Historical experience offers countless proofs of this. It shows with terrifying clarity that in every mingling of Aryan blood with that of lower peoples the result was the end of the cultured people.”[34] Hitler shows clearly what Duke implies, namely, that at the ultimate base of racist separatism is an implied form of white supremacist thinking or feeling. Even if such supremacism is not stated overtly, or even if it is not done self-knowingly by racists, it is present and forms the racists' interpretation of texts pertaining to race, integration and separation. 

Nationalists

A third form of race theology begins not from race supremacy or race separation, but from national separation. David Duke asserts that God is most concerned to maintain a nation's heritage. In particular, when that nation is singled out by God, the extermination of other nations is given divine authority in order to protect the chosen nation. As Duke puts the point, “The more I read of the Holy Bible, the more obvious it became to me that God concerned himself very much with heritage. The Old Testament is about one nationality, one people: the Israelites, who are designated as a special people, a ‘chosen people.’”[35] Duke notes approvingly that in the Old Testament, genocide was used, not just as a means to defeat Israel's enemies, but also as a means of maintaining the nation's heritage. Duke does deal somewhat with the New Testament's message of salvation to all peoples. However, he asserts that the New Testament still recognises distinctions between men and women, slaves and free people, people of different nationalities. His ultimate position is that, even if genocide is no longer endorsed by the New Testament, the will of God is still to maintain national distinctions so as to protect the heritage of his people. Duke proposes that, without keeping the United States free of “alien races,” it would suffer the same fate as the Israelites who took foreign wives. He asserts, without establishing any substantial or causal connection, that the influx of non-white immigrants to the United States has resulted in “brutal crimes of violence, drugs, illiteracy, and corruption.”[36] 

By itself, such reasoning may seem political, rather than theological. However, nationalist racist theology is founded upon the belief that one's nation (normally the United States) is God's chosen nation, or at least, more favoured in the eyes of God than other countries.[37] We find this assumption made clear in the various Chick publications, which state clearly the fundamentalist belief that God has chosen the United States as a latter-day light to the nations. In the light of such beliefs, Duke and other nationalist racists hold that the borders of their nation should be closed to alien races on the grounds that admitting such people would abrogate the character of the chosen nation. 

Kingdom Identity Ministries puts concisely the points we have presented on nationalist racism:

WE BELIEVE that the United States of America fulfills the prophesied (II Sam. 7:10; Isa. 11:12; Ezek. 36:24) place where Christians from all the tribes of Israel would be regathered. It is here in this blessed land (Deut. 15.6, 28:11, 33:13-17) that God made a small one a strong nation (Isa. 60:22), feeding His people with knowledge and understanding through Christian pastors (Jer. 3:14-15) who have carried the light of truth and blessings unto the nations of the earth (Isa. 49:6, 2:2-3; Gen. 12:3). North America is the wilderness (Hosea 2:14) to which God brought the dispersed seed of Israel, the land between two  seas (Zech. 9:10), surveyed and divided by rivers (Isa. 18:1-2,7), where springs of water and streams break out and the desert blossoms as the rose (Isa. 35:1,6-7). [38] 

The use of scripture to support such claims is both creative and imaginative. For example, notice is taken of the fact that the above scriptures could apply equally to Australia, Canada or South Africa as to the United States (or no modern nation at all!). What is present, though, is the prejudice of nationalism that predisposes the reader to agree with conclusions that really do not follow from the cited texts. 

To end this section, we acknowledge that nationalist racist theology forms a de facto separatist theology. By presuming that God has chosen an assembled people in the nation, nationalists either cling to the notion of native race in their homeland, or in the case of the United States, a mythic White American race or chosen people is invented. Where nationalist theology differs from that of separatism is that the latter transcends national boundaries, and is so not tied to any notion of promised or prophesied land. 

Conspiracist

Another form of racist theology stands upon theories of conspiracy against Christian culture. In the 1960s, Bob Jones evoked images of such a conspiracy by declaring that there is a movement advocating one race, one Church, one world.[39] In contemporary times, this conspiracy theory has translated into opposition to what is often called the “New World Order,”[40] an order which is supposed to stand for race-mixing, the end of Christianity and the weakening of the United States. Moreover, this conspiratorial New World Order is believed to have effective, though invisible, control over the World's governments. 

Such conspiracist thinking is found in the Ku Klux Klan's approach to the United States government. Of the Klan's most visible symbols, the Klan proclaims that the “Fiery Cross” is a Scottish symbol of both obedience to God and “opposition to tyranny from big government.” We find repeatedly in Klan literature the theme of government intervention in race matters and cooperation with the United Nations in abandoning the racial purity of the United States.[41] Such conspiracist thinking, aligned with an anti-government mentality, evokes a strong parallel with fascist ideology. While we would want to avoid using “fascist” as a convenient though insubstantial term of derogation, it remains that fascism, particularly as conceived by Mussolini, was a reactionary movement of illiberality and anti-liberalism. Moreover, fascism was particularly opposed to the intervention of liberal governments in the operation of political and religious groups. We find a strong parallel between such fascist ideology and conspiracist racist theology. As a movement that believes itself to be increasingly subject to scrutiny and moderation by anti-racist secular governments, we can understand how the ideology and actions of racist Christian groups lean readily towards the politics typified by fascist movements. In that light, we can have some idea of the political and social agenda that would be followed, were racist Christian groups to take power in a modern democracy. 

Under the theme of conspiracy, we note one particular theory concerning an alleged Jewish plot to dominate the world. Many racist Christian groups still disseminate as an authentic document the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Although repeatedly shown to be a baseless anti-Semitic forgery, many racist Christians hold that the Protocols shows the path for the Jewish takeover of all peoples under the auspices of what we now call the United Nations. One such line of conspiracy thinking holds that the United States government is already under Zionist control. The significance of such thinking is that racist Christians are lead to believe that opposition to their segregationalist or supremacist positions is not effected by legitimate government, but by an invisible dictatorship that is dedicated to destroying the Christian religion along with the United States. In that light, we can understand the religious justification invoked for acts of domestic terrorism. When racists believe that their visible government is illegitimate, Zionist controlled and anti-Christian, then armed struggle against a government is more than a political struggle, it becomes a holy war. 

Racist Christians' conspiracy theories are not limited to supposed Jewish plots. Anti-Christian communist forces are also proclaimed as the real power behind the life and work of Martin Luther King Jnr. Peter Peters of Christian Identity, for example, asserts that King, far from acting independently of political influence, was actually a stooge for the Communist Party of America, being part of sixty-four communist movements. In turn, his communist masters were supposed to have seen racial integration as an integral part of the communising and de-Christianisation of the United States.[42] 

The Christian racists' view of global anti-Christian conspiracy leads to the issue of concern with which we opened this paper. The same people who declare racism in the name of Christ also oppose gun control in the name of Christ. Peter Peters proclaims that gun control is a communist tool with which to achieve anti-Christian revolution. He asserts that the peace movement, which is tied closely to promoting racial equality, is nothing but the arm of anti-Christ, working with communists in an effort to gain world domination. Peters follows many others, including Duke, in rejecting utterly any Gospel message of peace, choosing instead to dwell upon a selective and militarist reading of Jesus' statement: “The One who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36b).[43] It is believed by racist Christians that the “New World Order” intends the disarmament of Americans. One Right-wing Christian group claims that restrictions on gun ownership in Australia are only the efforts of those who use Australians as “New World Order Guinea Pigs,” before similar such actions are taken in the United States. The conspiracy, according to this group, is to destabilise the United States by disarming its people, leaving them open to attack from “urban gangs, criminal elements, roving packs of illegal immigrants, and the entire federal Gestapo (the FBI, BATF, CIA, the EPA, NSA and all the other alphabet cops).”[44] Thus, the conspiracy envisaged by race theology is of an international movement that will disarm Americans, weaken their nation though intermarriage, and have the ultimate intention of destroying both the nation and Christianity. 

Such conspiracy thinking has been operative in Australia over the recent years since Martin Bryant used guns to murder thirty-five people and wound many others at Port Arthur, Tasmania. While wide media attention was given to the gun lobby's opposition to government efforts to ban certain types of weapons, what was not so widely reported was the presence in the gun lobby of right-wing racist Christians, who wanted to preserve their gun ownership rights so that they would be armed and ready to fight the New World Order. Such people have found a voice for their concerns in the racist politician, Pauline Hanson, who has advocated immigration policies based on race and religion. While Ms Hanson does not necessarily support conspiracy thinking, many of her supporters do, and they find Hanson’s “One Nation” party a convenient platform for their conspiracy theories. 

At this point, it is pertinent to make two comments on the conspiracy thinking found in racist theologies. First, thinking people would realise that there is simply no evidence for a global conspiracy to promote racial intermarriage, weaken the United States and control guns. Such conspiracies are more suited to a fantasy realm than serious theology. However, we may put forward a hypothesis as to why conspiracy thinking comes about. The linking of race theology with the gun lobby leads us to note that racist theologians often link themselves to other causes. Variously, those promoting racist theologies will also be staunchly anti-abortion, anti-welfare, anti-homosexual,[45] anti-affirmative action, anti-feminist, anti-gun control, anti-free trade, and generally anti-liberal (both religiously and politically). On the one hand, such staunch defence of fundamentalist issues has meant that fundamentalist Christian leaders have been unwilling to condemn racist Christians, both because they fear alienating their own flock and also because many fundamentalists share in a paranoia about a New World Order that is opposed to Christian values. In the second place, and more pertinent to their motives, given their opposition to so many liberal persons or movements, one gets the impression racist Christians are not restricted in their hatred, but they are motivated by a broad and wide-ranging misanthropy. Rather than seeing the motivations and effects of their hatred as concerning a wide variety of different, and often unrelated, people who each make their own responses, racist Christians seem tied to an egocentric worldview. Under such a viewpoint, when many different people attack them or disagree with them, it is easier to collectivise one's manifold enemies and give them a common name and identity. This in turn makes it easy to believe that this one enemy constitutes a worldwide conspiracy. Again, such a viewpoint correlates with the fundamentalist collection of many anti-fundamentalist movements under the one banner of “secular humanism.” Like fundamentalism, the leaders of racist Christianity are only too happy to both foster and prey upon a form of group paranoia. One promoter, somewhat unwittingly one may think, of this conspiracy thinking has been the actor Charlton Heston, who has characterised gun control as cultural warfare. He calls upon “Mainstream Americans:” 

Mainstream America is counting on you to “draw your sword” and fight for them. These people have precious little time and resources to battle misguided Cinderella attitudes, the fringe propaganda of the homosexual coalition, the feminists who preach that it is a divine duty for woman to hate men, blacks who raise a militant fist with one hand while they seek preference with the other, New Age apologists for juvenile crime who see roving gangs as a means to only the merchandising violence as a form of entertainment for impressionable minds, and gun bans as a means to only the Lord-knows-what. We have reached that point in time when our social policy originates on Oprah. Its time to pull the plug! [46] 

Racist Christianity's conspiracist form certainly does not offer much, if anything by way of Biblical or theological justification for its beliefs. What is manifest, however, is the preaching of an anti-Christian power against which good Christians are called to fight, even sometimes with lethal force. Those fallen victim to such viewpoints are unlikely to abandon those viewpoints until they are brought out of an egocentric and paranoid view of the world around them. 

Anti-Semitism

We turn our attention now to anti-Semitism. While anti-Semitic feeling and prejudice is well-known, a number of racist religious movements also embrace developed anti-Jewish theologies. In this section we shall first to cover the British Israel belief, which though positive in intent, ends in anti-Semitism. Secondly, we shall cover those theologies that use scripture to promote anti-Jewish propaganda. 

British Israelism seems have been proposed first by John Sadler, a member of the British Parliament, in a work entitled The Rights of the Kingdom (1649). The movement did not gain momentum, however, until its promotion by Richard Brothers, with his A Revealed Knowledge of the Prophecies and Times (1794). Brothers proclaimed himself the “nephew of the almighty” and declared himself a descendant of King David and therefore the rightful holder of the British throne. For these beliefs he was confined to a lunatic asylum between 1795 and 1806. Despite these unfortunate origins, the movement advanced and had, at its peak, a claimed two million followers. 

Between Brothers' time and our own, British Israelism has taken several related forms. However, the essence of the British Israelite story is that Queen Elizabeth II is the one hundred and forty-fourth descendant of King David. It is claimed that in 583BC, the Israelite Princess Tamar Telphi travelled to Ireland by sailing ship. As the theory goes, Princess Telphi was the daughter of Zedekiah, the last King of Judah in Jerusalem, who was taken captive to Babylon. After her escape to Ireland with the prophet Jeremiah, she married Eochaid the Heremon, a prince of Israelite descent who was also allied to the tribe of Dan. From Ireland, the kingdom moved to Scotland, and then on to England, where it is presently ruled over by Queen Elizabeth II.[47] 

British Israelism has no historical evidence and it is not supported by any reputable scholars. Solid historical facts make British Israelism a belief impossible to hold with any level of reason. We may consider, for example, the nature of Britain at the time of the Roman Invasion. Instead of finding inhabitants practising monotheistic religion and a culture with Israelite influences, the Romans discovered Druids practising human sacrifice, a severe lack of Hebrew language, a diet consisting largely of pig-meat and the disposal of bodies by cremation rather than burial. 

Notwithstanding the historical facts of the matter, British Israelism has been taken seriously, most notably by the Worldwide Church of God[48] and the various Christian Identity Groups. This has led often to what has been called “race-based,” rather than “grace-based,” salvation, in which priority in the life of salvation is given to the white, Anglo-Saxon and “kindred” peoples. We acknowledge, though, that in its milder forms, British Israelists have been happy to accept present-day Jewish people as the rightful descendants of the house of Judah.[49] There is, on the other hand, a stronger movement, which maintains that the British and kindred are the only descendants of Israel and that the Jews are another entirely different race. 

Within this more directly anti-Semitic theology, we find the Jews being identified, not as descendants of Abraham, but as people of Khazarian ancestry. Given the belief that the Jews are not true Israelites, many, most prominently the Identity groups, assert that the Jews have absolutely no claim over the land of Palestine. The Jews are regarded as imposters, wandering rogues who put to death Jesus Christ before he exposed their true nature and ancestry.[50] We note that the success of the Jews in establishing the state of modern Israel and their influence in world affairs adds, through British Israelism, more fuel for the conspiracy theory that those who oppose them are part of a Jewish-communist plot to undo Christianity. 

The ultimate expression of anti-Semitic theology follows on from British Israelism. It is proposed that the White people of the world are descended from Adam, whose name is taken from the Hebrew word meaning “rosy cheeked” or “to show blood in the face.” On the other hand, it is proposed that Satan has a literal “seed” or posterity upon the earth, and that Satan's literal children are the Jews, descended from Cain, by nature of the encounter of Satan with Eve.[51] 

From the literature of the Christian Identity movement, we can find the sort of material that is offered as proof of the Jews being within Satan's fold. According to Kingdom Identity, Jesus called the Jews “children of Satan,” through the line of Cain (John 8:44-47; Matt. 13:38; John 8:23, I John 2:22, 4:3). They have always been a “curse to true Israel,” due to the natural enmity between the two races (Gen. 3:15). The Jews always do the will of their father the Devil (John 8:38-44). Like their father, Satan, they are contrary to God and all men (I Thess. 2:14-15), “though they often pose as ministers of righteousness” (II Cor. 11:13-15). Finally, this race's hands bear the blood of Jesus Christ, (Matt. 27:25) and all the righteous slain upon the earth (Matt. 23:35).[52] 

The critical reader will find no proof in the scriptures, cited or otherwise, for the belief that the Jews are children of Satan. One finds that the scriptures cited are chosen selectively, and manipulated or misrepresented to mean something other than what would have been meant by their author. For example, one calls to mind that the name Adam, claimed to mean “rosy cheeked,” and therefore White/Aryan is a name taken from the Hebrew word adamah, which refers to the earth, rather than the colour of one's skin. There is also no credit given by racists to the difference between the Scriptural authors' problems with specific Jews, and a generalised anti-Jewish stance which is not promoted by scripture. (One would state the obvious point that many authors of scripture were Jews, and like Paul, were most often proud of their Jewish heritage). One also notes that the anti-Semitic theology we have cited conflicts with the supremacist belief that the non-white races were the beasts of the field created before Adam. We learn a lesson about racist thinking when we realise that in the one breath white supremacists claim that God created non-whites (including Jews) before Adam, but that in the next breath, we hear that Satan created the Jews sometime after Adam's own creation.  

At this point, we trust we have presented the different varieties of racist theologies. Moreover, one would gather that racist theology is flawed seriously on several fronts. In the remainder of this paper, we shall make some methodological reflections upon the material so far covered. Then, before making our conclusions, we shall explore some parallels with Biblical fundamentalism and comment upon the way that the politics of racism translate into racist theologies. 

Methodological Reflections

In this part of our paper, we shall comment upon the underlying philosophies of interpretation exercised by racist Christianities. First, we shall specify the exegetic approach by which racists extract what is supposed to be the author's intended meaning of Biblical texts. Secondly, we will approach the manner of hermeneutic by which racists apply those texts to their own culture.  

An Exegesis by Naive Realism

The informed reader of racist Christian literature will be struck by the unscholarly and often anti-intellectual character manner of racist exegesis. By way of a bad example, we note the assertion that in the Genesis story of creation, the word for man, “adam,” means rosy-cheeked, or one with blood in the face, and that the beasts of the field are not all animals as such, but black people. One is struck by several characteristics of such statements. In the first place, the relevant points are asserted, not argued. One is presented with Biblical data and then expected to assent to the racist dogmas supposedly based upon these texts. There is no intervening act of understanding, no attempt to dialogue with the text, no effort to really put to the text questions of how, what, why and wherefore, or whatever other questions and interpreter may usually be expected to ask. Instead of there being any struggle to understand, one is presented with a fundamentalist-like declaration that “God said it, I believe it and that settles it!”[53] 

This parallel with fundamentalism is not insignificant, and leads us to recall Richard McBrien's point that Biblical fundamentalism is an example of “naive realism.” “For the biblical fundamentalist, the meaning of the Word of God is obvious. ‘Just take a look,’ the biblicist seems to say. ‘The requirements of Christian existence are clear.’”[54] We propose that racist Christianity approaches the Bible in the same way as fundamentalism. By this we mean that racism's abhorrence of critical scholarship is not limited to its conclusions, but it extends to the basis of its exegetical methodology. We may clarify this point by noting that, for Bernard Lonergan, naive realism is the philosophic counter-position that one knows an object simply by looking at it.[55] The naive realist will approach the Bible, for example, and assume that one can know correctly its contents simply by reading them at face value. Lonergan explains that the naive realist's philosophy is faulty because no one knows an object simply by looking at it. Rather, in addition to the data gained by sensory experience, one must exert the effort to understand that experience, then spend some mental energy in evaluating and then passing judgement upon the correctness or otherwise of one's understanding.[56] 

From a slightly different perspective, we note that fundamentalism employs an assertory form of proclamation. The fundamentalism will make a point by asserting that “the Bible says ....” without really asking critical questions about whether one can really extract such meaning from the Biblical text. Racist theology employs a similar approach to scripture. A racist will take selected parts of scripture, and use these as proof texts for predetermined dogmas of race, culture and creed. Moreover, the racist will do this without comparing his interpretation to other readers, without consulting the history of the text, analysing its literary form, or, very often placing the text within the wider context of the Bible or the book in question. In concrete terms, a racist will approach scripture, not with the question or set of questions, “What does this text mean?” Rather, the racist will use Scripture with the predetermined idea that “This is what scripture must mean!” We can say therefore, that the exegetic philosophy of naive realism that is used in racist theology means that racists will approach the scriptures with an unquestioning, acritical mindset and the guiding prejudgement that the scriptures must yield racist doctrines. 

On a technical point, one may propose that what we have identified is not an exegetical philosophy, but an abject lack of philosophy. While sympathetic to such a point, this author is more inclined concur with Lonergan on a different, but not dissimilar matter. Even within mainstream Christianity, there have been efforts to adopt an aphilosophical theology in the name of “more relevant catechesis.” However, one cannot abandon philosophy so easily, for when one attempts to do religion or theology without philosophy, the real outcome is not no philosophy, but unconscious philosophy, or worse, bad philosophy.[57] With Lonergan, one concurs and proposes that racist theology uses a philosophy of naive realism that is more often unconscious than consciously bad, but nonetheless real and effective in facilitating the doctrines obtained by such unconscious philosophy. 

Hermeneutic of Adversarialism

In the same way as racist Christianity exercises a philosophical exegesis of naive realism, we propose that it has a hermeneutic philosophy, even though this is not a sophisticated philosophy, but rather an unconscious or bad philosophy. That racist Christianity does have a hermeneutic that applies scripture to current times allows itself to manifest its ideology as theology in its specific social and cultural context. 

Racist Christianity's overriding hermeneutic is one of adversarialism. It seeks confrontation with and exclusion of those who do not fall under the racist mantle. That adversarialism dominates racist Christianity can be shown by the people or movements opposed by racists. We have found in this article that racists are not restricted to the issue of race. They are not only anti-black, anti-Jewish or anti-Asian, but they are also anti-abortion, anti-welfare, anti-free trade, anti-drugs, anti-communist, anti-homosexual, anti-equal rights, anti-feminist and anti-New Age. In fact, racist Christianity's theology shows consistently a militant opposition to all things that do not fall within its fold, which would include most elements of contemporary democratic, pluralist society. In fact, in its more extreme forms, racist Christianity shows its members to be quite non-discriminating in terms of their generalised misanthropy. 

The hermeneutic of adversarialism employed by racist Christians is a reading, then application, of Biblical texts done with a view to making that text into a weapon of confrontation and exclusion of those whom one has prejudged to be enemies. This latter point brings some clarity to an otherwise murky philosophy. Adversarial hermeneutics rely upon a prejudgement of enmity and confrontation. One cannot find within the sources of racist Christianity any direct or implied command to the sort of confrontation exercised by racists. The prejudgement of this sort of exclusion and belligerence directs the reader, consciously or unconsciously, to the presumption that the Bible must be read and applied in a manner supporting the racist cause. 

Having made our point, we acknowledge that racist theology is certainly not alone in using a hermeneutic of adversarialism, though it is no doubt prominent as an extreme case in point. During the last century, hermeneutics of confrontation and exclusion have been seen in the extremes of many movements that promote the cause of one group at the expense of others, be the others separated by race, gender or political philosophy. Against this approach, Pope John-Paul II called the world's citizens to solidarity. While the Pope's call was practical and action-oriented, one can propose that a philosophy embracing a hermeneutics of solidarity would provide a coherent and preferable alternative to the hermeneutics of adversarialism as proposed in racist Christianity. 

Religious Reflections

Parallels with Fundamentalism

We have noted above that racist Christianity shares with Biblical fundamentalism a naive realist approach to scripture. This parallel should not surprise us, because many, if not most or all, racist Christians align themselves to fundamentalist Churches. While we would in no way wish to implicate most fundamentalists in racism, the fact remains that the fundamentalist method is both attractive to and has had great impact on the way that racists use their sources. Besides using an exegesis by naive realism, we would note several other characteristics common to both groups. 

First, racist Christians and fundamentalists hold common views on evolution. On evolution, Bob Jones presents the fundamentalist position by declaring that, “The process of the human race has not been upward from the swamp by evolution, but downward from the garden by sin.”[58] Also, from a strictly creationist viewpoint, J Mackay declares that “The current cultural status of the races ... is a direct consequence of whether the ancestors of any race worshipped the living God, or deliberately rejected Him. There is no such thing as a primitive race evolving upwards.”[59] With fundamentalists, racist Christians believe that creation can only go backwards, not forwards. Properly speaking, the fundamentalist theory of human development is of actual devolution, rather than possible evolution. Likewise, racists believe that God has made white people as they are, and that one cannot develop positively either whites or any other race. One must either maintain one's race in stasis, or face the downward spiral of ungodly devolution. 

The first point ties in with our second, namely, that fundamentalism and racist Christianity are extremely negative towards human creativity. Fundamentalists exercise an extreme form of Calvinism, holding that nothing that proceeds from the nature of man can be of any goodness.  Taking up Calvin's idea that all proceeding from unregenerate human nature is damnable, fundamentalists hold that only that which comes from regenerated humanity, which in practice means from within the fundamentalist fold, can be of benefit to humankind. Likewise, racist Christianity holds that nothing humankind can do to or for itself can bring about effective improvement to ourselves. We have seen in this article how racists fear race-mixing and intermarriage. The underlying assumption behind such fear is that any change to humanity will inevitably be for the worse. 

This racist fear of any change contradicts Christian theology that sees human stewardship of God's creation as meaning that we are co-creators with God. This belief is reflected, in part, by the Genesis creation account's statement that God has commanded humanity to fill the earth, and subdue it, which suggests making some improvements to the earth. An oft-ignored part of Christian theology also concerns the issue of pro-creation. Unfortunately, the furore over contraception in Catholicism has seen the theology of procreation more often ignored or misunderstood. Understood fully, procreation refers not only to biological conception, but to the whole process and life self-giving of generating, nurturing and educating a child. Procreation thus concerns the responsibility and right of parents to ­bring forth and take on the ongoing care of their child. Such stewardship effectively makes parents co-creators with God. We propose that Christians would have little trouble in extending this positive theology from parent-child relationships to a theology of the entire human race's co-creation with God of itself. One can thus engender a more positive outlook on divine-human relationships than those envisaged by racism or fundamentalism. 

Thirdly, both fundamentalism and racist Christianity share a counter-modern suspicion. Racists are likely to regard modern society as intolerant and dogmatic, due to its opposition to racist ideology. As modern history, biology, theology, philosophy all provide sharp and resolute criticisms of racist thinking, it is no surprise that racists should oppose all things modern. Fundamentalists are also practically defined by their opposition to modernity, especially the modern embrace of liberal culture and religion. We may be familiar with the fundamentalist hatred for liberalism, which often translates into contempt or hatred for liberals. However, there is here is significant deviation of racist Christianity from fundamentalism. Regarding fundamentalism, we find upon serious reading, that despite its abhorrence of liberalism, fundamentalism most often is defined by liberalism. By this point, we mean that from the very start, Biblical fundamentalism has been defined by its opposition to matters such as evolutionary science, critical scholarship of the Bible, and liberal, pluralist morality. Dobson and Hindson lend support to this idea in their discussion of the history of American fundamentalism. They introduce their work by noting that they shall evaluate the impact of fundamentalism by reference, among other things, to its “War with Liberalism.” They also admit that, to understand fundamentalism and place it in its correct perspective, they have to deal with liberalism. The term “War with Liberalism” is Dobson and Hindson's and is the title of a chapter in their book. That “war,” in practical terms, defines fundamentalism. Apart from brief references to “the Fundamentals” fundamentalists are more inclined to deal with their efforts to combat what they saw as increasing corruption and anti-Christianity in an increasingly liberal Church. Dobson and Hindson effectively define the genesis of fundamentalism by its rise as a “unified, organized effort to combat its [liberalism's] influence.”[60] 

Racist Christianity, on the other hand, though as thoroughly anti-modern as fundamentalism, is opposed to modern, liberal culture for different reasons. In the first place, racism did not start as a specific reaction to increasing liberalism. Moreover, racist Christianity does not appear to have functionally defined itself so much by its opposition to new developments in society. This is not to say that racist Christianity is not a reactive, anti-modern movement in the same way as fundamentalism. Rather, racist Christianity has its own agenda, its own identity and its own objectives. The degree and manner in which it reacts to society is defined in fairly narrow terms, as opposed to fundamentalism, which has become counter-cultural in very broad terms.[61] 

Religion as a Racist Tool

The critical observer will readily agree with our observation that racist Christianity does not derive its doctrines from an impartial reading of its sources. Race theology is, more properly speaking, not a theology so much as a predetermined ideology expressed in words commonly used within Christian theology. To be truthful, racist Christianity, though using the power of religion and religious language, does not originate within a religious context, but a social and political context that uses religion for its own purposes. 

We may ask why racists use religion to further their aims. The anti-Christian World Church of the Creator (WCOTC) provides candid reasons why religion is chosen as the vehicle for race ideology. In the first place, while a political party may have some influence over part of a person's life, religion dominates all parts of a person's life. The genuinely religious person will have sublated by his or her religion all of one's life decisions concerning morality, work and economy, law, education, marriage, family and community life. Another aspect of religion is that, when firmly established, it can outlast even the most dogged of political parties or social groups. While political parties last rarely longer than a century, the well-established religion can have influence for centuries after the death of its founder.[62] 

Further insight into why religion can used as a racist tool comes from the master of social manipulation. In Mein Kampf, Hitler gave his assessment of religion's significance by stating: “Verily a man cannot serve two masters. And I consider the foundation or destruction of a religion far greater than the foundation or destruction of a state, let alone a party.” Hitler went on to observe that religion can be an effective cover, even for the otherwise obvious vices of those who hide beneath religion's mantle.[63] That religion can be used as a cover for moral evils raises for us the whole question of religious freedom. We would note that the great majority of racist Christianities have originated in the United States, a nation in which freedom of religion is sacrosanct. Unfortunately, the strength of this constitutional right, along with a certain vagueness as to what exactly constitutes a “religion” has meant that, in practical terms, “freedom of religion” has meant the right to preach any form of corruption or madness, regardless of its rationality, social implications or other concerns. Various movements repeatedly find protection from criticism, public scrutiny or proactive legal action because they fall under the mantle of “free” religions. If Hitler is right in his observations on the baser side of human nature, and his wicked success gives us every reason to think so, then we have to address seriously the question of what manner of freedom we allow religions. If we are to subject racist religions to open scrutiny, and call these faiths to account, then we must abandon the popular notion of freedom of religion as a relativist right to pursue any belief system whatsoever. Rather, one would propose a more serious notion of religious freedom as freedom from state or other coercion. That is, rather than the licence to create any form of anti-social movement, one proposes that religious freedom be conceived as the right to uncoerced worship, which right brings with it the responsibility to be reasonable and rational, and responsible towards people and society. 

If we turn back to why religion is so useful to racist religionists, Hitler again provides us with helpful, even if unpalatable, reflections. Religion proves potent at controlling people's actions, Hitler surmises, because “The great masses of people do not consist of philosophers; precisely for the masses, faith is often the sole foundation of a moral attitude.” Later Hitler repeated the point by claiming that the great mass of humanity consists neither of philosophers nor of saints, which means that most people never access the inner efficacy that a religion can bring.[64] Hitler, of course, knew how to harness such religion based on “faith alone” without the foundation of either clear thinking or genuine spirituality. A popular (or folkish) religion, whether it be theistic or not, that demands the hearts of its followers will find itself empowered to enact all manner of activities, and find a number of willing servants who will perform even the most debased of acts, if only they are in the name of God or faith. 

We have then, some reflections on the potency of religion and why it is used by racist Christianity. These reflections lead one to disagree somewhat with Marx, who regarded religion as the opium of the masses -- a mental policeman that maintained the social order by keeping downtrodden persons submissive and passive to the oppressive drudgery of their lives. Rather than enforcing passivity, our study of racist Christianity shows that religion can be more of a stimulant than a narcotic, driving people to action, stimulating them into frenzied action, driving their thoughts and moral decisions and sometimes even goading them into homicidal actions, all in the name of God and the promise of bliss in the hereafter. One would agree with Marx, however, that religion can and does have great power over the lives of individuals and communities. That power can have a stupefying effect in keeping oppressed people passive and subservient, or it can have the converse effect of rousing people to action and giving power to an otherwise weak position. 

Conclusion

Before, finishing this paper, we note that even otherwise well-intentioned people can be stumble into an unintentional form of racism. From time-to-time, non-racist Christians can, and have, furthered the racist cause, even if they have done so inadvertently. 

In the first place, the New Age movement has had significant effect upon mainstream Christianity in recent years. As for the interracial relevance of the New Age, Charles Strozier observes:

New Age is a decidedly middle-class and white movement. There are few African Americans and hardly any Hispanics. As a religious movement it is open to everything except people who are genuinely different. ... This class and racial focus gives New Age an identity often lacking in the murky waters of the multicultural world of Catholic and Protestant churches; it also puts constraints on its potential for future development.[65] 

While one has reservations about referring to the so-called murky realm of multiculturalism, one would agree that New Age religion is essentially a monoculturalist movement, with little appeal to non-white, middle-class people. There is present, then, a risk for the Christian Churches in the affluent Western world, in which New Age thinking and spirituality is having ever-greater influence. New Age has raised an awareness of private spirituality that has been harnessed by many Churches. What is of concern, though, is that while New Age concerns itself well with liberation of the spirit, it does not address more tangible concerns of human liberation. From time to time, Christian churches have unwittingly alienated their members who may be of non-white, middle-class background, and whose personal poverty, race discrimination experience or other oppression make them hardly receptive to what may seem to them an egocentric spirituality. To those practising liberation theology, for example, New Age spiritualities must seem like decadent self-indulgence. Christians may be advised then, to beware of religious monoculturalism, which though not intended to be racist, tends in that direction by excluding certain racial and social groups from participating fully in the Church's life, spirituality and decision-making processes. 

At another end of the Christian spectrum, fundamentalist and ultraconservative movements also employ a monocultural outlook that effectively separates them from other races. In fundamentalist movements there exists a desire to keep culture and religion static and unchanging. This has often had the effect of rigidity when it comes to cross-racial and cross-cultural relations. By way of example, the Lefebvreite movement in Catholicism, with its strident adherence to the white-Eurocentric church of the 1950s, finds itself unappealing to those of other races, for whom such Eurocentric liturgies and theological thinking have no appeal. 

In conclusion, we can explore some themes on responding to racist theologies. From one perspective, racists share with fundamentalists a dislike for rational dialogue, so it is very hard to win over the ardent racist. On the other hand, it is not that difficult to preserve people from falling into the trap of racist Christianity, and we can present some ways in which this is possible. 

First, we emphasise the fact that there are a variety of racist theologies. Having identified some of the main types of racism, we can more effectively respond to those who espouse racist theology, but deny that are they are in fact racist. Clearly, most racists who repudiate in public the label “racist,” are in fact only repudiating one type of racism, normally that of supremacy, while they promote another form, such as separatism. 

In the second place, we find it helpful to note that what is at stake is not the sources used by racist theology. Racists use the same sources as orthodox Christianity. The contentious issue is methodology and the way in which sources are used. In this light, one can suggest, given Hitler's reflections on Christianity, that nothing is so dangerous to the racist cause than philosophers or saints.[66] If we extend Arendt’s political thesis about totalitarianism into the realm of spirituality, it would seem that religious fervour becomes misanthropic when mass movements replace personal communion with the divine with uncritical abandonment to totalist leadership. Such movements can be countered by those “saints” who maintain a personal spirituality that is based upon a personal love of God that translates into love of other humans. 

Spirituality, however, is intensely personal and not subject to formal education. As to upsetting Hitler’s intentions through philosophers, we suggest that the anti-racist cause can be assisted by promoting a positive view of humanity. We have noted in this paper that the philosophical-theological anthropology of racism is a negative theory of devolutionism. Within Christianity, a primary step in insulating people from racism is the embrace of a positive anthropology which expresses confidence in the goodness of humanity and our world and a confidence in the human ability to shape creation, including ourselves, both positively and constructively, working with God, rather than against God, as proposed by racists. One hastens to add that one need not adopt a naively positive view of humanity. That wickedness exists is self-evident in our world. However, what is necessary is a philosophy that not only seeks to preserve people from evil, but works positively and creatively for the betterment of humanity. 

We next propose that critical thinking can help to overcome the deficiencies of naive realism that permeates both racist and fundamentalist exegesis. Between reading scriptural data and making dogmatic assertions, young people and old need to be taught the intervening act of understanding that draws out the inner meaning of the text, rather than allowing the text to be subjected to the wiles of dogmatic manipulation. One would suggest that some form of critical theory must be part of the education curriculum, both for secondary as well as tertiary studies. One suggests that method in addition to content must form the part of any academic curriculum that produces citizens capable of resisting racism’s appeal.  

Lastly, we propose most strongly the implementation of a hermeneutic of solidarity to scripture, and other sources.[67] What we envisage by a hermeneutic of solidarity is that scripture will be interpreted and applied to the sort of society that we wish to create. We would trust that this sort of hermeneutic would avoid the excesses of the liberal presumption of automatic progress by working actively towards an envisaged goal. 

The first element of the hermeneutic of solidarity would not seek to keep humanity bound to the lowest common denominator. Rather, we would apply scripture in a manner that would drive us to the highest common factor. This methodology would avoid the racist urge to look backwards to what humanity has been like (or supposedly been like), by looking forwards to a common goal to which all can aspire and to which purpose we are called to assist one another in attaining. 

Secondly, a hermeneutic of solidarity would embrace a true democracy of intellect and achievement, in which ideas and contributions to society are welcomed, whether they emanate from society's dominant groups or not. Such social participation of all would ensure that society did not stagnate in the old ideas and way of life that would otherwise be maintained in the status quo. 

Thirdly, as implied in our first aim, a hermeneutic of solidarity would apply scripture to a vocation to identity with all people, rather than confrontation. Identity would, in the first place go beyond a Marxist class-struggle or the racist ethnic struggle. Rather, people would see themselves as bound to make the goals and aspirations of other people not only theirs to serve, but theirs in principle and practice, so that the good of one another is seen as the common good of the entire human race. 

One can be confident that if such a hermeneutic is introduced to the reading of scripture, many will be saved from falling into the otherwise seductive trap of racist theology. By doing so, we would go no small way to preventing the violent and abusive manifestations of hatred that have blighted society in the name of Christ. We trust that this article has both clarified for the reader what exactly is proposed by racist theologies and something of what thought processes are present in racist thinking. We would acknowledge readily that we cannot pretend that philosophy or theology alone can disarm those who fight the racist war in the name of Christ. There are of course, social psychological and other factors that foster such an approach to one's fellow human. However, we do propose that by being able to identify accurately and criticise racist theologies, we can serve humanity by removing at least one powerful weapon from the racist arsenal. 



Endnotes

 

[1] Howard Pankratz, Did McVeigh botch a larger plot? The Denver Post, March 29, 1997.

While McVeigh has not been identified as a formal member of these or other groups, his thinking and motivations for the bombing have certainly been formed by these movements.

[2] Stephanie Raethel and Agencies, Peddlers of hate must be silenced, Chan warns, Sydney Morning Herald, August 25, 1997; Karen Middleton, Race Debate blamed for Increasing Anti-Semitism, The Age, 27 February, 1997.

[3]US Army Training and Doctrine Command, Force Protection: Antiterrorism 1997, Fort Monroe Virginia. (Prepublication edition).

[4]Patsy Sims, The Klan, (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, Second Edition, 1996) xi.

[6]Ibid.

[9]On the question of sources, it has not been advisable for this paper to include a public statement of all sources. Moreover, this paper also uses a high number of electronic sources that give insight into the current state of affairs concerning racist theologies. To ensure that these electronic sources are accurate in their portrayal of racist theologies, this paper relies on primary sources disseminated by the racist movements themselves.

[10]This paper shall employ a liberal use of the term "Christian". We acknowledge some objection to calling “Christian” such groups as the Jehovah's Witnesses or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which are not regarded by outsiders as orthodox Christian churches. One also acknowledges the desire of many not to admit racists to the Christian fold. Notwithstanding these concerns, for this paper at least, "Christian" shall apply to those churches or movements who invoke the term for themselves and who take as divine revelation (either as the whole or part of their canon) those sources, most notably the Bible, which are also regarded as authoritative by mainstream Christianity.

[11] Inferiority of the Colored Bretheren, Watchtower, April 1 1914, 105-106.

[12] Can the Ethiopian Change his Skin? Watchtower, February 15, 1914, 52-53.

[13] Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Myth-Conceptions about the Church,

[14]Second Nephi, 5:21-22.

[15] Alma 3:6, First Nephi 12:23, Book of Mormon 5:15, Enos 20.

[16]Jacob 3:3, 3:9, Second Nephi 26:33.

[17]David Duke, "Race and Christianity.

[18]Ibid.

[19]Duke and many other racist Christians ignore the reality that according to the Christian scriptures, Jesus Christ was not of pure Israelite blood. His ancestress Ruth, for example, was a Moabite.

[20]Letter of D. F. Malan to Rev. John Piersma of the Oakdale Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan, 12 February 1954.

[21]Ibid.

[22]Bernard Lonergan, Method in Theology, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994), xi, 326-327. To be fair to Lonergan, the notion of progress and decline is Lonergan's. The notion of cultural evolution is this author's, though it is used in a manner faithful to Lonergan's intention.

[23]This fear corresponds to an anti-evolutionist stance that goes way beyond the anti-Darwinism of creationist Christians. Racists and many fundamentalist Christians hold in common a belief that positive human development is simply not possible, but that one can only maintain in stasis the societal reality that God has supposedly established. They hold that the only other option is human degeneration. We shall deal with this belief in more detail later.

[24]Bob Jones, Racial Integration, in Robert Campbell, Spectrum of Protestant Beliefs, (Milwaukee: Bruce, 1968), 68.

[25]Peter Peters, Martin Luther King Jr: His Dream, our Nightmare!, (La Porte CO: Scriptures for America Worldwide, nd)

[26]Pete Peters, The BIBLE: Handbook for Survivalists, Racists, Tax Protesters,  Militants and Right-Wing Extremists,

[27] cf. Matthew 1:5, and the mentions of Ruth and Rahab in Ruth 1 and Joshua 2.

[30]Richard McCulloch, The Racial Compact, A call for Racial Preservation, Racial Independence, Racial Rights and Racial Good Will.

[31]We may express this point from a slightly different perspective. If the maintenance of anti-intermarriage was a right, it would be a right that one could forgo in order to marry one of another race. Clearly, Christian Identity do not regard their racist position as a right, but as a law which should be upheld by coercive powers.

[32]Second Nephi 5:23

[33]David Duke, My Indian Odyssey

[34]Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, (Translated by Ralph Manheim, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1971. First published 1925, by Verlag Frz. Eher Nachf, G.M.B.H.), 286

[35]Duke Race and Christianity.

[36]David Duke, America at the Crossroads, Race and Christianity.

[37]cf. Danny Vierra, Is the Virgin Mary Dead or Alive? (Lodi, CA: Modern Manna Ministries), 72-73.

[38]Kingdom Identity Ministries, Doctrinal Statement.

[39]Bob Jones, in Campbell, Spectrum of Protestant Beliefs, 68.

[40]  "A single thread runs from the White house to the State Department to .... to secret societies to extreme New Agers. There must be a new world order. It must eliminate national sovereignty. ... To others there must be a complete elimination of Christianity, to some extreme New Agers there must be the deaths of two or three billion people in the Third World by the end of the decade." Pat Robertson, The New World Order, p6 cited in Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby, The Glory and the Power, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1992), 44.

[41]Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, North Salem IN. "White Civil Rights Now: End the Invisible Agenda to destroy the White Race." cf. http://www.k-k-k.com

[42]Peter Peters, Martin Luther King Jnr: His Dream, Our Nightmare!

[43]Duke, Christianity and Race; Peters, The Bible: Handbook for ... Extremists.

[44] Australia Confiscates Firearms --We're Next!

[45]Typically, those holding racist theologies will also advocate the death penalty for homosexuals.

[46]As cited by Christian Identity

[48]We note that the Worldwide Church of God has endured some recent internal reforms, and has split into several schismatic groups, some of which reject the British Israelite doctrine.

[49]Collins, A Rebuttal...

[50]Emry, Heirs of the Promise.

[51]The anti-Semites vary on this point. Some hold that Cain was the result of Eve's spiritual liaison with Satan. Others hold that Eve gave birth to the "sub-human" Jewish race by physical impregnation by Satan, or the Serpent. The point remains that these people preach that the Jews are Satan's children.

[52]Kingdom Identity Ministries, Doctrinal Statement; Aryan Nations, Aryan National Global Invitational.

[53] AE.C. Christian Fags?? I Don't Think So. New Kastle Kounty Knight Riders Klavern.

[54]Richard McBrien, Catholicism, (New Edition. North Blackburn, Victoria: Collins Dove, 1994), 1194.

[55]Bernard Lonergan, Method in Theology, 238-239, 363-264.

[56]Bernard Lonergan, Cognitional Structure, Collection, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988), 206-207, cf. Method in Theology, 239.

[57]Bernard Lonergan, Christology Today, A Third Collection, (New York: Paulist, 1985), 77.

[58]Jones, in R Campbell, Spectrum of Protestant Beliefs, 36.

[59]J. Mackay, The Origin of Races, Ex Nihilo, 6(1984):11, cited in Martin Bridgstock and Ken Smith (editors), Creationism: An Australian Perspective, (Manly, Sydney: Australian Skeptics, Revised third edition, reprinted 1989, originally published 1986), 88.

[60]Dobson, Hindson and Falwell, The Fundamentalist Phenomenon, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986), xiii, 3, 47.

[61]Also, fundamentalism lends itself to violence. Violent images are often used to portray fundamentalist victory, as can bee seen in common expressions, such as "God is raising an army", "Washing robes in the blood of the lamb" (Rev 7:14), and "Battles of Armageddon." The psychology of violence present in fundamentalism fertilises the disposition towards violence found in racist Christians.

[62]World Church of the Creator, Frequently Asked Questions.

[63]Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, 114-115.

[64]Hitler, Mein Kampf, 267, 379.

[65]Charles B. Strozier, Apocalypse, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1994), 224.

[66]cf. Hitler, Mein Kampf, 379.

[67]One will find elements of this hermeneutic of solidarity reflected in Bernard Lonergan's notion of "cosmopolis" as found in Insight, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992), 263-267.

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© Matthew C. Ogilvie. All rights reserved.

Citation:

Ogilvie, M.C. (2001). Children of a White God: A Study of Racist "Christian" Theologies. Human Nature Review. 1: 1-27.

 

 
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