Religion and the Racist Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement
Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1997
From British – Israelism to Christian Identity
Translating the Bible into English had an enormous impact on Anglo-Saxon culture. Most importantly, Britons began to feel an identification with the characters of the Old Testament. This identification eventually created a movement called British-Israelism. The theology of British-Israelism and its racially-aware offshoot of Christian Identity is described by Michael Barkun in his 1997 book Religion and the Racist Right.
The concept behind British-Israelism is the belief that the British people are descended from the “10 Lost Tribes” of Israel. The 10 Lost Tribes disappeared from history after the northern part of Israel was conquered by the Assyrians. (This is described in the Old Testament’s Second Book of Kings.) As such, the British people are God’s “Chosen People” and are expected to play an important role in the final battle between good and evil within Christian eschatology.
The first theologian that advanced British-Israelism in this pure form was Richard Brothers (1757-1824). Brothers was a retired Royal Navy officer who had a vision that he was to lead the Jews back to Palestine, and those Jews were the 10 Lost Tribes and were British. Later in the middle of the 19th century, an Irishman named John Wilson (1799 – 1871) carried on the work of Brothers and published Lectures on Our Israelitish Origin in 1840. Through Wilson’s intense promotion, British-Israelism reached a broad audience of middle-class Britons.
British-Israelism flowchart. This chart has a philo-Semitic outlook. In the same way that British-Israelism influenced Christian Identity, it also paves the way for the Christian-Zionist movement where white American Protestants support Israel without question.
British-Israelism’s pattern was the following: in the British Isles, many of its lead writers and adherents were former military officers that were also well-educated members of the middle class. British-Israelism didn’t attempt to create its own church organization with a unique doctrine and an ability to ordain and excommunicate. Instead, adherents to the philosophy existed in nearly every Protestant denomination. Additionally, adherents came from every part of the British Isles. There was however, a heavy component among the Protestants in Northern Ireland. In Britain, the movement supported the British Establishment and the British Empire, and felt that actual Jews (of the two non-lost tribes) were partners to the Anglo-Saxons. It was thus a God-ordained destiny for the British to rule in Palestine and issue the Balfour Declaration, which identified Palestine as a Jewish homeland. In this sense, British-Israelism also paved the way for the more mainstream Christian Zionism.
British-Israelism made the jump to the United States through the work of US Army 1st Lieutenant C.A.L. Totten (1851-1908). In the United States, British-Israelism had some surface level similarities to the British movement. Like in Britain, the American version attracted former military officers, the concept initially latched on to numerous Protestant denominations without becoming a denomination in its own right, and Americans from all of the traditional regions (Yankee, Quaker-Midland, Scots-Irish Appalachian, etc.) endorsed the theology.
1st Lt. Totten influenced Howard Rand (1889-1991) and William J. Cameron. The latter two men lead the transition of British-Israelism to racially aware Christian Identity. British-Israelism was pro-Establishment and philo-Semitic. In America, the concept became anti-establishment and anti-Semitic. Essentially, the theological evolution of British-Israelism to Christian Identity is how Protestant Bible-believers mesh their identification with the characters of the Old Testament to the fact that American whites have a conflict of interest with Jews. (This will be described further below.)
In the late 1980s and 1990s this movement came on to the scene when a number of adherents, or at least people with substantial links to the theology, got involved in high-profile events. This includes Robert Mathews of The Order and Randy Weaver in the 1992 standoff in Ruby Ridge, Idaho. Lieutenant Colonel “Bo” Gritz, a third party candidate for President, served as a go-between between the FBI and Weaver. Bo Gritz had many Identity associates and through him Identity ideas got a wider hearing. Other high-profile Identity adherents included the preacher Lt. Col. William Potter Gale, (1917-1988), a former officer on the staff of Douglas MacArthur in the Pacific War. The most famous Identity preacher was Richard Girnt Butler (1918-2004). Butler had a large following in northern Idaho and he had a genius for public relations. He organized marches, distributed literature, and also got his message out during the Ruby Ridge situation.
Michael Barkun explains the theology in detail in his book and shows precisely how the ideas moved from the British Isles to the West Coast of the United States and beyond. There is so much detail that reading the ins and outs can get pretty boring. Barkun concludes that in the 1990s, the political right’s high-profile debacles enhanced the movement rather than discredited it.
In the big picture, British-Israelism morphed from a philo-Semitic pro-Establishment movement in Britain into the exact opposite in America, because in the United States Jews and American whites have a sharp conflict of interest. Howard Rand, for example drove British-Israelism towards its Christian Identity variant from the 1920s until the 1940s due to this conflict. In the 1920s, the conflict expressed itself by the fact that many Jews were involved in the very real Red Scare Communist agitation. In the 1930s, the conflict adjusted to the fact that Jews had moved into positions of power within the administration of FDR. In the 1940s, the conflict expressed itself in the clash over different ways of dealing with World War II and the subsequent Cold War. Every minute of these decades Jews worked to stir up blacks and other non-whites against American whites. Most recently, the inconvenient US Government shutdown in January 2018 started with a Jewish-led pro-“Dreamer” protest in Congress.
Another reason for the change was Jewish behavior in Palestine. When supporters of British-Israelism spoke of bringing the Jews to Palestine, what they meant was supporting the British Empire’s rule of the area. Instead what they got were Jewish terrorists working against British interests in the region despite Britain’s sacrifice in “saving” European Jewry during World War II. In the words of Barkun, “… [T]o repudiate the British role in Palestine was beyond forgiveness or understanding.” An account of what it was like to be a British patriot stationed in Mandate Palestine is found in Eric Lowe’s Forgotten Conscripts.
The Forgotten Conscripts on the Front Lines of Palestine
After World War I, the British added Palestine to their Empire. During World War I they promised a “homeland” to the Jews in Palestine in the Balfour Declaration. After World War II the British Colonial Authorities in Palestine realized that the Jewish immigrants in Palestine had gotten an inch but were taking a mile. Instead of a “homeland” in the British Empire where Anglos could protect the rights of Jews and Palestinians, the Jews wanted an independent state free of both Palestinians and British laws. The result was a nasty Zio-terrorist insurgency that ran throughout World War II, and picked up in intensity immediately after.
Eric Lowe was a British soldier in the Royal Army Ordinance Corp in Palestine just after World War II. He collected a series of accounts from his fellow draftees serving there and his book shows the Zio-terrorist insurrection through the eyes of short-term, low ranking British draftees.
Several concepts stand out. First off, the Jews were the cause of the insurgency. If it were only Arabs, the British would have had no issues. Then, while many of the troops, especially airborne soldiers, had served in World War II against Hitler, they were still called “Nazis” and “anti-Semites” by the local Jewish population. Additionally, the Jewish terrorists operated with no moral boundaries. They killed Jews to stop British efforts with no second thoughts.
There are also shades of present-day injustices in late 1940s Palestine: Jewish “refugee” flows from 1945 to 1948 often consisted of physically fit military-age young men. The Jews were also politically protected and supported by the most powerful national rulers of the time. The British eventually realized that no Jew, even the ones employed by the Colonial Government could be trusted.
The British deployment in Palestine following World War II is every bit a forgotten war. Lowe writes, “When newspapers listed post-war conflicts they didn’t include Palestine. Even the BBC omitted it from every Armistice Sunday broadcast.” Nonetheless, the forgotten British conscripts in Palestine were the last guardians against the world’s most predatory people being able to setup a morally bankrupt thug nation in the Levant.
Simply put, British-Israelist preachers imagining themselves bringing about the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy watched the affair in Palestine with horror. Christian Identity became ascendant.
The Round and Round of Protestantism
There is probably an evolutionary reason for why human societies develop religion. There is probably a reproductive advantage, and it could also be a spinoff from human intelligence and imagination. There is also probably an evolutionary reason why one society or another causes its religion to change through reformations, schisms, heresies, and the like. There is probably an ethnic reason why northern Europe became Protestant while southern Europe stayed Catholic.
Religious reforms also come with a raft of new ideas that influence the outlook of the entire society. For example, all Calvinist societies have become industrious following the logic of predestination. Martin Luther’s 95 Theses was written in Latin and its original goal was to change one particular policy within organized Christianity. Martin Luther’s ideas regarding Vatican policy led to a re-evaluation of many things. One of them is the idea that reformed Protestantism would lead Jews to Christianity. In 1523 Luther wrote the book That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew arguing that very point. It did not work; experience tore away at Luther’s illusions. Two decades later he published On the Jews and Their Lies.
The Baby Boomer version of Evangelical Protestantism is much like Martin Luther’s early ideas. Congregations like John Hagee’s Cornerstone Church is out-and-out philo-Semitic. Evangelical superstar Edith Schaeffer (1914-2013) wrote Christianity is Jewish in 1975. In the same way that Luther changed his views from pro- to anti-Jewish, the Evangelical grandchildren of the Boomers will also change their views. Theologies which lead away from reality based on a new idea will go round and round until they get back to truth. In other words, real-world conflicts of interests cause British-Israelism to become Christian Identity.
Actions have Consequences
In the case of Eric Lowe, it is important to emphasize the obvious idea that actions have consequences. Lowe’s story shows that the behavior of Zionist Jews during the British Mandate in Palestine changed the views of originally sympathetic soldiers. Of course, all nations are born in blood and one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, but Israel’s behavior as an existing state is every bit as deadly, duplicitous, and morally empty today as it was in the 1940s. Israel, then as now, is also not an economically productive state, it exists based on handouts from Europe and North America. Israel’s “wealth” is a fraud. Furthermore Israeli and Diaspora Jews are behaving in the same way today as in the 1940s. They can get away with this when they are only harming conscripts in one corner of an Empire wracked with colonial wars, but eventually the wrong party will get offended and there will be a serious response.
In other words, British-Israelism leads to Christian Identity.
 He was probably a Northern Irish Protestant. Wilson’s father was a weaver.
 https://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-7682027.html Howard Rand is a literal Yankee (i.e. descended from Puritan settlers in New England and arriving with Governor Winthrop.) His family is among the earliest settlers to Vermont. In the United States the sharpest American critics of Jewry are from this group.
 Less is known of the life of William J. Cameron. Possibly a pen name.
 Randy and Vicky Weaver were adherents to Christian Identity. In a letter dated January 22, 1991, Vicky wrote the US Attorney stating in part, “A man cannot have two masters. Yahweh Yahshua Messiah, the anointed One of Saxon Israel is our law giver and our King. We will obey Him and no others … ‘a long forgotten wind is starting to blow. Do you hear the approaching thunder? It is that of the awakened Saxon. War is upon the land. The tyrants (sic) blood will flow.” This lingo is filled with Christian Identity eschatological concepts. https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/opr/legacy/2006/11/09/rubyreport40_84.pdf
 William Potter Gale was accused of being partially Jewish. I haven’t been able to find any information that confirms or denies this for certain. Those who accused Gale of partial Jewish ancestry were not sympathetic to his aims and understood that accusations of Jewish blood would harm his work. Because he originated in North Dakota – not a primary destination for Jewish immigrants – one might suspect that he was a Russian-German, however definitive, unbiased info is unavailable. His mother was of English origin. It is certain he was not Jewish under Jewish law.
 Barkun, Michael. Religion and the Racist Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1997), p. 146.
 Lowe, Eric. Forgotten Conscripts: Prelude to Palestine’s Struggle for Survival (Vancouver, BC: Trafford Publishing, 2007), p. VI