David Ostendorf is a United Church of Christ Minister currently serving as Director of the Chicago-based Center for New Community. Since 1974 he has been engaged in social, economic, and racial justice organizing, and in that capacity has worked closely with the nation’s religious and civic community at every level. The Center, established in 1995, is committed to revitalizing communities through faith-based organizing initiatives and programs, and it works throughout the Midwest to counter organized hate group activity.
Christian Identity is a belief system so strange, indeed bizarre, that most Americans who know anything about it dismiss it outright and relegate those who believe it to the quaint and quirky fringes of the nation’s religious subcultures.
How seriously, for example, can one take the notion that God created Adam as a white man and that other races are sub-human? Or the belief that the lost tribes of Israel traversed Europe, landed in Great Britain, and crossed the Atlantic to inherit—as white Christian racialists—the promises of God? Or that Jesus came only to reach out to and save this particular “Israel,” comprised solely of white supremacists?
Little wonder that Americans do not take this ideology seriously, or that American Christians and their church leaders pay it scant attention. An occasional news story on the white supremacist movement may mention Christian Identity, and most readers quickly recognize the obligatory description of its basic racist and anti-Semitic beliefs.
In American history, and particularly in American Christian history, these ideas are not as bizarre as they may seem at first glance.