Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Beliefs Drive Racial Hatred, Violence against the 'Damned.' (Right-Wing Fanatics)

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Beliefs Drive Racial Hatred, Violence against the 'Damned.' (Right-Wing Fanatics)

Article excerpt

A hundred years of solitude wouldn't mellow white supremacist David Lane, a jailhouse theologian who was convicted of racketeering and conspiracy and of violating the-civil rights of slain Jewish talk show host Alan Berg. Serving a 190-year sentence has only fine-tuned Lane's theology of hate.

"I am the symbol that is going to stop the Judeo-American murder of the white race," he said with messianic fervor from the U.S. Penitentiary at Florence, Colo. "Killing is always justified for the preservation of your kind."

Aryan Nations leader Mark Thomas speaks in the measured cadences of a college professor. On sabbatical from aggressive organizing for the white supremacist. group, Thomas says these days he's devoting more of his time to study and reflection.

"We believe that today we are living in the kingdom of Satan and that war does involve the taking of human life," said Thomas, who lives with his family on a 25-acre farm near Allentown, Pa. "We're God's servant nation. We're here with a job to do and (it is) a dirty job."

Tuning out the voices of right-wing extremists is tempting, particularly when they adopt the language of faith. But religion, whether a little-known tradition called Christian Identity or a radical strain of Mormonism, is a prime motivator of groups on the right-wing fringe. Their belief systems drive racial hatred and define a world of the saved and the damned. They provide justification for violent acts against Jews, blacks, homosexuals and the federal government.

History has shown that ignoring such views for fear of legitimizing them or dismissing them as a camouflage for a political agenda can lead to tragic miscalculations. Scholars who study the Branch Davidians believe that the Waco, Texas, debacle might have been avoided had federal authorities taken seriously the deeply held religious beliefs that drove David Koresh. And they may well take heed of David Lane's white supremacist lament.

"We are backed into a corner," said Lane, who admired Koresh's apocalyptic theology while rejecting his multiracial community. "We are denied white nations, schools, organizations and everything necessary for our survival (and) biological and cultural identity. All destructive institutions must be destroyed ... or there will never be order or peace. To get there is not going to be pleasant."

His views may sound crazy to the uninformed, Lane acknowledges. But what seem like discordant rantings can add up to coherent belief systems that are as varied as their believers.

Some neo-Nazis are trying to re-create the Nordic pagan religions. In eastern Idaho, extremist interpretations of Mormon doctrine fuel conspiracy theories and provide the moral framework for an antigovernment agenda. Self-declared Christian Patriots in the militias embrace a fundamentalist doctrine that drives their belief that the U.S. Constitution is divinely inspired.

Lane and Thomas have been key figures in the Christian Identity movement, a force behind the violence-prone segment of the radical right.

The Klanwatch Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center estimates that 20,000 people in the United States are followers of Christian Identity, which bears little resemblance to the orthodox tradition. On Saturdays and Sundays worshipers convene in trailers and churches, like Pete Peters' Church of Jesus Christ Christian, an Aryan Nations congregation in LaPorte, Colo., that draws large crowds each week. Others gather in their homes for small, often secretive, Bible study groups scattered throughout the country.

"There are thousands of groups like ours," said one Christian Identity adherent who asked not to be identified. "But you'll never find out where we are."

Thomas, who was raised "a nominal Episcopalian," said he flirted with agnosticism and "born-again" Christianity before a friend he worked with in the trucking business introduced him to Christian Identity. …

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