. hern France; he wrote that Jews are “more perfidious and faithless than demons.” (20) Persecution of Jews continued right into the Reformation and became more vicious. Identification of Jews with Satan became increasingly explicit. Erasmus (1466-1536), the Dutch philosopher and theologian, wrote, “If it is the part of a good Christian to detest the Jews, then we are all good Christians.” (21) Lest one should place all this anti-Semitism at the door of the Catholic Church, no less a Protestant hero than Martin Luther denounced Jews as children of the devil.
In 1542 Luther published Against the Jews and Their Lies, a 200-page rant which includes the following: Know, O adored Christ, and make no mistake, that aside from the Devil, you have no enemy more venomous, more desperate, more bitter, than a true Jew who truly seeks to be a Jew… Now, whoever wishes to accept venomous serpents, desperate enemies of the Lord, and to honor them, to let himself be robbed, pillaged, corrupted, and cursed by them, need only turn to the Jews.(22) Later, Luther added, “In short, they are children of the devil, condemned to the flames of hell …
” (23) German writers in the 1500s and 1600s followed Luther’s lead, producing pamphlets with titles such as The Sack of Jewish Serpents. (24) Centuries later, Hitler quoted Luther to justify his “final solution” to the “Jewish problem.” Unfortunately, Christian anti-Semitism cannot be assigned entirely to the past; anti-Semitism has always lurked inside Christianity, sometimes at its center, sometimes at its fringes. The 1930s, for example, was a period of rising international anti-Semitism which ultimately resulted in the Holocaust, and nominal Christians were active participants.
Kansas evangelist Gerald Winrod (1900-1957), founder of the Defenders of the Christian Faith, and third-party presidential candidate Gerald L.K. Smith (1898-1976), who called himself a Baptist minister, preached vicious anti-Semitism in a decade when Americans were looking for scapegoats to make sense of suffering caused by the Depression.In Smith’s magazine The Cross and the Flag, he taught that Jews are in fact “sons of Satan.
” (25) Smith continued preaching and publishing until his death in 1976. Winrod and Smith were both sons of evangelical preachers, but both ended up as supporters of Hitler and opponents of American participation in World War II. Smith, who began his career as an organizer for Louisiana populist Huey Long, argued that Jews hated Hitler because the fuhrer was a devout, Bible-believing Christian. (26) After Long’s assassination, Smith moved back to his native midwest and received 32,000 votes in Michigan’s 1942 U.S.
Senate election.He ran for president in 1944. Three years later, Smith founded the Christian Nationalist Crusade, moving in 1953 to Los Angeles, home of the nascent “Christian Identity” movement in the 1950s, where he published tracts with titles such as “Jews Strive for World Control.” (27) Gerald Winrod believed in a Jewish conspiracy to control the world and dabbled in electoral politics. In 1938 Winrod gained 22 percent of the vote as a candidate for the U.
S. Senate from Kansas. His Defender magazine reached 100,000 readers in the 1930s.
A fervent supporter of Hitler, Winrod was indicted for sedition in 1942, but the case ended in a mistrial. (28) Unfortunately, Christian anti-Semitism did not end with Hitler’s defeat; even today, vicious anti-Semitism persists among some Christians. Right-wing preacher David Chilton, who is not a Christian Identity preacher, says, “Israel has become a demon possessed.” (29) Dr.
Gary North, a “Christian Reconstructionist” and founder of the Institute for Christian Economics, looks forward to the day when Israel is “pushed into the sea by the Arabs…” (30) Christian Identity doesn’t have a single, “charismatic” leader. Almost everyone in the movement, including its “pastors,” comes from a traditional Christian background.
(31) Hundreds of small Identity churches have popped up all over the United States. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group which keeps track of such things, reports that Identity churches are in thirty-three states as well as Canada, England, South Africa and Australia. (32) Identity claims 30,000 hardcore believers and possibly has 400,000 sympathizers. (33) It reaches millions across North America through the Internet and shortwave radio. Explaining Identity can be somewhat like nailing Jello to a tree.
Identity churches and pastors differ over the most minute doctrinal details. They prize their independence of each other; no single church or leader has the power to impose doctrinal orthodoxy. Some believers wear suits and ties; others wear combat fatigues. Some appear on Christian television while others are wanted by the FBI. Yet the movement is united in its essential, bizarre beliefs: that white, Anglo-Saxon people are the true Israel chosen of God; that black people are animals without souls; and that Jews are descended directly from Satan himself and are not human.They believe that Satan, through Cain, is the father of the Jews, who are a hybrid, demonic, non-human race. “True” Israel is the white, Anglo-Saxon peoples, who supposedly moved north and west from Old Testament Israel after the Assyrian conquest in 722 B.C.
Adam, Noah, Abraham, David and Jesus were white Anglo-Saxons. Identity cites John 8:44, where Jesus tells his enemies, “the Jews,” that they belong to “their father,” the devil. Identity teachers believe this applies to all Jews, not merely the handful of Pharisees Jesus was addressing (John 8:13). Because Jews are descended from Satan, Identity believers reason, Jews are not human, and they don’t have souls.
Identity provides theological unity and justification to paramilitary groups such as the Aryan Nations, the Posse Comitatus, and many but not all neo-Nazi, Klan and militia groups. As a religion underpinning and uniting these militant and terrorist groups, Christian Identity provides violent racists and anti-Semites with the dangerous illusion that they are on a mission from God. Both Timothy McVeigh (the Oklahoma City Bomber) and Eric Rudolph (the Atlanta Olympic/Birmingham abortion clinic bomber) were exposed to and familiar with Christian Identity. McVeigh had contacts with an Identity paramilitary compound in the Ozarks, while Rudolph is thought to be a “full-blown” believer. In one sense, Identity is a “brand new thing.” Formal Christian Identity doctrinal statements and organization into churches is barely thirty years old. On the other hand, all the elements of Identity beliefs are ancient.
The identification of Jews with the devil goes back at least to the Middle Ages. For sixteen hundred years, anti-Semitism has persisted in some branches of Christianity, and there is no evidence to indicate that it will cease at any time in the foreseeable future. Bibliography 1. Hannah Vogt, The Jews: A Chronicle for Christian Conscience, trans. Peter Jacobsohn (New York: Association Press, 1967), p. 47.2.
Quoted in Leon Poliakov, The History of Anti-Semitism, Volume One: From the Time of Christ to the Court Jews, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Vanguard Press, 1965), p. 25. 3.Ibid. 4. Vogt, p.
36. 5.Quoted in Poliakov, p. 52.
6. Hal Lindsey, The Road to Holocaust (New York: Bantam Books, 1989), p. 21. 7.Poliakov, pp. 99-100. 8. Ibid.
, pp. 102-103.9.
Quoted in Vogt, p. 58. 10. Quoted in Poliakov, p. 64. 11.Poliakov, p. 66.
12. Ibid., p. 58.
13. Ibid., pp.
62-63. 14. Vogt, pp. 121-122.15. Leonard Dinnerstein, Antisemitism in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), p. 101. 16.
Glen Jeansonne, Women of the Far Right: The Mothers’ Movement and World War II (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), p. 32. 17. Richard Abanes, American Militias: Rebellion, Racism & Religion (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), pp.135-136. 18. Lindsey, p. 21.
19. Poliakov, p.128. 20. Quoted in Poliakov, p. 153.
21. Ibid., p.123. 22. Ibid., p.
, p. 219. 24. Poliakov, p. 24.25. Quoted in Michael Barkun, Religion and the Racist Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1994), p.
56. 26. Jeansonne, p.34.
27. John George and Laird Wilcox, American Extremists: Militias, Supremacists, Klansmen, Communists & Others (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1996), p. 38. 28. Ibid., pp.34-35.
29. Quoted in Lindsey, p. 25. 30.
Ibid., p.111. 31. Barkun, p.
187. 32.Jack Levin and Jack McDevitt, Hate Crimes: The Rising Tide of Bigotry and Bloodshed (New York: Plenum Press, 1993), p. 111 33.
Abanes, p. 155.