That Christian Identity Thing

By Patricia Neill, (c) 1998



Well, what can I say? There is so much froth and tither and angst about this subject that I am curious to learn more. I get distressed when people react emotionally to something that can simply be investigated and then either regarded and considered, or disregarded, or even that rarest of reactions, accepting the good, workable, plausible notions inherent in the overall concept and rejecting the bits that obviously are the flimsiest goods of horsefeather merchants. So, rather than reject this CI thang outright, I'm going to look into it.

I did the same thing with the occult, that is, I researched it, read about it, talked to people about it, went to Lillydale, NY (a town of practioners of what used to be the very strange, although what with the New Age, is rather common today). Some interesting and even rather feasible ideas turned up as well as a huge mash of galloping balderdash. I did the same with the politics of Mr. Lyndon LaRouche, with the Democratic Socialists of America, the Eastern Star, and frankly, with a whole host of other ideologies, concepts, religious ideas and political movements.

So why not, at the very least, take a gander at Christian Identity?

With Joseph Sobran, I too have wondered why I am not allowed to even ask questions about the Holocaust. It bothers me, pure and simple, if I even ask innocent, "I just want to understand" questions, that I may be vilified. As Sobran said, we're all free to deny that Napoleon invaded Russia, though we might be deemed a bit kooky. There's no danger to it otherwise. But inquire about the details of the Holocaust, and in some places, you get tossed in the hoosegow. That's plain weird, in my book.

Reminds me of my Baptist upbringing, where I was frowned upon in Sunday school for asking questions about the Baptist doctrine that Jesus only drank unfermented grape juice. Since we had to read the Bible daily, I looked, and could find nothing whatsoever about unfermented grape juice and a whole lot about wine. What kind of a first miracle would turning water into unfermented grape juice be for pete's sake? On the order of a mom making Koolaid, it seemed to me. So up went my little insistent hand, and I opened my big mouth and expressed all this and more. My father, a Deacon in the church at the time, whacked me for asking these (common-sensical) questions. Hmmmmmmph! Sniff.

Similarly, if I even question why America has a Holocaust Museum on our shores, seeing as we didn't commit the Holocaust -- and for that matter, why we don't have a museum for the Irish Famine, especially since a helluva lot of Irish made it here, and despite "No Irish Need Apply" we built the Erie Canal and half the railroads. Or what about a museum for the genocide of Native Americans, or any other of a number of awful events -- why am I likely to be metaphorically spanked and sent to the corner -- not for condemning the fact of a Holocaust Museum, but just for asking questions?

Which brings me to the next touchy subject, Christian Identity. Frankly, for a long time, I simply ignored any information having to do with it. It was one of those cranky, get you in trouble issues. Also, it didn't interest me much. And, more honestly, I'm Irish-American and proud of it (can you tell?) and didn't want to picture myself as some wan member of a long lost tribe of Judah or something. That seemed ridiculous and a very slim chance at the best.

But a little while ago, I just up'd and decided to do a little research into what Christian Identity actually is -- disregard the fiery propaganda both for and against -- and see for myself what the hell it is all about. I've started with Arthur Koestler's The Thirteenth Tribe: The Khazar Empire and Its Heritage, which I'm reading now. It's fascinating. I have read many of Mr. Koestler's books, and have long admired the depth, agility and the steadiness of his scholarship. Koestler himself was Jewish, which adds a bit of piquant interest to this book. I don't know what all I may think of it when I'm through, but I'll let y'all know.

There are a good many people I respect and esteem for many reasons who lean towards Christian Identity, if they haven't already adopted its teachings. These are bright, strong-minded, intelligent, good-hearted, think-for-themselves folks. They don't seem to me -- at least, in my knowledge of them -- to be driven by racism or anything else so brutally stupid. For me, I consider all pre-judgment stupid. Racism and all the other -isms are simply ways of not considering individuals, and it is individuals and individualism that I cherish. I also admire a great many people -- and for all the same reasons, their fine minds, their humor, their hearts, their fire, who find the doctrines of CI abhorrent.

I want to know why. And I want to know why I have dear friends on both sides of this divide. None of this means that I can do much about the divide, but at least I'll understand it more.

So, true heretic that I am, I am going to look as deeply as I can into one camp, and then to strive to understand the other, and then (*gasp*) to make up my own mind. Needless to say, I'll probably also get whacked for this purely idiosyncratic individualistic step as well.

Makes the world go 'round, though, don't it? At least *I* have fun.

If this column bothers you, or you have any questions, commentary, some stake you want to tie me too and have a bonfire, please address your comments to my secretary, Miz Ditz at : )

Patricia Neill



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