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Religion and the Racist Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement Paperback – December 15, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

While the Christian Identity cult is numerically insignificant, its ideology informs and influences American racist powers of every stripe. Identity's bizarre conceptual stew stirs together peculiar interpretations of biblical scripture to "prove" inherent Caucasian superiority. Its literal demonization of Jews fuels not only white racist groups such as WAR but also Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam. Barkun (political science, Syracuse Univ.) here proffers the first sustained study of Identity from its origins in 19th-century British-Israelism, which held that the Anglo-Saxons were the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. While James Aho's fine Politics of Righteousness (Univ. of Washington Pr., 1990) addresses Identity's political activity, this work remains the only complete analysis of its more pervasive religious teachings. Essential to every academic collection concerned with racism, anti-Semitism, and American religious cults.
Bill Piekarski, Southwestern Coll. Lib., Chula Vista, Cal.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

A fascinating and terrifying account that is at once a work of academic scholarship and a startling expos‚ of a particularly virulent form of religious extremism. Barkun (Political Science/Syracuse Univ.) examines the origins and ideology of the so-called Christian Identity Movement. This small movement (upper-range estimates figure its adherents at no more than 50,000 and lower guesses say they number only 2,000) has nevertheless succeeded in dominating the discourse of the extreme right--even among groups not even distantly related to it. White supremacist and anti-Semitic, the Christian Identity Movement (composed of groups like the Aryan Nation, the Posse Comitatus, and David Duke's element of the Ku Klux Klan, among others) has three core beliefs--whites are the true descendants of the biblical Israelites and as such have a providential role to fulfill; Jews are unrelated to the biblical Israelites and are instead the spawn of Satan; and the world is on the verge of a fiery apocalypse in which the Aryans must battle the Jews and their allies to redeem the world. In this last regard, the Israel of the traditional apocalyptic accounts becomes identified with the United States rather than the ancient land of Palestine. Barkun convincingly demonstrates the direct roots of these Christian Identity groups in an obscure school of 19th-century thought in England known as British-Israelism. This philosophy saw Britons as the descendants of the ten lost tribes of Israel, and thus linked to the Jews, with a role as a chosen people. Unlike its violent American progeny, however, the previous movement was not anti-Semitic and, in fact, recognized a kinship with Jews. Compelling and well presented, this volume deserves to be read by anyone concerned with Christian or political extremism in America. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 330 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; revised edition (December 15, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807846384
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807846384
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #576,687 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I originally picked up this book get some background on the Church of Latter Day Saints. I'm in no way anti-Mormon (though I disagree with most political beliefs generally associated with them), but they are among the most interesting contributions to world culture that the United States has, willy-nilly, made. The first chapter "the Origins of British-Israelism" was especially helpful, though the Saints are occasionally mentioned throughout, and, I would like to say, not in a pejorative way.This chapter also was useful in getting some insight into some Black American thought I was encountering while working in a Black majority culture. Again, though Blacks are hardly mentioned, I was able to construe some of the mythological thinking I'd encountered using the historical material found in this book.

Latterly I've been reading quite a bit in areas of 19th and 20th C history that cause me to bump up against some pretty virulent anti-Jewish "thought", if that's the right word, and I've come to wonder how likely or, perhaps, inherent these fallacies might be among those who start questioning what they see around them. "Anti-Semitism", as we usually call it, seems to be a common trait of the alienated, a trait that perhaps arises from the nature of alienation in Mediterranean-derived cultures (as even Germany, Russia and Britain are). The author covers a lot of groups given to this sort of fear-mongering subculture, and he does it with the minimum of rancor and dogmaticism.

An example would be his treatment of the Ecotopia movement that was intermittently heard of in the US Northwest. I myself have some sympathy to some of the ideas some of these people have, and I can say that the author in no way threw out the baby with the bathwater here.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you're older you can relate to things that happened in the past to the relative things happening today. People just aren't aware of the facts today and need to read books like this to make decisions about racism and the very far right....
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Format: Hardcover
While I highly enjoyed this book and found it meticulously, yet engagingly, researched, I will try to refrain from repeating what other reviewers have already stated. What I would like to add, is that I was unexpectedly impressed with the tortuous connections Barkun unearthed between the Identity/British-Israel sects/movements and other strains of Protestants and Pentecostals. I felt that I learned not only about Identity, but also gained a wider perspective on America's colorful religious history. Barkun also did an admirable job of maintaining a degree of objectivity and emotional distance from his subject, preventing a preachy or moralistic tone from overwhelming the book.
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Format: Paperback
Professor Barkun has certainly done his research in this exhaustive project on the linkage between Anglo-Israelism and Christian Identity. I found the sections on the demonization of the Jews the most relevent explanation of Identity doctrine I've ever seen. By looking at early Identity founders such as William Potter Gale and Wesley Swift, Professor Barkun does a great job of showing how Identity has morphed into its present form. He did his research, which is heavily footnoted. The only problem I have with this book is his tendency to overstate the obvious-again and again. Overall, a must read for anyone interested in the religious ultraright.
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For school.
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"Religion and the Racist Right" traces the origins and
development of the Christian Identity movement, a particularly
virulent strain of racist theology that constitutes the
religious undergirding of many violence prone white supremacists
groups on the radical right of our political culture. These are
groups like the Ku Klux Klan, the Aryan Nations, the Order, the
Posse Comitatus, and the Militias. The author, Michael Barkun,
also argues that Identity doctrine is conspicuous within the
circles of David Duke supporters.

Mr. Barkun finds the origin of Identity within a distant and
little known 19th century religious movement called British
Israelism. This movement emerged from within Victorian English
Protestant circles and claimed that the British were descendants
of the "lost ten tribes" of Israel. Barkun then asks, and sets
about to answer the question as to how this rather curious
notion devolved into the three central religious doctrines of
Christian Identity; first and most important, that the Jews are
the literal biological offspring of Satan who have from the
beginning of time been engaged in a cosmic conspiracy to rob the
white race of its birthright as the true "chosen people of God";
that the white "Aryans" are descendants of the biblical tribes
of Israel; and that the world is on the verge of a final,
apocalyptic struggle between good and evil, in which Aryans do
battle with the Jewish conspiracy and its allies so that the
world can be redeemed.

The question is important because, as Mr.
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