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

3.7 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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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: #1,057,004 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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Format: Paperback
This book is a thorough and fascinating (in a skin-crawly kind of way) look at the origins of Christian Identity, tracing it back to its British-Israelism roots in the nineteenth century. The author narrowly focuses on the theological elements in this discussion for most of the book and the how or why which made people believe these quite paranoid, delusional or hate-filled things is left out of the discussion. This book is about what they believed and not why. But that really would not fit into this book (and would take several on its own account). This book also does not go beyond British Isrealism or the Christian Identity into other ways in which the right, religion and rascism all connect. But what this book does cover, it does so masterfully and the research is impressive and important. An read for anyone interested in the right wing fringes of society in a "know thy enemy" sort of way.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While I was hoping that Barkun's work would be written with an even hand, it is plain to see that it was not. Himself being an alleged Ashkenazic anit-Christ, it didn't surprise me that he lied to his readers within the first five pages of this book's preface. On page xi of same Barkun pens "...I have for the most part sought to suspend my personal views in order to reconstruct as accurately as possible the movement's story". However, on the first page of his preface he uses words such as "strange", "deviant", "spurious", and "radical" to set the stage to "bend" the mind of the naïve and unknowing reader to his warped way of thinking. Similar "adjectives" are used throughout this written monstrosity. It is obvious to those who have done their own homework on what society incorrectly calls "Christian Identity" that Barkun "conveniently" fails to include the fact that there are many pastors/congregations within the folds of those who adhere to the Gospel of the Kingdom that do not embrace "dual seedline" beliefs or agree with those who submit the idea that the angelic fallen spoken of in Genesis and the Revelation arrived here in "U.F.O.s" or similar "spacecrafts". As I forced myself to continue reading this "work" which would garner the "praise" of the leftist Southern Poverty Law Center and its minions, I wasn't the least surprised to find that Barkun kept his "research" to the materials written by "theorists" and "historians" but NEVER attempted to show the verses in the Holy Scriptures that actually justify the beliefs those who are labeled "Identists" have.Read more ›
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