10 abortion and will accept as my comrade any man or woman of whatever race who joins me in this fight. Racial determinism is a day before yesterday idea, a product of 19th century Darwinism, and its obsession with biological determinism. We are not our bodies, but rather we are spirits on a temporary sojourn in the world of flesh.”41 Whatever the state of Rudolph’s current beliefs, it also is true that his mother, Patricia Rudolph, had flirted with Christian Identity and filled her home with a wide range of movement literature, including white supremacist and neo-Nazi tracts—some of which may have inspired a ninth grade essay reportedly written by Eric Rudolph denying the Holocaust. Rudolph also claimed affiliation with anti-abortion group The Army of God, a biblically-inspired underground network of anti-abortion extremists whose supporters advocate the “justifiable homicide” of abortion clinic doctors and others. Although Rudolph has not admitted to sending them, two letters received by investigators and a television station claimed the Sandy Springs and Otherside Lounge bombings were “carried out by units of the Army of God.” Other lone wolf attacks carried out by Identity believers and related white supremacists are far too numerous to list here, but are discussed widely in the literature enumerating the criminal activity associated with the neo-Nazi movement.
THE PHINEHAS PRIESTHOOD Like their corollaries in the violent wing of the antiabortion movement, many Christian Identity adherents place great significance on the story of Phinehas, which appears in the Book of Numbers, Chapter 25. According to the Hebrew Bible, while wandering in the desert, unfaithful Israelite leaders took up the forbidden practice of Baal-worship and also had sexual relations with women of neighboring tribes. This prompted God’s wrath and a plague. In order to expiate themselves from these sins, God commanded Moses to execute the apostate leaders, but before he could carry out the command, Phinehas—a descendant of Hebrew priestly lineage—grabbed a spear and executed a prominent Israelite, Zimri, whom Phinehas had spied engaging in sex with a Midianite woman, Cozbi. The plague against Israel was lifted and Phinehas received high praise for his actions. Some extremists advocate the concept of a modern day “Phinehas Priesthood” that would act similarly to punish race-mixing and other transgressions, including homosexuality, abortion, and usury. Advocates include men like Richard Kelly Hoskins (author of “Vigilantes of Christendom: The Story of the Phineas Priesthood”), who asserts that Phinehas was justified in killing Zimri
and Cozbi because they were engaged in “inter-racial sex,” and Byron DeLa Beckwith, the convicted murderer of Mississippi NAACP leader Medgar Evers in 1963. DeLa Beckwith was a self-proclaimed Identity adherent and has been hailed by white supremacists as a “member” of the Phinehas Priesthood. As articulated by “Pastor” Pete Peters, a proponent of Identity theology since the late 1970s, “a bigot and a racist is another great hero of the Bible…His name was Phinehas a man who understood God’s law on interracial marriage and integration.”42 According to Zeskind, while it is important to note that many Identity adherents see Phinehas as a hero and seek to emulate his actions—as do many advocates of violence against abortion clinics—rabbinical commentaries on the Phinehas text have not necessarily treated him kindly, and instead, explicitly noted that Phinehas set a dangerous precedent by engaging in vigilantism.
RESEARCH FINDINGS As previously noted, the content of this chapter is based on diverse sources, including interviews with journalists, scholars, former law enforcement officers, and independent experts. The following findings are based on interviews conducted with Michael German, Mark Potok, and Leonard Zeskind, as well as the author’s research and independent expertise. Each of the interviewees was asked a series of key questions, the answers to which are presented below. What makes the message so attractive to those who join or support extremist movements or commit violent acts as a result of belief in a radical religious ideology? While the religious content of Christian Identity is important, one of the most attractive aspects of what is communicated, according to Zeskind, is the use of theology in support of a particular idea of civilization. In this way, theology is invoked in defense of the way things should be, religious beliefs are used to justify the fight for a better world, and God is seen as a defender of a set of idealized beliefs about how society should be organized. As German points out, the religious nature of the message also conveys a sense of personal obligation and responsibility to act: “Essentially it says, `We’ve educated you, you’ve accepted this and now you have to take action.” The message is compelling because it presents an opportunity for genuine obedience to God’s commands. “The notion that men must be obedient to a `higher law’—to God’s law, in particular—is accepted without question throughout the violent wing of the movement. Claiming that their actions are a form of obedience to
Peters, The Bible Handbook, 4-5.
Published on Jul 23, 2010