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‘Blood and Faith’: A new book links white nationalists to Christianity

White supremacy demonstrators clash with counter demonstrators at the entrance to Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

(RNS) — There were no burning crosses or other hijacked symbols of religion on obvious display when white nationalists descended on Charlottesville, Va., earlier this month chanting “blood and soil,” a slogan dug up from the dredges of Nazism.

But Damon T. Berry, an assistant professor of religious studies at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y.,  says the links between white nationalists and religion — especially Christianity — were there.

In his new book, “Blood & Faith: Christianity in American White Nationalism,” Berry traces how white nationalists — who believe whites are superior to other races and promote a whites-only vision of America — have cherry-picked Scripture to craft their exclusive ideology. He spoke about the book and the rise of Christian white supremacists with Religion News Service.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Let’s start off by defining white nationalists. How are they different from white supremacists, neo-Nazis or the “alt-right”?

This is where it gets fuzzy. The internal distinctions can be quite complicated and for outsiders they tend to bleed together. I distinguish white nationalists as those oriented to an ideology I call “racial protection.” Their major focus is on the protection of the white race against what they see as a coming genocide and on the preservation of a “white homeland.” Those in the alt-right are very often also white nationalists, so white nationalist is a big-tent term.

How many white nationalists have links to religion? And is that religion always Christianity?

“Blood and Faith: Christianity in American White Nationalism” by Damon Berry.

Based on my research, I would say it is the majority of them. The majority of white nationalists have, in some sense, engaged in an ideology called “Christian identity” — a racist interpretation of Christianity. It is the idea that race is more than biological or cultural, but also has a spiritual significance. But as some sociologists have recognized, the dominance of Christian identity has diminished.

What religion white nationalists engage with depends on what groups you are talking about. The Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Nations are very firmly founded in Christianity. They use the Bible to teach that the Jews derive from Cain, himself the product of a sexual liaison between Eve and the Serpent in Eden, and so are biologically evil, and that the beasts of the field were nonwhites created to do manual labor. And they use various stories from the Bible, like the Tower of Babel, as scriptural evidence that God wants racial segregation. There are also white nationalist Mormons and there are Odinists who revive and revise the old Norse religion to uphold the idea of the superiority of whites.

You mention in the book there are also anti-religious white nationalists. What is that about?

There are some white nationalist groups that specifically speak out against religion, especially Christianity, as being harmful to the white race. Each of these groups articulates that position differently. Revilo Oliver, one of the formative ideologues of modern white nationalism, was deeply atheist in his views, as is Tom Metzger of White Aryan Resistance. William Pierce, the founder of the National Alliance (a white nationalist group), felt Christianity was an alien ideology and he wanted to promote “cosmotheism” — the idea that the races are “evolving” and the white race will eventually become like gods.

Ben Klassen, founder of the Church of the Creator, was doing the same. He determined his ideology — called “Creativity,” a pantheistic religion with the white race at the center — should be the white man’s religion. And Richard Spencer (president of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank) is anti-religious. But it is difficult to give a straight answer to what anti-religious white nationalists believe because what I see is a very fluid, changing dynamic.

What did you see in Charlottesville and in other recent white nationalist gatherings? Were religious-based white nationalists and anti-religious white nationalists there?

Dr. Damon T. Berry. Photo courtesy of St. Lawrence University

What I am seeing is an explicit turn to the political. I would say the groups who have a religious vision and the ones who are anti-religion are trying very hard not to bring up anything that would be too divisive, and one of those things would be Christianity. In Charlottesville, the KKK and the Odinists were there, but nobody chanted “Jesus is our white savior” or “all religions will lead to race suicide” — which are things they say to each other all the time. But now they are saying their race is their religion and anything else — including Christianity — is negotiable.

What can people of faith who reject white nationalist ideology do to push back against these groups?

Most people seem to be appropriately horrified with what happened in Charlottesville, but this is an ongoing battle. Religious people of color have long dealt with this. The United Methodist Church and the Southern Baptist Convention (and many other Christian denominations) have had to deal with a legacy of racism in their ranks. I think from my personal perspective, white Christians are going to have to fight a lot harder to deal with the pain of these legacies and quit denying that pain exists. It is a terrible legacy all white people have a responsibility to reverse. And I think we are taking some positive steps, but we need to do more about systemic racism. We have to “give till it hurts,” so to speak, because people of color have been hurting a long time while we have reaped the rewards. When it comes to dealing with the history of white supremacy, if it is not hard, it is not enough.

About the author

Kimberly Winston

Kimberly Winston is a freelance religion reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

52 Comments

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  • Yet…
    I have posters on these very pages insisting that there is no connecting the bible, no biblical justification whatsoever, for racism and anti-Semitism. Here’s a whole book on the subject.
    I always tell them…
    Don’t take it up with me. Take it up with the people who use their bibles as justifications for whatever evil they wish to perpetrate.

  • “White Christians are going to have to fight a lot harder to deal with the pain of these legacies and quit denying that pain exist”
    Agreed. There is the kind of speech that calls out the worst kinds of racist, then there is the kind of speech and demonstrations that get statues removed. Neither of these things speak to institutional racism. Rightly or wrongly many of us don’t feel we are not deserving of that kind of thought toward ourselves. What we fail to realize is that for every protester we see on television there are hundreds who are not going to scream at another person about what they find offensive. Those people sit at home and hope that some day we will understand how they feel and offer to change things for the better. We need to understand that we have been shown a lot of grace by a lot of people who deserve to share communities with better people than the people we sometimes are. I hope their patience is rewarded.

  • You read this book “some years ago”, yet the Syracuse University Press publishing date says “2017” for this book. Okay, no problem.

  • For a sincere and thoughtful Christian, race is never an issue, but I concede that such a truth is very cold comfort to those who have been dehumanized in any way by those who claim a “Christian” basis for their hateful ideologies. Peter in his 2nd Epistle, while referencing the teachings of Paul, had this to say, “As also in all his epistles, speaking in them these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are UNLEARNED AND UNSTABLE wrest, as they do also to other SCRIPTURES, unto THEIR OWN DESTRUCTION.” ‘Nuff said.

  • Quite the misleading headline.

    “But now they are saying their race is their religion and anything else — including Christianity — is negotiable.”

  • As with so many things, dear, you are badly misinformed, but That never seems to stop you.

    The movie came out in 2009. The book came out in 1995. I came out in 1971.

    Hmmmm. Despite your claims of staying on top of everything, so to speak, on your favorite subject, I have a strong suspicion that you really don’t know a lot about the subject.

  • We’ll pass on reading up on your pseudoreligion thanks Mr. Campbell (what is it with with you white nationalists using butchered Gaelic in your online names anyway?)

  • The author’s premise is wrong so the whole article is wrong. White supremacists, Nazi, KKK groups have NOTHING to do with Christianity. Just because they carry around the book and crosses (which are not Christian!) doesn’t remotely make them Christian. A Christian is one who follows the commands of Christ, not someone who spouts His name. If a person is not striving to follow the 10 Commandments, treating his fellow man as he would treat himself, caring for the poor and widows (and that does NOT mean giving wads of cash to politicians for welfare programs – which we all know is a euphemism for ‘reelection fund’), observing the true meaning of the Sabbath and Holy Days, then he is not a Christian. In fact many churches claiming to be Christian do not qualify under the teachings of Christ’s Bible. The groups mentioned above, Black Lives Matters, ANTIFA, etc., etc., etc., are the antithesis of Christian, they are Satanic in their beliefs and product.

  • The author’s indisputable premise is that some white nationalists have claimed a Christian identification. He lays out very clearly what some of their arguments are. The admirable fact that you disagree with them on that doesn’t mean they don’t claim to be Christian.

  • White nationalists want to claim a nexus with the “real white races” of Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and all the Germanic peoples that settled in the British Isles. I wouldn’t be surprised if this loser’s real name is Charlie Smith.

  • I see, just another anti-thinking ditto head. Perfect example of someone easily fooled by 45 & his minions.

  • All religions are pseudo-religions. Otherwise you wouldn’t have over 1400 variations of xianity being preached around the world and various forms of Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, etc… If there were a true religion or god, you all would believe and worship the same thing. Your personal religion is based on geography.

  • I’m sorry, but are we both still talking about Damon Berry’s new book? (Even the RNS article says that it is “new.”) That’s the book I was asking you about.

    In your original post, you said “Here’s a whole book on the subject.”
    I thought you were directly talking about Berry”s new book there.

    You now appear to be talking about some other book (1995) and/or movie (2009).
    If so, no worries, but what book or movie are you talking about, and why?

  • Okay, sincere thanks for the clarification.

    I am one of those posters who, as you wrote above, are “insisting that there is no connecting the Bible, no biblical justification whatsoever, for racism and anti-Semitism.”

    There’s honestly *nothing* in this RNS article that overturns that insistence. At all.

    But Berry’s book sounds interesting all the same; so when the opportunity arises I’ll check it out a little.

  • Yes, I saw that — it’s like suddenly, in the middle of everything, the interviewee said that this really has next to nothing to do with Christianity. But then the article (and interviewee) moves on as if that had never been said.

  • I’m a white nationalist and a Christian.

    Diversity leads to lower social trust, less democracy, and less freedom, which means more restrictions on Christianity.

  • If there were no diversity, then Jesus, Jewish, Paul, Jewish, and most of the disciples out not have ventured out into the Gentile world.

  • All Christians cannot be put in the same basket as the KKK same as all white cannot be blamed for this issue aswell. Religion is not the culprit but the mentality of narcissistic people. Like Islam has nothing to do with terrorism but people blame Islam for those hate mongerers as well

  • Horrible response. Most biblical conflict was between Jews and gentiles. Diversity wars in the bible are everywhere.

    More diversity leads to less social trust, less freedom, and less democracy.

    Different races are suited to being ruled by different laws that suit their own uniquely evolved natures and temperaments.

    Diversity will hamper Christian growth. Soon it will be illegal to preach in case of offending other religions.

    Christians think good intentions are more important than results. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

    People are tribal by nature. Blood is thicker than water.

  • I have to admit, I understood Arbustin’s comment but have no clue what disqussings and stan are saying. Guess I am not only an anti-thinking ditto head, I am pretty stupid too! Who is X?

  • No argument there. My point is it doesn’t matter what they claim, nothing they do is remotely Christian. An honest reporter without an agenda would point that out. But then reporters are pretty much as ignorant on virtually every story they report as humanly possible!

  • He was clearly talking about a few subsets that are anti-religion. The larger umbrella–the white nationalists are mostly Christian, but religion isn’t a huge focus at some of the rallies because it divides them in a way they cannot afford. Christianity was deliberately used to convince poor white folks they were better than blacks. It’s not a huge surprise that there’s still a strong link between the two.

  • He disagrees but is claiming the secular title Christian. There is nothing in the Bible that supports his ideology. I reject just about every worldly definition of Christian out there which includes all of the world’s churches. The only authority I recognize for identifying a Christian is whether a person practices what Christ said to do. Folks claiming His name are a dime a dozen but not worth that much.

  • Here’s the problem.

    Is there a recognized Tribune among Christians which determines who is a True Christian (TM) and who is not? No? I didn’t think so. This atheist is always defending True Christians (TM) from the attacks of those who claim to be the Only True Christians (TM). Catholics and Protestants used to murder each other over the answer to that question.

    Here’s the other problem.

    “The only authority I recognize for identifying a Christian is whether a person practices what Christ said to do.” Jesus said “you’re not to be judging the sins of others until you have reached spiritual perfection yourself.” Jesus also said, “Go ahead and judge people as long as you are judging righteously.” But Peter and Paul both said “There is no one righteous.”
    So who, exactly, is practicing what Christ said to do?
    This isn’t an attack. I hope you don’t take it as such. It’s simply a question that I have yet to see anyone, including our local sola scriptorium expert on the subject, answer.
    Perhaps you can.

  • The most hideous, hateful, ignorant and cowardly people pose as Christians as an excuse for their stupidity.

  • The writer and interviewer were specifcally discussing the attitudinal relationship between white nationalist atheists and white nationalist Christians, respectively, while attending the Charlottesville rally. You are taking the quote out of context.

  • People who call themselves Christian and who use Christian scriptures to justify their beliefs – wrongheaded or not – are to be believed. I believe it when someone tells me their religion.

  • The reporter and the author seem to be quite a bit less biased than you regarding the religion with which the majority of white nationalists are identifying. It seems to me that if you had it your way, no one would bother to explore the relationship at all, and that would be wrong-headed.

  • Ben I agree with your first point and was thinking much the same. – is it general collective consensus that disallows some verses of scripture in coming to certain positions but contrarily, allows other verses as proof of a certain perspective .

    With respect to the second, curious as to specific scripture you are referencing. You do deserve an answer but I wouldn’t even dare to look at it on my own without knowing that. My sense is that context would explain the apparent discrepancies and nuances of meaning as to righteousness.

  • It’s Romans 3:10, which in turn references Ps.14:1 and Ps.53:1: “The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have done abominable works; There is none who doeth good.”

    It is about the fallen and universally sinful state of the natural man.

  • Because white nationalists preach democracy and freedom for everyone????

    Its funny because you guys preach for the end of democracy, freedom and for restrictions on Christianity.

  • LMAO! You said Taiwanese twice. Taiwan and Korea are far more racially and culturally mixed than you probably realize. The Chinese government are not anyone’s idea of democracy and freedom for people.

    Try a different screed. 🙂

  • Horrible but true.

    And yeah, I don’t knock another person’s religion. I am not sure what God has up his sleeve.

    Yes I am tribal. That one I will give you. I guess it depends on how you define tribe. I am not sure tribe always breaks on racial/religious lines. In addition you put me back in the days of the caveman, I would break the ten comandments about killing, about stealing, I would rape what I wanted to rape. I follow neither these impluses or my tribal instincts. What did Jesus say were the two great commandments? Who did he say was more a neighbor? Not someone of his tribe.

  • Contemporary Jewry does NOT descend from the Biblical 12 Tribes of Israel. Modern Jewry is primarily descended from Edomites [referred to as Idumeans by the Greeks & Romans] who were forcibly converted to Judaism by Johanan Hycarnus in 130BC, as recorded by historian Flavius Josephus. [See below]. The prophet Obadiah foretells the extermination of Esau’s Edomite offspring, [which “Modern Jewry” descends from] in Obadiah 1:9, Obadiah 1:18.

    The Historian Flavius Josephus writes in “Antiquities of the Jews” Book 13: Chapter 9, Section 1: “Hyrcanus took also Dora, and Marissa, cities of Idumea, and subdued all the Idumeans; and permitted them to stay in that country, if they would circumcise their genitals, and make use of the laws of the Jews; and they were so desirous of living in the country of their forefathers, that they submitted to the use of circumcision, and of the rest of the Jewish ways of living; at which time therefore this befel them, that they were hereafter no other than Jews.http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0146%3Abook%3D13%3Awhiston+chapter%3D9%3Awhiston+section%3D1

    The Greek geographer, philosopher, and historian Strabo further testifies to the colonisation of Judea by Edomite converts to Judaism in Geography [Book 16 Chapter 2 Section 34]. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0239%3Abook%3D16%3Achapter%3D2%3Asection%3D34

    In “Wars” Book 2, Chapter 8, Section 2, Historian Flavius Josephus states that of the Pharisees, Sadducees and Essens, ONLY the Essens were Israelites by birth. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0148%3Abook%3D2%3Awhiston+chapter%3D8%3Awhiston+section%3D2
    “For there are three philosophical sects among the Jews. The followers of the first of which are the Pharisees; of the second, the Sadducees; and the third sect, which pretends to a severer discipline, are called Essens. These last are Jews by birth, and seem to have a greater affection for one another than the other sects have.”— Excerpt from “Wars” Book 2, Chapter 8, Section 2

    This indicates that the Pharisees and Sadducees, (who Jesus Christ rebukes, e.g. See Matthew 16:1-4) were converts to Judaism, most likely of Edomite ethnicity given King Herod was an Edomite, and Judea’s demographic makeup around the time of Jesus Christ was primarily comprised of Edomites who had been forcibly converted to Judaism in 130BC by Hasmonean leader Johanan Hycarnus, as recorded in: “Antiquities of the Jews” Book 13: Chapter 9, Section1. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0146%3Abook%3D13%3Awhiston+chapter%3D9%3Awhiston+section%3D1

    King Herod was the son of an Idumean[Edomite] who had been forced to covert to Judaism. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/herod

    “Edom is in modern Jewry.” — The Jewish Encyclopedia, 1925 edition, Vol. 5, page 41.

    In Revelation 2:9, Revelation 3:9, Apostle John speaks of imposters who “say they are Jews, and are not” labelling them the “synagogue of Satan.”

  • Racial segregation and racial hierarchy, are supported by God, and enforced by the Israelites in Numbers 25:6-13, Deuteronomy 17:15, Deuteronomy 23:2-3, Ezra 9:1-2, Ezra 10:2-3, Hosea 5:7, Sirach 13:14-16, Tobit 4:12, and elsewhere. P.S. “Bastard,” found in Deuteronomy 23:2-3 is defined as: a {mongrel} that {is} born of a Jewish father and a heathen mother. SEE Strong’s Exhaustive Bible Concordance, Strong’s Number, #H4464 @ link. http://www.kingjamesbibledictionary.com/StrongsNo/H4464/bastard

    Deuteronomy 23:2-3A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the Lord. 3 An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the Lord for ever:”

  • “If it is a source of joy and glory to men to have children like unto themselves – and it is more agreeable to have begotten an offspring then when the remaining progeny responds to the parent with like lineaments (characteristics)– how much greater is the gladness of God the Father, when any one is so spiritually born that in his acts and praises the DIVINE EMINENCE OF RACE is announced!” – The Treatises of SAINT CYPRIAN of Carthage, p 1012.

    Here Saint Cyprian is saying that when one considers the joy of a father who has produced children from among his own race, one can imagine the even greater gladness of God at this man’s progeny.

    Saint Cyprian’s words: “that in his acts and praises the DIVINE EMINENCE OF RACE” leave little doubt that “men to have children like unto themselves” refers to race.

  • Romanian Orthodox Christian priest, theologian and professor, Father Dumitru Staniloae’s book, “The Dogmatic Orthodox Theology” (1978), made him one of the best-known Christian theologians of the second half of the 20th century.

    ROMANIAN ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN THEOLOGIAN, FATHER DUMITRU STANILOAE WROTE: “A man pure, without nationality (race) is an abstraction. Since there cannot be an apple without the GENETIC determination of a certain kind, it is more evident that there cannot be a man without individual national (racial) determination.”

    Father Dumitru Staniloae makes uses of the word, “GENETIC” to underscore the importance of genes/DNA, to a persons INDIVIDUAL NATIONAL (RACIAL) IDENTITY, as he puts it. This is common sense, and reminds me of GOD’S LAW OF “Kind after Kind,” found in Genesis 1:11-12, Genesis 1:21, Genesis 1:24-25, Genesis 6:20, Genesis 7:14, Genesis 8:19, Genesis 39:19, Leviticus 11:14-16, Leviticus 11:19, Leviticus 11:22, Leviticus 11:29, Deuteronomy 14:13-15, Deuteronomy 14:18.

  • Tobit 4:12 “Beware, my son, of all immorality. First of all take a wife from among the descendants of your fathers and DO NOT MARRY A FOREIGN WOMAN, WHO IS NOT OF YOUR FATHER’S TRIBE; for we are the sons of the prophets. Remember, my son, that Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, our fathers of old, all took wives from among their brethren. They were blessed in their children, and their posterity will inherit the land.” https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Tobit-4-12/
    https://orthodoxwiki.org/Tobit

    Father Stanley Harakas wrote: “The Church holds that nations were created by God. Consequently, total intermarriage would destroy the races which God created. The Church has never advocated or encouraged racially mixed marriages.” https://orthodoxwiki.org/Stanley_S._Harakas

    Sirach 13:14-16 “Every creature loves its like, and every person his neighbor; all living beings associate by species, and a man clings to one like himself.”

  • I have no idea what you said! By definition, a Christian is one who follows Christ. If you don’t follow Christ, you are not a Christian.

  • I respect your ignorance of the Bible it is understandable and quite universal unfortunately. Crist saying you should not judge meant that you have no right to condemn anyone, since you do not know their heart. However you MUST judge (discern) people as to whether they are people you should be associating with. In the book of Corinthians the Apostle Paul excoriates the people in that church for not shunning a man who was having sexual relations with his step-mother. His directive on that subject is in fact what our Forefathers set up in the Constitution. Be bigoted against no one under the law but yield just to those earning it. And the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation teaches us that man is unrighteous without the Spirit of God and Christ’s sacrifice. There is nothing in the Bible contradictory to God’s plan for mankind if you study it. The only reason folks come up with discrepancies is due to ignorance, which again is excusable if no study has been done.

  • You got it Linda! The Bible interprets the Bible; “Isa 28:10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.” You can’t take one verse out of context and out of the entire book and hope to understand its full meaning.

  • Thank you for informing me that according to you, I am ignorant. According to you, then, anyone who disagrees with your interpretation of the Bible is ignorant. Which would mean just about everyone.

    Whenever the Bible says something that you find incompatible with your interpretation of the Bible, it really must mean what you think it means.

  • Look up the definition of ignorant. It is not a pejorative, it simply means you don’t know something. As you can imagine, people make wonderful careers from topics about which I am ignorant. My comment only was to point out that taking a passage from ANY document and using it to ‘prove’ a point about which you know nothing of the context is ignorant. We all do it and it is always ignorant! By definition.

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