Christian Identity Movement Spreads Race-Hate
Expanding race-hate faith underlies movement
One of the most shocking cases was that of Michael Ryan. He was sentenced to death for the 1986 sexual torture, mutilation and murder of James Thimm, a follower of Ryan's Identity cult near Rulo, Neb.
Thimm was murdered at Ryan's orders after being whipped and having his legs broken, his skin stripped from his thighs and his fingers shot off. Ryan later pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the case of 5-year-old Luke Stice, who died when his neck was broken after weeks of torture.
Authorities say Ryan was the "main man" in Nebraska for James Wickstrom, an Identity proselytizer and leading organizer of the violently anti-Semitic Posse Comitatus. Ryan turned his Nebraska farm into an Identity compound after meeting Wickstrom in 1981 and becoming enamored of his Identity teachings.
Today, despite this history of violence, Identity views are fairly widespread in the nominally more mainstream Patriot movement. John Trochmann, co-founder of the influential Militia of Montana, is an alleged adherent who has tried to disguise his views.
Bo Gritz, another leading Patriot figure, has endorsed Identity beliefs, according to investigative reporter Richard Abanes. "[God] has given us all that we need," Gritz reportedly said in a 1991 speech at a Bible camp organized by Identity pastor Pete Peters. "He's given us ... the likes of the Christian Identity movement."
Identity has grown in other directions as well.
Susan DeCamp of the Montana Association of Churches is quoted in Dyer's book explaining how in recent years Identity families have infiltrated small fundamentalist churches. DeCamp told Dyer that entire churches have incorporated Identity racism into their doctrines. And Dyer reports that several rural pastors tell of being invited to "rural chaplain seminars," only to discover they are Identity recruitment sessions.
"Identity believers," he writes, "are slowly infusing fundamentalist groups with their ultimate purpose: creating a white dominionist nation where the Bible is law."
Clearly, there are large portions of the Identity movement that hesitate at their leaders' violent talk. But if even a small segment takes their message as a spur to revolutionary action, the danger, as recent history has shown, is great. The supercharged words used by many Identity leaders leave very little to the imagination.
"You go look in the Old Testament," W.N. Otwell, who runs an armed compound in East Texas, told a national Identity gathering in Branson, Mo., four days after the Oklahoma City bomb left 168 people, including 19 children, dead.
"God did not mind killing a bunch of women and kids. God talks about slaughter! Don't leave one suckling! Don't leave no babies! Don't leave nothing! Kill them! Destroy them!"