Tim and Sarah Gayman Discuss Growing Up in the Anti-Semitic Christian Identity Movement
SARAH: My parents returned to South Carolina, but I wanted to stay and they let me. I spent my last year of high school being home-schooled there. Then my parents moved out there at the end of the year and immediately saw it for what it was. They thought Dan was way too far out there.
But by that time, I was completely under Dan's control. There's no other way to say it: I was brainwashed.
Tim and I had already started dating. Basically, what Dan did was started pulling me over to his family more and more. Finally, he said, "This is a fork in the road of your life, Sarah. You can marry Tim and be a part of this family and have us forever, or you can leave here and never see Tim again and not graduate from high school."
This was a big thing for me. It was my last year of school, it was April, and I thought if I left, I'd have to repeat my senior year — how humiliating!
I thought, "Well, my parents are real right-wing and so they must be thrilled about this budding relationship between Tim and me." And, of course, they weren't. They were upset when they found out. In the end, it worked out beautifully. Tim and I are very close and we have four children. But for years, it was really hard.
IR: It was around this time that the two of you double-dated with Eric Rudolph [an Identity adherent and fugitive who has been charged with murdering a police officer while bombing an Alabama abortion clinic, as well as bomb attacks on the Atlanta Olympics, a lesbian bar and a Georgia clinic]. What was that like?
SARAH: Eric used to date Tim's sister, Julie. Dan was just beside himself. He just thought Eric was great. Eric's younger brother, Jamie, was also there at the time. We also met another brother, Dan, but he only came out there one time.
TIM: Eric lived with us for a short time, maybe three or four months, when he was 18. Eric, his mother and his brother had come out from North Carolina.
My dad thought he was going to mold Eric into whatever he wanted him to be, but Eric had a mind of his own. He saw through my dad, although he believed in that kind of stuff.
Eric was really charming, a charismatic type. But he was also different, a loner who didn't make a whole lot of friends.
IR: Were the Rudolphs already firm Identity believers?
TIM: Yes. Pat [Eric's mother] had been a strong Catholic and at one time she had been a nun. Then she got into this. She met [North Carolina Identity ideologue] Nord Davis, who passed away several years ago. Davis and my dad had their differences, but she had seen some of my dad's literature, so she came out.
SARAH: Pat also had a neighbor in North Carolina who was into Identity, and he was pretty violent. He had taken Eric under his wing.
TIM: Eric's real father had died, you see.
SARAH: Eric was real witty, but very troubled. He dated a girl named Joy Keller, the daughter of an Identity minister out of Eureka Springs, Ark., who had actually known Gerald L.K. Smith [a famous but now deceased extremist]. She was about my age and a really beautiful girl. Eric fell head over heels in love with her — she was really into Identity — and they were engaged for a while.
But they ended up not getting married. She eventually committed suicide after being married to somebody else. I think she was really screwed up by Identity and by Tim's dad. Dan spent probably 50 or 60 hours counseling her. He kept laying the guilt on, telling her she had demons and all kinds of things. A lot of tragedy comes from Identity.
IR: Are you the only ones in the family to break with your father?
SARAH: Tim is the only one in his family who has left, other than Connie, Tim's brother's ex-wife. Dan has them pretty well under control. They live to gain his approval, which they will never do completely.
TIM: My parents are so strong about what they believe that they have lost 11 of their grandchildren, two daughters-in-law and a son. They won't get to see those grandchildren ever again, and yet they still believe this stuff.
SARAH: It's my way or the highway. It's not like when we left they said, "We know you're going and we respect that." Instead, we have a stack of letters demanding that we bring him our children and castigating us for having a Christmas tree [apostasy, to many in Identity] and going to a denominational church.
IR: Were there any peculiarities to Dan Gayman's version of Identity?
SARAH: When I first met him, he had met this Anglican bishop and decided that he should be ordained as an Anglican pastor. He was on his England kick. He would wear this collar and he had a sign on his door that said, "Bishop Dan Gayman."
TIM: They felt like the Anglican Church was the early church, and that the early church worshipped the way they do because it was made up of white, Anglo-Saxons.
SARAH: He was in love with all that. He had big King Arthur and Stonehenge posters and he was into numerology for a long time. He's always changing, always on one kick or another.
In the late 1980s, he shifted into an evangelical mode. My brothers called it his "Anglo-evangelical racist pastor" mode.
IR: Did the Church of Israel share other antigovernment beliefs of the radical right?
TIM: At one time, they didn't believe in social security numbers and driver's licenses, but they would say they do now. Secretly, they probably don't.
SARAH: There is this deep distrust for the government.
When Tim and I got married, Tim's dad married us without a marriage license. Then my parents just insisted. I said, "Why do I have to get a marriage license?" And finally my mother said, "I will not recognize your child as my grandson unless you do." So we went behind Dan's back and got a marriage license to please my parents.
But most of those children who have been home-birthed up there don't have social security numbers. I know, because I had to go down to Springfield [Missouri] with [Sarah's sister-in-law] Connie [after she quit the church] because two of her children didn't have birth certificates or social security numbers. I had to witness that they were her children so she could get social security numbers.