Far-right survivalist and icon of 'Patriot' movement predicts religious civil war

The framer of a far-right survivalist movement in the Pacific Northwest rang in the new year by warning of religious civil war.

James Wesley, Rawles, (sic) a former U.S. Army intelligence officer and self-described religious separatist who once called Islam a “religion of evil and death,” thinks a “war of world views” may come as early as 2020. And he’s urging his readers to strategically relocate inland to red states.

“I’m predicting a Third Gulf War, but it won’t be fought in the Middle East,” Rawles published on his SurvivalBlog.com, which claims to have over 320,000 unique visitors each week. “It will be the Second Civil War, here in America and caused by the gulf between the right and left — or between the godly and the godless — or between the libertarians and the statists — or between the individualists and the collectivists.”

Rawles hedges by saying that armed confrontations may still be a generation away, if they come at all, but the upcoming presidential election and potential “vote counting manipulation” could trigger riots and kick off a civil war where some states would demand partition or secession.

Rawles cites the polarization of the United States’ two major political parties, an urban-rural divide and the “overt politicization” of government agencies — singling out the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency and the Department of the Interior — as indicators of future conflict.

He goes on to state that taxation is a socialist ploy used by a corrupt government to “expropriate the productivity of others,” through things like traffic citations, to “build a voter base and thereby make themselves permanent fixtures.”

Rawles describes the police, courts and media as willing accomplices and says, “no state or Federal agency [sic] or subdivision of government can now be trusted to conform to the Constitution and its strictures.”

With the domestic side of things covered, Rawles then projects his theory to the international arena while hinting at the “New World Order” and Agenda 21 — two foundational conspiracy theories of the antigovernment extremist, or “Patriot,” movement.

“The [socialist elements] at [the international] level are the globalists who have the goal of redistributing wealth globally, with a slice off the top for the U.N.,” Rawles claims. “Carbon taxes, greenhouse gas offsets, and other ‘Green’ initiatives are just the latest in a long string of globalist Robin Hood schemes.”

Rawles ends his dire warning with an injection of hope, encouraging his readers to seek refuge in the inland Northwest.

“My advice is simple: Vote with your feet,” Rawles advises. “The threat of a future civil war is just one more reason to permanently relocate to a more conservative inland state. If you are living away from the conflict, then you will have the option to become involved — either directly or indirectly. But if you are living ‘right in the thick of it’, then you are more likely to be tossed about by events. Many situations will be determined [by] simple geography, rather than by volition. So pick your locale wisely. I may be biased, but I believe that nearly all of the counties inside The American Redoubt are a good starting point, in your search for a safe haven.”

Rawles coined the term American Redoubt in 2011 and assigned all of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and the eastern parts of Washington and Oregon to within its borders.

Though he doesn’t claim ownership of the movement, he has a vision to “pioneer a nation out of a wilderness” by building a bastion of religious conservatism, which he’s described as “God’s will for the region,” able to withstand a perceived onslaught from liberals and government or an eventual societal collapse.

In a 2013 episode of the “God and Guns” podcast Rawles makes clear his apocalyptic worldview in which the United States is destined to disintegrate into chaos.

“I’d like to see the American Redoubt have some sort of autonomy from what we popularly know as the United States,” Rawles states. “I’d like to see the American Redoubt basically be a stronghold of conservative, traditional values while we see the rest of the United States sink into oblivion.”

The idea of far-right extremists seeking haven in the Northwest is not new; neo-Nazis, racist skinheads, Klansmen and other white nationalists as well as antigovernment extremists have a long, and at times violent, history there.

And it’s an idea that remains popular with antigovernment thought leaders today.

Chuck Baldwin, a Christian fundamentalist pastor and well-known antigovernment extremist, relocated his family to Montana from Florida in 2010. He’s since supported the Redoubt idea, but a September 2010 letter to his followers announcing his move is in lockstep with Rawles’ reasoning for the Redoubt.

“We are going to Montana to fight!” Baldwin wrote. “The Mountain States just might become The Alamo of the twenty-first century, with, hopefully, much better results. But if not, I would rather die fighting for Freedom with liberty-loving patriots by my side than be shuttled off to some FEMA camp.”

Washington state Rep. Matt Shea, who formed a chapter of the anti-Muslim hate group ACT For America in Spokane, Washington, is himself a celebrity in the American Redoubt.

Shea has used his public office to lend legitimacy to anti-public lands extremists and antigovernment militias, and is building a movement to partition eastern Washington (the part that Rawles places in the American Redoubt) from western Washington to form a new state called Liberty.

Most recently, Shea admitted to writing a four-page document titled “Biblical Basis for War,” which outlines strategies of a Christian “Holy Army.” In it, he explains that before any declaration of war, enemies must first be given the opportunity to “stop abortions,” end “same-sex-marriage,” eliminate “idolatry or occultism” and ban “communism.”

The American Redoubt is not a movement of overt white supremacists, and individuals who identify as Redoubters should not be seen as synonymous with racists.

However, it’s a concept clearly born out of antigovernment extremism — which itself is rooted in the Christian Identity-inspired Posse Comitatus of the 1970s — undergirded by the Christian theology of its thought leader and other influential antigovernment icons who live in the Northwest.

Photo illustration by SPLC

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