Christian nativism rears its beastly head in the Great Plains

Reply Mon 27 Oct, 2008 10:57 am
Christian nativism rears its beastly head in the Great Plains
by James Ridgeway - Guardian UK
Monday October 27 2008

The book of Revelations is lurking just under the surface of this presidential election

Ed Pilkington talks to a Missouri plant manager who says Obama is the anti-Christ - Link to this video: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2008/oct/27/barack-obama-antichrist-conspiracy-theories

Crossing the Great Plains in the Guardian RV last week brought back memories of a time in the 1980s when, come dark, groups of people in towns scattered across Kansas and elsewhere in the heartland would gather after dinner in the living room for Bible study. There, in excited conversation, they learned the world was about to end, that the events taking place in their time were all set forth in the Bible, and that they should prepare for the great battle of Armageddon and the second coming of Christ. As they talked, a young man might sit out on the porch cradling an automatic rifle. If the Jewish Communists of the Zionist Occupied Government (ie the US federal government) arrived, leading their rank and file troops of black and brown people, he would be ready for them.

In the 1980s, I traveled through the American midwest, north-west, and south, covering the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan and the rise of other radical rightwing white supremacist groups. Their imaginations were fired by the Bible's book of Revelations. The farm depression, foreclosures, penny auctions, bank takeovers, were evidence aplenty to many people that the bank - with the Jews behind them and people of color doing their bidding - were on the move. They had already taken control of the government. Soon, the 82nd Airborne would arrive to take over, depriving "sovereign" white men of their land, their rights, their freedom. And behind it all was the Beast, the anti-Christ who took various forms, from Fidel Castro to just about any leader of the East bloc. They believed that final showdown was coming soon, and they wanted to be ready.

This was true American subculture, bringing together longstanding strains of racism and nativism with a religion known as Christian Identity and with a populist distrust of national government - all of them fueled by economic despair. Largely ignored in the history books, dismissed by the politicians, written off by the FBI as an aberrant fringe, the movement lost momentum - swallowed up in part by the onset of Christian fundamentalism, and muffled in the anti-government policies of the conservative Republican government.

But it never completely died. And as I travelled through this same terrain last week, I hear familiar thinly encoded messages letting me know that this kind of thinking still prevails among some people here in the heartland, perhaps gaining new fuel from the apocalyptic financial meltdown. Once again there is talk of the Beast, or of the End Times and the final battle. And all of it is now focused on the candidacy of Barack Obama. Today, we continue our travels up through Ohio towards Cleveland, and after that into Pennsylvania, where the Aryan nations unsuccessfully sought to set up a compound. West Virginia is close by, as is western Maryland, both redoubts of the far right. And here we're sure to hear more of it.
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