Those who once worshipped the ‘great gods of the north’ would be ashamed if they knew their faith was used to support such hatred and violence as witnessed in Charlottesville, Virginia on 12 August 2017. There is no evidence of discrimination or racial violence in the days before the north found the Cross, so why are white supremacists now turning to ancient Nordic gods to support their ideology?
The events that transpired in Charlottesville, which left 3 dead and 36 injured, was a brutal, unwarranted assault on people who were guilty of nothing more than not being what the white supremacists wanted them to be: white.
Soldiers of Odin
Soldiers of Odin, Sons of Odin, or Odinists are what this radical conglomeration of white supremacists call themselves. Odinism, for those unfamiliar with the term, is a rising religious sect following the ancient gods Odin, a sky god and a prophetic god, and Thor, a god known for his value in warfare. Both Odin and Thor have been contestants for the title of "father of the gods" or "chief of the gods"; more evidence appears to claim Odin in this role, which is likely why the name was chosen. Those who follow this sect value it for the same reason Adolf Hitler valued the Aryan ancestry of the Germans: Odinism values European culture, and presumes that to be white is to be right.
Yet even Odinism is a warped, American version of not only Hitler's racial beliefs but of both the ancient polytheistic faith and the 20 th century neopagan religion that valued Odin and Thor, the Asatru Fellowship (Ásatrúarfélagið). Like so many religious sects, Odinism found its origins in a peaceful religion that was gradually perverted.
- Pagans in a Modern World: What is Neopaganism?
- Return of the Ancient Gods: The Resurgence of Paganism
- The true meaning of Paganism
The Norse god Odin enthroned, flanked by his two wolfs, Geri and Freki, and his two ravens, Huginn and Muninn, and holding his spear Gungnir.
The Resurgence of Paganism
Following the rise of the holistic faith called Wicca in the 1900s, various strands of contemporary paganism arose. Celtic Wicca, Faery Wicca and Gardenia Wicca are among the strands, in the same way that Christianity branches off into Episcopal, Baptist, and so on. Among these branches of Wicca arose the Asatru Fellowship. In 1972, a man called Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson chose the path of the pre-Christian north as his faith. The Asatru Fellowship is very similar to Odinism—or rather, Odinism drew heavily from the Asatru Fellowship, predominately in the value of Odin and Thor. After this, the practices have little in common. The Asatru Fellowship follow the ancient gods of the north through peaceful outdoor gatherings; Odinism, on the other hand, has become a haven for white supremacists and values the heritage of the white man in the name of the white gods, rather than the eastern religious leader called Jesus of Nazareth.
There has been a resurgence of paganism in modern times. Beltane Fire Festival Celebrations. CC BY NC-SA 2.0
The Adulteration of Norse Religion
The Old Norse religion is one of the few religions that can be so easily "reinterpreted," likely one of the reasons the Asatru Fellowship was able to thrive in the modern world. One of the difficulties of understanding the faith in its totality is that the pre-Christian Norsemen did not write down their own faith; the stories and manuscripts that survive were dictated centuries later by Christians who had heard the old tales. Yet in writing down the pagan beliefs, the scribes needed to understand it first; the only way to do that was to look at the religion through the lens of Christianity. Therefore, much of what is known from literature is itself a perversion of the late medieval authors.
Those who have taken the time to understand the medieval literature and ancient values are aware of what was truly important to the followers of Odin: wisdom, memory and honorable victory. Can white supremacists really claim that what happened in Charlottesville in 2017, or in Germany in the 1940s, was in any way honorable?
Perhaps it is better to distinguish Odinists from the Asatru Fellowship from the ancient pagans. Perhaps such a separation will help preserve the dignity and strength of the pre-Christian Norseman. But how can one distinguish the three faiths when Odinism so rigidly borrows and then mutilates the ancient symbolism, the same way Hitler did with the swastika, once a symbol of sun, light and strength?
White supremacists standing by the statue of Robert E. Lee, before the crash in Charlottesville. Credit: Go Nakamura
The majority of those who have adopted Odinism as the banner of white supremacy have not examined the medieval literature, the ancient runestones or the archaeological evidence of the north. Odinists appear to be concerned with only one "fact": that the northern gods were white.
An article discussing white supremacy from "Reveal News" cites a man who claimed that only white people are allowed into Valhalla, the hall where the bravest of fallen warriors eat, train and wait for the final battle called Ragnarök. Yet, there is not a lick of evidence that Odin only favored the white man in the pre-Christian north. The only "proof" is that those of the north were white, therefore statistically Odin's hall would have been made up of white men. But this is an assumption, rather than a "fact."
A Valkyrie bearing a Hero to Valhalla. White supremacists and Odinists say that only white people can enter Valhalla.
It should be made clear that not all white supremacists are Odinists, and that those who worship Odin are not necessarily Odinists or white supremacists. What is clear, however, is that the followers of the ancient religion, which some white supremacists are turning to, could not have been more colorblind if they tried; they could not have been more tolerant of other religions, for that matter. Religious intolerance was a minute concern before the days of Christianity and no particular race was allocated as lesser than another. Prejudices have always existed, but the extent to which those prejudices have evolved is not aligned with the umbrella faiths followed.
White Christian Radicalization Is A Violent Threat
The pulpit of Robert Jones’ childhood church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Mississippi, was flanked by two flags ― an American flag and what’s called the “Christian flag,” with a blue canton and a red cross on a white field. During Vacation Bible School, a summer kids’ program, Jones remembers that he and other children were taught to recite three pledges of allegiance ― to the American flag, the Christian flag and the Bible.
Last week, an insurrectionist carried this Christian flag onto the Senate floor as rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol to interrupt a joint session of Congress and attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. As Jones watched the siege unfold on social media, he was disturbed to see this flag among the symbols the rioters were using ― but he wasn’t surprised.
There’s a potent mix of nationalism, Christianity and white supremacy at work in the U.S., and it’s not new. Jones, the CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, says it has been part of Christianity in America from the very start.
Jones and other U.S. Christians are now piecing together what it means that their faith was so brazenly invoked during a deadly insurrection ― and what responsibility Christians have to address white supremacy and nationalism in their ranks.
“We are indeed at a moment of reckoning for white Christianity, which has been complicit in legitimizing and baptizing white supremacy throughout the entire American story,” Jones told HuffPost. “We white Christians need to speak out, not just for the sake of repairing the damage we have done to our Black and brown brothers and sisters, but for the sake of ourselves and our faith.”
You will know them by their fruits.
*Note: the white flag with the blue canton containing a Red Cross is the Christian flag, used regularly in many white evangelical churches. As a child, I was led in a pledge of allegiance to this flag in vacation Bible school.#WhiteTooLong pic.twitter.com/ejayJ5aArQ
&mdash Robert P. Jones (@robertpjones) January 6, 2021
Christian nationalism is a movement that seeks to affirm and codify America’s identity as an explicitly Christian country, by leveraging the religion’s influence in the public sphere. Many Christian nationalists believe the federal government should advocate for Christian values, allow prayer in public schools, and allow religious symbols to be displayed in public spaces, according to Andrew Whitehead, a sociologist at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and others working with him.
White conservatives don’t have a monopoly on Christianity, an incredibly diverse faith practiced worldwide. But in America, Christian nationalism has long been wrapped up in protecting whiteness. Many white evangelicals have grown anxious in recent years about America’s increasing racial diversity, and believe they are losing ground on culture-war issues.
Symbols of white Christian nationalism were present before and during the Jan. 6 insurrection. People carried crosses and Christian-themed flags. One sign declared “Jesus Saves.” An American flag bore the words “Jesus is my savior, Trump is my President.” Religious rituals and imagery were incorporated into events leading up to the riot, including communal prayers and “Jericho marches.”
The presence of these symbols highlights how Christian imagery has been co-opted by Christian nationalists, according to Whitehead.
“These powerful symbols serve to legitimate their goals and desires in the transcendent,” he told HuffPost. “And by doing that, they can claim that the Christian God is on their side.”
Throughout American history, white supremacists have tried to use the Bible to justify their agenda of cruelty and oppression, Jemar Tisby, the president of the Witness, a Black Christian collective, told HuffPost. The insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol last week are also trying to “twist Scripture to fit their destructive ideology,” he said.
“White Christians have been such a big part of the problem of creating white supremacy and Christian Nationalism that they must also be part of the solution,” Tisby said.
Some Christian leaders have condemned the way their faith was misused on Jan. 6. Russell Moore, a prominent voice within the Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest Protestant denomination, said he was “trembling with rage” as he watched rioters display Christian symbols at the Capitol. He insisted that “violent insurrection and the Gospel of Jesus Christ cannot coexist.”
Over 250 faculty and staff at Illinois’ evangelical Wheaton College have signed a statement condemning the “blasphemous abuses of Christian symbols” at the Capitol riot. They acknowledged that many Christian leaders “ wittingly propagated lies, or were unduly silent” instead of speaking truth to President Donald Trump’s supporters, many of whom still believe his repeated false claims that he rightfully won the 2020 election.
“We repent of our own failures to speak and to act in accordance with justice, and we lament the failures of the Church to teach clearly and to exercise adequate church discipline in these areas,” the statement from Wheaton reads. “Moreover, we grieve over the inadequate level of discipleship that has made room for this type of behavior among those who self-identify as Christian.”
But this attitude of repentance has yet to manifest among the evangelical leaders who’ve been closest to Trump over the past four years. These leaders ― people like the evangelist Franklin Graham and Texas pastor Robert Jeffress ― have condemned the insurrection and called for healing. But many have not held Trump accountable for inciting it, or acknowledged the role of white Christian nationalists in the violence, or apologized for failing to decisively recognize President-elect Joe Biden’s victory sooner.
In the weeks leading up to Congress’ certification of Biden’s win, the president’s close evangelical allies were either actively promoting Trump’s debunked claims of election fraud or tacitly giving credence to that narrative with their silence. In some American evangelical circles, self-declared prophets with substantial social media followings held on to their prophecies that Trump would win, even long after the president’s election fraud lawsuits began to fail in the courts.
Election fraud narratives within evangelical circles are partly driven by a toxic view of masculinity, according to Kristin Kobes Du Mez, a history professor at Calvin University and the author of a book on the subject. By insisting that God made men to be warriors, conservative evangelicals have fueled a culture-war mentality that erodes trust and promotes an “us versus them” militancy, Du Mez told HuffPost.
“Whether that fight is against communists, feminists, secular humanists, liberals, Democrats or radical Islam, the fate of the faith and the nation are always perceived to be hanging in the balance, and so the ends will always justify the means,” she said.
White conservative Christians’ willingness to entertain conspiracy theories could be a product of their close ties to the Republican Party and their loyalty to Trump, according to Elizabeth Neumann, who served as an assistant secretary of counterterrorism at the Department of Homeland Security under Trump until last April.
Neumann warned last year that the Trump administration wasn’t doing enough to counter violent extremism coming from the political right, even though right-wing domestic terrorism is more of a threat than left-wing violence.
Trump’s hard-line stances have made conservative Republicans “extremely vulnerable” to the grooming techniques of right-wing extremist groups, Neumann said. The outgoing president has sown “seeds of grievances” around white supremacist talking points, such as the idea that immigrants are stealing American jobs, or that the best way to handle terrorism is to keep Muslims out of the country. This has helped create a “common values system” between average Republicans and white supremacists, Neumann said.
Some of the rioters at last week’s insurrection were members of established far-right hate groups, like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, or vocal supporters of apocalyptic conspiracy theories such as QAnon. Neumann believes there were other people at the protest who didn’t have official ties to these groups, but who shared their conservative values and were led to believe misinformation about the election.
White supremacists know they need to attract a sizable percentage of white Americans in order to achieve their goal of a white nation, Neumann said. So they use sophisticated recruitment tactics to groom and recruit vulnerable groups ― primarily white adolescents ― online.
“It seems like you’re good friends because you have such a common worldview,” she said. “You would never know that that person is actually a neo-Nazi, or is actually a Boogaloo boy intent on overthrowing the U.S. government.”
This is how white conservative Christians can unwittingly be pulled into extremist circles, she suggested.
“The concern I have is not that by being a Christian, you would naturally think that white supremacy is a godly thing or that it’s part of the Bible, as much as it is some of the other political viewpoints that you have gotten into by being a Trump adherent,” she said. “You’ve created this toxic soup of conspiracy that makes people very vulnerable and susceptible to recruitment to other radicalized causes.”
Moore, the Southern Baptist leader, has been speaking up about the proliferation of conspiracy theories in evangelical circles. In a webinar for church leaders on Friday, he used biblical language to condemn conspiracy theories about QAnon, the COVID-19 pandemic and the political leanings of the insurrectionists.
Conspiracy theories use apocalyptic rhetoric to create a sense of desperation, Moore said, and people who don’t feel as if their lives have a purpose become addicted to the rush that these theories offer. Christians have a responsibility to speak truth about these conspiracy theories, he said ― and to separate the violent actions of the rioters from the message of Jesus.
Moore said he’s heard people claim that the problem with Christianity is that it’s become a “weak, ‘turn the other cheek’ sort of religion.” He pointed out that these kinds of statements explicitly contradict Jesus’ instructions in his famous teaching, the Sermon on the Mount.
“If the Sermon on the Mount is the problem with American Christianity in your view, then [you’re suggesting] Jesus Christ is the problem with American Christianity, which means what you’re holding on to is something else,” he said.
“There are people who don’t yet know who Christ is, who all they know about Jesus is seeing ‘Jesus saves’ in the hands of violent insurrectionists who are disobeying the clear commands of Scripture and the explicit words out of the mouth of Jesus himself,” he added. “That is blasphemy.”
Moore said Christians should reach out if they see loved ones being drawn into justifying violence ― and if pastors notice that members of their congregations have become vulnerable to that kind of ideology, they should call it out as un-biblical.
Neumann, who is a Christian herself, said church leaders can connect people who have fallen into the “QAnon rabbit hole” with resources to help them de-radicalize. Beyond that, she said, pastors should be willing to say there was no evidence of massive voter fraud in the 2020 election, and to remind their congregations to place their hopes in Christ, instead of on a specific political outcome.
This moment calls for repentance and accountability from white American Christian communities ― including among the prominent evangelical leaders who have “idolized” Trump over the past four years, Neumann said.
Thread. So true. White Christian leaders, please commit to serious prayer, reflection and repentance if you have been complicit in merging politics & the gospel and refused to address the ongoing idolatry and deception that has been seducing the church. https://t.co/wihvP9dcTu&mdash Elizabeth Neumann (@NeuSummits) January 7, 2021
“It’s important to acknowledge what a challenging moment we have as a nation, but also the fact that there was an element of the Christian community that participated in what got us to this point,” she said. “We need to pause and take a moment and reflect, and if we have sinned, repent of it.”
She said her biggest fear is that people will rush to declare that this “sickness” within American Christianity has been cured.
“We’ve got to start acknowledging there’s a problem before we can get to starting to heal from it,” she said. “It took decades to get us to this point. It’s not going to be fixed with a Band-Aid and a platitude. We have to go deeper and understand why the church was able to be deceived, why an individual was able to be deceived, why a movement of conservatives was able to be deceived.”
What the Alt-Right Gets Wrong About the Vikings
Viking Age Scandinavians were immigrants who traded with the Muslim world and embraced gender fluidity—everything the alt-right despises.
Photo Illustration by Sarah Rogers/The Daily Beast / Photos Getty
After the horrific mass shooting in El Paso on Aug. 3, it can no longer be denied that white supremacy is a deadly force in American society. The Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in August 2017 wasn’t a culmination of events but the starting point of a series of acts of racist and extremist violence, which historian Kathleen Belew warns are not isolated incidents but calls for more similar acts.
Belew points out that what unites many of these extreme acts of violence is the publishing of a manifesto before the crime is committed. In these manifestos, the perpetrators explain the reasons for their actions based in a worldview created out of what historian Michael Livingston calls a weaponization of history. Livingston mentions one book in particular that is referenced over and over—namely Might Is Right or the Survival of the Fittest published by the pseudonymous Ragnar Redbeard in 1896.
In his book, Redbeard—thought to be a Briton called Arthur Desmond—claims that white Europeans are superior to all other races, women and children are the property of men, and violence is the key to establishing domination. The Scandinavian-sounding pseudonym is not a coincidence: the fetishizing of Vikings is central to the ideology of white supremacy.
But the white supremacists’ view of the Vikings is another example of their weaponization of history. In many ways, the Vikings were the antithesis of what the alt-right stands for.
First of all, “viking” is not something you are it’s something you do. It’s a job description. The people who are lumped together under the umbrella term “Vikings” were the Danes, the Norse, and the Swedes of late Iron Age Scandinavia who made their living from farming and fishing. A select few of the men went “a-viking,” but we don’t know the exact reasons for why they went. What we do know is that these men could leave the family farm for extended periods of time without jeopardizing the survival of the family. In other words, the men who went a-viking were expendable.
Viking Age society was patriarchal just like ours, but in contrast to what the alt-right claims, men and women both had status. We know this because people traced their lineage either through their mother or their father, depending on which one had the higher social position. An example of this is the man Alrik who raised a runestone commemorating his father Spjut, who went raiding in the west. On the stone, Alrik introduces himself as the son of Sigrid, his mother. Another example is the runestone commemorating farmer Gulle’s five sons, who all died in different parts of the world. The runestone was commissioned by their niece, Torgärd. Runestones were expensive, so for Torgärd to commission a stone she needed to have the agency to act on her own behalf, as well as control over her own personal wealth.
In Viking Age Scandinavian society, certain tasks were strictly gender-coded. To simplify, we say that men did the work outdoors, and women the work indoors. These lines were rarely, if ever, crossed. A Viking Age farm couldn’t function without a man-woman couple to run it. This couple could be husband and wife, two siblings, or a parent and a grown child. Which leads to another misconception about the Vikings—that there were only men onboard the longships. The Scandinavian settlements, such as the ones in Newfoundland, Greenland, Iceland, and the British Isles, would never have come into existence without women’s participation.
The strict labor division between men and women co-existed with what seems to have been a gender that incorporated both the male and the female. Viking Age burials with female human remains buried with male-coded grave goods point in this direction, as do the myths about shield-maidens.
Evidence of fluid gender boundaries can also be found in Norse mythology. Magic and prophecy were gender-coded female, and the wise woman, or völva, was an important member of the community. But it is Odin who is the god of wisdom, magic, and prophecy. Meanwhile, Loki, the trickster, shape-shifted into a mare and gave birth to Odin’s eight-legged horse, Sleipnir.
The resurgence of Norse mythology in the form of Asatrú has attracted followers from the alt-right who follow a racist and misogynist version of it. In the information about Norse religious practices that have survived to our time, there is no support for this sort of interpretation. What’s more, the definitive text on Norse mythology is Snorri’s Edda written and compiled by 13th-century Icelandic historian and lawspeaker Snorri Sturluson. Snorri viewed Norse mythology through the lens of his Christian faith and his knowledge of The Iliad and The Odyssey. According to Snorri’s Edda, Odin brought his people out of Asia in search for a new place to live, and this is how the gods—the Æsir—and their home, Asgard, got their names.
Another issue with Asatrú is that it gives the impression that all Viking Age Scandinavians were pagans. When it comes to religion, the Viking Age was a transition period where people were pagans, Christians, or both. Thor hammers made towards the end of the Viking Age could be used as both a hammer and a cross.
In contrast to how the alt-right uses the Vikings for their purposes, Viking Age Scandinavians were raiders turned immigrants who became completely assimilated into their new societies. If it weren’t for the introduction of certain Scandinavian dietary practices, place names, and political customs, there is hardly any evidence left of their presence.
Also, they had close contacts with the Muslim world. Viking Age Scandinavia was part of a trade network that reached from the English Channel to the Persian Gulf and which brought goods, people, and impulses to the region from as far away as India. Tens of thousands of Arabic silver coins, minted in today’s Iraq, have been found in Sweden alone.
This exchange and interaction brings us to the final point. Viking Age Scandinavians were not tall, blonde, and blue-eyed. The idea of the Viking warrior as the finest specimen of manhood took hold in the late 19th century when racism and Nordicism developed into ideologies declaring Scandinavians to be the superior race. Analyses of human remains from the Viking Age have revealed a wide spectrum of hair color, eye color, and height. Once again, there are echoes in Norse mythology. There, Thor does not look like Chris Hemsworth, but is described as a short and stocky redhead with a full beard and covered in body hair.
Of course, Viking Age Scandinavians were what we today would call white, and they were fierce fighters. But their skin color comes from the fact that they lived in and around the Arctic. And their fighting abilities developed because they lived in a violent society defined by vendettas and power struggles. These things don’t make the Vikings superior to anyone else. It makes them typical for the time and place where they lived.
The New Politics of the White (Supremacist) Evangelical Republican Party
No matter what Donald Trump does or says, most Republicans and white evangelicals are not going to criticize or break from him in 2020. It is a fantasy if Democrats think that they can sway them, hoping that perhaps talking about jobs, prescription drug prices, or immigration reform will move these voters. It is also a fantasy that his racist rhetoric and policies will turn off most Republicans and white evangelicals. The reason is simple—What Trump has achieved is the merger and consolidation of white supremacy, white evangelicalism and Republicanism into a party that simply is about racial identity. This is the new Republican Party.
Despite Trump’s horrendous racist, xenophobic, and misogynist language and a personal lifestyle that lives this rhetoric, Republicans and white evangelicals are with him. Recent Pew Research Center polls puts Trump’s approval among evangelicals at 69%, down from a high of 78% but still overwhelming. His strongest support according to a Marist survey is among white evangelicals with 73% approval. Similarly, among Republicans, Trump’s support is nearly 90% and after his most recent racist tweets, his approval went up. Self-avowed Neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin supports Trump, and presumably were surveys among white supremacists conducted, one would find similarly high poll numbers for Trump. Trump’s base is these three groups, but in many ways they have merged.
The Republican Party today of Donald Trump is the product of three political movements that have consolidated to a core set of principles that focus mostly on race, but also on guns, abortion, and gay rights.
Consider first the traditional Republican Party. While some may argue that the GOP is about low taxes and limited government, both are only ancillary to a more fundamental issue—race. Ever since Nixon ran as the law and order candidate and initiated the war on drugs, the mantle of so much Republican rhetoric has been about race. Attacks on the welfare state, crime, and support for school choice and states’ rights have always been code words for race. Nixon’s famous “Southern strategy” in 1968 was using covert racial codewords to pry away whites from the Democratic Party to vote for him. Reagan continued that strategy, appealing to the economic anxiety and racial fears of white working class. The recently uncovered 1971 Nixon-Reagan phone call reveals the racial dimension of both of their politics. The Republican Party has become the party of white America the only difference between what Nixon and Reagan did and what Trump is doing in the 2020 election cycle is that he has abandoned the pretense of covert racism and rhetoric for overt.
Second, think back to the 1970s with Jerry Falwell and the formation of the Moral Majority, or to Anita Bryant’s crusades. Yes, these individuals, their organizations, as well as other such as Oral Roberts, Tammy and Jim Baker, and Pat Robertson and the 700 Club all formed in reaction to Roe v. Wade and abortion. But they were also organizations opposed to gay rights and grew in the face of a perception that Christianity was under attack and that God was being pushed out of schools. These Christian organizations perceived a rising moral decadence in America, symbolized by rising divorce rates, the birth of non-marital children, sex education in schools, the Equal Rights Amendment, and a host of other policies and trends that portended Armageddon was near. Fear of the ungodly is what drove the evangelicals, much as it was fear that moved the original Puritans and Pilgrims according to historian Perry Miller.
But the fear for the Moral Majority and the new Christian movement had included a racial component. The changes coming to America they most feared was the movement away of America from a White Christian nation. Abortion, abortionists, gays, lesbians, transgenders, all were opposed, but these terms too served as codewords for “the others,” including race. Look at the composition of the Moral Majority, the attendees at Anti Bryant Rallies, the viewership for the 700 Club—all White. A composition not much different from the attendees at Joel Osteen’s televised church services, or Jerry Fawell, Jr.’s Liberty University. Christianity and the Constitution are white, and a coming world of Muslims and immigrants is something to fear.
Finally there are the white supremacists. Xenophobic and racist groups have always existed in America as historian Richard Hofstadter revealed. the Klan and the John Birch Society are the most famous. But many of the militias that formed over time did so over the issue of race. Guns and the Second Amendment were also critical to their organizations both served as guardians against a repressive national government, preserve individual rights, and defend against racial violence. At varying times in history these groups were more mainstream than others, but largely they were marginalized from the 1970s to perhaps 1990s. Occasionally they would surface, the 1977 American Nazi Party march in Skokie, Illinois, or David Duke’s 1991 gubernatorial candidacy in Louisiana, but mainstream Republicans denounced them, and they were ignored or shunned in the mainstream media.
Yet these groups never disappeared but flourished, first under Reagan and then they exploded under Obama. In response to the identity politics of the Democratic Party, white identity politics resurged. These groups increasingly came out of their closet and moved mainstream with Donald Trump, especially after Charlottesville and his refusal to unequivocally denounce them. Trump brought these individuals into the mainstream of the Republican Party, he gave white supremacists a voice, legitimizing their rhetoric. Fox national news also provided them an echo chamber. But Trump also brought the supremacists into a coalition with white evangelicals, where it became clear that except for abortion and gay rights, personal morality did not matter. Guns were important too still needed to defend against the government and those who threatened their world—immigrants, Muslims, and people of color.
What really matters to this new white supremacist, evangelical, Republican party is race, more than substantive policy or economics. So long as those who were undeserving—people of color, immigrants, Muslims, gays, lesbians—did not benefit, it did not matter if white America got what it deserved. Trump effected not simply fear but resentment as the basis of his political glue to hold his coalition together.
Fear, resentment, and racism are the psychological forces that forge the new Trump Republican coalition that has brought together evangelicals, Republicans, and white supremacists. It is not a politics or a party about moving an agenda it is one based on halting the other side from securing theirs. It is defined by race, but also by opposition to everything their opponents want. They want gun regulation, reproductive rights, health care—these are all surrogates for racial politics supported by a racial party that is opposed to by real Americans—white evangelical Republicans.
David Schultz is a professor of political science at Hamline University. He is the author of Presidential Swing States: Why Only Ten Matter.
Marauders in the US Capitol: Alt-right Viking Wannabes & Weaponized Medievalism
Vikings are a very hot topic right now there’s no question. Within the thriving genre of medievalism, Vikings have recently proven an especially sexy and profitable subject for contemporary pseudo-historical fiction, particularly in television series like the History Channel’s Vikings (2013) and Netflix’s The Last Kingdom (2015). Both these series are fundamentally anachronistic and closer in many ways to medieval fantasy than an accurate historical representation of the early medieval period known as the Viking Age (793–1066 CE). Inaccuracies are, of course, not unique to medievalism involving Vikings, and historical liberties are more abundant in historical fiction set in ancient and medieval times.
Bjǫrn “Ironsides” son of Ragnarr Loðbrók from the final season of the History Channel’s Vikings (2019).
Still, these television shows are very popular and therefore highly influential. Even the anachronisms and inaccuracies in popular medievalism provide effective conversation starters when teaching the subject by offering both a hook into the material and a chance to separate fact from fiction. But in today’s world, by far the most important reason for medievalists to know the trends in popular medievalism and engage with this media directly is white nationalism. As scholars of the period, we must be aware of information, misinformation and disinformation that is being widely disseminated if we are to have any hope of using our voices to help debunk, nuance and contextualize shows like Vikings and The Last Kingdom with a watchful eye toward white supremacist interpretations and appropriations.
King Haraldr “Fairhair” leads his army in the final season of History Channel’s Vikings (2019).
Many medievalists of color have sounded the alarm—again and again—warning that this monster lurked in the shadows. Over five years ago, Sierra Lomuto stressed how “When white nationalists turn to the Middle Ages to find a heritage for whiteness—to seek validation for their claims of white supremacy—and they do not find resistance from the scholars of that past when this quest is celebrated and given space within our academic community, our complacency becomes complicity” (2016).
In the wake of the riotous “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017, where some alt-right protesters donned crusader and Viking garb, scholars such as Dorothy Kim, Mary Rambaran-Olm and others have repeatedly warned the field of the dangerous appropriations of the medieval by white supremacists. Immediately following Charlottesville, Kim insightfully cautioned her fellow medievalists that “The medieval western European Christian past is being weaponized by white supremacist/white nationalist/KKK/nazi extremist groups who also frequently happen to be college students” (2017). More recently, Rambaran-Olm has pointed out that “far-right identitarian groups [are] seeking to prove their superior ancestry by portraying the ‘Anglo-Saxons’ in ways that both promote English identity and national sociopolitical progress” (2019).
James Alex Fields Jr., who has been convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison for killing an anti-racist protester in Charlottesville VA, is pictured in the group (second from the left, wearing dark glasses), holding a round shield with white supremacist symbolism. Photo credit: Lidia Jean Kott (August 12th, 2017).
Moreover, alt-right activists have postured as pseudo-medievalists in order to further these white supremacist narratives and misappropriations of the Middle Ages. For example, Milo Yiannopoulos is known for his ad hominem article “The Middle Rages” that targets numerous medievalists of color. Still somehow, the “jousting” between medievalists of color and the alt-right was not enough to shake many white medievalists into action, despite the very real threat posed by white supremacist weaponization of the medieval.
Since the Nazi appropriation and sacralization of the “Germanic” in the service of white supremacy, medieval literature—especially Scandinavian myth and legend—has been rhetorically mobilized as an imagined “pure white” era in Northern Europe prior to encountering and intermingling with nonwhite peoples, despite clear historical evidence of multi-cultural trade interactions between ancient and medieval peoples. This ideology has infiltrated the neopagan religion known as “Odinism,” which varies widely and spans the political spectrum, but harbors a perverse, neo-Nazi strain (sometimes called Wotansvolk meaning “Odin’s Folk”) that has long haunted the movement.
Oðinn wandering after the battle from first season of History Channel’s Vikings (2013).
Odinism—named for the chief Scandinavian god of war, Odin—refers to modern New Age interpretations of indigenous religion in pre-Christian Scandinavian, and The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that “A neo-Pagan religion drawing on images of fiercely proud, boar-hunting Norsemen and their white-skinned Aryan womenfolk is increasingly taking root among Skinheads, neo-Nazis and other white supremacists across the nation” more than twenty years ago. More recently, “Anglo-Saxon” neopaganism, sometimes called “Heathenry” to further ground their practice in the language of the culture they idolize, has grown and frequently provides a haven for white supremacist rhetoric.
Jacob Anthony Chansley, a.k.a. Jake Angeli, the “Q Shaman,” was one of several protesters to storm the US Capitol. Photo credit: Win McNamee, Getty Images (January 6th, 2021).
The alt-right has mobilized medievalism toward nefarious ends, fashioning harmful narratives of white supremacy, which have been rhetorically weaponized by domestic terrorists such as the “Q Shaman” also known as Jake Angeli, but whose real name is Jacob Anthony Chansley. As a QAnon promoter and influencer, Chansley is described as a pseudo-celebrity at alt-right rallies, flashing his tattoos, including three prominent Norse symbols: Thor’s Hammer [Mjǫllnir], the Valknut and the World Tree [Yggdrasil]. All three were proudly displayed as he sat in Vice President Mike Pence‘s seat in the Senate, after the Pence was forced to retreat from the angry mob calling for his head.
The pro-Trump mob breeched security, and demonstrators entered the Capitol as Congress debated the 2020 electoral vote certification. Photo credit: Saul Loeb (AFP), Getty Images (January 6th, 2021).
Moreover, Chansley’s horned helmet (while almost certainly referencing other traditions as well) represents a continuation of the Victorian anachronistic introduction of horned helms on Vikings and Valkyries, drawn from classical depictions of Roman Victories. Chansley’s flag-spear may be intended as a reference to Odin’s spear, Gungnir, which further points to white nationalist medievalism. In the case of his horned helmet, Chansley’s ignorance is on full display, as his caricature more closely resembles the ahistorical symbol of the Minnesota Vikings’ football team than anything remotely resembling what a medieval Viking might have looked like. Chansley joined with other pro-Trump supporters to form a violent mob which stormed the United States Capitol on January 6th, 2021.
A man shouts and brandishes his shield as pro-Trump mob gathers in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington. Photo credit: Leah Millis, Reuters (January 6th, 2021).
Of course, it must be emphasized that this insurrection was perpetrated specifically by a pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” MAGA mob, there in support of the president’s blatantly false and dangerous claims that there was election-altering voter fraud during the recent 2020 presidential election (which he soundly lost to Democratic rival Joe Biden). This mob, incited by the president, sought to disrupt the lawful process outlined in the US Constitution by any means necessary in order to overturn a free and fair election.
Donald Trump’s boasting, belligerence and greed does link him with warrior ethics which sustain predatory economies and the Viking activities of marauding, feuding and plundering. The ironic Twitter account, “Beowulf Trump” (discontinued after Trump’s election in 2016), highlights this rhetorical connection by comparing the president’s macho posturing and self-aggrandizing campaign promises to hyperbolic boasts and egoistic attitudes in Beowulf. There were indeed marauders in the Capitol Building on January 6th, and alongside Trump’s red hats, outfitted in army camouflage and waving Trump or Confederate flags, were alt-right Viking wannabes.
This week, the academy has been quick to respond. Alfred Thomas compared the storming of the US Capitol Building to the Peasants Revolt of 1381, although Miriam Müller has disputed this analogy, prompting Thomas to further clarify his argument. Ken Mondschein considered Rudy Giuliani’s terrifying invocation of “trial by combat” in order to spur the MAGA mob into action, and Giuliani later likened his use of the phrase to its function in HBO’s Game of Thrones (2011), which he inaccurately described as “that very famous documentary about fictitious medieval England.” Matthew Gabriele reflected on the role of medievalism in the seditious attack at the Capitol Building, pointing out that like at Charlottesville, in addition to Viking-oriented medievalism, rioters also sported crusader symbolism to signal their white nationalism. Helen Young responded to the incident by offering an explanation of why white supremacists often embrace medieval symbolism, noting that “the association of European Middle Ages and white identities reflect modern racism more than medieval realities.” She emphasizes that “Medievalist symbols have been linked to white European identities for centuries. Their use by violent extremists mean that this connection can not be denied, ignored or thought of as a neutral choice.”
Man who joined the pro-Trump mob wearing the Templar Cross of European crusaders. Photo credit: Samuel Corum, Getty Images (January 6th, 2021).
On January 13th, the Medieval Academy of America issued a direct response to the insurrection acknowledging the “presence of pseudo-medieval symbols and costumes among the rioters in the Capitol” and recognizing “our discipline’s complicity in the racist narratives of the past, and our responsibility to advocate unequivocally for anti-racism both in our policies as an organization, and in our teaching and scholarship as individuals.” More white medievalists need to be willing to stare this beast in the face and recognize that it is our problem too. It is my view that we should not idly concede medieval studies to the likes of white supremacists. We must respond. Failing to do so—for far too long—makes us complicit. We need to actively reject white supremacy. We must correct and denounce the alt-right’s misappropriations of the medieval both publicly and in the classroom by identifying these dangerous narratives as white nationalist propaganda.
If what we all witnessed last week is any indication of the widespread public ignorance we as scholars are up against, we surely have our work cut out for us. As medievalists, we must heed well the warnings of our colleagues of color and more forcefully and ubiquitously address the problematic phenomenon of white nationalist weaponizing of the medieval. Let me add my voice to those within the academy who are calling attention to this dire issue: the recent use of medieval symbolism during the insurrection at the US Capital is but the latest in a horrific trend that cannot be ignored in the field and must be loudly condemned as nonfactual and nonsensical white supremacist rhetoric in the guise of medievalism.
PhD in English
University of Notre Dame
Cole, Richard. “Make Ásgarðr Great Again!” Medieval Studies Research Blog. University of Notre Dame (2017).
Howard L. Bushart is a free-lance writer whose poetry and short fiction has appeared in numerous literary magazines such as Chaotic, Gopherwood Review, Starsong, Benchmark, Bayousphere, Houston Poetryfest Anthology and Arrowsmith, among others. He has also published in NY Times Sunday Magazine and is a contributor to the Apocalypse Pretty Soon website. Soldiers of God: White Supremacists and their Howard L. Bushart is a free-lance writer whose poetry and short fiction has appeared in numerous literary magazines such as Chaotic, Gopherwood Review, Starsong, Benchmark, Bayousphere, Houston Poetryfest Anthology and Arrowsmith, among others. He has also published in NY Times Sunday Magazine and is a contributor to the Apocalypse Pretty Soon website. Soldiers of God: White Supremacists and their Holy War for America published June, 1998 is his first published book though he is working hard on other projects and hopes to have a few more titles under his belt before he croaks.
He is also co-producer, co-writer and director of the documentary film, Operation Pacific Fury, an historical re-enactment of a battle in World War II's Pacific Theater which features a lot of neat vintage vehicles and middle-aged soldiers. The project was a lot of fun but an incredible amount of work. The video is available at Toyland Combat
Bushart is Lead Instructor in the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counseling Program at Lee College in Baytown, Texas where he provides education to students entering the treatment field. Bushart has been at Lee College since 1990. He holds both Bachelor's and Master's degrees in literature from University of Houston Clear Lake and also teaches humanities and creative and developmental writing from time to time. He also teaches literature at both Lee College and San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas.
A shameless workaholic, Bushart is a late bloomer who in addition to being a writer and novice film-maker has been: a commercial fisherman, gas jockey, meat cutter, bill collector, a failure in every sales position he's ever held, plumber, boilermaker, unencumbered hippie, pipefitter, welder, industrial painter, laborer, free-lance wino and drug abuse counselor, as well as other things, before returning to school to get a degree. However, he has been writing all his life in one format or another.
He is happily divorced, in a pretty nifty relationship and the father of one great kid, Cameron, (although he's happy to claim that title with four other really great kids who were born to his significant other).
He drinks a good deal of coffee, stays up half the night, and rides herd on two shifty cats who can't really be trusted. . more
Journalist Talia Lavin Is Exposing White Supremacists, One Fake Online Account at a Time
The author of &ldquoCulture Warlords: My Journey Into the Dark Web of White Supremacy&rdquo talks to Shondaland about how we can fight online extremism.
When I first heard of the journalist Talia Lavin, whose debut book Culture Warlords: My Journey Into the Dark Web of White Supremacy is out now, I was disturbed. Not by Lavin herself &mdash she seemed witty, intelligent, and deeply compassionate &mdash but by the hordes of white supremacists that stalked her every move on Twitter.
Lavin, a Jewish journalist who had been gaining recognition as one of the few reporters in the U.S. who dove deep into the far-right, seemed to be under daily attack by people who threatened to kill and rape her, and called her anti-Semitic slurs with glee.
There is no socioeconomic bucket, no level of educational attainment, no geographical area, and no level of intelligence that precludes someone from being part of the organized white supremacist movement.
Online, Lavin concealed her identity as a Jewish woman and cloaked herself in other identities, which enabled her to infiltrate, expose, and research white supremacist groups online. While white supremacists knew of Lavin &mdash and they hated her &mdash they didn&rsquot know when she was in their midst, posing as men named Tommy or flaxen-haired Aryan goddesses named Ashlynn.
Lavin&rsquos detractors not only despised her because of her identity, but she dragged them kicking and screaming out of the shadows and exposed them to the public through her work.
It&rsquos not like the public wasn&rsquot aware of white supremacists before journalists like Lavin began reporting on them. But just as the president can have an outsized role in shaping the culture, Donald Trump&rsquos unapologetic bigotry &mdash referring to African countries as &ldquoshitholes,&rdquo calling Mexican immigrants rapists, and his refusal to condemn white supremacy, instead telling them to &ldquostand by&rdquo &mdash has resulted in what feels like an explosion of hate. As the country has gotten increasingly more divided, there have been massacres in Black churches, Jewish synagogues, LGBTQ nightclubs, and yoga studios filled with women.
In that context, the people tormenting Lavin seemed nearer and more dangerous than ever before. But they also seemed to be an enigma, a boogeyman in the night that no one fully understood, and therefore did not understand how to fight.
But as Lavin writes in the book, they are ordinary people who have chosen this path of hate, simply because they could. That&rsquos what makes them so dangerous, and their choices most infuriating.
&ldquoIt is precisely their humanity that angers me so much: The hate they promulgate and the violence they desire are the culmination of dozens or hundreds of small human choices.&rdquo
Culture Warlords is a critical read for anyone who wants to understand the enemy we face, not just in Trump but in the millions of people who see him as accepting and encouraging of the violence they want to perpetrate. It breaks down those walls between you and the monsters, which at first feels quite frightening. But then, as you keep reading and begin to gain a deeper understanding of the problem, you start to imagine clearer and more effective solutions.
Lavin illustrates that white supremacists are not who we as a society &mdash especially white moderates, who Lavin expertly criticizes in her book &mdash have convinced ourselves to believe they are. Lavin tells Shondaland that most people have this &ldquodeep-rooted idea that white supremacists are disheveled, masturbatory men in basements, or that they&rsquore confined to the South.&rdquo
&ldquoBut there is no socioeconomic bucket, no level of educational attainment, no geographical area, and no level of intelligence that precludes someone from being part of the organized white supremacist movement,&rdquo she says.
For Lavin, whose grandparents lost their entire families in the Holocaust, this work is deeply personal. These ideologies not only currently threaten her life, but they&rsquove extinguished the lives of people who are connected to her through impenetrable ties.
While her own identity and family history made this work incredibly difficult, Lavin says it has helped her gain moral clarity and understanding.
&ldquoIt helped me from getting lost in sort of sensationalizing things,&rdquo she says. &ldquoIt helped me retain a sense of the danger of fascism and of genocidal rhetoric and of threats of violence, and take this endeavor as seriously as it deserves.&rdquo
Taking this endeavor seriously means truly examining what white supremacists believe and why they believe it, so we can begin to fight back. When people cling to these stereotypes of white supremacists, they underestimate and diminish the threat they pose to the most marginalized in our society.
One might wonder why anyone would want to diminish a threat like this. But for many, Lavin says that &ldquohewing to the stereotype that more education could solve [whites supremacy]&rdquo can provide &ldquoself-absolution,&rdquo especially for some white folks.
Lavin, who dedicates an entire chapter to examining the role religion &mdash primarily Christianity, but also ancient Nordic Viking religions &mdash plays in the advancement of white supremacy, thinks it&rsquos important for people to realize just how intertwined Christian supremacy is to this movement.
In her time undercover, Lavin saw how obsessed these groups were with texts and history, how they saw themselves as the heirs of brutal empires and genocides, believing themselves to be the sons of Odin and the swords of Christ. They&rsquore not delusional to make these connections between Christianity and white supremacy, as Christianity has been used for centuries to justify the subjugation and genocide of countless Black, Indigenous, Jewish, and other colonized and marginalized groups.
&ldquoYou cannot simply dismiss them,&rdquo says Lavin, &ldquoand to do so is an attempt to absolve you of responsibility for taking charge of your community and inoculating it against hate.&rdquo But once people have freed themselves from this &ldquomental shackle&rdquo on their thinking about white supremacists, Lavin says, they can make real change.
&ldquoThis is a moment to stand up against hatred and not in an empty way, not just with a yard sign,&rdquo she says.
In the book, Lavin details how anti-fascist groups are using tactics like she did, infiltrating white supremacist groups and exposing them to employers and their communities, so they can longer hide in the shadows.
This is a moment to stand up against hatred and not in an empty way, not just with a yard sign
She talks about how, in lieu of being able to trust law enforcement, anti-fascist groups in places like Charlottesville &mdash which endured an invasion of white supremacists in 2017 &mdash are providing security for their own communities during protests and meetings.
And to those &mdash particularly news organizations and politicians &mdash who would equate the defensive measures that groups like Antifa take against white supremacists with the violence of actual white supremacists, Lavin implores them to understand how dangerous, inaccurate, and cowardly this is.
&ldquoWhile any decentralized movement has its renegade factions and regrettable incidents, to establish a moral equivalent between those who combat Nazis and those who engage in Nazism is a profound ideological mistake,&rdquo she writes in the book.
Lavin believes that after the election, the country is looking at a &ldquolong, bloody winter,&rdquo when white supremacists lash out, regardless of who wins. It&rsquos not that we shouldn&rsquot be scared, but we should understand that information is power and that white supremacists thrive on fear and confusion and misinformation. Educating ourselves about white supremacists, and then deciding what to do about them are two powerful tools at our disposal.
&ldquoThe chat rooms would continue without me. But if I&rsquom there, I can tell you about it,&rdquo she says. &ldquoAnd if you learn about it, you can help me strip the shadows away, and disinfect these crusty dens of hate with a blast of much-needed sunlight.&rdquo
Nylah Burton is a Washington D.C. based writer. Follow her on Twitter @yumcoconutmilk.
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The Thor's Hammer or Hammer of Thor is an ancient Norse symbol. In Norse mythology, Thor is the god of thunder and his hammer (called Mjölnir) has the power of lightning. During the era of Viking ascendancy, miniature Thor's Hammers were often used as religious amulets. Today, the Hammer is a major symbol for those who follow neo-Norse religions such as Asatru.
Although its traditional origins are non-racist, and although most Asatruers today are not racist, the Thor's Hammer symbol has been appropriated by neo-Nazis and other white supremacists, especially those who practice racist or white supremacist versions of neo-Norse beliefs under the guise of Odinism or Wotanism. White supremacists will often even create racist versions of the Thor's Hammer, incorporating swastikas or other hate symbols into the decoration.
Despite the widespread use of the Thor's Hammer symbol by white supremacists, the fact that it is an important symbol for non-racist Norse pagans means that one should never assume that the Thor's Hammer appearing by itself necessarily denotes racism or white supremacy. Instead, one should carefully judge the symbol in the context in which it appears.
Liberation Theology Professor: Historic American Christianity Embodies White Supremacy
A prominent liberation theologian at United Methodist-affiliated Iliff School of Theology disdains historic American Christianity as “satanic” and as a justification for “white supremacy.” Instead, the Rev. Dr. Miguel De La Torre argued in a recent podcast interview that real Christianity is defined by whatever definition is given by various marginalized and oppressed minority groups, regardless of whether or not their definitions are in line with Christian orthodoxy.
On an episode of the Things not Seen podcast released June 6, host Dr. David Dault discussed with De La Torre the content of the Iliff professor’s new book, Decolonizing Christianity: Becoming Badass Believers. De La Torre’s studies include “latinx religiosity”, “liberation theologies,” and “postmodern/postcolonial social theory.”
In the podcast, De La Torre sharply criticizes historic American Christianity saying, “While America is a Christian nation, the Christianity that it embraces really justifies a white supremacy that creates all kinds of problems for people that are not white Christians.” He claims this “white Christianity” is false, and “has nothing to do with Christianity, it has to do with social structures that reinforce the oppression of many for the benefit of the few.”
He continues to say that the dominant Christianity subjugates insular minority groups because it has a “eurocentric theological lens that was designed, originally, to maintain their oppression.”
Building on theologian James Cone’s idea that “all white Christianity is satanic,” De La Torre argues that any Christianity that goes against certain political positions is also satanic. While Cone thought white Christianity is satanic because of its abetting Jim Crow, De La Torre extends its satanism to “[C]hristianity that has nothing to say about children in cages, or about the dangers of driving with an air freshener hanging from your rear view mirror.”
When most Christians are asked what Christianity is they likely espouse historic creedal ideas such as the Trinity, Christ’s divinity, and His death and resurrection. De La Torre, on the other hand, says that Christianity is “the faith of the oppressed, and that faith may very well be Christian and it may not be Christian, it really doesn’t matter to me.”
The podcast host admits that for those who have been formed by the theology provided to mainstream pastors through seminary training, this is a conflicting belief. He explains that, “For them, Christianity would be right belief in the right sort of propositions: that Jesus Christ is Lord and that, the God they worship is three in one and triune” but De La Torre confirms the host’s statement that, according to him, these are “not the markers of accurate, authentic Christianity.”
Instead, De La Torre alleges that “for white Christians to get saved” they must “reject the white god they’ve been following and instead bend their knees to the black god, to the Asian American god, to the queer god.” Instead of salvation coming through Christ’s death on the cross he thinks it is found in a person’s conformity to the “faith of those who live in oppression.”
Likewise, while Gospel evangelization is widely understood to be an important aspect of the Christian life, De La Torre affirms the statement of the podcast host that “it’s not my job, given the fact that I’ve been privileged, I’ve been educated, to go and tell someone who is suffering what the good news is”. Instead, we need to “hear from them how the good news is there, manifesting in their life and to change [our] life so that [we are] in solidarity with that.” For De La Torre, the role of an educated devout Christian is not to spread the good news about Christ coming for the salvation of mankind according to him it is to defer to their definition of Christianity, regardless of its historic validity.
St. Paul identifies “faith, hope, and love” as important Christian attributes these have historically been known as the three theological virtues. De La Torre, on the other hand, omits the importance of hope, saying, “Hope is the middle-class privilege, that in fact for the vast majority of the marginalized world, it is hopeless”. He alleges that Christianity is being disingenuous by emphasizing hope, thinking “it saves us from having to do anything to interact with their situation.” Instead of hope, he argues for “desperation.” He asserts that the only way the country can recover from its white supremacy is abandoning hope. He says, “Once we embrace this hopelessness then we have nothing to lose and when we have nothing to lose, that’s when we become more radical and can bring about change.”
The full podcast can be accessed here, and more information about De La Torre and his book can be found here.
Comment by Dan W on June 11, 2021 at 4:49 pm
De La Torre writing more books for Christ haters and self hating Christians. I.R.D. using it for click bait. Things are almost back to normal.
Comment by td on June 11, 2021 at 5:30 pm
He will write anything to sell a book. Unfortunately, this is the case for almost everyone these days.
Comment by Donald on June 11, 2021 at 5:36 pm
I just finished interviewing a ministerial candidate for a mainline legacy denomination. Her quote her aspiration: “To be a badass feminist.” I guess it is such seminarians and erstwhile contemporary jobless clergy who purchase his books. It must feed their sense of suffering as they wonder why no parish will hire them as a pastor.
Comment by Joe Montileone on June 11, 2021 at 5:57 pm
This man is lost and he is trying to take as many as he can with him !! Sad…..he takes the truth and twists it !!
Comment by Kelly Gordon on June 11, 2021 at 6:37 pm
The fact that the Methodist Church is even affiliated with such warped thinkers is a huge part of the division that is splitting the Church. Lies. All lies!
If you continue to give a platform to such small minds that are trying to profit and gain recognition through decisiveness is problematic. I live in a somewhat rural area in Tennessee and the local Church has been taken hostage by paid staff that are liberal-minded who endorse most things that don’t represent Christ or His creation. It’s time to expose and cancel the real satanic thinkers, like De La Torre!
Comment by John on June 11, 2021 at 6:58 pm
If he were talking in terms of evangelical American Nationalism not being either true to Evangelicalism’s foundational beliefs and American Nationalism apart from this Christian Nation myth, then he has a point. Even better, would be to separate the Fundamentalists from the Evangelicals as they have taken over the Evangelical movement and have been covertly white supremacists sometimes and at other times overtly so.
None of the above is Christian but it is very American for some. I don’t know what others of us who always considered ourselves evangelical, but not fundamentalist nor white supremacists will do for a new label. I, for one, am going in the direction of Thomas Oden in also calling myself a paleo-orthodox. The more I look into the early Greek fathers who influenced Wesley in my doctoral research, the more I think that label would possibly fit John Wesley also.
Comment by Star Tripper on June 12, 2021 at 1:23 am
Heretic spouts heresy. Well at least some things remain the same.
Comment by Pastor Dave Poedel on June 12, 2021 at 1:51 am
Good grief. If you don’t believe the classic Christian faith, hang up your clerical collar and be a pagan! I am tired of people asking me “Pastor, how can these people claim to be Christian, much less a Pastor?” Good question…..
Comment by Paul Zesewitz on June 12, 2021 at 7:08 am
If this is the kind of theology coming out of Iliff Seminary, then I feel bad for this guy. He is quite obviously racist and bigoted towards anybody who has a theology different from his. No wonder the Methodist Church is splitting with men like this guy in their leadership!
Comment by Mike on June 12, 2021 at 8:35 am
There is a contemporary saying that goes like this’ “haters gonna hate”. Certainly true about this one.
Comment by James Herman on June 12, 2021 at 8:42 am
Sounds like critical race theory dressed up for Sunday church. Back to the scriptures Dr. De.
Comment by Donald on June 12, 2021 at 9:08 am
Paul -I don’t “feel bad for this guy.” At this point, I don’t even “feel bad” for those foolish enough to believe his racist rants or the seminaries that continue to pay their salaries with the endowment monies left by prior graduates. They deserve one another. They and the institutions that serve them are in the running for The Darwin Award.
Comment by Bruce on June 12, 2021 at 9:16 am
This man seriously needs physiocratic help. Satan has a solid grasp on him. Keep praying!
Comment by Loren J Golden on June 12, 2021 at 9:44 am
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Mt. 7.5)
If racial indifference, and even bigotry in some cases, is the “speck” in the collective eye of the American Church, then the hatred and animosity toward White Christians constitute the “log” in Rev. Dr. De La Torre’s eye.
“De La Torre argues that any Christianity that goes against certain political positions is also satanic.” “‘For white Christians to get saved’ they must ‘reject the white god they’ve been following and instead bend their knees to the black god, to the Asian American god, to the queer god.’”
John Calvin famously wrote, “The human mind is, so to speak, a perpetual forge of idols.” (Institutes I.11.8) To worship the “white god,” that is to say, to worship a god who favors one’s own particular race above the others, is a form idolatry. That American Christians have done this, and that some even today are still doing it, is clearly a sin, and as such it must be repented of.
But it is not the only form of idolatry, and De La Torre’s words exhibit another form of idolatry that is much more common in America today: political idolatry. To be sure, those on the political right, including many “white Christians” (De La Torre’s favorite bogeyman), have been guilty of it, particularly with the uncritical adulation exhibited toward the previous occupant of the White House. Yet for decades, Progressive Christianity, of whom De La Torre is clearly an example, have set up their own form of politics as an idol.
The Lord Jesus explained that there are two great commandments: “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mk. 12.29-31) Most Progressive Christians will act and teach as if they believe that the First (and most important) Great Commandment is fulfilled in fulfilling the Second, in all the ways approved of by Progressive Christianity. To be sure, fulfilling the Second Great Commandment is indispensable to fulfilling the First, for as the Apostle John wrote, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (I Jn. 4.20-21) But to so elevate the Second Great Commandment that it eclipses the First is to make an idol out of it.
Yet it takes unmitigated gall to come right out and say, “You shall love Progressive policies and political agendas with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, and you shall bow down to them, show them all adoration and veneration that they are due, learn of their ways, and apply them to your life all of your days, for Progressive policies and political agendas are your gods, O American Christians.” Yet this, in effect, is what De La Torre is saying with his words: “‘For white Christians to get saved’ they must ‘reject the white god they’ve been following and instead bend their knees to the black god, to the Asian American god, to the queer god.’”
“De La Torre extends (white Christianity’s) Satanism to ‘Christianity that has nothing to say about children in cages, or about the dangers of driving with an air freshener hanging from your rear view mirror.‘”
This statement is absurd. First, it is a bald-faced lie to claim that white American Christians neither are concerned about the evils of human trafficking nor speak out against it, as evidenced here, here, and here. Second, it is perverse to put a moral equivalence between the evils of human trafficking and putting an air freshener in one’s car. I am sure that it has something to do with some report that claims that air fresheners somehow pollute the environment, but it is not as if putting one in one’s automobile is tantamount to profiting from conscripting a ten-year-old boy into an army or prostituting a twelve-year-old girl in the sex trade.
“De La Torre affirms the statement of the podcast host that ‘it’s not my job, given the fact that I’ve been privileged, I’ve been educated, to go and tell someone who is suffering what the good news is.’ Instead, we need to ‘hear from them how the good news is there, manifesting in their life and to change [our] life so that [we are] in solidarity with that.’ … ‘Hope is the middle-class privilege, that in fact for the vast majority of the marginalized world, it is hopeless.’ … (De La Torre) asserts that the only way the country can recover from its white supremacy is abandoning hope. He says, ‘Once we embrace this hopelessness then we have nothing to lose and when we have nothing to lose, that’s when we become more radical and can bring about change.’”
It has been said of Evangelical Christians, and with some justification, that they are, “too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good.” But the reverse is true as well. If all we do in this life is nothing more than to make life a little more comfortable for others, to make life more bearable, more livable for those on the margins, and to make life less comfortable for ourselves, while doing nothing to prepare them for the world to come, nothing to instruct them in the ways of Christ, nothing to teach them to repent of their sins and to turn to Him for forgiveness, to trust in His atoning sacrifice on the Cross and in His life-giving resurrection from the grave, then we give them no hope in the world beyond the grave, where there is no salvation from sin and death for those who do not trust in Christ Jesus, with only a fearful expectation of judgment that awaits them for all the sins that they committed in this life. In short, if this is all we do, then we have become too earthly minded to be of any heavenly good.
“Therefore, remember that at one time you Gentiles…were…separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” (Eph. 2.11-16)
Comment by Palamas on June 12, 2021 at 2:18 pm
“De La Torre writing more books for Christ haters and self hating Christians. I.R.D. using it for click bait.”
Ostrich, head, sand. Some assembly required. Oh, and if you’re a Methodist, your apportionments help pay for this.
Comment by floyd lee on June 12, 2021 at 10:15 pm
De La Torre says, “I’ve been privileged, I’ve been educated…”
Okay, maybe he has somehow been “privileged” (or something). I don’t know. But his current messed-up statements are honestly displaying NO evidence of his latter claim — especially not a biblical, Christian education.
Comment by Jim Radford on June 13, 2021 at 10:43 am
Dr. De La Torre uses James Cone’s hostility and anger (the negative emotions maybe not be totally valid, but they certainly are understandable) toward white supremacy in Christianity to make a point that has some truth in it. The problem is, for many contributors to this site, any thing that even smacks of progressivism is viewed with suspicion. I don’t blame them, really. And I tend to think of much of this conversation to be an extension of post-modernism’s inclination toward historical revision, general distrust of the subject (both the topic and the speaker), and ultimate skepticism toward knowledge about anything. But De La Torre put it this way:
“While America is a Christian nation, the Christianity that it embraces really justifies a white supremacy that creates all kinds of problems for people that are not white Christians.”
What’s not true about that? I am a white person who grew up in the south and indigenous to one of the most egregiously racist counties in the country. That’s a consensus opinion, by the way, not just mine. I repent every day of my racist upbringing (my own participation in the fostering of it) and residual traces of it that still linger in my own being. I hate it. I hate being a progenitor of that culture. I hate being part of a race that subjugated an entire people. God forgive me, but I am white. And, as a pastor, I have made these kinds of statements from the pulpit. One of my parishioners said to me afterwards, in kind of a disassociated and disclaiming tone, “Well, I didn’t do it….” I didn’t say so then, but I would say, now, “Yes, you did. And so did I.” With respect to the comment above about “Christ-haters and self-haters….” I will remind that well-meaning person that Jesus, in a number of places in the gospels, talked about “hating one’s own life” (John 12:25, Luke 14:26) as a necessary prerequisite to entering the kingdom.
I am sure that some you, being white, articulate and intelligent, realize that you–and I–are the beneficiaries of a supremely white world. And that’s also true, if not especially true, for white Christians. And now, it seems, social and cultural parity is encroaching on that lofty status. And I say, “Bring it on. ” It’s high time that we have to look up to, and not down on, people of color.
Think I’m a Progressive? I am not. For me, the presumptions of Modern and Post-Modern culture in all its forms–socially, politically, theologically (especially that one–Rohr, Borg, Spong, Crossan, Ehrman et al), philosophically, make me ill-tempered. But I am bone-weary and tired of racist Christians. I’m tired of being one and tired of having to deal with them. Tired of having to associate with them. Tired of having to withstand the peer pressure to vote for them. I’m just happy to know that Jesus loves them all in spite of it. And me. It’s called Grace.
Comment by Please consider this Jim on June 13, 2021 at 11:34 am
Please consider a couple things in response to your post.
1. This ‘White Supremacy’ garbage comes from privileged white and black elitists longing for power using warmed over Marxism. The formula is ‘White supremacy = Bourgeoisie’.
2. If you are white you did not participate in subjugating a race of people. Use your head instead of your riled up emotions. Read some legitimate history instead of late-20th/21st century propaganda labeled ‘history-herstory.’
3. I have spent much of life serving people who are as white as snow and living in squalid conditions worse than inner city slums. Maybe you ought to hear and learn about the roots of Bluegrass music, and why some of it was written.
4. In consideration with #3, consider that this is not so much a race issue as a class issue, the ‘White Supremacists’ have always been the so-called cultural elite in the US, starting with rich plantation owners in the South and going on from there.
5. Finally, When you and I face God after we die we will have to answer for our actions as an individual, not our group, race, ethnic heritage, or any other false category certain people want to label you as a member of. Instead of taking on the sins of everyone else, deal with your own sin, and ignore the modern day irreligious Pharisees who wish to dump burdens and sins on your head so they can build themselves up.
These and other reasons are why people like De La Torre get such a hot reception here and other places. Instead of being someone who works for positive change, he’s a bomb thrower in a crowded theater.
Comment by Jeff on June 13, 2021 at 10:39 pm
“While America is a Christian nation, the Christianity that it embraces really justifies a white supremacy”… Jim, you ask: “What’s not true about that?”
Fair enough question, so: 100%. ALL of it is not true. The entire quoted premise is false. And because the premise is false, the conclusion “…that creates all kinds of problems for people that are not white Christians” is therefore a non sequitur, not proven.
*** ALL AMERICA (not white America) is a Christian nation.
*** “the Christianity that it embraces really justifies a white supremacy” — ANY belief system that is “embraced” as “justifying a white supremacy” CANNOT be Christianity.
Jim, I know my identity in Christ Jesus. You demand that I abandon my identity and wallow in shame and guilt on false pretense. Christ set me free from that! Your hectoring demand is a lie of the enemy and I refuse to walk in the path you set before me. I pray you are not damaging those unfortunate enough to sit under your teaching with this evil you are spreading.
You add: “And I say, “Bring it on. ” It’s high time that we have to look up to, and not down on, people of color.”
Huh? What kind of asinine false dichotomy is that? There are a great many (as you put it) “people of color” to whom I look up, because of the CONTENT OF THEIR CHARACTER. And there are quite a few “people of pallor” AND “people of color” for whom I have zero respect because of their lack of character and integrity.
And: as Paul, inspired of the Spirit, directs me to — I imitate those who imitate CHRIST their skin color or hair color or tribe, nation, language have NOTHING to do with that choice.
Comment by Mike on June 14, 2021 at 12:41 am
Jim, what you are telling us is the evil in your own heart, and your way of spreading the blame for that evil to others.
Christ has said your sins are forgiven go and sin no more. All your verbal confession and blame spreading is doing is leading others to anger and not to the love of Christ. Give up on your guilt of those thoughts and attitudes you once had. Stop being tired of dealing with other Christians. If you cannot love his sheep, all of his sheep, you are not fit to pastor. Your words show your heart you replaced your old superior feelings you got from racism with superior feelings to those you see as ignorant southern culture. You have not changed one bit and Satan will continue to use you because he exploits the pride that you have announced here so clearly.
Comment by Jim Radford on June 14, 2021 at 10:31 am
Jeff, your point is well taken. The content of one’s character–color or not–is really the determining factor in terms of “looking up” to anyone, regardless of race. I don’t believe, however, that what I said is an “asinine false dichotomy.” I do believe that fair-minded and insightful people (and not that you’re not one of them) read that line and knew exactly what I was talking about. I say again, as white people, we live in the luxury and comfort of a supremely white world that favors us. Basically. Certainly not %” across the board. But, if you will, I am not “demanding that (you) abandon your identity in Christ Jesus and wallow in shame and guilt….” Wallow, no. Accept it, move on, and move beyond it, yes. My larger implied point was, I think, that “the other side,” meaning, “progressives,” are not demons from hell. Sometimes, even I hate to admit it, they are correct in their assessments of the way things actually are in this world, and sometimes their criticism of evangelicals is justifiable. Blessings on your life,
Comment by Jeff on June 14, 2021 at 9:17 pm
Jim says: “I say again, as white people, we live in the luxury and comfort of a supremely white world that favors us. ”
“Supremely white world”? Something like eleven percent of the world population is considered to be “white”. You’re embarrassing yourself by exposing your total lack of knowledge of geography — or history of civilization, or the historical spread of the gospel of CHRIST and its effect on the tribes and nations and peoples and languages that embraced the Word early on, ultimately to their blessing. You have no body of fact upon which to base that arrogant but small-minded “I say again” statement — it’s merely your broad-brush opinion, informed by the cultural Marxists, articulated with the words the wokies taught you to say. In short, you have been brainwashed, Jim. It is disturbing that you are in a position of spiritual leadership.
“…Accept it.” No, Jim. I will never accept this lie from the depths of hell. In this globalism and cultural marxism you are peddling are the roots of a satan-led antichristic totalitarianism that will dwarf the horrors of Stalin’s Soviet Union, Hitler’s Third Reich, Mao’s China, and the tutsi-hutu genocides COMBINED. I will die fighting it if that is the will of GOD.
“progressives… are not demons from hell”. No, they are deluded minions that are of the father of lies — some out of ignorance, some with full knowledge of what power they worship. (google “BLM witchcraft”!) Many so-called progressives are oppressed by various demons — and some are totally possessed. All these stand in need of deliverance. They are to be prayed for, earnestly reasoned with, loved, but not accepted nor encouraged nor imitated. And the demons that influence them are to be warred against in the spiritual. “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
Comment by Jim Radford on June 15, 2021 at 9:23 am
To those of you out there who think that I have been “brainwashed,” or are disturbed that I am in leadership, let me try one last time to assuage your feelings that I have been captured by the Enemy (or by Marxists). I have not. Like Jesus himself said, “…the prince of this world is coming, and he has nothing in me” (John 14:30). The Prince of this World has nothing in me, and if you believe that, you are believing a lie. I have done nothing, nor will I ever do anything, less than to proclaim the absolute and total supremacy of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ. And, furthermore, He is someone that for me is not merely conceptual. He is the most real experiential presence in my life. I am not a liar, a false witness, and I am not your enemy. Several of you have expressed concern, or disdain, that I am in a position of pastoral influence. This is profoundly unfair, and you are making my points for me, actually. So many contributors here are angry Christians, and you are lashing out seemingly at anyone who disagrees with you. I was expressing anger at my own racism, and decrying what I believe is a fact–that white Christianity enjoys favored status–and this just happened to be expressed by one of your opponents–an angry liberal progressive seminary professor who, I believe, went too far in pronouncing that white Christianity is Satanic. That’s certainly not true.
On the one hand, Jesus did say, “He who does not gather with us scatters,” but then again said, “He who is not against us is for us.” I am not against you. No one on this earth, in my not-at-all-humble-opinion, is more upset than I by the existence and activities of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Karadzic, Mladic, and countless others. I, too, will fight against such tyrannical evil with my last breath. And anything that “exalts itself against the Lordship of Jesus,” meaning strongholds of all kinds, I will do my best to pull down.
Some of you may know about Adolph Eichmann’s 1961 trial in Israel. Philosopher and political theorist Hannah Arendt, who coined the term “banality of evil,” was sent, as a reporter, by the New Yorker magazine to cover the trial. Her book, Eichmann in Jerusalem, was the result of her observations. At the time Arendt was an author and educator, having lectured at various prestigious universities. She with friends with many of post-war Jews who had emigrated to Israel, many of whom had been in the Nazi prison camps. As she took notes on the proceedings, she commented on the ordinary and unremarkable character of Eichmann and other perpetrators of the evils of which they were accused. Many of her Jewish colleagues had expected her to “turn the tables” on the Germans by denouncing them as an aberrant and defective race, less than human, as the Nazi regime had done in their unfair caricatures of the Jews. Arendt refused. She pointed out, rightly, that the Nazis, as a people, were essentially no different than any other people. True, they had done monstrous things, but they themselves weren’t inherent monsters per se. Many of the Jewish friends of Arendt denounced her, and many of you are denouncing me for agreeing, not with De La Torre’s caustic and inflammatory charge that white Christianity is “Satanic,” but with his belief that white Christians are favored. I dared agree with a progressive. That has been my point from the beginning. Many of you who desire this split, this schism, are, in my mind, no different or better than those you accuse of being “anti-Christ.” And this New Church that you think that you are creating is not going to turn out to be the ecclesial panacea that some of you seem to believe that it will be.
Comment by Jeff on June 16, 2021 at 12:14 am
You have tweaked Hannah Arendt’s noble intellectual honesty into a grotesque self serving caricature, and stolen her valor to pass off as your own.. Shame on you. How can your woke subservience to the culture possibly be intellectually honest, devoid of fact and reasoning as it is?
The entire heft of your position, “Reverend” Jim Radford, is in the gauzy — volumnuous but weightless — abundance of your OPINION and FEELINGS. (You refuse to engage in the least with the many factual and reasoned objections that have been made to your opinions and feelings, choosing instead merely to double down on them.)
It was YOU who first shoved your “ordained elder” status in our faces, thereby “appealing to authority”. I have by now lost count of the number of logical fallacies you have employed. And then when challenged on the validity of your authority your response is to cry “unfair”? O learned elder, why not REASON with your challengers rather than seek to cancel them?
At least you showed your true progressive colors with your childish, envious wishing of ill on those who would embrace the Global Methodist Church.
Comment by CHARLES SPRENKLE on June 16, 2021 at 9:23 am
There is a lot of comment on race but I do not want to add to that. I am shocked by the recommendation to abandon hope. In Pilgrims’ Progress we are told that the sign above the gate of hell is to abandon all hope. If that is the message we are delivering to the world, we are telling and leading the people into hell. I do not think that is helpful.
Comment by Jim Radford on June 17, 2021 at 12:55 pm
God bless every last one of you. I’m going to make one final comment, and then I am going to depart the field. I do not believe, in any way, that we are “abandoning hope” by admitting to things that, theologically, just happen to mess with your heads. Some here have expressed, among other things, that I have been deceived, and that I am leading people astray. Not so. The last post alleges that I am expressing (I think he means me), or preaching, the abandoning of hope. I am doing no such thing. “We preach Christ and Him crucified….:” and I myself am “resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” “Hope thou in God for the help of His countenance” is the only hope that I believe is going to save us. As many of you, know in Romans we are told that “….we are saved in hope,” which, for me, is the “flip side” of faith. I am NOT abandoning hope. Not now, not ever. But I am abandoning this site. Again, God’s blessings on you all.
Read more about US politics
But if certain symbols are hard for the general public to spot, they are certainly dog whistles to members of an increasingly global white supremacist movement who know exactly what they mean.
Many scholars argue that the best way to counter far-right misuse is to drown it out with positive and accurate representations of Norse myth — the position I took in my recent retelling.
But in the wake of the mass shooting in Norway in 2011 by Anders Breivik, who named his guns after weapons of the Norse gods, as well as the 2019 Christchurch mass shooter Brenton Tarrant, with his allusions to Valhalla, and of this latest poster-boy of far-right insurrection, we have to think very hard about whether this is the right approach to counter a truly global extremist movement.
At the very least, academics — and anyone else with a genuine interest in Norse mythology — need to be far more involved in countering these abuses of our subject on the ground.
Otherwise, we run the risk of ceding the field to those who see the vague concept of "Norse heritage" as a way to further unite an international fraternity of violent white supremacists.
Tom Birkett is a lecturer in Old English at University College Cork. This article originally appeared on The Conversation.