Behind the Doors of White Supremacy


What is the relationship between religious belief and acts of violence and terrorism? The American white supremacy movements of the Ku Klux Klan and Christian Identity are deeply rooted in Protestant Christianity and are also responsible for some of the gravest acts of violence on American soil. The intersection between religious belief and terrorist action illuminates the interplay between religion and acts of violence.

            This study firstly provides a history of the ideology of Christian Identity with specific attention to the ways in which committing violence is rationalized and understood as redemptive. Secondly, this study identifies six characteristics of a fundamentalist movement and argues that the presence of the sixth characteristic, the belief that one has been called by God to be a warrior, increases the likelihood that an individual believer will commit, or try to commit, an act of terror. Thirdly, this study pulls data from the white nationalist internet forum Stormfront and the websites of Christian Identity websites and finds that all six characteristics of fundamentalism can be found in the writings of posters to the site. Elements of all six characteristics can also be found among violent actors from the past three decades.

            This study concludes that religious theology itself can be violent, actively encouraging believers to commit terrorism. However, whether or not an individual decides to act depends on whether or not they feel that God has called them to be a warrior.

            Final recommendations include practical suggestions for law enforcement and suggestions for further research. Firstly, law enforcement must take the religious beliefs of militia groups seriously and consult biblical experts before deciding to act. Secondly, the findings in this study should be applied to other, non-Christian, fundamentalist groups in order to better understand how, and why, religion becomes violent. 

Catlyn Keenan