Pagans Scapegoated Again, as Privilege Misleads Millions of People, by [Starstuff, Contemplating]

Imagine for a moment that repeated terrorist attacks killed dozens of people, and continued to be motivated, by the killer’s own words, by

a Jihad to fight for Islam.  Imagine that these same killers mentioned how they have been motivated by previous Islamic Jihadists, by name, and even published all of this online prior to the attack.  In response, the news carefully avoided much if any mention of “Islam”, or “Jihad”, avoided using the term “terrorism”, and instead personalized the killers by asking “how could someone have ended up in such a condition?” and running touching stories about a killer’s childhood.  Worse, stories made it sound like the killers were radicalized by some other religion (switching the blame to a minority religion), adding to the oppression and danger those minority followers already face (in addition to lying).

Unreal, right?  That would never happen, right?  Right, it wouldn’t – because that’s Islam, and Islam isn’t privileged in the West.  Now, take the same story and simply change the names, with Paganism instead of “some minority religion”, and Christianity instead of Islam.  Now it is exactly what see over and over whenever a white Christian terrorist kills, and just recently saw it all play out again with the act of white, Christian supremacist terrorism in New Zealand.  But wait, you didn’t hear that in the news, right?  Of course not – because in the West, Christian privilege ensures that Christianity is coddled.

Blaming the Minority

One particularly clear example (of many) was this article  – by a major New Zealand newsite (in fact, the wiki page on New Zealand media lists their page first in their list of newsites). The article makes it look like this person was a Pagan, motivated by Paganism, and that practically all Asatru are racist – from the headline and then through the whole article.  Here’s an excerpt:

The man alleged to have killed 50 Muslim worshippers at two Christchurch mosques on March 15 appears to have dabbled in Odinist iconography.

On a message on a social media network, he wrote: “If I don’t survive the attack, goodbye, god bless and I will see you all in Valhalla!” (1)

In Norse mythology, Valhalla is a hall of the dead, created by Odin for his most worthy warriors.

A photograph on the cover of the gunman’s twisted manifesto displays Odin’s Cross, a symbol also associated with neo-Nazi groups.  (2)

He referenced the “14 Words”, a slogan coined by white supremacist David Lane, in his manifesto and on the weapons he used in the massacre.    (3)

Ásatrú Folk Assembly founder Stephen McNallen…

These are the only alleged connections to Asatru in the whole article, which goes on for over 2000 words about white supremacy in Asatru (and of course not mentioning the many Asatru who aren’t racist).  What evidence does this author use to support her claim that the killer was motivated by Asatru?  Let’s look at them. From the excerpt above:

  1. Some additional popular uses of “Valhalla” are in footnote #1.

    “Goodbye, god bless, and I’ll see you in Valhalla!”   This references both the Christian god “god bless” and the Norse legends “Valhalla”.  Both are common parts of popular culture, with “god bless” not being restricted to Christians, and since the comic book success of Thor from the 1960’s on (and especially with the recent box office successes), mentioning Valhalla is not restricted to Asatru.  Both of these statements (in the same sentence) don’t indicate that the speaker is Christian or Asatru any more than a yoga class indicates that one is a Vishnu worshipper or that someone going to a Christmas parade is Christian.

  2. This claim is both false and misleading. It’s simply false because the cover of the killer’s manifesto does not display “Odin’s Cross” (more often known as the “Sun Cross”).

    The Black Sun Nazi Symbol invented ~1937

    The Sun Cross used for the past several thousand years by people of many religions

    The killer’s manifesto cover instead shows the Black Sun symbol, which was invented by the Nazis in the 1930’s, showing that the killer is a white supremacist.  Here are both the Black Sun, and the Sun Cross (which is actually a symbol which far predates Asatru, Christianity, Nazism, etc. by thousands of years).  I can’t know if Andrea somehow mistook the black sun Nazi symbol on the killer’s manifesto for the ancient Sun cross, or if she knew they were different and was just looking for things with “Odin” in the name.

    The US Conference of Catholic Bishops is probably not “Odinist”

The claim is misleading because even if the cover did display the Sun Cross, that would not help the author’s claim, because the Sun Cross predates all of these, and has been used by Christians, Europeans in general, Asatru, Americans and many more groups. For instance, the Pan-European movement (a mainstream Christian movement with members like Albert Einstein and no Nazi connections) uses the Sun Cross for its flag.

Scientists use the Sun Cross symbol to represent the planet Earth.

Here are a few of the many uses of the ancient and universal Sun Cross symbol.  Additional examples can be seen in footnote #2.

  1. The “14 words” are not a reference to Asatru, and in reality have clear connections to Christianity. They were originally coined by David Lane (likely adapted from a similar phrase in Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, Vol. 1 Chapter 8).  David Lane was a founding member of the Christian Terrorist group The Order, whose motto is from the King James Bible (Jeremiah 51), and places a Christian Cross centrally on its emblem.

    “Thou art my battle axe and weapons of war: for with thee will I break in pieces the nations, and with thee will I destroy kingdoms” (Jeremiah 51:20 King James Bible) – Motto of the white Christian supremacist organization The Order

So we see that the three “links” the author used to link the killer to Asatru were:

  1. A sentence which contained two common words, one Christian and one Norse.
  2. An outright falsehood.
  3. A reference with explicit Christian connections.

With these three, the author somehow decided to write a 2,000+ word article about how evil Asatru is, with no further mention of the killer and of course no mention at all of his many clear Christian connections nor of the many peaceful and non-racist Asatru.

He Outright Said It

Now, let’s compare that to what we have linking the killer to Christianity.

There is a lot clearly showing that the Al-Noor terrorist is a white Christian supremacist.  To summarize it, the killer openly states in his manifesto that he is part of a known violent Christian group – the Knights Templar3.  That, along with his also explicit connection to the known and openly Christian terrorist Breivik, and praise of outspoken Christian nationalists like Owens (which he states is his “biggest influence”), and the names written on his weapons (dozens of Christians who killed Muslims) are all more than enough to remove any doubt about his white Christian supremacist motivations.

Let’s look at each of those a bit more.

The call for a holy war against Muslims launches the Crusades in 1095 CE

His Call for a Holy War Against Muslims

The most relevant, obvious, and undeniable evidence of white, Christian supremacy are the statements he wrote himself, in his manifesto.  Here are some examples.

Writing to other Christians, he quotes Pope Urban II, who launched the crusades:

“Let the fire of our repentance raise up the Holy War and the love of our brethren lead us into combat. Let our lives be stronger than death to fight against the enemies of the Christian people.”

ASK YOURSELF, WHAT WOULD POPE URBAN II DO?

Yes, he explicitly calls on other Christians to rise up in “Holy War” against Muslims (Pope Urban II launched the Crusades which killed many thousands of Muslims).  Not a peep from the media about this.  Can you imagine if the killer was Pagan and called for a holy war against Christians?  We all know it would be running 24/7 on Fox news and the giant conservative media machine, all over social media, and we’d all hear about it over and over for weeks if not years.

He cites solidarity with other previous right-wing/Christian terrorists

From the killer’s manifesto:

I support many of those that take a stand against ethnic and cultural genocide. Luca Traini, Anders Breivik, Dylan Roof, Anton Lundin Pettersson, Darren Osbourne etc.

But I have only had brief contact with Knight Justiciar Breivik, receiving a blessing for my mission after contacting his brother knights. I have read the writings of Dylan Roof and many others, but only really took true inspiration from Knight Justiciar Breivik.

Here he claims to be connected to a modern version of the Christian Knights Templar3, who killed thousands of Muslims in the Crusades.  He also states that received the blessing of the white Christian Terrorist Brevik before the attack.  Breivik’s manifesto also explicitly states that these killings are to defend “Christian Europe” against “Muslim invaders”, and is filled with dozens of verses from a Christian Bible. Like this killer’s coverage in the news, Breivik’s Christian motivation is almost completely hidden by the media, even though Breivik has written a manifesto filled with Christian motivations and clear references (including Pope Urban II launching the Crusades against Muslims, just as this killer does).  The title Breivik chose for his manifesto: “2083: A European Declaration of Independence.” Is a reference to the 400th anniversary of a siege as the target for the triumph of Christian forces in the European civil war he called for to drive out Muslims.

Breivik ends his manifesto with:

Sincere and patriotic regards,

Andrew Berwick, London, England 

Justiciar Knight Commander for Knights Templar Europe and one of several leaders of the National and pan-European Patriotic Resistance Movement

In addition to the references to white Christian supremacist Breivik, are other Christian references in this killer’s manifesto.  For instance, the killers biggest inspiration was outspoken Christian conservative Candace Owens (not her first controversy).

While the media hides all these Christian connections (and focuses on a vilifying a minority religion instead), these Christian connections are not lost on those who support them.  After the killing, a Bible verse appeared among the memorials to those murdered at the Mosque.  While it’s really not very nice to put a Bible verse there at all (the memorial is about the Muslim victims, not one’s own show of Christian piety, after all), it was assumed it was someone expressing sorrow.

But it wasn’t.  Instead it was yet another death threat.  The verse turned out to be:

Jesus said: “But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.”  (Luke 19:27)

And yes, in full context, it’s a vicious as it sounds4.  Not only that, but it’s also clear that it’s well known to have the meaning that those who reject Jesus as king are to be killed (Muslims, Jews, Atheists, etc.) – otherwise it wouldn’t have been hurled at the New Zealand Mosque (where those who rejected Jesus were killed), nor would anyone have recognized it as such and quickly removed it.

Oh yeah, what about all that stuff written on his guns, which Andrea cites in her article (falsely implying that the white supremacist “14 words” are Asatru, see above)?  There were 40 things written on his guns.  Of those, exactly zero referred to Paganism or Asatru.  Fully 36 of the 40 were names of Christians who killed Muslims (mostly historical) or battles where Christians killed Muslims – often by the thousands.  Two reference recent Muslim related events, and the remaining two were “14” (see above for the Christian connection) written twice.

Rooting out Hatred in Our Own Communities

The upshot of all of this is that we have seen, again, a minority religion like Paganism villainized, and the solid Christian connection hidden, even though the killer was clearly linked to Christianity (all to protect Christian privilege).

Yes, there is a real problem in a portion of each of these religions (Christianity, Paganism, and Islam) – like most religions – harboring violent supremacists (Christian supremacists, Islamic supremacists, and folkish/Asatru supremacists, each also often including racism).  Let’s acknowledge each of those, while hopefully avoiding the “no true Scotsman” fallacy when our own faith comes up.

There is, sadly, no shortage of examples of Islamic supremacists in our modern world.  I hope no one tries to deny that killers like the shooter at the Pulse nightclub, or the 9/11 terrorists, and many more, are Islamic supremacists.  At the same time, there are literally hundreds of millions of peaceful Muslims who condemn these terrorist acts.

Yes, there are white Asatru supremacists (some Norse symbol use by the Al-Noor killer might be found for this reason). Perhaps the clearest example of Astartu supremacists is the same Stephen McNallen whom Stuff devotes so much attention to (though he has no link to the New Zealand shooter), among others.  In fact, on this blog and across the Pagan blogosphere (including many different kinds of Pagans), many of us Pagans have denounced white supremacist Pagans, and the reborn Asatru community of Iceland itself disavows them.

And lastly, some areas of Christianity as well have become havens for racists and certainly for white Christian supremacists.  This goes far back through history, past the Christian supremacist Crusades, the pro-slavery Christianity of the American Confederacy, the white Christian supremacy of Popes (such as Pope Nicholas V) and Protestants (such as Martin Luther’s book “On the Jews and their lies”), going all the way back to the justification of slavery by the Curse of Ham (Cush) from Genesis 9.  The history here is of course beyond the scope of a blog post5.  At the same time, there have been many Christians who opposed this, such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, rejecting racism and racist versions of Christianity.

While there are varying degrees of complicity (and open support!), it’s clear that no group is perfect, and that the willing capacity for supremacy and violence is a trait that cuts across all of humanity.  This means that all of us, in all of our communities, need to both be honest about the motivations of any given attacker, and especially to stand against them in our own communities.

Misleading people (lying) about these motivations hurts everyone.  Unfortunately, one of the main tools of privilege, and especially of a dominant group supremacy like Christian supremacy, is to mislead and deceive in order to villainize those of minority groups, while whitewashing the atrocities done by members of the dominant group. This is how Andrea’s article contributes Christian privilege.  By hiding the actual facts of the killer’s own words, which clear show he is a white, Christian supremacist, and instead villainizing a minority religion, Andrea has supported the very white Christian supremacy which led to this act of terrorism, while further stoking hatred against minority religions like the many Muslims killed in the attack.  Andrea works hard to reject the minority religion from society, saying they are “strange” (in the title no less!), “an eccentric group of people fixated on…”, “odd”, and of course, spending the whole article talking about the supremacist members and hiding the rest of those who are Asatru.  As an often hated and targeted minority religion, Pagans already face physical attacks, legal repercussions, job loss, loss of child custody, and more, fueled by hateful articles like Andrea’s.

This is especially important because attacks like the Al-Noor attack are forming a growing web of hate which thrives on the othering of minorities – the very othering of minorities which Andrea’s article feeds.  This has resulted in a growing list of Christian terrorist groups5 recognized by the SPLC, and we even have politicians openly running as white, Christian supremacists both in Australia and in the United states.  Members of this group are more and more being motivated by each other, and indeed, the Al-Noor attacker cited previous terrorists and alt-right speakers, including Breivik – as pointed out earlier.  Analyzing dozens of similar attacks shows this growing web of hate(Update, see below)*  This New York Times analysis had the courage to openly include the word “Christian” – but of course only once, buried near the end of the article. 

Articles like Andrea’s result in minorities being targeted and when that happens, people get killed.  With events fueling hatred in our world, and with the yet unseen harm her article is causing, I would hope that Andrea has the courage to post a retraction, write a fully open piece about the Al-Noor killer’s overwhelmingly and explicitly Christian connections (while pointing out the many Christians who help work toward an inclusive world), and help us all combat both white and religious supremacy in all communities.

For all of us, including especially those of us in the Christian, Pagan and Islamic communities, I hope we can all be honest about both the harmful forms of our religions and about the times these show up in the events around us.  I hope we can all openly point out when harm is done, make amends, and always work to improve our own communities as a top priority, and also our wider community of Earth.

Update:  After this was written and published, a white Christian supremacist opened fire at the Chabad of Poway Synagogue, after setting fire to a Mosque.  This terrorist cited the Al-Noor terrorist by name as his inspiration, posting a manifesto saying he is doing this to defend “white, Christian Western culture”, and filling his manifesto with Christian bible verses, with anti-Jewish themes which have caused attacks since the rise of Christianity.  As before, the Christian aspect of his motivation is being avoided in most major American news stories, and instead we get stories about his life as a student, photos of him with his dad, and so on.  Also, tragically, we’ve seen the Sri Lankan Islamic attacks on Christians in retaliation for the Al-Noor attack.    

Footnotes

  1.  Here are a couple more examples of “Valhalla” in popular culture.

One of many Marvel offerings featuring Valhalla

“Odinist”? Nah, just a high school robotics team (FIRST Robotics League)

 

 

 

 

 

2.  I hope no one thinks that because they use the Sun Cross, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, astronomers, Celtic Christians, the US conference of Catholic Bishops, Extended Stay Hotels all worship Odin.  Well, maybe even the deli near my house closes on Good Friday to worship Odin?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.  The current organizational status of the Knights Templar is not completely clear.  This year is the 900th anniversary of their founding.  They were a real, open, and well-connected organization who filled many roles, including elite fighters, logistical support and more, being a significant part of the crusades.  As they grew they also filled other roles such as banking.  They were dissolved in 1312 CE and don’t appear to have gone into hiding (despite many fictional stories of such).  I was not able to find an open, credible organization today, so all we have is their name showing up in terrorist manifestos and other mentions of them (especially in fiction).  In the end, whether this is just a common claim among white Christian terrorists or there is a hidden organization doesn’t matter because it motivates for similar reasons in either case.

4.  Many people like to pretend that Jesus was all good, when of course he’s got plenty of good teachings and plenty of horrible teachings (both beyond the scope of this post).  Looking at this section of Luke, those who don’t want to face the bad stuff from Jesus will claim that this verse (Luke 19:27) is “taken out of context”, or “that’s just a parable”.  While yes, it is a parable, it’s a parable about Jesus, where the king is Jesus himself.  Even if it’s unpleasant to some, the full context shows that Jesus clearly is referring to himself as the king who says to kill those who aren’t his followers in the parable.

In Luke 19, Jesus tells the above story about a King entering his Kingdom just before Jesus himself enters Jerusalem in a triumphal entry as king. The very next verse is:

28: After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

This is followed by the whole triumphal, glorious entry of Jesus as king into Jerusalem, which is celebrated every Palm Sunday.  The people shout “Blessed is the King!”, and Jesus says that if the people weren’t celebrating his entry as king, the rocks themselves would shout that Jesus was king.  On entering Jerusalem, Jesus then violently attacks people in the Temple.

It’s obvious to both Bible scholars and to anyone reading Luke 19 that Jesus tells this parable to describe his coming kingdom, and that he himself is specifically that King.   Biblical scholars have recognized this for a long time, and it’s not controversial among evidence based scholars.

5.  Here are some of the Christian supremacy groups that have been identified.  It is unknown how many others exist which are not on this list.  As mentioned above, the historical Christian and scriptural roots of today’s white Christian supremacy are far too deep for a blog post – indeed, many whole books have been written about them.

  • Christian Revival Center (Harrison, Arkansas)
  • Covenant People’s Ministry (Brooks, Georgia)
  • Divine International Church of the Web (Morton, Illinois)
  • America’s Promise Ministries (Sandpoint, Idaho)
  • Christian America Ministries (Greensburg, Louisiana)
  • Christogenea (Panama City, Florida)
  • Church of Israel (Schell City, Missouri)
  • Euro Folk Radio (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Fellowship of God’s Covenant People (Union, Kentucky)
  • Kingdom Identity Ministries (Harrison, Arkansas)
  • Mission to Israel (Scottsbluff, Nebraska)
  • Our Place Fellowship (Colville, Washington)
  • Restored Assembly of Elohim (Bainbridge, Ohio)
  • Sacred Truth Publishing & Ministries (Mountain City, Tennessee)
  • Scriptures for America Worldwide Ministries (Laporte, Colorado)
  • Yahushua Dual Seed Christian Identity Ministry (Livingston, Texas)
  • Yahweh’s Truth (Linwood, Michigan)

Ironically, it is out of Christian privilege that we cannot even bring ourselves to refer to these groups for what they are- Christian supremacists- and instead of “Christian supremacist” use the euphemism “Christian Identity” instead.  After all, helpful Christians like Martin Luther King Jr. and Mr. Rogers identify as Christian and have a Christian identity – but aren’t supremacists.

 

Starstuff, Contemplating by Jon Cleland Host

We are assemblages of ancient atoms forged in stars – atoms organized by history to the point of consciousness, now able to contemplate this sacred Universe of which we are a tiny, but wondrous, part.

Jon Cleland Host

Dr. Jon Cleland Host is a scientist who earned his PhD in materials science at Northwestern University & has conducted research at Hemlock Semiconductor and Dow Corning since 1997.  He holds eight patents and has authored over three dozen internal scientific papers and eleven papers for peer-reviewed scientific journals, including the journal Nature.  He has taught classes on biology, math, chemistry, physics and general science at Delta College and Saginaw Valley State University.  Jon grew up near Pontiac, and has been building a reality-based spirituality for over 30 years, first as a Catholic and now as a Unitarian Universalist, including collaborating with Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow to spread the awe and wonder of the Great Story of our Universe (see www.thegreatstory.org, and the blog at evolutionarytimes.org).  Jon and his wife have four sons, whom they embrace within a Universe-centered, Pagan, family spirituality.  He currently moderates the yahoo group Naturalistic Paganism.

Heather is a parent and a scientist raising her four children to explore the world through scientific understanding and with spiritual appreciation of the Universe. She has a Master of Science degree in Physics from Michigan State University, a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Michigan, and a Bachelor of the Arts degree in English Literature, also from the University of Michigan. She teaches physics as an adjunct instructor at Delta College, runs the Math Mania program at a local elementary school, has worked at Dow Corning as an engineer and at NASA as an intern, and she has led science outreach workshops for K-12 students through joint programs between NASA and the University of Michigan. She is a naturalistic non-theist, whose faith has been shaped by her childhood within the Episcopal Church, her adult membership in the Unitarian Universalist church, and through Buddhist meditation.  She has a passion for bringing science and spirituality to everyone in a fun way, both for her own family and for the wider community of the Earth.  She is a co-author with Jon Cleland-Host of Elemental Birthdays: How to Bring Science into Every Party.

See Starstuff, Contemplating posts.

See all of Dr. Jon Cleland Host’s posts.

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