They tell us that "beauty born of murmuring sound" will pass into a human face; but it won't. Or not yet. For if we take the imagery of the Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendour of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy. At present we are on the outside of the world, and the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so.
C.S. Lewis "The Weight of Glory"
The NeoPagan Movement and Racism
By Viola Larson
In the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin wall I remember listening to an interview with Henry Kissinger. The interviewer asked Mr. Kissinger if he feared a re-united Germany and a renewed Nazi movement? He replied that history does not perfectly repeat itself, but he did fear the rise of a new Romantic Movement. I believe that fear is well founded when focused on the dark side of Romanticism. Kissinger doubtless recognized the racist sentiments that can emerge out of the Romantic worldview. This article will explore the relationship between racism and some Neo-Pagan groups who are a part of a new Romantic Movement. I will point out the blatant racism of some groups and will explore the potential racism in other groups that disavow racism. I will also explore the hatred these groups hold for Jews and Christians, and I will give a biblical perspective and response to such hatred.
Understanding Romantic Movements
Understanding Romantic Movements
Romantic movements generally include a wide assortment of thinkers since such movements are in many ways a reaction against empiricism and materialism. Several of the more articulate Christian apologists of the last century could be considered Romantics. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as well as most of the Inklings were Romantics in much of their view of life and in their writings. They were, however, Romantics with a Christian worldview and there are three distinctions to be made. First, Romantics, who see the sublime, mystery and meaning in the natural world, often equate God with nature and for that reason are pantheists (God is all) or panentheists (God is in all). In contrast, Romantics who are Christians understand that God is the creator of everything and not a part of the world. Second, some Romantics equate God or their own particular ethnic essence with folk tradition, cultural myths and homeland. Both Lewis and Tolkien valued folk tradition, cultural myths and the love of homeland, but they did not place such weighty significance on them. Third, some Romantics make no distinction between good and evil since both are a part of nature. In fact, some even glorify evil. Christian Romantics understand evil as both personal and part of the fall of humanity. They, perhaps more than anyone, understand the dark dimensions of evil and they do not glorify wickedness. They see evil and good as progressive, moving in extreme opposite directions. Lewis makes such a distinction in his essay “The Weight of Glory.” He admonishes the reader “to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.”
A New Romantic Movement
A New Romantic Movement
Several cultural pointers provide evidence that a new Romantic Movement is in progress. A growing interest in medieval and mythical subjects in books and movies is one indicator. A growing movement of smaller ethnic-centered groups in place of a more homogenized society is another indicator. The Green Movement, with a greater concern and priority for nature rather than industry or science, is also a part of a Romantic worldview. Certainly, the New Age movement and a growing pagan community are the products of a romantic attitude toward life, community and the universe in general.
As stated, many of those who could be considered a part of the New Romantic Movement are members of the neopagan community. A small percentage of the neopagan movement is racist. Most of the racist groups belong to Odinist communities. They may also be called Ásatrú. (However, not all Odinists or Ásatrú adherents are racist.) All of the groups I will consider in this article are made up of white European descendents; they purposely exclude all other ethnic groups. Their religious focus is on the gods and goddesses of old European tribes. (These include, Odin, who is also called Woden, Thor, Frigga, the wife of Odin and Freya.) Many Odinists see the gods and goddesses of their religion as archetypes or expressions of the racial subconscious. But there are many ways of understanding the multitude of gods and goddesses worshiped by the Ásatrú and Odinist groups. The gods and goddesses may also be viewed as real entities.
The factor that either makes them racists, or gives them the potential for racism, is their insistence on religion as a genetic development as well as an intrinsic part of the human essence. Stephen McNallen, who leads the Asatru Folk Assembly, calls this idea “Metagenetics” and writes:
One of the most controversial tenets of Asatru is our insistence that ancestry matters-that there are spiritual and metaphysical implications to heredity, and that we are thus a religion not for all humanity, but rather one that calls only its own.1
Toward the end of his article McNallen states, “We are intimately tied up with the fate of our whole people, for Asatru is an expression of the soul of our race.”2 In a later article McNallen refines some of his thoughts. He writes:
Our religion is a function of who we are, not just what we believe. Since the human being is holistic entity, our spirituality cannot be considered something apart from our physical ancestry. In terms of both genetics and metagenetics, our ancestors are encoded into our very beings. From values and temperament- which have been shown to correlate statistically with heredity-to the deeper issues of spirit, our forefathers and foremothers continue to influence us.3
Likewise, an article found at “Heathen front,” explaining what AHF (Allgermanische Heidnische Front) is, states that ethnic religions “are the most suitable ones.” The writer explains they are “manifestations of the inner self of every people, and expression of their collective subconscious.”4 The author of the “creed” pages for Heathen Front's website also writes, “We believe that every religion is a projection of the völkish archetype, morals and ethics.”5 This means that all religion comes from tribal or racial experience as opposed to universal human experience. It certainly denies that an absolute and personal Creator God reveals Himself to all of humanity. The need to protect a racial religion from outside cultural and ethnic influences by refusing membership to other races is not only problematic, but seems racist. One would have to protect the racial group from contamination by other races in order to keep the religion pure since religion is seen as the essence of the race.
Ethnic Religion and Religious Hatred
Ethnic Religion and Religious Hatred
These various Odin groups make a distinction between a universal religion and an ethnic or “folkish” faith. All of the major world religions are considered universal because they are meant for all people. The ethnic religion is understood as existing only for a racial or cultural group. In this context Christianity is seen as the great enemy of the white Northern peoples since they were converted by its missionaries to an alien religion not in keeping with the soul of the Northern European. Michael Moynihan in his book, Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground, subtly implies that the many church burnings in Norway by either band members or fans of black metal was a subconscious explosion of the white youths need to return to the old heathen religions. He documents how many of these members turned from satanic rock to the Norse or Odin religious symbols in their music and religious outlook. One explanation that Moynihan offers is Jungian and builds on a theory of racial archetypes within the cultural subconscious.6 So along side the racial problem in these groups is the glaring problem of religious hatred.
There are several degrees of extremism among such pagan groups on the Internet. The most extreme and the racist ones are The Pagan Front and The Heathen Front. Another grouping made up of such groups as Asatru Free Assembly, Asatru Folk Assembly and Odinic Rite, do not consider themselves racist and have nothing to do with Hitler or Nazism. (Interestingly, the latter groups see Hitler and Nazism as manifestly Christian, and therefore atrocious, while Pagan Front and Heathen Front see Hitler and Nazism as anti-Christian and therefore an admirable and helpful part of their movement. They all quote Hitler to prove their point!) While Steve McNallen of Asatru Folk Assembly claims not to be racist, some of his articles promote racism. In an article entitled “Wotan vs. Tezcatlipoca,” McNallen attempts to show that a kind of spiritual ethnic war is developing in California between the gods of the Hispanic culture and the European culture. He sees the old Aztec and Mayan gods pushing for territory in California and writes, “If California and the American Southwest are to be cultural battlegrounds, who better to lead the European-American counterattack against Tonatzin and Tezcatlipoca than our own Gods of the North.” While not suggesting violence as the answer, he sees cultural interests such as language and festivals as indicators of aggression rather than celebrations of ethnic diversity in a democracy. 8
The Heathen Front, unlike the Pagan Front, does not major in Black Metal music. Not unlike Nazi culture, they value ethnic folk music and the classical music of Richard Wagner.7 However, the founder of the Norwegian Heathen Front, musician Varg Vikernes, is a young man serving a prison term in Norway for murder and church burnings. Before his imprisonment he was a part of the Black Metal and Satanic Music scene in Norway. He is also one of the more important subjects in Moynihan's book Lords of Chaos. Moynihan explains that Vikernes is an embarrassment to the neo-heathen groups because of his “extreme and bloody interpretation of indigenous Norse religion.” Moynihan also writes, “when contemporary figures sought to revive the old religion of Northern Europe, they had not intended to bring back uncontrollable barbarism and lawlessness with it.”9
Several other interests connect these groups to the pagan worldview and to grass roots movements in general. One interest is the tribal unit versus globalism. Since the tribe is seen as the most important unit of society in the Odin communities, neither nation states, world organizations, nor any form of global movement are accepted as helpful to the white European soul. Another interest is the environment. They affirm environmental concerns and have statements at their websites about environmental issues as they see them. The Heathen Front offers an essay on Savitri Devi. She was a vegetarian and advocate for animal rights. Her book, Impeachment of Man, is an attack on Christianity, Judaism and Islam and a plea for the rights of animals. A European, she lived in India during World War II, aligning herself with the Nazi Party and the radical India Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). She later developed connections to George Lincoln Rockwell the founder of the American Nazi Party. 10 The Heathen Front also states:
Judeo-christian [sic] morals prevent mother Jord from doing her work, so we are keeping people alive that were sacrificed by nature to save those fit for survival. More people means [sic] more pollution, and today we have reached too high a level of population/pollution. The earth can no longer re-generate. Slowly we are killing everyone to help just a few. If you look upon this matter with a clear vision, rather than one blurred with Judeo-Christian or humanist values, you will understand this fully as well.11
The religious hatred of these various groups is one of the more troubling aspects of the movement. On Pagan Front's website various band's sites are promoted. One site has two crosses inverted with Christ still hanging there as an entryway. Varg Vikernes in an article denouncing “Christian Identity,” (a racist movement claiming to be Christian), calls Christianity the “most extreme Jewish consequence.” Later in the article, he states, “It were [sic] Christians who condemned everything Aryan to Hell forever! It was Christianity who made our Aryan race coward and degenerate! Christianity has been the origin of everything evil in Europe since it arrived here!”12 In an article about ecology, the writer states, “Judeo-Christianity is the irreligious masquerading as the religious. It is a life hating death cult, that hates the earth with its races, its tribes and its wide biological variety - its underlying holiness.”13
A Biblical Response: God's Blessing From Tribe To Messiah To The Nations
A Biblical Response: God's Blessing From Tribe to Messiah to the Nations
Humanly speaking, the Judeo-Christian world will cringe at this hatefulness, and rightfully so. Yet, prayerfully, there is another picture of the individuals in these groups. Born into a Western “Christian” culture where most people are biblically illiterate and where materialistic secularism has almost totally engulfed society, they generally know nothing of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They equate “Christian” with the emptiness of secular society. They experience a society filled with barren hype, little meaning and violence. They believe that within their pagan racial beliefs they have returned home: to nature and to the tribe. But they have the foundation for meaning inverted. It begins not with humanity, not with the alleged racial archetypes of human consciousness, but with the compassionate Father, the true Creator of all. And while the story of redemption, which gives meaning, begins with a small Near Eastern tribe, it is proclaimed and pushed forward toward all humanity; it is expanded as God speaks through the voice of the prophets of that tribe.
God's promises came to Abraham the father of that tribe, “and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Gen. 12:3b). God chose that small family to bring a blessing on all the peoples of earth. The Hebrew prophets reminded the nation, which grew from that particular family, of God's desire for redemption and blessings on all people. Israel will be “a light of the nations.” God's house, “will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.” God will bring the foreigner, those who are not Israel, “and make them joyful in My house of prayer” (Isa. 49:6b; 56:7). God would do this through the coming Messiah who would be a light to the Gentiles: “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them” (Isa. 9:2 with Luke 2:32). Finally, because of the Messiah's death on a cross and His resurrection, the beautiful song of the elders can be sung:
“[B]y your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation; you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God and they will reign on earth” (Rev. 5:9, 10b).
God starts with the small, the particular, and the isolated. He moves to embrace all in His redemption. The men and women who find inspiration in an empty snowy wood, lofty mountain peaks, tales of brave warriors and mythic sagas, will in the end find only emptiness and horror if they miss the God who created not only the snowy woods, but also all the tribes of the earth. Moynihan's remark about “uncontrollable barbarism and lawlessness” being an unintentional result of a revival of Northern European Paganism, is simply one case in point. Jesus Christ is the only revelation of God; any other leads to
destruction. Unredeemed humanity moves toward the horror and corruption of nightmares. All that is good and promising, “the weight of glory” as C.S. Lewis called it, comes from Jesus Christ.
Picture by Brad Larson
2 Ibid., 4.
6 Michael Moynihan, Didrik Soderlind, Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground, (Vince, California: Feral House 1998). Michael Moynihan is himself a member of “the Tribe of the Wulfings,”(see “Lords of Chaos: A Review by Hnikar) Hnikar, (Eric Wood), has left the Asatru Folk Assembly and has removed all of his articles from the internet but the papers are on file at Naming The Grace. Moynihan has a band called Blood Axis. He belongs to those groups that disavow racism but who hold a potential for racism.
9 Moynihan, Lords of Chaos, 182.
10 Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, Hitler's Priestess: Savitri Devi, the Hindu-Aryan Myth, and Neo-Nazism, (New York: New York University Press 1998), 104,105. Savitri Devi is rejected by some Odinist because of her embrace of Hinduism.
Link no longer active; paper on file.
Some of the web links from the original article have changed and I have replaced them.