Christian Nationalism–A Local Export

Our Export Makes National News

Christian Nationalism is not a new export from our region. The “Church of Jesus Christ–Christian” at the Aryan Nations compound north of Hayden Lake, Idaho, spread related doctrine from the Inland Northwest throughout the nation for more than three decades. Founded in the 1970s and run by Richard Girnt Butler, the Aryan Nations drew followers from all over the country to the annual “Aryan Nations World Congress”. 

The “World Congress” spun off several members of “The Order,” a group founded in Metalline, Washington, whose members planned and carried out the assassination of Colorado talk show host Alan Berg in 1984. Randy Weaver of the Ruby Ridge standoff attended meetings at the Aryan Nations. Weaver was identified as an inspiration by Timothy McVeigh, the best known of the two plotters of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history. The tendrils of the biblically inspired Phineas Priesthood, followers of which bombed The Spokesman-Review and the Spokane Valley Planned Parenthood in 1996, are toxically entwined with the Aryan Nations. 

The Aryan Nations compound was bulldozed in 2001, the same year the FBI designated the Aryan Nations as “a terrorist threat”. Richard Butler died peacefully in his sleep of congestive heart failure in 2004. At the time Butler was living in a new home in Hayden Lake funded by Sandpoint millionaire and white supremacist Vincent Bertollini

The “Church of Jesus Christ–Christian” and the Phineas Priesthood both claimed Bible-based, Christian justification for their ideologies and for the acts of terror and violence carried out by their adherents. 

Surely modern-day Christian Nationalists would disavow Nazism and Aryan Nations-style white supremacy, but the seeds planted over decades by Richard Butler and his Aryan Nations did not fall on barren ground in the northwest or across the nation. The American Redoubt movement that thrives in North Idaho and Matt Shea’s allied and long-nurtured Liberty State are rooted in this same ground. Both movements exude overtones of a religious/ethic enclave free of control by godless government, that is, anyone not devoted their particular brand of nationalistic Christianity. After Matt Shea’s withdrawal from the Washington State legislature on account of exposure of his “Biblical Basis for War” document, Shea became Pastor of the Covenant Church on Spokane’s near north side at 3506 W Princeton Avenue. Covenant’s founder, Ken Peters, “received the call” and went to off to Knoxville to found a “Patriot Church”, leaving Shea in charge. In Peters’ absence Shea decamped from Covenant to a large building at a new location in downtown Spokane at 115 E Pacific Avenue, taking many of Covenant’s parishioners with him. 

Both Shea and Peters are leaders in the local Republican anti-vaccination, anti-mask-mandate, anti-science, pro-gun, anti-abortion, anti-CRT wing. Both are convinced that the United States was founded and the Constitution written by their brand of Christian men and that the U.S. must return to being a totally Christian state. Any suggestion of tolerance for differing views of Christianity, to say nothing of non-Christian believers, is anathema. 

Recently, Pastor Ken Peters, now identified as the pastor of the “Patriot Church” in Knoxville, got national air time on All Things Considered on National Public Radio in an 8 minute segment on Christian Nationalism. I urge you to click this link where you can either listen to the segment online or read the transcript. My ears perked up when I heard Peters’ name on the radio. John Burnett, the NPR interviewer, listens to Peters’ sermon and writes:

…what makes this church different is its embrace of the contemporary agenda of the far right – masks and vaccinations violate religious freedom, the participants in the January 6 riot were proud patriots, the Biden administration is evil and illegitimate.

Peters attended January 6, but said (elsewhere than this interview) that he didn’t enter the Capitol. 

Spokane was never mentioned in the NPR segment, but it mentions that there is a “Patriot Church” in Washington State. I checked and, sure enough, Covenant Church, Peters’ mother church has been re-named “Patriot Church”:

The Covenant Church outpost in Moses Lake, Washington, has also been re-named. 

These are the people who demonstrate outside Planned Parenthood as “The Church at Planned Parenthood,” people who joke about the prevalence of concealed weapons among them, people with ties to Matt Shea, his paramilitary activities, and his breakaway congregation in downtown Spokane. 

Listen to the interview, and, as you do, remember that Peters’ base is right here in Spokane.

Keep to the high ground,