This is the understanding of history you get without learning about the impact systemic racism has had on the country. https://t.co/loZhP2mai0
— Beau of The Fifth Column (@BeauTFC) May 8, 2021
Bernhardt (or Ben) Klassen (February 20, 1918 (O.S. February 7, 1918) – August 6, 1993) was an American politician and white supremacist religious leader. He founded the Church of the Creator with the publication of his book Nature’s Eternal Religion in 1973. Klassen was openly racist and antisemitic, and first popularized the term “Racial Holy War” within the white nationalist movement.
At one point, Klassen was a Republican Florida state legislator, as well as a supporter of George Wallace‘s presidential campaign. In addition to his religious and political work, Klassen was an electrical engineer and he was also the inventor of a wall-mounted electric can-opener. Klassen held unorthodox views about dieting and health. He was a natural hygienist who opposed the germ theory of disease as well as conventional medicine and promoted a fruitarian raw food diet.
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Klassen was born on February 20, 1918, in Rudnerweide (now Rozivka in Chernihivka Raion in Zaporizhzhia Oblast), Ukraine, to Bernhard and Susanna Klassen (née Friesen) a Ukrainian Mennonite Christian couple. He had two sisters and two brothers. When Klassen was nine months old, he caught typhoid fever and nearly died. His earliest memories were of the famine of 1921–22. He remembered his father rationing to him one slice of dark bread for dinner. Klassen was first introduced to religion at the age of “three or four”. When he was five, the family moved to Mexico, where they lived for one year. In 1925, at age six, he moved with his family to Herschel, Saskatchewan, Canada. He attended the German-English Academy (now Rosthern Junior College).
Klassen established a real estate firm in Los Angeles in partnership with Ben Burke. Believing that his partner was prone to drinking and gambling, Klassen eventually bought him out and became sole proprietor. He hired several salesmen, including Merle Peek, who convinced him to buy large land development projects in Nevada. Klassen and Peek started a partnership called the Silver Springs Land Company, through which they founded the town of Silver Springs, Nevada. In 1952, Klassen sold his share of the company to Phillip Hess for $150,000 and retired.
On March 26, 1956, Klassen filed an application with the U.S. Patent Office to patent a wall-mounted, electric can opener which he marketed as Canolectric. In partnership with the marketing firm Robbins & Myers, Klassen created Klassen Enterprises, Inc. In the face of competition from larger manufacturers that could provide similar products more cheaply, Klassen and his partners dissolved the company in 1962.
Klassen served Broward County in the Florida House of Representatives from November 1966 – March 1967, running on an anti-busing, anti-government platform. He campaigned for election to the Florida Senate in 1967, but was defeated. That same year, he was vice chairman of an organization in Florida which supported George Wallace‘s presidential bid.
Klassen was a member of the John Birch Society, at one point operating an American Opinion bookstore. But he became disillusioned with the Society because of what he viewed as its tolerant position towards Jews. In November 1970, Klassen, along with Austin Davis, created the Nationalist White Party. The party’s platform was directed at White Christians and it was explicitly religious and racial in nature; the first sentence of the party’s fourteen-point program is “We believe that the White Race was created in the Image of the Lord.” The logo of the Nationalist White Party was a “W” with a crown and a halo over it, and it would be used three years later as the logo of the Church of the Creator.
Less than a year after he created the Nationalist White Party, Klassen began expressing apprehension about Christianity to his connections through letters. These letters were not well received and they effectively ended the influence of the Nationalist White Party.
Church of the Creator
In 1973 Klassen founded the Church of the Creator (COTC) with the publication of Nature’s Eternal Religion. Individual church members are called Creators, and the religion they practice is called Creativity.
In 1982, Klassen established the headquarters of his church in Otto, North Carolina. Klassen wrote that he established a school for boys. The original curriculum was a two-week summer program that included activities such as “hiking, camping, training in handling of firearms, archery, tennis, white water rafting and other healthy outdoor activities”, as well as instruction on “the goals and doctrines of Creativity and how they could best serve their own race in various capacities of leadership.”[page needed][page needed]
In July 1992 George Loeb, a minister in the church, was convicted of murdering a black sailor in Jacksonville Florida. Fearing that a conviction might mean the loss of 20 acres of land worth about $400,000 in Otto, North Carolina belonging to the church, Klassen sold it to another white supremacist, William Luther Pierce, author of the Turner Diaries, for $100,000.
Racial holy war
Ben Klassen first popularized the term “Racial Holy War” (RaHoWa) within the white nationalist movement. He also consistently called black people “niggers” in public discourse as well as in the literature of the COTC, as opposed to many white nationalist leaders who use relatively more polite terms in public. Klassen wrote, “Furthermore, in looking up the word in Webster’s dictionary I found the term ‘nigger’ very descriptive: ‘a vulgar, offensive term of hostility and contempt for the black man’. I can’t think of anything that defines better and more accurately what our position… should be… If we are going to be for racial integrity and racial purity… we must take a hostile position toward the nigger. We must give him nothing but contempt.”
In his 1987 book Rahowa – This Planet Is All Ours he claims that Jews created Christianity in order to make white people weaker, and he said that the first priority should be to “smash the Jewish Behemoth”.
Klassen was a natural hygienist who promoted a back to nature philosophy that espoused fresh air, clean water, sunshine and outdoor exercise. He recommended a raw food diet which consisted of fruits and vegetables and believed that medicine and processed foods create cancer inside the body. Klassen wrote that food must be “uncooked, unprocessed, unpreserved and not tampered with in any other way. This further means it must be organically grown without the use of chemicals.”
Klassen promoted “racial health” and natural hygiene principles, and he was influenced by the works of Herbert M. Shelton. Klassen believed that fasting would cleanse the body of toxins, and he also believed that a fruitarian raw food diet would cure disease. Klassen rejected the germ theory of disease and believed that modern medicine was a Jewish multi-billion-dollar fraud. Klassen contributed an introduction and a chapter on eugenics to Arnold DeVries‘ book Salubrious Living (1982). The book endorsed fasting, sunbathing, fruitarian and raw food dieting. Historian George Michael has written that “despite his advocacy of healthy nutrition, some of his associates claimed that in practice Klassen did not actually follow the “salubrious living” regimen, because he often ate red meat and ice cream.”
Klassen firmly opposed religion because he believed it was superstitious, and he described Christianity as a “Jewish creation” which was designed to unhinge white people by promoting a “completely perverted attitude” about life and nature. He rejected the afterlife as “nonsense”. He argued that man’s morality and sense of purpose is based on the laws of nature and racial loyalty. Klassen believed that the white race was the sole builder of civilization and all of the advanced civilizations which existed in antiquity were created by white people but they were destroyed because they practiced miscegenation.
Possibly depressed after the death of his wife, the failure of his church and a diagnosis of cancer and considering suicide a suitable way to end his life, Klassen took an overdose of sleeping pills either late on August 6 or early on August 7, 1993. Klassen was buried on his North Carolina property in an area which he had previously designated “Ben Klassen Memorial Park”.
We are deep into campaign season with Christians on all sides becoming increasingly anxious and vocal. Phil talks with Kaitlyn Schiess, author of “The Liturgy of Politics,” about the false narratives shaping the hearts and politics of many Christians. She identifies these “false gospels” as prosperity, patriotism, security, and supremacy—and they’re far more subtle and powerful than you might think, and they affect both sides of the partisan divide. Also this week, Jerry Falwell Jr. responds to his expulsion from Liberty U. by quoting MLK’s “Free at last…” speech. And Mike Pence quotes the Bible in his RNC speech but replaces “Jesus” with “Old Glory.” Is it the clearest example of Christian Nationalism yet?
- “What Jerry Falwell Jr. Taught Me at Liberty University” by Kaitlyn Schiess: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/26/op…
- “The Liturgy of Politics” by Kaitlyn Schiess: https://www.amazon.com/Liturgy-Politi…
- “Vice President Mike Pence Swapped Out “Jesus” for “Old Glory” in His RNC Address”: https://relevantmagazine.com/culture/…
This is what real “decolonization” should look like.
“Decolonize this place!” “Decolonize the university!” “Decolonize the museum!”
In the past few years, decolonization has gained new political currency — inside the borders of the old colonial powers. Indigenous movements have reclaimed the mantle of “decolonization” in protests like those at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access pipeline. Students from South Africa to Britain have marched under its banner to challenge Eurocentric curriculums. Museums such as the Natural History Museum in New York and the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Brussels have been compelled to confront their representation of colonized African and Indigenous peoples.
But what is “decolonization?” What the word means and what it requires have been contested for a century.
After World War I, European colonial administrators viewed decolonization as the process in which they would allow their imperial charges to graduate to independence by modeling themselves on European states. But in the mid-20th century, anticolonial activists and intellectuals demanded immediate independence and refused to model their societies on the terms set by imperialists. Between 1945 and 1975, as struggles for independence were won in Africa and Asia, United Nations membership grew from 51 to 144 countries. In that period, decolonization was primarily political and economic.
As more colonies gained independence, however, cultural decolonization became more significant. European political and economic domination coincided with a Eurocentrism that valorized European civilization as the apex of human achievement. Indigenous cultural traditions and systems of knowledge were denigrated as backward and uncivilized. The colonized were treated as people without history. The struggle against this has been especially central in settler colonies in which the displacement of Indigenous institutions was most violent.
South Africa, where a reckoning with the persistence of the settler regime has gripped national politics, reignited the latest calls for decolonization in 2015 with the #RhodesMustFall movement. Students at the University of Cape Town targeted the statue of the British imperialist Cecil Rhodes, but saw its removal as only the opening act in a wider struggle to bring white supremacy to an end. Under the banners of “more than a statue” and “decolonize the university,” students called for social and economic transformation to undo the racial hierarchies that persist in post-apartheid South Africa, free university tuition and an Africa-centered curriculum.
Now, partly riding the global surge of Black Lives Matter mobilizations, calls for decolonization have swept Europe’s former imperial metropoles. In Bristol, England, last month, protesters tore down the statue of Edward Colston, the director of the Royal African Company, which dominated the African slave trade in the 17th and 18th centuries. Across Belgium, protesters have focused on statues of King Leopold II, who ruled the Congo Free State (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) as his personal property from 1885 to 1908. King Phillipe II of Belgium recently expressed “regret” for his ancestor’s brutal regime, which caused the death of 10 million people.
Colonialism, the protesters insist, did not just shape the global south. It made Europe and the modern world. Profits from the slave trade fueled the rise of port cities like Bristol, Liverpool and London while the Atlantic economy that slavery created helped to fuel the Industrial Revolution. King Leopold amassed a fortune of well over $1.1 billion in today’s dollars from Congo. His vision of the Royal Museum for Central Africa, which opened in 1910 soon after his death, reproduced a narrative of African backwardness while obscuring the violent exploitation of the Congolese.
By tearing down or defacing these statues, protesters burst open the national narrative and force a confrontation with the history of empire. This is a decolonization of the sensory world, the illusion that empire was somewhere else.
Laying a flag of the Democratic Republic of Congo on the statue of King Leopold or hauling the Colston statue into the sea, where thousands of enslaved women and men lost their lives, tears apart the blinders and boundaries between past and present, metropole and colony. Insisting on the presence of the past, the protests reveal Europe’s romance with itself, unmasking its political and economic achievements as the product of enslavement and colonial exploitation.
This historical reckoning is only the first step. Acknowledging that colonial history shapes the current inequalities and hierarchies that structure the world sets the stage for the next one: reparations and restitution.
Reparations is not a single act. The Caribbean Community has already demanded reparations for slavery and Indigenous genocide from Britain, France, Spain and the Netherlands. Although there is little movement at the level of states, the University of Glasgow agreed last year to pay 20 million pounds (about $25 million) for development research with the University of the West Indies in recognition of how the university benefited from the profits of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
The Herero of Namibia, who suffered the 20th century’s first genocide at the hands of Germany, have also called for redress. Their efforts follow the successful bid for reparations by the Mau Mau of Kenya, many of whom were tortured during Britain’s brutal suppression of their independence movement in the mid-20th century. In other contexts, activists have focused on the return of the looted artifacts that fill Europe’s great museums. France, for instance, has committed to returning 26 stolen artworks to Benin.
But reparations should not focus only on the former colonies and their relations with European states. Colonialism lives on inside Europe’s borders, and Europe itself must be decolonized. Black Europeans experience discrimination in employment and education, are racially profiled and are subject to racist violence at the hands of the police and fellow citizens.
The European Union recently avowed that “Black lives matter,” but its policies deprive Black people of equal rights, imprison them in camps and drown them in the Mediterranean. Overseas imperialism was once believed to be a political necessity for European states; today, anti-immigrant politics plays the same role. In either case, European policymakers disavow responsibility for the misery they bring about.
Repair and redress is owed as much to Black Europeans as it is to former colonial states. It would mean treating Black Europeans, and all migrants from the colonized world, as equal participants in European society. And this form of reparation cannot be perceived as one-off transactions. Instead, it must be the basis of building an inclusive and egalitarian Europe.
This is no easy task and will not happen overnight. But we should remember that just 80 years ago, colonial rule appeared to be a stable and almost permanent feature of international politics. In just three decades, anticolonial nationalists had transformed the world’s map.
The struggle for racial equality in Europe is a fight for a truly postcolonial condition, and its creation is implied by each dethroned statue. If colonialism made the modern world, decolonization cannot be complete until the world — including Europe — is remade.