The Daily Beast Goes Inside Virginia’s White Supremacist Cult that Had Two Men Plotting to Burn Black and Jewish Churches

Photo Illustration by Emil Lendof/The Daily Beast
Photo Illustration by Emil Lendof/The Daily Beast

The FBI arrested two young men in Virginia on Tuesday for planning to start a race war by burning churches. But the Norse-inspired white supremacist cults they belonged to are all the rage in parts of Southern Virginia.

Viking-inspired white supremacists trying to terrorize black Christians in the South: not as rare as you think.

News broke yesterday that the FBI arrested two young men under the suspicion that they were planning to start a race war by bombing black churches in their home state of Virginia. The men, Robert Doyle and Ronald Chaney, allegedly ascribe to an Icelandic pagan faith called Asatru that has a disturbingly large following among white supremacists.

The faith itself doesn’t seek to endorse or promulgate racist or anti-Semitic views. But you could be forgiven for thinking it does, given its strange appeal to Nazis and other sundry bigots.

Asatru is a pagan religion that draws on Norse mythology. It is related to Odinism, according the Southern Poverty Law Center, and some use the terms interchangeably. Its defenders say the religion itself isn’t inherently bigoted. But many white supremacists find it appealing because, unlike Christianity, it isn’t influenced by Judaism. If you think the KKK is soft on the Jews because it’s Christian-friendly, Asatru might be for you.

The SPLC notes that Odinism, which has ties to Asatru, played an important role in some corners of Nazism.

“Its Nordic/Teutonic mythology was a bedrock belief for key Third Reich leaders,” the group noted in a 1998 write-up, “and it was an integral part of the initiation rites and cosmology of the elite Schutzstaffel, which supervised Adolf Hitler’s network of death camps.” Asatru apologists seem to recognize that it has a bit of a PR problem.

Nazi affection for Asatru wasn’t a fluke. David Lane, a white supremacist terrorist who died in prison, promoted the religion while incarcerated. And it has gained significant traction in the prison population; the Anti-Defamation League wrote in a 2002 report that it was one of the faiths that incarcerated white supremacists found most often. The men arrested for allegedly trying to start a race war “may have met in prison, where all were des­ig­nated by prison offi­cials as white suprema­cists while in cus­tody,” the ADL notes.

“Accord­ing to the FBI, the sus­pects were adher­ents of a white suprema­cist vari­ety of Asatru­ism,” the group added.

And they aren’t the only young white men to target black churches in Virginia.

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Source: The Daily Beast | Betsy Woodruff

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