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Dear Friends of BioEarth:

We are so appreciative of your generous donations to our GoFundMe campaign. Together we have raised nearly $4,000.00 in the latter part of 2021 for BioEarth and were selected for an Environment Grant by GoFundMe! This is a solid step toward our larger ongoing goal and these funds helped cover vital operational costs and got a number of important projects off the ground. You are truly lifting us up us at a vital stage of our organizational development and our hearts are filled with appreciation for your support!


Who is bold enough to start a new venture like BioEarth during a pandemic, you might ask? In 2021 we grew our team of three to ten dedicated members of the Leadership Team working pro bono to build the projects listed here. We know that despite our personal and societal challenges, an even bigger one is coming our way, and that is what has motivated us to keep working to spread stories and strategies of hope and practical preparation. It is our honor to update you on our progress:



Root.ED Conversations and Blog: These educational platforms introduced our thought leadership on a variety of topics related to promoting societal and ecological resiliency. Ten episodes have registered over 1,000 viewers through YouTube sign ins alone. However, this is

only a fraction of the total viewership, as the BioEarth website drew over 3,000 views a week for months on end in 2021.

For 2022, we are planning many more Episodes and Blog posts that highlight inspiring stories of adaptation, including interviews with a family that has created a wildlife sanctuary on a suburban street and an environmental artist who scuba dives, collects scientific data on coral, and paints passionately about toxins and sealife. We remain convinced that these stories of resiliency and insight are key to our collective fashioning of a 21 st century civilization that must adapt to the changes coming our way.



BioVillages: With your help, we took concrete steps toward creating our first BioVillage in the Shenandoah Valley and attaining 501c3 status. A BioVillage is an ecovillage that takes seriously the human cultural components needed for thriving together in a way that restores and improves the ecosystems in the community. We chose the Shenandoah Valley as our first site because its unique topography forms a relatively protected island from the rising temperatures that will engulf the states around it in the next few decades. For this reason, we understand the importance of conserving and restoring the ecosystems in the Shenandoah Valley, both as a carbon sink that helps stem climate change and as the home of the creatures that live there! As we take steps toward our own BioVillage, we are carefully crafting a plan that is replicable and adaptable to different regions, so that others can learn from our experiences.


Using criteria that we identified as essential to a thriving human and non-human community, in 2021 we scouted several areas, identified a suitable location for purchase, and found a property owner who shares our vision and is willing to sell to us. After drawing plans for the stages of the BioVillage, we have had early conversations about zoning with local officials, who seem positive about our project. We have other solid steps to take in 2022, including ongoing talks with officials, applying for grants, seeking project partners and residents, and seeking donors. We are also currently stepping up our local networking and capacity building, so if you live locally in Rockingham County or Harrisonburg, or would like to, and if you are interested in joining this effort please contact Frances at frances@bioearthcommunity.com or Rodrigue at rodrigue@bioearthcommunity.com.


BioCongo: As you know, we at BioEarth have a deep dedication to Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which is part of the “lungs of the Earth,” with the second largest rainforest in the world and the largest wetland. We have always felt that it was vital that Africans play the lead role in crafting the BioCongo vision, educational curricula that promote environmental education along with practical steps to build resiliency – ecological, societal, and personal. That’s why we are supporting Vijana Africa (501c3), a US incorporated non-profit with activities in DRC and Malawi in various projects that align with our goals. Specifically, we are working to support the building of a school in DRC that will, upon completion, educate over 550 students (including girls who would never have received this education). The school will feature the BioCongo educational curricula, co-developed between our team and local Congolese leaders. To date, 10% of our GoFundMe dollars raised is going directly to the building of this school and we have plans to support this even more directly. We are proud to work with and support Vijana Africa! Find out more about Vijana Africa's work at www.vijanafrica.org


Vijana Africa videography students, Image Courtesy of Vijana Africa

One Billion for Peace Pledge: In 2021 we introduced the One Billion for Peace Pledge, an

evidence-based articulation of what is needed for sustainable peace in a simple and compelling format. We began introducing this intention setting tool in late 2021 and the response was so positive that the momentum has been difficult to keep up with. In several settings, its positive reception led to enlightening and transformative discussions and actions. We are therefore very happy to have brought on Madiha Patel as a Program Director for the One Billion for Peace Pledge and we anticipate much more activity on this front in 2022!


Art and Design: We are fortunate ones indeed to have the involvement of our Creative Consultant, Danielle Evans, who created our striking new logo and GoFundMe campaign. Her designs continue to inspire us and will improve our other projects in 2022!


What has motivated this team to continue to stay engaged despite all the challenges of 2021? Truly, 2021 was a year of vivid reminders of the realities that are motivating our efforts. No matter what progress countries make on climate change (and sadly, we are way behind the changes that need to be made to avoid catastrophic rises in CO 2 ), the changes that we are already seeing are transforming the planet globally and regionally. All of us on the BioEarth Team were impacted by climate change this year. Some impacts were dramatic: Liz’s family was forced to evacuate repeatedly from wildfires in the Pacific NW this summer and fall. Other team members faced cycles of drought followed by flooding in California or remarkable temperatures of 70 degrees in a Virginia winter that confused animals and plants.


Moreover, this may well be remembered as the year that the whole world saw impacts from climate change, since many scientists believe the pandemic started with changes in animal species stressed by shrinking habitats and resources. (Note that even if this doesn’t prove to be the cause of covid-19, other novel viruses are starting this way, and greater incidence of disease is a direct result of climate change, as more mosquito borne disease and novel viruses develop and the melting of the Artic permafrost releases long dormant diseases).


We also had another stark reminder that the wise distribution of resources and planning for

environmental disruption is essential for promoting resiliency. On May 22, the volcano called

Mount Nyiragongo, near the city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo erupted this

summer. Rodrigue’s family outran flowing lava (literally during the filming of our GoFundMe

Video – along with the family of our videographer, David Nyiringabo!!), but their safety and

relocation was made even more difficult by poor civic planning, especially in terms of modes of transportation, communication, and inequitable access to resources, as tens of thousands had to flee within hours. Although volcanos are obviously not a consequence of climate change, this is yet another example of how we must engage in longer term planning that considers environmental disruption as part of the normal cycle of regions. For instance, nearby Lake Kivu remains a lethal threat due to rising methane gas related to the volcanic activity, leaving nearly two million residents in Goma at risk of death. Goma is thus an intense microcosm of the situation we all face: life cannot go on as normal once we understand the data for a changing normal.


Last but not least, as part of our unofficial duties the members of the BioEarth team planted a number of native plants and butterfly gardens and saved numerous critters, including some

horses, a dog, a woodpecker, and several other birds. We’ve started to realize this is also part of our walk!


While the challenges are great, so is our passion, and together we know we can make a

difference. Our BioVillage project in the Shenandoah Valley, our development of the BioCongo curriculum, and our support of Vijana Africa’s building of a school in DRC make meaningful differences in those communities and serve as replicable models for others. Through our Root.ED educational platforms and Peace Pledge, we are also planting conceptual, spiritual, and intellectual seeds that will grow into actions. And the members of our interdisciplinary team are each dedicated to continuing our work in our own locations, since Local + Local + Local = Global, in a wide variety of projects that promote community and ecological resiliency.


Wishing you peace, hope, wisdom, and resiliency for 2022!


With love, joy and gratitude,


The BioEarth Team – with Frances, Rodrigue, and Liz


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Addenda: Founders’ Activites Update and In Memoriam


Founders’ Activities Update


In addition to their work on every project listed above, the trio of Founders of BioEarth are

active locally as well as in the realm of thought leadership. Here are some highlights from 2021:


Liz Blackman, Frances Flannery, and Rodrigue Makelele co-presented on our BioCongo project in a presentation entitled “Teaching environmental resiliency in the Democratic Republic of Congo: an adaptive, faith based-public-non-profit partnership” at the African, African-American, and Diaspora Studies Conference, Harrisonburg, Virginia (web, Feb 16, 2021).



Liz established a Forest Kindergarten program at her local school, working with the administrative and teaching teams to adapt Montessori curriculum and place-based learning to an outdoor environment. The first few months have been a great success, with families and staff reporting improved learning outcomes and social-emotional development in her students. She is truly building resiliency for the future by educating the next generation in peacebuilding and ecological learning and wonderment!


In addition to being active in a number of anti-racism and peacebuilding

activities, these local projects as well as the phenomenal community response during wildfire season, community-based work on Resilient Methow and other local social service efforts, have all affirmed deeply for Liz that the Methow Valley in Washington is a model of community activism, resiliency, planning, and cooperation to be replicated for the future.



Rodrigue helped pass several bills for immigrants and refugees in Virginia as a Refugee Community Organizer and lobbyist for Church World Service and has attended several immigration conferences. He was the primary organizer for World Refugee Day Celebration in Harrisonburg, which featured civic officials and various organizations working for immigrant rights and peacebuilding (June 20, 2021). A true highlight was his invitation to the United Nations General Assembly Civil Society Consultation, where he represented BioEarth and Vijana Africa. Rodrigue met the President of the UN General Assembly and he was awarded the privilege to ask a direct question to the President (Feb 2021).


In addition to the school building project in DRC, Rodrigue has been active in building other

Vijana Africa projects, including the Vijana Citizen Academy for Peace and Leadership and

storytelling and farming projects in Malawi. Stay tuned for big news about Rodrigue and his

efforts in January!



Frances represented BioEarth remotely in a wide variety of spaces where she lectured on peacebuilding and the transformation of violent extremism, including at: The University of

Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi, (Feb 9, 2021); Interfaith Scholars Colloquy, web (February 9, 2021); Roanoke College, Roanoke, Virginia (March 2, 2021); Cherry Hill Seminary, Columbia, South Carolina (April 15, 2021); the University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal (April 27, 2021). She

also presented the Peace Pledge to Rotary Club International (web, August 17, 2021) and participated in an invited Religion and Foreign Policy Workshop hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations (May 18-19, 2021) and the Women of Color in the Academy conference (May 21, 2021). She presented remotely at the American Academy of Religion / Society of Biblical Literature in November, and she renewed her term as a member of the national Educational Resources and Review Committee, which supervises the creation of public school curricula related to religion and biblical studies.


Frances continues to work in the realm of Religion and Ecology in her scholarship. She also

published a co-edited volume with Nicolae Roddy, Biblical Wisdom: Then and Now (New York: Routledge Press, 2021), for which she contributed a chapter related to her eco-theological readings of the Hebrew Bible: “Wisdom for Those in the Image of God: An Eco-Theological Reading of Human and Serpentine Knowledge in Genesis 1-3.” She also co-wrote with Nicolae Roddy “Wisdom for Challenging Times: Ecclesiastes, Job, and a Vote for Compassionate Theology” in that volume. For a scholarly audience, she continued her work on ecology and biblical studies by publishing “Dreams and Visions of Eschatological Trees in The Book of the Watchers, The Book of Giants, and the Hodayot” in Eschatology in Antiquity. (Eds. Hilary Marlow, Karla Pollmann and Helen Van Noorden; London: Routledge, 2021): 184-91.


In 2022 Frances will continue work on her book project, Climate Apocalypse or Climate

Covenant, and – fingers crossed in light of covid – she should spend a few months in Ireland as a Trinity College Longroom Hub Fellow for that book project. She is dedicated to helping others reread the Bible through an ecological lens and reminds us that by 2060 over two-thirds of the world’s population will be either Christian or Muslim, all of whom hold the Bible to be sacred and authoritative to some degree. Thus, reclaiming biblical texts from the anti-environmental colonial interpretations of the past is essential to motivating collective environmental action.


In Memoriam


A word from Frances: I lost my dear mother, Susan Flannery, this fall. She transitioned from this life to whatever else there is peacefully on September 13, 2021. Your words of support and kindness during this difficult time were precious to me and my family, and I am eternally

grateful. Near the end of her life, my mom was excited about the plans for the BioVillage,

watched every Root.ED episode, and she educated her friends about Congo and climate

change! I miss her dearly and her passion, ferocity, and vision continue to inspire me.

Sadly, our friend and the videographer of our GoFundMe, David Nyiringabo, also lost his

beloved mother this year.


May their memories be for a blessing and may they live on in us and our work.

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In Judaism, we say that our task as humans is Tikkun Olam, the lifting of the sparks in creation, or what is usually translated as repair of the world. I am a biblical scholar and a researcher of religious extremism, and in these ways, I was trying to lift the sparks. Several years ago, though, my work on counter terrorism took me in a new direction that was even more urgent – doing everything I could to help prepare us for the transitions that are here, with more coming, because of climate change.


You read that right: I didn’t say stopping climate change, I said preparing for transitions that are already here and still coming because of climate change. Of course, we need to do whatever we can to slow down the rate of climate change. But even if we stopped all carbon emissions today, it would still take hundreds of years for levels of greenhouse gases to return to pre-industrial normal levels, and for a long time our global warming would continue to increase. This is happening more quickly than expected: within the next two to three years, we will hit the mark of rise in global average temperature that climate scientists from just seven years ago thought we would hit by 2070 (i.e, a 1.5° C rise). It is now widely accepted that we are on trend for a global average rise of 3.2-4.0° C by the end of the century (i.e. nearly eight degrees F higher over land and sea, and thus even higher over land), creating a domino effect of conditions once thought to be sci-fi dystopias, but which are now projected by mainstream climate science. We’ve already seen it unfold this summer in the Pacific Northwest.



Cub Creek Fire in Winthrop, WA. (Image by: Sarina Williams)


In less than three decades, the impact of these changes to society will be enormous. Scientists project there will be 250,000-500,000 climate refugees by mid-century (a 300-600% increase), with unprecedented stresses on food and potable water availability, millions of homes lost, and economic impacts on the most vulnerable, resulting in civil and military unrest in many parts of the world. We have seen this demonstrated recently in the Syrian civil war, which began with a drought. The stress to animals is also severe, with one quarter of animals currently at risk for extinction in the next few decades.



Image of Bee and Balsomroot Flower by: Liz Blackman
Bee and Balsamroot Flower in Winthrop, WA. (Image by: Liz Blackman)


This scenario is why a few years ago I partnered with two co-founders, Rodrigue Makelele and Liz Blackman, to form BioEarth, which works to prepare societies for climate change resiliency, which necessarily includes peacebuilding and education. We’ve now publicly launched with a team of ten dedicated professionals, with a GoFundMe to cover initial operational costs and some projects (such as a BioVillage in the Shenandoah Valley). Any donation would help, but whether or not you are in a position to donate, I’d like to bring your attention to our One Billion for Peace pledge, which anyone can sign.


Our One Billion for Peace pledge is an audacious attempt to eventually get one billion people to commit to peace in all its dimensions, including ecological well-being, which is a necessary step to creating broad civilizational preparedness for climate change. Knowing that we stand at genuine crossroads in human history, we cannot avoid catastrophe in our children’s world unless we first reflect deeply on choosing peace. Peace is more than the absence of violence. It is not just physical, it is also cultural / religious, ecological, material, and psychological. When any of these dimensions is missing, peace is not sustainable, and when it is missing for some peoples, it will affect us all.


The Peace pledge is necessary because the future resiliency of society depends on all of us learning and working together. Covid-19 taught us that governments may be overwhelmed by novel environmental conditions and find it difficult to cooperate during global scale emergencies, our food and energy systems are fragile, and there are differing outcomes for populations based on geographic location and class. We also can’t depend arrogantly on supernatural intervention (I have a lot to say in future blogs on the erroneous interpretation of the Bible that presumes God won’t leave us to the consequences of our actions), or on a billionaire inventor who will magically develop a machine just in the nick of time. Covid vividly showed us that we really are all in this together, that our fates are interconnected, and that our societal systems as they are currently configured are fairly frail. (Note that it also taught us that stopping our world economies for three months would only temporarily reduce carbon emissions, which have now seen a net rise as we have resumed our prior way of life).


The Peace Pledge is not an operations manual – we will disagree on how to achieve peace. It is, however, important as a shared commitment to reflect on the goal of peace. It is a reminder that all five dimensions (physical, material, cultural/religious, ecological, and psychological) are necessary for sustainable peace, or else it is not true peace. This pledge is an intention setting tool for individuals to use in their personal lives and communities. If you are moved to sign or share it, we invite you to do so.


These are our contributions to Tikkun Olam or repairing the world, and I sincerely hope you’ll read the One Billion for Peace pledge and consider signing. You can find it at www.bioearthcommunity.com (where you will also see the GoFundMe, if you are so moved and able to help in that way). Repairing the world is possible.


In Peace,

Frances


If you would like to learn more about The Peace Pledge, check out Episode Ten of Root.ED Conversations and join the BioEarth founders as we introduce our One Billion for Peace Pledge, and share how we choose, wage and pursue peace in our work and our daily lives.




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By: Frances Flannery

February 9, 2021


I wish to thank sincerely the Interfaith Scholars Colloquy (hosted in Detroit) and the Dept. of Philosophy and Religion at The University of Mississippi for the invited talks that formed the basis of this blog post. Their astute questions and interest sharpened my thinking and I am grateful.

PHOTO CREDIT: NY TIMES​

I. Some Basic Facts about January 6, 2021

On January 6 the world became fully aware of what those who study violent extremism had long known: the US is facing an increasingly motivated, organized, and well-funded network of disaffected groups on the radical right. To be clear, there is such a thing as the radical left, but even the most organized face of this, Antifa, is actually quite loosely organized and has not been responsible for much violence, including at BLM rallies. A new database by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a centrist thinktank, surveyed 900 politically motivated attacks since 1994. It found just one was perpetrated by anti-fascists, who were responsible for 0 deaths, as opposed to 329 deaths by the right-wing attackers.[1]


What I am calling "the radical right" is actually a wide assortment of various groups that are willing to commit violence in pursuit of their goals, including hundreds of right-wing militias (150-300), and an array of white supremacist, neo-Nazi, or Christian nationalist groups. While these differ in some aspects, there are definitely overlapping ideologies that persist from group to group, including a desire to resist or overturn the federal government, a tendency toward anti-Semitism and white supremacy, a belief that America is a God given country that needs to be rescued from dark forces so that white Christians can rule again, belief in a coming race war or civil war, and an attraction to conspiracy theories. While I will use the term "Christian nationalism" to explain a type of belief that associates itself with Christianity, especially through something called "Christian Identity" teaching, it is important to note that this set of beliefs has as little to do with Christianity as does radical Islamist extremism with Islam.


PHOTO CREDIT: WIN MCNAMEE-GETTY​

It's important to first establish the facts of January, since they are already being contested. Ahead of the protest, NBC news reported that the permit for the "Save America March" was for 10,000 persons but that three times as many responded that they would attend. Photos of the day show perhaps that many in attendance.[2] Not everyone who went to protest at the Capitol belonged to the "radical right." Many of us may have had friends, family or neighbors attend, and so it is important to accurately relate the facts of what actually happened.


It is true that only a minority of those at the protest were violent, but the numbers and behavior of those who were violent is alarming. Around 800 people broke into and entered the Capitol building (and about 400 have been identified by law enforcement so far). Some chanted "Hang Mike Pence" and some had weapons. Some, according to their own testimony, searched for Congresspersons to kidnap, punish, or kill. One well organized group that had practiced ahead of time planned to seal Congress in the tunnels below the Capitol and gas them, (although I am not sure how); one of their leaders was just arraigned for "seditious conspiracy," or conspiring to overthrow the government. By the end of the insurrection at the Capitol, five people had died, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick who died from his injuries. One hundred and forty police officers were injured (some severely, including with spinal damange). Two other officers committed suicide following the Capitol riot.[3] It could have been even worse: pipe bombs found outside the Democratic and Republican party headquarters were diffused without incident and a pickup truck with eleven more bombs and a weapons cache was discovered before causing damage.


The event was advertised for months on social media and attracted "lone wolves," a West Virginia lawmaker, a few former military, National Guard, and law enforcement personnel, and a mishmash of groups, including:

- neo-Nazi groups

- white supremacist groups, such as the Rise Above Movement (founded by Vincent James Foxx) and the Groyper Army (formed by podcaster Nick Fuentes)

- anti-government armed militias, like the Oath Keepers (Stewart Rhodes, founder, with 24,000 twitter followers) or the Three Percenters

- male empowerment, anti-federalist groups such as the Proud Boys or Boogaloo Bois

- conspiracy groups, such as QAnon

- Christian Identity or Identity related groups


Some of these persons or groups had already participated in the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville VA in 2017, which ended with the death of the counter-protestor Heather Heyer.


January 6 was a call to an even bigger mobilization of the disparate groups in the white nationalist movement around a common cause - in this case opposing what they saw as a fraudulent election that they believed Donald Trump had actually won. However, this is just the proximal cause. The ultimate goal for most of these groups is a Second Civil War or a Second American Revolution, which they believe would topple an unjust government, remove what they see as the corrupting influence of liberalism, people of color, Judaism, and a conspiratorial network of powerful persons. What is undeniable is that this stew of beliefs is steeped in a pseudo-Christian framework that understands America as a divinely given land that they must rescue.


II. Ziggurat of Zealotry and Schema of Radicalization

Susan Hasler and Cindy Storer, former CIA counterterrorism analysts, have coined a schema they call the "Ziggurat of Zealotry," which I have found to be a very helpful way of understanding how people in the radical right as well as other groups are radicalized (Hasler and Storer 2021). Their Ziggurat model applies both to domestic extremism and to transnational terrorism, such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda, which had formally been the focus of the intelligence community.


Image and Content: SUSAN HASLER AND CINDY STORER​

Imagine a stepped pyramid of five rungs, in which everyone is radicalized, but to a different extent. Those at the top are the smallest group that is also the most radicalized and violent, and the goal of the movement as a whole is to move people up the rungs of radicalization without it backfiring in a way that causes a bunch of members to move back down. Members lower down the ziggurat may be genuinely unaware of what goes on at the top.


At the Bottom rung are members of the general public who support and legitimize those above.


On the next rung up are those who support the movement in more specific and personal ways, such as funding or providing supplies or housing or gathering spaces.


On the third rung up are the storytellers, which Hasler and Storer call the "Instigators and Grand Schemers." These may be radical media celebrities, or they may just speak to insiders, for instance by hosting a podcast or blog or youtube channel. On the radical right, the recent crackdown of these mainstream channels has driven these Instigators to smaller, isolated platforms, such as Telegram, Gab and Parler.


Second from the top are those who wish to overthrow the govt of the US or their own country, and at the very top are those who wish to change the global configuration of power due to apocalyptic concerns. In terms of Islamist extremism we might think of the second to the top spot being Afghanistan Taliban vs. the global ambitions of ISIS in the top spot. In terms of US domestic extremism, a group like the Three Percenters occupies the second to top tier vs. the upper tier of the global QAnon or neo-Nazi movements. Members float rather frequently from group to group, however, and a national cause can also become a global one, and vice versa.


It is important to remember that while those at the very top may be virtually immune to reason, dialogue, or deradicalization, those at the bottom who are members of the general public who are in support of the publicly proclaimed ideals of the movement are not only the most numerous, they also create the conditions for the top of the pyramid to receive funding, protection, and motivation. The members at the bottom are also susceptible to moving up in terms of radicalization and violence.


To Hasler and Storer's Ziggurat of Zealotry, I would add another bottom layer - a wider societal environment provides a platform on which the pyramid can exist. Without this larger societal support, the base will be less attracted to radicalized ideology in the first place. A Reuters poll estimates that 12% of Americans supported the attack on the Capitol (Kahn 2021). Another poll by ABC news in 2017 found 9% of Americans say it is acceptable to hold Neo-Nazi views, which answers the question "How did we ever get here?" In addition to such political and social support, the churches have too often turned a blind eye to some of the extremism brewing in conservative circles.


Clearly understanding the goals and beliefs of the violent groups at the top of the pyramid can help the masses at the bottom and around the base of the pyramid to understand the ways in which their actions feed extremism. This understanding will also allow us to discuss the steps needed to deradicalize those at the bottom, without whose support the top is less effective and smaller.


III. Radical Apocalyptic Beliefs of White Nationalism

In my book Understanding Apocalyptic Terrorism (Flannery 2016) I identify a worldview of violent extremism that I call Radical Apocalypticism. Apocalyptic beliefs in themselves are not usually violent, but here I lay out the indicators that an apocalyptic group will succumb to violent extremism.


Apocalyptic groups, both violent and non-violent, believe that the world is in the grips of cosmic evil, and the good are suffering for it. A sense of persecution or oppression against the righteous is key to the apocalyptic worldview. Apocalyptic believers hold out hope that an endtime is coming which will be a cataclysmic change in which a divine savior will rescue the good and punish the evil. The Kingdom of God will reign in bliss, and all will be righted according to God's plan.


Radical apocalyptic groups also believe these things, but they add four indicators that change the ordinary apocalyptic beliefs of, say, Baptists and Jehovah's Witnesses, into the violent beliefs of groups such as Identity Europa or the KKK. While this post focuses on Christian nationalism and white nationalism in my examples, these four indicators of radicalization are found in extremists within Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, eco-activism, anarchism, and other ideological extremism on both the right and the left.


1. Active Eschatology: Triggering the End

All apocalyptic groups, both violent and non-violent, believe that the endtime is coming someday. Radical Apocalyptic groups not only believe that it is soon, they believe they can play a role in triggering it. On the radical right, they believe that America is a God given nation, a Christian nation, a City on a Hill that has come under the influence of Evil, which includes the federal government and persons of color, liberals, Jews, Muslims, and often various fictional conspirators, whether the Rothschilds, the Bildebergers, or even space aliens. They believe there is a coming civil war, a race war, in which true Christians and white persons will prevail. This is Armageddon and will return the country to the way God intended for it to be. Active eschatology goes beyond preparing for this or even desiring the end: it means the group seeks to play an active role in the unfolding, even bringing it about.


This idea has a long history on the racist right and is found in "The Turner Diaries," a fictional novel from 1978 that inspired Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City Bomber. McVeigh believed that by attacking the Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995 and killing 168 people, including 19 children in a daycare, and injuring more than 680, he was initiating the second American revolution. The extremist Christian group the Covenant, Sword, and Arm of the Lord, had taught him this ten years earlier. They sought to initiate the race war through planning assassinations of political figures and judges and attacking water systems and electrical grids, and they significantly catalyzed the radical right by training 1500 or so persons in a militia style camp in their Endtime Overcomer Training School, in rural Bull Shoals, Arkansas.


Image Credit: Mike Theiler- Reuters

Now think about what we saw from Jan 6. The image of the Confederate Flag in the Capitol (for the first time in our history) in this context isn't just about Southern pride, or even Southern white pride. It is about a plan to instigate a revolution or the second civil war. It is about what the Proud Boys call "The Storm." It's the "Boogaloo" of the Boogaloo Bois. It's the Second American Revolution of the Three Percenters, who falsely believe that 3% of Americans fought the British in the American Revolution and therefore if 3% of Americans now fight the liberal federal government they can overthrow it and gain independence again.


2. Concretized Evil: "Othering"

Apocalyptic groups tend to believe in the existence of cosmic evil forces, such as the devil. Radical apocalyptic groups direct their fight against groups of people whom they believe embody those dark forces. A theology called "Identity" teaching, which has been around since the 1920s but which really surged from the 1980s until today, is a racist perversion of Christianity. Identity teaches that Adam and Eve, created the white races or line of Seth, but Eve and Satan, created the line of Cain, which gave rise to Jews and persons of color. This "Seedline" teaching is supported through pulling biblical quotes out of context and by pseudo-science resembling the Nazi science about Jews. This teaching, which permeates radical right groups from the KKK to neo-Nazi groups, thus views its enemies not just as being on the wrong political side, but as the literal spawn of Satan. This makes people of color, Jews, and their allies irredeemable, whereas the Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, Germanic, and Nordic peoples are "Adamic" and pure.


PHOTO CREDIT: MARK PETERSEN-REDUX​

QAnon shares much with this theology, although members at the bottom of the ziggurat may not realize it at first because it presents itself like a fun role-playing game. This internet conspiracy at first proliferated on sites like Reddit and Facebook, the latter of which saw 12.8 million interactions between January to September 2020 on 6500 pages or groups, 1500 of which were flagged for potential violence through ties to 300 militarized groups. It is a global conspiracy, with branches in Germany and the Netherlands. Q is supposedly a top government official in the Trump era who is leaving "breadcrumbs" of information all over the internet. Believers maintain that Q is exposing the existence of a "Deep State" run by the Jewish financier George Soros and Hilary Clinton. Believers in QAnon maintain that Soros, Clinton, and other Democrats operate a widespread, global child trafficking sex ring in which they and their co-conspirators, top Democrats, rape, mutilate, and kill children. Thus, the photos of a sign at the insurrection claiming that "Pelosi is Satan" is not just hyperbole, it is evidence of terrifying beliefs held in earnest by followers of QAnon that can lead to violence in defense of children. Another photo by Mark Petersen of Redux showed a female protestor with the shirt "WQKE" (Woke but to Q) and a sign that read "#GOD WINS / END HUMAN TRAFFICKING" followed by the Q slogan "#WWG1WGAWW" or "Where We Go One, We Go All" (worldwide?).


SCREEN GRAB BY DAN CLANTON, JR.​

Note that believers in QAnon as well as the other factions on the radical right don't believe that they are on the wrong side of history. On the contrary, they believe that they are defending the innocent, such as the children in a Satanic pedophile ring. Once the false narrative is accepted, the motivation is understandable.


3. Theology of Violence: Radicalization Blueprint

Even when the motive is revenge for a wrong done or defense of the innocent, radical apocalypticists require a theology of violence as a kind of imaginal blueprint to cross over into real violence. At one level they may reluctantly accept that violence is necessary for carrying out God's will. At a higher level of radicalization, they may glorify violence as being redemptive in and of itself, since it is on behalf of a persecuted group of righteous or to defend a good cause. Even though most members of the parent religion with which they identify, such as Christianity or Islam, reject violence as a perversion of the religion, radical apocalypticists see it as the most zealous and faithful interpretation of the religion.


On the radical right in particular, violence is glorified by references to America's past revolutionary history and wrapped up in the Second Amendment, which is construed as a constitutional (and thus a God-Given) right to bear arms and constitute a militia in defense against a tyrannical government (such as the Obama or Biden administrations, in the radical right framework). Violence is celebrated because it is seen as a defense of the innocent (real Americans, children, the unborn) or to defend something good (which they would identify as Christianity, liberty, the purity of the white race). Notably, if violence on the Radical Right continues to grow and follows the pattern of other radical apocalyptic groups, they will eventually not only direct such violence at their enemies (liberal politicians, persons of color, Jews) but also at those who belong to their social groups but whom they deem to be traitors. That's what we saw on January 6 when the mob attacked police officers and when some wanted to kill all of Congress save for a few of their heroes.


4. Secret, Authoritarian Revelation: Conspiracies Galore

All radical apocalyptic groups subscribe to the idea that only they have the real truth and that all others are being duped. Thus, the more outlandish the claims, and the more that society at large rejects the claims, the more the groups believe the claims must be true, particularly if they are dispensed by an authority figure. Some of these revelations are small, but some are large and global, and involve a vast conspiracy. Since revelation comes only to the righteous few, in the eyes of the radical apocalyptic group, the more that unbelievers reject the revelation, the more true it must be.


In the case of the radical right there was widespread belief that President Trump was a revelatory, authoritarian dispenser of truth. QAnon speculates that he is Q. Many religious leaders on the far right thought he was divinely guided. More moderate religious leaders on the right maintained that even though Trump was a serial adulterer, liar, and general sinner, God was using him to enact a plan: to stack the Supreme Court with judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade and outlaw abortion in the US. Whatever their motives, their support of Trump as an instrument of God functioned to support the more radical members who made up the bottom of the ziggurat.


IV. Trump's Contribution to the Rise of the Radical Right

The present inability of most people to recognize the danger of all these four factors related together has brought us to the state we are in, one in which the Department of Homeland Security has issued a warning of impending violence from domestic extremism in the next few weeks and months. While I seek to be non-partisan in my analysis, it is vitally important to discuss the ways in which President Trump fed all of these four indicators of radical apocalyptic violence over four years. If we cannot recognize when these indicators are being cultivated by a leader, we will not recognize what is happening when the next figure arises to feed extremism, whether on the Right or the Left. Thus, whether you are a Conservative or a Liberal, a Republican or a Democrat or neither, we as a country need to understand how "Trumpism" became linked to radicalization on the right or we are doomed to repeat this cycle.

PHOTO CREDIT: LEAH MILLS, REUTERS​

First, Trump has often supported the "Active Eschatology" of the Radical Right since at least September 30, 2019 when he tweeted a quote by Pastor Robert Jeffress stating "If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal" (McCord 2019).


Second, from the start of his presidential campaign, Trump's message has skillfully promoted a deep "Othering." He has appealed to white identity politics by casting asylum seekers and immigrants as dangerous criminals, threatening to send US troops to the border to turn back an "invasion" of migrants, signing an executive order banning all immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries, and using language about "evil" too many times to count in creating a pervasive Us vs. Them narrative between conservatives and liberals. He has called the press "The Enemy of the People."


Consider the speech that Trump gave to the mob who stormed the Capitol on Jan 6 to get them to leave and pay close attention to the way he creates two opposing sides of Good and Evil through his use of pronouns. "I know your pain, I know your hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us." He repeated the false claims that had brought the mob to DC, saying "This was a fraudulent election," and added "but we can’t play into the hands of these people ". . . “We have to have peace. So go home, we love you, you’re very special, you’ve seen what happens, you’ve seen the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel, but go home and go home in peace” (C-SPAN 2021). The side of "Good" is equated with Trump and the victimized, and the side of Evil with Trump's enemies, including Democrats. Remember that Trump gave this speech after 800 people had violently stormed the Capitol building, committed property damage, and attacked police, yet Trump paints them as persecuted, loved, and special.


Third, Trump has repeatedly created a culture or "Theology of Violence" among some of his followers. (While they are too numerous to list here, I would point you to a timeline published by Vox called "Donald Trump is the Accelerant" by Cineas, 2021). Perhaps the most famous incident before January 6 was when he refused at first to condemn the white nationalists and neo-Nazis at the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, saying "there are very fine people on both sides." This was shocking to the nation, and to my neighboring city, which saw armed protestors chanting Nazi slogans, brandishing torches, and surrounding a Jewish synagogue, eventually culminating in a violent attack on counter-protestors that killed Heather Heyer. During the presidential debates, Trump told one group known to be violent, the Proud Boys, which is now designated a terrorist group by Canada, to "stand down and stand by," which they took as a sign that soon they would be called on to fight on his behalf. His military speak is not accidental - a website called armyfortrump.com takes one directly to the official reelection website Donald J. Trump for President Inc., where Trump is pictured saluting an officer in military uniform. On this site, followers are invited to "enlist."


Indeed, February 9 signaled that Trump will likely be impeached (a second time) for inciting violence on January 6 because of what he said to an angry mob, some of whom were armed and dressed in paramilitary uniforms. In urging them to march on the Capitol, he said "And we fight. We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore." What I wish to point out is not simply that Trump speaks in violent ways, but that he often casts violence as completely necessary for the basic defense of dignity of those who follow him.

Fourth, and above all, Trump fed the idea of "Authoritarian Revelation," the idea that only he would tell his followers the truth. He proclaimed in his speech at the Republic convention, "I am your voice . . . I alone can fix it." His loose relationship with facts led to four years of claiming that all news media that challenged or opposed him (which was all mainstream news media except for Fox News, and sometimes Fox News) was "Fake News." The Washington Post's Fact Checker found that by Nov. 5 2020, Trump had made 29,508 misleading or false claims, to he added repeated claims that the election was fraudulent. Counter-intuitively, this fog of disinformation played a big role in propping up the idea that only Trump told the truth, because it was so at odds with the perspectives of other information sources.


Every single one of nearly sixty of the Trump team's lawsuits failed to prove any fraud, often in front of Trump appointed judges, due to a complete lack of evidence. Nevertheless, President Trump and his media team relentlessly repeated that the election had been stolen, based on information that they would soon reveal (but never did). Although evidence never materialized, after the election on November 4 and before the riot on January 6, a Quinnipiac poll on December 10 found that a whopping 77% of Republicans believed that there had been election fraud (Keating). The deluge of misinformation that had continued unabated for four years had created an epistemological crisis that propped Trump up to be the sole authoritarian source of revelation in an environment that was construed to be evil (i.e., cast as an unrelenting attack by vast news media run by liberals). In terms of the Ziggurat of Zealotry, he functioned at the middle, as an Instigator of an unending deluge of misinformation that eroded credibility from trustworthy sources, which Trump called "Fake News." This storytelling also opened the way for other Instigators, such as the anonymous "Q" or podcasters such as Baked Alaska and Red Ice, who radicalized those at the bottom of the pyramid and who pushed them up the ladder.


V. Peacebuilding: What We Must Do There are a number of steps that law enforcement, intelligence, and the courts can take to curb right-wing radicalization, including identifying those who violently stormed the Capitol, arresting them, and designating them as domestic terrorist groups. Those 800 persons and some of their groups fit the definition of terrorism: "The unlawful use of violence or the threat of violence, often motivated by religious, political, or other ideological beliefs, to instill fear and coerce individuals, governments, or societies in pursuit of terrorist goals" (JP 3-26). Indeed, Canada has just named the Proud Bois (founded by Canadian founder of VICE news, Gavin McInnes) a domestic terrorist group, but the US only has designations for FTOs or Foreign Terrorist organizations. In the US, Domestic Terrorism is defined in the Patriot Act, but it is not a chargeable offense.


This is a huge oversight, because not only does defining a group in this way cut off funding from banks, or limit where they can buy property, it also deters those at the bottom of the pyramid who may join without fully understanding the scope of violence involved at higher levels. Some analysts are suggesting that, alternatively, the creation of an apparatus for charging Domestic Insurrectionists may be more even helpful. Given that eleven groups on the radical right recently received PPE funds, either designation would be an improvement.


But what I hope to have made clear is that this is not a problem that government or law enforcement alone can solve. There is a societal context, including a social media context, that has proliferated just enough to enable the radicalization pyramid to take hold. Fixing this and healing our nation will take all of us recognizing the four indicators of radicalization and rejecting them wherever we encounter them, even when a leader or storyteller who supports our interests or side is the one who advances them. Furthermore, we must all find creative solutions to create a society that actively diminishes the ability of these four indicators to flourish.


How do we counter Authoritarian Revelation? We need reliable news sources that most of us can agree on, which are non-partisan. We need to build information literacy and critical thinking skills. We need to educate ourselves on the history of dictatorship. We need to improve our own media skills and reject a diet of biased, sensationalist, snarky media - even when it's juicy or fun.


How do we counter Othering? We need all kinds of grassroots community and religious programs that promote positive intragroup communication - in interfaith, interethnic and interpartisan settings. We need to really cultivate diverse friend groups - and that also means spending time doing deep and compassionate listening to those from different political persuasions.


One of the issues that causes the biggest social divide and vilification of the "other side" in our country is abortion. There is a huge need/opportunity for the churches to step up to help the country have a compassionate discussion about abortion that promotes understanding on both sides. We're nowhere close to being able to have a civil social debate about this. Yet I believe that above all other issues, this is the one that drives many on the right to ignore what they call Trump's "antics" and "bad behavior" and that drives many on the left to believe that women's very lives and basic autonomy are at stake. This is one of the toughest national conversations we need to have, but until we do, Othering will continue around this issue.


How do we counter Redemptive Violence? All of us need to examine the ways that we accept and promote violence when we believe that the ends justify the means. As just one example, violent communication proliferates on social media, where the snarkiest and often the cruelest comment gets the most likes or forwards. How is each of participating in an environment in which we deepen the cleft between Us vs. Them?


How do we counter Active Eschatology? Every social justice effort or program that shows that we can improve the world and that includes those who feel left behind works against the idea that the world can only be fixed by a divine clearing of the gameboard. For those Christians who do embrace a peaceful apocalyptic ideology, please remember that even Jesus was agnostic about when the endtime would occur: "Of that day and hour no one knows, no one knows, not the angels of heaven, not even the Son, but only the Father" (Mt 24:36; Mk 13:32; Acts 1:7).


It might also be time to begin to challenge the root idea that feeds active eschatology: the notion of American exceptionalism and the idea that we are more divinely ordained than other countries in the world. We do have so much to be proud of as a nation - especially our liberties and freedoms - but we also have a legacy of European colonialism of indigenous land, murder and slavery of indigenous and African people, and civil war. Knowing that the radical right believes a second Civil War is coming, we need to remember that civil war is a tragedy and a painful blight on a nation. Notably, this position is not incompatible with either recognizing the pain of slavery or the pride that white Southerners take in the Confederacy as a way of honoring their past. It's simply an honest appraisal of war and the fragility of democracy.


In BioEarth, I am fortunate to learn from my co-founder Rodrigue about the aftermath of a real civil war. Being from the Democratic Republic of Congo, he knows what it is like when a nation loses 6-8 million people. There is nothing to glory in. There is only sadness, trauma, broken families, broken lives.


To stem the current rise of the radical right, we have to keep thinking as a society about why those on the bottommost rung of the pyramid of radicalization respond to messages of radicalization in the first place. Not always, but often, these are white men who are angry, and they feel persecuted and disrespected. They feel a loss of dignity and power in a world that is changing quickly and de-centering them. The Christian Church has a big role to play, as do moderate Republicans, not only in denouncing radical extremism, but also in rejecting all hints of active eschatology, authoritarian revelation, othering, and redemptive violence.


Finally, anti-racism allies of persons of color and persons of color themselves also have a role to play in making sure that we who have historically been marginalized aren't lifted up at the expense of others being torn down. It is true that at its root, the radical right is fighting against a loss of historical systemic privilege because of changing US demographics and attitudes. Yet if anti-racism advocates and those who won this last election simply turn the tables and belittle or mock those who lost, they only confirm the experience of persecution that persons on the bottom tier of the radicalization ziggurat are feeling. Without some measure of outreach or compassion, and without creating a welcoming space even for white nationalists to exit their previous racist views and social ties, then those who are susceptible to radicalization will only gravitate more firmly toward a community that empowers them, bolsters their masculinity, and gives them a feeling of belonging and pride. To counter this, we require a very simple remedy that is difficult to implement: to create a society in which all people are able to find their dignity.


Works Cited


Brewster, Jack. Sept. 4, 2020. "Trump-Backed QAnon Candidate Posts Meme Showing Off Gun and Urging 'Going on the Offense" Against AOC, The Squad. Forbes.

< https://www.forbes.com/sites/jackbrewster/2020/09/03/trump-backed-qanon-candidate-posts-meme-showing-off-gun-and-urging-offense-against-aoc-the-squad/?sh=271ecd556aca>.


Cineas, Fabiola. Jan. 9, 2021. "Donald Trump is the accelerant: A comprehensive timeline of Trump encouragnig hate groups and political violence." Vox. < https://www.vox.com/21506029/trump-violence-tweets-racist-hate-speech.>


CSIS Briefs (Center for Strategic and International Studies). Oct. 22, 2020. "The War Comes Home: The Evolution of Domestic Terrorism in the United States." < https://www.csis.org/analysis/war-comes-home-evolution-domestic-terrorism-united-states>.


CSPAN. Jan. 6, 2021. "President Trump Video Statement on Capitol Protestors." < https://www.c-span.org/video/?507774-1/president-trump-claims-election-stolen-tells-protesters-leave-capitol.>


Flannery, Frances. 2016. Understanding Apocalyptic Terrorism: Countering the Radical Mindset. New York: Routledge.


Hasler, Susan and Cindy Storer. January 2021. "The Ziggurat of Zealotry: Applying Lessons Learned from Fighting Al Qaeda to Right Wing Extremism." RANE Risk Assistance Network Exchange. <https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/ziggurat-zealotry-applying-lessons-learned-fighting-al-qaeda-right-wing-extremism>.


Department of Defense and Joint Publication 3-26. Dec. 2020. DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms. < s.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/dictionary.pdf>.


Kahn, Chris. Jan. 8, 2021. "Majority of Americans Want Trump Removed Immediately after U.S. Capitol Violence - Reuters/Ipsos poll." Reuters. < https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-trump-poll/majority-of-americans-want-trump-removed-immediately-after-u-s-capitol-violence-reuters-ipsos-poll-idUSKBN29D2VG>.


Keating, Christopher. Dec. 10, 2020. "Quinnipiac Poll: 77% of Republications believe there was

widespread fraud in the presidential election; 60% overall consider Joe Biden's victory legitimate." Hartford Courant. <https://news.yahoo.com/quinnipiac-poll-77-republicans-believe-204100654.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAFGfeJo6aMxhfQx1Ju1vgq9zBNXxXmBm2OFYie5Zn3qyJhDwNNrmOTC5bZ0h8phJ4HUTXlcQu09U6MlI6HHOuKEm8LCDl-QQtJQi2t-NRZTueiVcMHVzrBQtQtoGA81VmZIsgwYBiDdC_nce4UjpVnzvoiQ4VFwz1sSa2RihX-4B>.


Langer, Gary. Aug 21, 2017. "1 in 10 say it's acceptable to hold neo-Nazi views." ABC News. < https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/28-approve-trumps-response-charlottesville-poll/story?id=49334079>.


McCord, Mary. Oct. 2, 2019. "Armed Militias are Taking Trump's Civil War Tweets Seriously." Lawfare. < https://www.lawfareblog.com/armed-militias-are-taking-trumps-civil-war-tweets-seriously>.

[1] Violence on both sides is on the rise, but at different levels. Since 2010 there have been 21 victims killed in left-wing violence and 117 in right-wing violence in the US (CSIS 2021). [2] However, President Trump claimed in his speech addressing the crowd that there were hundreds of thousands present, which does not appear to have been the case. [3] These were DC Police Officer Jeffrey Smith and Capitol Police Officer Howard Liebengood.

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