Still Crazy After All These Years

The names of the patriots have changed, but not their tune.

On the Internet last month--his World Wide Web site is Ecomminc--Roberts issued this plea: "Don't stand alone against a predatory central government which seeks to consign you and your descendants to a soviet-style animal farm."

His solution--"Recruit state lawmakers to your banner"--prompted one New York wag to reply, "Wait. You mean STATE legislators?? You're joking, right? Have you ever met one of your state legislators?...The criminals I know of in government are my state legislators! My state legislators (mostly) can't tell their noses from a hole in the ground (unless there's money around somewhere; then their noses work very well!)."

Another web surfer took a broader view of Arch Roberts, quoting Hubert H. Humphrey as once saying, "The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously."

That's a lesson that "new" patriots like Weideman have yet to learn. They're just as zealous as their predecessors. Weideman, like Roberts, wants to save the country from the godless subplots of socialist and immoral behavior that spring from the New World Order and United Nations. Like Roberts, he believes that gun ownership is practically a sacred right. Not as sacred, however, as evangelical Christian beliefs. Like the "old" patriots of Roberts's generation, Weideman has a hangup concerning Jews--though he expresses it in a far different way. Homosexuality has replaced communism as a shibboleth of the right wing, but the patriots' primary scapegoats remain the Jews, and the message to them is the same: Your beliefs are corrupt; change them.

"Shalom," says Don Weideman as he sweeps down the hallway, somewhat distracted because he's apparently engrossed in some personal praying. Bearded and thoughtful, wearing a yarmulke and prayer shawl on his way to conduct Saturday morning services, he looks like any Orthodox rabbi stopping to greet a member of his congregation. But this is the Salvation Army building in Littleton, and awaiting him is a roomful of forty evangelical Christians who, on some level, think they're Jews.

A Torah, the sacred Bible scroll of Jews, sits in an ark at the front of the room, and some of the other men in the group--they call themselves Beth Messiah congregation--are also wearing yarmulkes. The music is electrified, but the melodies are Israeli, and some of the words are Hebrew. These, however, are not Jews. The first tip-off is when Weideman asks the congregation, "Raise your hand--in the name of Yeshua!" The Jesus word is not spoken in any truly Jewish congregation, but it's often invoked here, not as "Jesus Christ" but as "Yeshua Hamashiach."

Weideman's no longer the mild-mannered radio-station owner. Eyes squeezed shut and on the verge of tears, he cries out, "Behold the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world! Let Yeshua take away your sins! I can feel the power of God going through my hand! In the name of Yeshua Hamashiach, turn away from your foolish pleasures!"

The spell is broken somewhat when Rabbi Don's cellular phone rings, and his wife, Sharon, goes to the back of the room to answer it. But the service, an odd mixture of evangelical Christianity and fractured Hebrew, continues.

Some congregation members rise to give testimonies, a practice not part of any Jewish service. Often they note the advantage of learning to be Jews while remaining Christians. "I feel we had to know the Jewishness of the Gospel," says one woman, "before we could know joy." A gaggle of children belonging to the congregants takes a stab at some Jewish songs, and one elder earnestly plows through a Torah reading, occasionally stumbling and asking one of the few Jews-turned-Christians in the group for guidance. Some of the service is taken up with a mixture of the pragmatic and the spiritual: One woman suggests requesting kosher meals on airline flights. She chokes up with tears while describing a recent trip when she recalls that, upon her arrival at an airport parking lot, "praise God, the car started right away."

Like good Jews, they reverently lift their Torah from the ark, kiss it in respect and set it on a table. However, during the service, several firsts are recorded--from a Jewish perspective, that is. Elder John Maulsby mentions during the Torah reading how Granny Clampett would wave goodbye on television. (This is likely the first time the Beverly Hillbillies has intersected with the Torah in any Jewish service.) Another congregation member, Andy, recounts during his testimony how he got busted for carrying a weapon while he was taking his son antelope hunting.

Such conversation while the holy Torah is around would make any Jew blanch, even Norm Resnick, Weideman's pal at KHNC. Resnick really is an observant Jew who keeps a kosher house and has been very active in Greeley's small community of Jews. But Resnick, a former professor at the University of Northern Colorado, has been estranged from much of that Jewish community since he started working at KHNC more than three years ago.

He stubbornly insists that he still is a traditional Jew and acknowledges that it's disconcerting to him that perhaps a third of his listening audience is anti-Semitic. At the same time, Resnick himself talks about the threat to America from "international banksters." He's not only lost many of his friends (they think he's a dupe for the far right), but, despite his very conservative views, he's also received death threats from some of his very conservative listeners and has taken to carrying a gun. Resnick has been extensively profiled by Westword but no longer grants interviews, saying the paper has unfairly linked him and the station to the patriot movement.

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