Injustice begins with the belief that not all men are created equal. That some, by designation of race, social status, belief, or physical ability, are relegated to different treatment than the rest of us. Whether this belief is subconscious (as it is for many of us) or overt and intentional, it is the driving force of injustice.
I have been asked repeatedly about my motivations for telling the story of my time at Marble. I have said that my goal is not to destroy the lifestyle or even to change the minds of people who live at Marble. I believe in their right to practice any belief, lifestyle and philosophy they choose. I have had several discussions lately with friends and family members about freedom of thought and belief and how far it can go before it encroaches upon even more fundamental rights of others. As with any extremism, the belief in one absolute pathway to righteousness results in the oppression, injustice and abuse of anyone who does not follow the same pathway, calling or belief system.
Throughout centuries of human civilization, long before the bible, before Jesus' lifetime, before Islam was established, human beings have annihilated other cultures for the sake of righteousness. The only guard against this is equality: the deep rooted belief that none of us has a more direct pathway to righteousness than any other. Freedom of religion for one person or sect ends where the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness of another human being is threatened.
I have been asked what action I believe needs to be taken against Marble, or toward the leaders of that place. My answer is none, unless it can be proved that they are still infringing on the basic human rights of other people as they did when I lived at Marble. This trespass can only be proved if someone who is experiencing that oppression, injustice and abuse speaks out.
The experiences I had at Marble took place more than 16 years ago. The people who remain will tell you that Marble's leadership style has changed. That Marble has changed. I want with all of my heart to believe that, but I have yet to see evidence of this. In March of 1997, Jim Buck preached a sermon at Marble about repentance. "True repentance means understanding in our heart the injury we have caused by our wrong," he said. I wrote this quote in my notes, along with scriptures that Buck offered to back up his description of what real repentance looks like.
I have never seen this spirit in the leadership for anything that has happened over the years at Marble. I have spoken to many former and current members who have voiced their deep remorse and sadness for their part in harmful processes that exacerbated or even triggered deep brokenness in individuals and families, but I have never heard or seen a Core Group leader take responsibility for any wrong doing. I believe this is because they still believe that they were not wrong.
After leaving Marble in 2004, I returned often with my kids for God and Country Days. Keeping silent about my experiences at Marble had allowed me to remain in fellowship with the community in spite of our differences and since most of my adult life and my friends and family were there, I visited many times. In 2014, I worked for the weekend at one of the food vendor booths where I had the opportunity to meet Matt Shea, Michelle Fiori and many other who's-whos of the patriot movement. (If you don't know these names by now, I encourage you to Google them.) In 2015, Marble hosted Pastor John Weaver as a key-note speaker for their 21st Annual God and Country Days on Independence Day weekend.
John Weaver is a pastor who hails from Georgia. He uses the story in Genesis of Noah condemning descendants of his son Ham to servitude in order to to claim that God ordained slavery. In a sermon contrasting "biblical" and "pagan" slavery, Weaver says: "Slavery cannot be inherently evil in and of itself," arguing that Jesus would not have used slavery as an analogy of his ministry if it was inherently evil. Weaver goes on to preach that anything that the infallible bible says must be correct, including referring to human beings such as slaves and wives as the property of another. I would encourage everyone to listen to some of Weaver's sermons if you have any questions about how damaging a literal interpretation of the bible can be and to understand the elitist ideals that dominionist religion creates. I recommend his piece "The Sins of the Jews" for a good starting point. This is where inequality is born. This is where injustice begins.
I have been asked repeatedly about whether I saw or heard racism, white supremacy or Christian Identity concepts and principles at play during my time at Marble. When I joined Marble I was completely naive to this doctrine. I had no idea, as an 18-year-old, that one of the main reasons that my parents had given Marble a wide berth for so long was because they were very well acquainted with Anne and Barry Byrd's involvement in the Christian Identity movement, stemming from their time at the Ark out in Cedar Creek and a belief in the theology of British Israel. These concepts are displayed shamelessly on the sleeve of their bluegrass band's first album, Judah's Advance.
This album was produced in 1984, only three years before my family moved to Colville. When my parents took us back to Washington DC in 1985, this was the soundtrack to our road trip. We listened to it so much that I can still sing every word to every song to this day. For years the sound of a banjo made me carsick. (Update: I am now a huge bluegrass fan.)
While My parents liked the overall patriotic theme, they were unable to reconcile the extreme religious insinuations that they heard preached by the Byrds and their cohorts and could not support Anne and Barry's new community when it launched not long after we moved to Stevens County.
Judah's Advance was followed in 1988 by the Remnant Resolves, a treatise on god and government authored and signed by a committee that included Barry Byrd, Brad Bulla, and several others who traveled in the Christian Identity movement of the late '80s.
This riveting piece of literature states: "It is blasphemous to regard antichrists as 'God's chosen people' and allow them to rule over or hold public office in a Christian nation," it goes on to declare that "interracial marriage pollutes the integrity of the family," and lumps homosexuality into the same pool of egregious sin as abortion and pornography.
After Marble faced an onslaught from local media about their background and involvement in white supremacy circles, the Byrds and other leaders faced a political decision point. They authored a position paper on Christian Identity that they released sometime in the late '90s, distancing themselves from their former beliefs and stating that Marble would neither teach nor support this theology. This position paper gave my parents enough comfort to give Marble a chance but it was around this time that a sizable exodus happened from the church when people who had come to Marble to live in an intentional community with this shared belief system realized that the Byrds were making the political decision to refrain from teaching identity doctrine and they left.
I came to Marble not long before this shift happened and was blissfully unaware of everything except for complaints from the pulpit about attacks from the media, as Anne addressed in November of 1996: "The system's reproach is not disgrace." Throughout my time in cell groups and the occasional interactions I was allowed with the prep school, Anne made veiled references to British Israel ideology, always followed with a "but we aren't going there" statement and throwing her hands in the air.
I do believe the Byrds and other leaders tried to downplay the role that British Israel theology played into their overall dominionist perspective. I believe if you asked most of the congregation at Marble during the late '90s and early 2000s, there would be very few instances of exposure to Christian Identity philosophies except in the closest inner circles. The ties weren't severed completely, however, as I reference patriot leader Bo Gritz on my list of prayer request in October of 1996 (I had no idea who he was at the time), indicating that the Byrds were still in close contact with Gritz and the far-right political spectrum.
This intentional move away from shouting their questionable ideologies from the rooftops only fed into the top-secret, elitism that came to be one of the most intriguing and compelling parts of Marble. Only the most trustworthy were allowed into the inner sanctum, developing strategies and planning for the eventual deployment of the kingdom of god in Stevens County.
When John Weaver was announced as Marble's "Patriot Pastor" for God and Country Days in 2015, his prevailing themes were brought to my attention by another former member of Marble. They had voiced their concern to leaders about what the introduction of someone like Weaver would do to the reputation of Marble that the Byrds had worked so hard to rebuild. I also told event planners that I felt like hosting Weaver would be a decisively destructive move to their PR, even if he didn't preach on his more inflammatory topics and even if the community "didn't support" everything he taught. Our cries fell on deaf ears. The response I received was that the decision was made by Anne and Barry and would not be questioned. They would not back down. From my perspective, the Byrds delivered their own death blow to Marble with this decision.
Both the choice of Weaver as a keynote speaker and the inability to sway the Byrd's destructive decision making tell me that little has changed at Marble. As in the late 1990s, they have learned to strategically mask and carefully hide their practices and true beliefs for more a politically and socially acceptable appearance, but with Weaver, they overplayed their hand.
In response to whether or not Marble and the people who reside there are racist, my answer continues to be that every last one of us is racist to some extent. We cannot know the experiences we haven't had. The question is about motive and execution. My racism manifests unintentionally in insensitivity that I don't even realize I am displaying, but my worldview could never include the presupposition that god loves me more or has a bigger, better plan for me than for any other human. The Byrd's racism stems from a belief that god has chosen them for a specific purpose over and above other human beings of different races and theologies.
The more important question is whether or not Marble and the people who reside there are dangerous. My answer to that is no - conditionally. For perspective, many of the people who live at Marble now do not even go to church there. A few are peripherally involved in political things (such as the Liberty State movement). Only a handful of families remain at Marble that are still deeply involved in the church. Most of these people are good, kind citizens who have every intention of living peacefully in a lifestyle that seems strange to any of us who haven't been there. It's just another form of prejudice to think that the different way they have chosen to live is sub-par or wrong... It's not a lifestyle I want any more, but I once did and I understand why they do. They educate their children (boys and girls), they socialize, they enjoy life just like the rest of us, with very few variations. As long as they do so peacefully without bringing harm to the life or liberty of other human beings, I support their right to do so.
It's when the radicalized beliefs of people like Anne Byrd are fed into innocent minds, minds that lack the critical thinking skills that exposure to diverse lifestyles and philosophies provides, this is when they become dangerous. Marble has always attracted the broken and lost, the ones seeking direction and purpose. The Byrds provide that, and using the tactics that are taught in Dedication and Leadership, and the Self Confrontation Guide, they create loyalty and leverage to stir up passion in young followers. This passion is only dangerous if it is engaged by an outside force.
The worst fate imaginable for megolamaniacs like Anne Byrd would be to die out slowly without meaning anything. To go quietly into the night without leaving a mark. She's looking for a fight and always has been. To stir up any reaction to her and the movement she has been fanning the flames of for years is to play right into her hand and offer her the fantasy of martyrdom that she has long cried for. The Byrds would love to die for their beliefs. This would be fine if it weren't for the innocent lives they'd sacrifice in the crossfire to make it happen. Marble is only dangerous if they have an enemy. As the community surrounding them, the best hope and safety we can provide for them and for ourselves is to let them live in peace. Do not vote them into office. Do not instigate war with them. Do not allow them the political relevance they've been seeking for decades.
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
To cut off or shun members of Marble because of how they believe would make us no better than them. They can be members of the larger community (and many are) without subverting local government with religious dominionism (which some are trying to do). My admonishment to the citizens of Stevens County is to become educated about the people who are running for office.