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John Millar, pastor and de facto leader of Elohim City.

Magazine | Okiecentric

Who’s Afraid of Elohim City?

• By

Posted 04.15.12

The following is a collaboration by Lee Roy Chapman and Joshua Kline.


 

Bad men are drawn to the City of God. The Southern Poverty Law Center calls it the meeting ground for America’s most sinister extremists. Many Oklahomans regard it as the most dangerous and mysterious place in the state.

For 30-plus years, a small, isolated community in Northeastern Oklahoma has been the subject of endless scrutiny. Law enforcement agencies and conspiracy theorists insist that Elohim City is a breeding ground for neo-Nazis and anti-government militias hell-bent on overthrowing the “Zionist Occupied Government” (ZOG) of the United States. The most damning accusation suggests Elohim City played a central role in the planning and execution of the Oklahoma City bombing.

When asked if she’d ever had the chance to visit Elohim, a woman with the Stilwell Democrat Journal deadpanned, “No, we like to breathe.”

* * *

“I find them to be quite upstanding citizens of my community,” says Adair County Sheriff Austin Young.

A sharp, stern man with a military presence, Young has the towering, no-bullshit persona of a Clint Eastwood character. His white hair is neatly cropped, his eyes maintain contact and rarely blink.

“What I read in the papers, I never experienced that with them,” he says.

Young says that, as game warden of Sequoyah County (just south of Adair) in the early ‘80s, he once received a report of poaching that ultimately led him to Elohim City, where the suspect resided. As he approached the entrance of the community, he was met by Elohim City founder Robert Millar and several armed guards. Young politely told Millar that the weapons made him a little nervous.

“Robert said to me, ‘Well, you have a firearm, don’t you think that makes us nervous,’ ” the Sheriff remembers. “So I unholstered my weapon and placed it in my vehicle. And then he sent the armed guards away.”

This encounter began a 30-year rapport between Young and Elohim City. Young ran for sheriff in the mid-‘90s, when neo- Nazis, a German Nationalist, the Midwest bank robbers, and Timothy McVeigh were supposedly frequenting the compound.

“I campaigned in all parts of the county, including Elohim, and as far as I know, they supported me,” Young says.

Shortly after the Oklahoma City bombing, a rumor spread that members of Elohim were planning a terrorist attack in Stilwell during the town’s annual strawberry festival. Young called and asked him point blank if the rumor was true. Millar answered, “Of course not. We would never do that.” The strawberry festival went off without incident.

After offering his opinions (“they’re not violent, not resistant, not how the media paints them”), Young suggests we go straight to the horse’s mouth.

He dials up John Millar, pastor and de facto leader of Elohim, and son of the community’s late founder. When Millar picks up, he explains that he has a couple of journalists from Tulsa who wish to visit Elohim. But instead of waiting for Millar to respond, Young offers the receiver to us.

“You’re not interested in repeating all those lies that were told about us?” Millar asks. And then he invites us for a visit.

* * *

Stephen Jones is a towering figure in Oklahoma’s legal community. Over his 46-year career as a defense attorney, the Enid native has represented a slew of high-profile pariahs and controversial characters, including anarchist Abbie Hoffman, serial killer Bobby Wayne Collins, suspected SLA radical Harawese Moore [1] and, most recently, indicted Tulsa Police Officer Jeff Henderson. But it was his work as Timothy McVeigh’s court-appointed defender for which he’s best remembered.

“When the Oklahoma City bombing happened, it didn’t surprise me at all,” Jones tells us one Saturday afternoon in his Enid office. “I was shocked that it was Oklahoma City. But that somebody would blow up a building and kill a lot of federal employees? That wasn’t a surprise at all. I had sensed for some period of time that there was a significant alienation of people in the Great Plains. There was a genuine hatred of the federal government, a hatred of the Clintons. I had not seen anything like it since I worked for the republican state committee in Texas when the Kennedys were in office in the early ‘60s.”

Jones believes that this anti-government sentiment reached a tipping point on April 19, 1993, when ATF and FBI agents assaulted another eccentric religious community: the Branch-Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. When the siege was over, 81 men, women, and children were dead.

“You have the primitive evangelical community,” Jones says. “And the defining moment for a lot of those people—and this narrows down to Elohim City—was the assault on the Branch-Davidians … Tim McVeigh told me that he sat in a Bradley tank; he knew what those tanks could do. And those images of that tank punching holes in that building, for several million people, probably more than 10 million people, that was a Biblical prophecy come true.”

McVeigh watched closely, first on television and then in person, as the nightmare at Waco unfolded. This proved to be his breaking point. Disturbed by what he witnessed, McVeigh began to plot his own revenge on behalf of the Branch-Davidians. Two years later, his vengeance became a reality when 168 people, including 19 children, died in the Oklahoma City bombing.

It’s well documented that Jones did not buy the government’s conclusion (re-enforced by McVeigh himself) that McVeigh conceived and executed the bombing almost entirely alone, with only the most minimal assistance from Terry Nichols and Michael Fortier. Jones believes the government was desperate for swift, quantifiable justice and chose to focus only on developing an airtight case against McVeigh and Nichols rather than fog the issue of their guilt by fully exploring the possibility of a broader conspiracy. Jones does not believe the evidence against Elohim City provides a sufficient answer.

“There is no smoking gun that shows involvement of any of the people in Elohim City,” he says. “There is certainly, in two or three instances, against the backdrop of this, a pretty convincing case that some people in Elohim City may have been involved.”

For the man who spent years studying every tiny pebble of the mountainous evidence, Elohim City is just another “what if?” scenario, doomed to float in the ether, a question mark whose answer is forever unknowable.

He agrees, though, that Adair County is a poetic fit for the community.

“Throughout the history of (Eastern Oklahoma), there has been more chicanery, isolationism, parochialism, xenophobic attitudes, distrust of outsiders, ‘We settle things our way,’ ” he explains. “So Elohim City, yes, is comfortably located. Very comfortably. Historically, it blends in.”

* * *

You won’t find Elohim City on any map. The FBI has dedicated an incredible amount of time, money and manpower to investigating and monitoring the town’s activities. Yet, this idyllic hamlet (known to its residents as “God’s City,” the Hebrew translation of Elohim) remains well hidden, impossible to find without the assistance of one of the few people in the world who’ve actually been there. Some reports reference Fort Smith as the nearest town, others Sallisaw, Muldrow, or Stilwell. They’re all more or less right, but also dead wrong: Elohim City is not “near” any town; its 400 acres are situated as far as possible from nearby civilization.

The western edge of the Ozarks begins here in Adair County, a sparsely populated spread of bucolic communities with a mere 22,000 residents (43 percent of whom claim Native American blood) over 577 square miles. The pastoral beauty of the majestic, unpredictable terrain stands in stark contrast to the rural poverty that plagues much of its population. Roadsides are often littered with garbage—discarded, empty cans of Busch beer, cast-off plastic grocery bags, cigarette butts—and road signs are peppered with bullet holes. Gutted shotgun shacks and ramshackle houses with landfill front yards rest precariously next to forests of resilient pines and dead, twisted post oaks. Multitudes of modest white churches adorned with hand-painted signage offer a point of communion for residents to congregate and socialize.

Underneath the surface malaise and natural wonder of Adair lies an explosive history, one that informs Elohim’s existence. This is the heart of the Cherokee Nation, the last stop on the Trail of Tears where 11,000 Cherokee Indians were forcibly relocated. The area’s history is America’s history, fraught with instances of revolt and rebellion, of fierce individualism repeatedly clashing with a government status quo. This is the territory where Cherokee general Stand Watie held out against Union troops, making him the last Confederate general to surrender at the end of the Civil War, thus ending the South’s campaign for secession. It’s the home of Ned Christie, a Keetowah Cherokee traditionalist falsely accused of killing a federal marshal. When he wouldn’t surrender, a posse of hired guns from Fort Smith pushed a burning wagon into Christie’s fortified home.

The James Gang hid out here, as did Belle Starr and her bunch, the Dalton Boys, and Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd. In 1977, Gene Leroy Hart, a Cherokee, was accused of the brutal rape and murder of three girl scouts in Mayes County. Hart was a violent local fugitive who’d previously been convicted of raping two Tulsa women. Despite the public outcry, a Mayes County jury acquitted Hart.

Today, the Cherokee Nation is humble home to small-town Oklahomans, many of whom are largely untouched by 21st century development. The landscape is wild and primitive, and self-governance is necessary for day-to-day survival. And the area’s legacy of isolationism and individualism continues, carried on in large part by Elohim City.

* * *

For five miles, a dirt path snakes alongside a mountain. Then suddenly you see it: a poster featuring the Ten Commandments tacked to the silver gate of a barbwire fence. Nearby, a mangled, abandoned mailbox limply hangs, begging to be put out of its misery. Several hundred yards later, the incline abruptly levels as the trail penetrates the outskirts of Elohim City.

Serenity permeates the village. The day is bright and sunny, and the view of the Ozarks is breathtaking. For all the violence and racism assigned by outsiders, the town feels more like a spiritual oasis than a terrorist compound. There are no armed guards waiting. A small terrier roams free while children play in the road. A quirky collection of huts, trailers and cottages spread across the property intermingled with several hulking, alien-like stone structures whose bubbled, dome roofs betray the off-kilter eccentricity of their builders and inhabitants.

A modest cottage rests on the side of the town’s only artery, its Main Street. A tattered, faded American flag waves in the front yard not far from a child’s jungle gym.

The portly, white-haired man on the porch is John Millar.

“Y’all get lost?” he asks, smiling, in a country drawl. His tone is relaxed and friendly and he invites us in.

Millar’s home could be a model showroom for Pottery Barn— simple, clean, and elegant, with hardwood floors and a modern kitchen furnished with contemporary appliances. The décor is exact and unobtrusive. On one wall hangs a large digital clock, on another a faux-rustic bronze piece etched with the phrase “The Destination is the Journey.” Framed photographs of family on coffee and end tables are given ample room to breathe. You could mistake the locale for middle-class suburbia.

Millar settles into his chair. “So, what do y’all wanna know?”

* * *

In 1973, an ex-Mennonite pastor from Canada named Robert Millar, acting on what he believed was a vision from God, moved his family from rural Maryland to a large patch of land nestled high in the Ozarks, a mere stone’s throw from the Oklahoma-Arkansas border. Elohim City was conceived as a spiritual city of refuge for followers of an obscure offshoot of Protestantism called Christian Identity, which teaches a racialist, Eurocentric take on Old Testament fire-and-brimstone piety. Though the elder Millar’s vision that prompted the move could be called “apocalyptic”—he claimed to see future wars, natural disasters and civil unrest—John Millar maintains that Elohim was not created to be a spiritual bomb shelter.

“We didn’t come out here to escape like some people do,” Millar tells us. “They think the world’s going to explode or fly away or something, and that’s their right to believe that. But that’s not our vision. Armageddon is not our vision. We came out here to express what we feel the Holy One, or God, is wanting to express through us. And so our hearts are turned towards the heavenly spiritual realm.”

The pastor insists that his community is focused on heaven alone. Not the government, not a race war, just peaceful communion with the Creator. He cited factoids—“None of us have ever been convicted of a felony”—and repeatedly renounced the idea that they’re a hate group. “People think that because we believe in Christian Identity that we hate other races. We don’t teach hate. We don’t put up with that.”

Millar is polite, generous, and accommodating throughout the interview, never once taking the hardline on any issue. The idea of a “white separatist compound” conjures images of a completely autonomous community forbidden from interacting with mainstream society; this is not Elohim City. When Millar speaks of politics and morality, his ideas have a surprisingly Libertarian, live-and-let-live bent to them.

Many of Elohim’s residents, for instance, hold jobs in town. The children are homeschooled in communal fashion—most of the parents take an active role in the education of not just their own kids, but in their neighbors’ as well; it’s Hillary Clinton’s “It takes a village” concept realized in the most literal sense. Weekly trips to town to eat at local restaurants, visit the library or see a movie are not uncommon. The homes even have Wi-Fi. There’s little difference in living conditions between Elohim and your typical Edmond or Moore outliers.

Millar does acknowledge that Christian Identity’s racially charged theology is at odds with modern notions of equality and color blindness.

“We teach that the scripture is against intermarriage with other races,” he confesses. According to the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, 26.3 percent of marriages occurring between 2008 and 2010 were between two people of different races, ranking Oklahoma second in the nation for interracial couples. “[Intermarriage] is a big issue; most of your churches want to promote that. We think that’s totally unscriptural. That doesn’t mean we hate them, not at all. We think you destroy both races when you marry in.”

The core philosophy of Christian Identity is an uncomfortable mixture of traditional Judeo-Christian mythology and a passive form of modern white supremacy. Elohim residents observe the Sabbath on Saturday, and many adhere to the ancient dietary restrictions of the Old Testament, though Millar is careful to point out that it’s not a requirement. According to Identity, when ancient Israel fragmented, the tribe of Judah, “God’s chosen people,” migrated to northern Europe and eventually the U.S. In other words, the true Jews, according to Millar and Identity followers, are Caucasians. [2]

“That might sound really strange to you,” says Millar. “But we believe that your Scandinavian, your Germanic, your Anglo-Saxon, your Celtic people, are different waves of immigration that came through. They’re really all cousins and they’re part of the same people from ancient Israel.”

Since the OKC bombing, three things fueled suspicion about Elohim’s complicity: the company Elohim founder Robert Millar chose to keep, the testimony of a government informant named Carol Howe who infiltrated the community, and circumstantial evidence suggesting that Timothy McVeigh may have been in contact with Elohim residents in the months leading up to the bombing.

“For over a year we were scrutinized by the FBI,” Millar tells us. “We didn’t like it, but we thought it was the duty of the federal government to chase down whoever did that. So we were scrutinized sideways, every which way you could think.”

Millar maintains that the residents of Elohim never held a violent agenda against the government, nor any desire to participate in some apocalyptic religious battle. But according to Mark Hamm, a professor of criminology at Indiana University, in the early ‘80s, the peaceful residents and elders of Elohim became radicalized as they developed a rapport with a similar white Separatist group from the northern Ozarks called The Covenant, the Sword and the Arm of the Lord (CSA). Unlike the benign Elohim City, the members of CSA didn’t just passively distrust the U.S. government—they were stockpiling weapons and conducting rigorous military training in order to overthrow it. Furthermore, CSA had close ties to the Order of the Silent Brotherhood, a shadowy organization of bloodthirsty neo-Nazis who fashioned themselves as Aryan Warriors in the tradition of the Phineas Priesthood. [3]

From Hamm’s 2001 book In Bad Company: America’s Terrorist Underground:

Originally a pacifist community, Elohim City began a long, slow tilt toward militancy following Millar’s 1982 address before another far-right group’s gathering—the Covenant, the Sword, and the Arm of the Lord’s national convocation at CSA headquarters in nearby Bull Shoals Lake, Arkansas. It was there that Millar met CSA founder James Ellison, a militant neo-Nazi who would later join forces with Robert Mathews’s Order in what was to become what is called the War of ’84—a campaign of terror against ZOG including a series of assassinations, fire-bombings, and robberies. “Millar taught CSA about God, and they taught Millar about guns,” said a former CSA member to a reporter.

The FBI considered the CSA to be the “best trained civilian paramilitary group in America,” and was closely monitoring its activity.

On April 19, 1985, exactly ten years prior to the Oklahoma City Bombing, the FBI surrounded CSA and demanded the surrender of Ellison, who was wanted for conspiring to acquire automatic weapons. For four days, a tense cold war ensued as Ellison refused to surrender. Robert Millar traveled to the compound under the guise of negotiator, but according to Ellison’s right hand man Kerry Noble (who ultimately renounced the CSA and now writes and speaks on the dangers of right-wing extremism) Millar was actually there as a witness in the event that the government drew first blood. Later, the newly militant Millar bemoaned the fact that Ellison ultimately surrendered peacefully.

“Jim was wrong to surrender,” Millar told Noble while visiting him in prison. “He should’ve shot it out with the feds.”

Millar also served as spiritual adviser to Richard Wayne Snell, one of CSA’s most violent members, who was put to death for the murders of a black state trooper and a pawn shop owner whom he believed to be Jewish. [4] During the trial, Millar testified as a character witness on Snell’s behalf. Snell was executed on April 19, 1995 in Ft. Smith Arkansas, twelve hours after the Oklahoma City Bombing and ten years to the day after the FBI’s siege of CSA. Millar and his son John later retrieved Snell’s remains from the state and ultimately buried him in Elohim City.

When asked about his father’s relationship with Snell, Millar’s tone becomes sharp.

“Snell’s body is here,” he says. “I went to pick it up with my dad, his remains, at the request of his wife, okay?”

By forging a relationship with Ellison, Snell, and the CSA, Elohim City effectively laid the foundation for the scrutiny, suspicion and rumors that would plague the community in the years to come, reaching a fever pitch in the mid-‘90s.

* * *

“We didn’t know Timothy McVeigh,” Millar insists. “Never heard of him until the bombing. No connection whatsoever.”

In the grand jury indictment of McVeigh, the government alleged that the plotting of the bombing began in early September of 1994, while McVeigh was staying at a motel in Vian, Oklahoma, less than an hour away from Elohim City.

“It is true that Tim McVeigh was there that day, that’s what the hotel registration shows, and it is true that that’s off the beaten path for him,” Jones acknowledges. “Tim McVeigh almost never went to Eastern Oklahoma via Western Oklahoma.”

It’s believed that during this time, McVeigh was in contact with members of the Aryan Republican Army (ARA), a ragtag group of white supremacists who executed a series of bank robberies in order to fund anti-government activities (earning the media nickname “the Midwest bank bandits”). Evidence suggests the ARA was in Elohim City at the same time McVeigh was in Vian. The exact nature of McVeigh’s relationship with these men (Pete Langan, [5] Richard Guthrie, Scott Stedeford, Kevin McCarthy and Michael Brescia) and, by proxy, Elohim City, is foggy. People like Mark Hamm hypothesize that the ARA helped to fund the bombing with their loot and used Elohim as a sort of safe house, an idea known as the “theory of multiple John Does.” In Hamm’s book, ARA leader Pete Langan, who is currently serving a life sentence plus 35 years for his role in the robberies, is interviewed extensively and appears to be honest and forthcoming about his criminal activities. But he denies any connection to the bombing, and he minimizes Elohim’s significance as anything other than a spiritual refuge. McVeigh denied the existence of accomplices to his dying breath. It’s argued that there are a multitude of potential reasons for both men to lie, but the fact remains that nothing has been proven.

* * *

In March of 1995, the government had planned to raid Elohim City based on ATF informant Carol Howe’s allegations.

Howe, a 24-year-old Tulsa debutante-turned-skinhead trophy queen, was brought to Elohim City by her boyfriend, white supremacist and would-be celebrity of the militia movement, Dennis Mahon. A former Imperial Dragon of the KKK, Mahon was now leader of the White Aryan Resistance (WAR) in Tulsa. [6]

Jones calls Mahon a “freakshow,” a “burlesque figure of comedy,” a man prone to “making extreme statements and engaging in extreme acts of self-promotion.” John Millar calls him a friend.

“I don’t know what he’s done in his life,” Millar demurs, when asked about Elohim’s relationship with Mahon. “He seemed like a decent man to me. I agree with some of his thoughts. Not all of them, not by a long shot, but I do agree with some of his thoughts.”

Mahon had plucked Howe from her privileged existence and taken her as a lover and protégé. He delivered her to his friends at Elohim for spiritual indoctrination, but she’d already been contacted by the ATF and turned into an informant. Upon her arrival, she began reporting her findings. She claimed Millar and company were stockpiling weapons, preaching increasingly aggressive anti-government rhetoric, and, most importantly, discussing plans for an attack of some sort. This seemed to confirm the government’s worst fears: Elohim City was a powder keg of anti-government rage, a place where, in Hamm’s words, “every resident down to the smallest child was armed and dangerous” and “underground bunkers held vast stores of ammunition, grenades, and explosives, even chemical and biological weapons.”

Howe’s was one of the more sensational puzzle pieces of the bombing case. When investigative reporter J.D. Cash broke her story in the McCurtain Daily Gazette during the Terry Nichols trial, a national media feeding frenzy ensued. She was profiled in numerous magazines and newspapers, interviewed by Diane Sawyer, frequently referred to by reporters as “glamorous” and “beautiful.”

In linking Elohim to Oklahoma City, many conspiracy theorists point to Howe’s testimony in the Nichols trial, in which she claims to have witnessed Timothy McVeigh’s presence at the compound. From the court transcript:

Q. Now, are you familiar with what Timothy McVeigh looks like, Ms. Howe?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Have you seen photographs of Timothy McVeigh?

A. Yes, I have.

Q. Did you ever see Timothy McVeigh at the Elohim City compound?

A. I believe I did.

Q. All right. When did you see him?

A. It was in July of 1994.

Q. Okay. And where did you see him?

A. He was at a section of the compound walking across a lawn near the church building.

But Howe was problematic. She had a history of lying. Her stories were inconsistent and contradictory, and with more attention each story grew more elaborate.

“Like many former Soviet spies that come to the United States, Howe’s story tended to get better over a period of time,” Jones says now. “And then there’s always new revelations as [informants] think they’ve been abandoned or forgotten or they want to increase their stipend or whatever. They remember something new.” Jones says he discounted everything Carol Howe said after she acquired an attorney and was thrust into the spotlight.

The FBI’s March 1995 planned raid against Elohim never materialized due to growing doubt on the government’s part over Howe’s credibility. Furthermore, Howe was ultimately deemed unreliable and her testimony in the Nichols trial was thrown out, making it unavailable for consideration to the jury. Mention her name to Millar, and you can almost see the blood boiling beneath his skin.

“They wouldn’t even use her testimony,” he says with incredulity. “She’s so unstable they wouldn’t even use her testimony. That’s one of the things we don’t appreciate about our government. They use people who are unstable, give them money and finance them to do unethical things. And that’s what they found—she was so unethical they wouldn’t even use her as a witness, okay?”

* * *

Another difficult question regarding Elohim’s connection to the bombing centers around Timothy McVeigh’s relationship with a German Nationalist named Andreas Strassmeier. Strassmeier wore fatigues and a swastika, was obsessed with firearms, and lived in Elohim City. McVeigh met Strassmeier at a Tulsa gun show in 1993.

“There was a lot of speculation on how they made contact,” Millar says. “We don’t know. We have a little over a hundred residents, and if they go to a gun show or a movie or a restaurant, I don’t know. I don’t want to know. I’m not interested. But I don’t want them doing anything illegal, okay? And we make that very clear.”

In Kingman, Arizona, shortly after he’d rented the Ryder truck he would eventually convert into a weapon of mass destruction, McVeigh used a calling card to dial Elohim City. McVeigh asked the woman who answered if he could speak with “Andi the German.”

According to Howe, Strassmeier was the community’s head of security, though Millar vehemently denies this.

“Never—he was here, but he wasn’t head of Elohim City security,” says Millar. “He liked playing with guns, so maybe he thought he was head of security and wanted to walk around with that. We let people think what they want, we believe in freedom. But we never gave him that position of authority.”

The question of plausible deniability looms large over Elohim. The racialist ideology of Christian Identity and the geographic seclusion of Millar’s community no doubt attracted men with agendas, but are the community’s elders responsible for the behavior of every guest that passes through? For his part, Robert Millar quickly expelled Andreas Strassmeier from Elohim City soon after he became aware that the FBI was looking at Strassmeier for possible ties to McVeigh and the bombing. Strassmeier ultimately fled to Germany and was never prosecuted.

* * *

“I have a niece who’s going to a local college,” Millar tells us. “She wants to be a lawyer. Her criminal justice professor was talking about terrorists and the Arabs and the Muslims, and then he said, ‘Well, we have [terrorists] right up our hill from here, and if you go up there, they hate other races and they’re liable to just shoot you for anything.’ And my niece raised her hand and said, ‘I live up there! That doesn’t happen!’ ”

Millar is clearly vexed by this judgment. He points out that in the 38 years of Elohim’s existence, nobody’s ever been shot on its property, unlike the surrounding communities. “But because of the stigma and because of us not being politically correct in the eyes of the media, we have a professor in the Criminal Justice class who throws us in with the terrorists. I don’t appreciate that, and he will hear from me. That just happened two weeks ago, okay?”

He pauses, then adds: “You can write that: ‘We’ve never had anyone killed here.’ ”

Before we depart, Millar gives us a tour of Elohim’s new sanctuary, still under construction. The Reverend leads us into the beautiful, cavernous chapel, built with the hands of the residents. He apologetically explains that he would normally show us their current church, but the community has no doubt already congregated, and reporters aren’t allowed to sit in on their services. Outsiders still make the community uncomfortable.

After the tour, we say our goodbyes and Millar leaves us to find our own way out. With its residents all gathered for service, Elohim City is a ghost town. The air is still and peaceful. The warmth of the sun, the soothing hum of the natural ambience, the majestic view of the Arkansas wilderness—in this moment, it’s obvious why these people are here. On the way out, we notice a primitive, white sign mounted on the side of the road, adorned with a bright red spray-painted phrase: “Jesus Saves.”

 

* * *

After decades of scrutiny and mountains of circumstantial evidence, the government has still found no cause to take action against Elohim City. A second Grand Jury investigation of the bombing, convened by State Representative Charles Key to examine loose ends Key and others believed the government did not address to satisfaction in its initial investigation, came up empty-handed on the community.

“We have made every effort to try to identify any plausible connection between [Elohim City] and the bombing,” it concluded. “In spite of a possible telephone call from Timothy McVeigh to Elohim City in April 1995, we have been unable to find such a connection.”

Does God’s City deserve to be granted peace? The questions raised by its proximity to violent right-wing extremism will likely continue to haunt the town for the span of its existence. Image rehabilitation is hardly an option, considering the endless documentation devoted to impeaching the community’s collective character. It doesn’t help that Millar’s own sympathies to violent men ensure that Elohim City will continue to attract them. Then again, Millar and his community aren’t seeking social acceptance; they want the right to exist peacefully, outside the parameters of mainstream society. Whether or not society allows that is another matter.


Footnotes

1. Coincidentally, like Jones’s most famous client, Moore was also accused of bomb- ing the Murrah building. In 1998’s controversial tome on the OKC bombing, The Oklahoma City Bombing and the Politics of Terror, author David Hoffman writes, “In the mid-‘70s, Oklahoma resident Harawese Moore was convicted of planting an incendiary explosive device outside both the federal courthouse and the Alfred P. Murrah Building.”

2. References to the Christian Identity belief can be traced as far back as The Declara- tion of Arbroath on April 6, 1320 in which 37 Scottish Chieftains wrote the Pope asking for assistance in Scotland’s battle against England.

3. In the book of Numbers, upon discovering an Israelite man and a Midianite woman copulating, the Jewish warrior Phinehas bludgeoned the couple with a spear as pun- ishment for the interracial relationship (race-mixing was expressly forbidden by God). For the execution, Phinehas was rewarded by God with “an everlasting priesthood.” Many militant white supremacists believe that they are called by God to carry on this legacy and it’s been speculated that historical figures such as John Wilkes Booth and Jesse James considered themselves to be Phineas Priests. Robert Mathews and his organization the Order of the Silent Brotherhood are among the most violent recent examples of men committing heinous acts of murder and mayhem under the banner of the Phineas Priesthood.

4. In 1983, Snell, Ellison, and Noble traveled to Oklahoma City to case the Murrah Federal building as the potential target of a CSA attack. However, during preparations, the men interpreted a weapons malfunction as a sign from God and the plan for
attack was canceled. There’s been some conjecture that the Murrah building may have been chosen as the target of the April 19 scheduled for execution the same day.

5. Langan was the ARA’s unofficial leader and a self-proclaimed mem- ber of the Phineas Priesthood. Upon Langan’s arrest in 1996, authorities discovered that his toenails were painted pink and his entire body was devoid of hair. It later came out that Langan was a pre-op transsexu- al who, when not robbing banks, cross-dressed and lived as a woman named Donna.

6. In February, 2012, Mahon was convicted in federal court of a 2004 bombing in Scottsdale, Arizona that injured Donald Logan, a black city official. Mahon’s sentencing hearing is May 22; he could face up to 100 years in prison. Evidence against Mahon was produced in large part through information provided by Rebecca Willams, a government informant who met Mahon and his twin brother Daniel (who was also tried but acquitted) at a Catoosa, Oklahoma trailer park in 2005.