Born in 1952 in Abilene, Texas, Kerry Noble grew up in a positive, optimistic, idealistic world, always following after knowledge, understanding and purpose. His world was Christian-based (stressing the Golden Rule and love for God) and was community-minded and family-oriented.
“I began participating in community service at the age of 6, in the first grade, when I was a member of the Safety Patrol. That was in the days when school children worked the school crossings. I did this throughout my grade school years. In Junior High I began competing in the Interscholastic League (math, debate, science), a practice that continued throughout high school. In high school, I was president of the Future Farmers of America, Future Teachers of America and the Math Club. In the ninth grade I began to study law, wanting to be an attorney. As a senior, I was recommended for the police academy by my counselor. I graduated in the top quarter of my class, with a 91.4 GPA. I volunteered for the military when I was 18 (though turned down for health reasons). I was called into the ministry at the age of 19, licensed to preach by the Southern Baptist church at the age of 20, and was ordained by an independent Charismatic fellowship at the age of 24. I can honestly say that I can never remember a time growing up when I didn’t love Christ Jesus and our Heavenly Father.
“I was active in church, and was raised to be non-violent and to treat all people the same. My childhood memories are happy ones, never exposed to abuse. My parents were middle-class, God-fearing, moral, upstanding citizens, who always encouraged me. I did volunteer work at the age of 14 and got my first paying job at the age of 15. I went to college for a year and a half and then to Bible school for one year. I got married when I was 21. I celebrated my 28th wedding anniversary in September 2001 and am the proud father of 6 children, and a grandfather of three. “But if you have either read a newspaper or news magazine, or watched news programs, in the last 18 years, you have probably read about me or seen me at some point. My 15 minutes of fame? In 1977, my wife and I joined a small religious community — a quiet, rural, peaceful dream world that evolved into a destructive nightmare. However, by 1983 I had become the #2 man of what would become the #2 domestic terrorist organization in the country by 1985. Then in 1984, I was within seconds of committing the largest domestic terrorist act in this country. I do not fit the typical stereotype of what people generally consider a good candidate for the hate movement or for a domestic terrorist.
“However, today, I am the only individual to have been a leader within the extremist hate movement, to have been involved in an armed standoff with the federal government, and to have turned around for the good. I am unique in my field and an expert in it.”
It was during the 8 years that Kerry and his wife were members of this community that his life radically changed — in many ways for the better; in some for the worse. There Kerry was introduced to the biblical teachings of sovereignty, predestination and the reconciliation of all. Later, however, this small Christian community grew from 8 families to a height of 32 families, while also declining from a joyous, quiet, rural, pacifistic church into an doom-and-gloom, extremist hate group. During this time, the Kerry Noble of 1982-85 became the antithesis of the Kerry Noble of 1977 and of the Kerry Noble of today. Kerry wrote of his experiences in that cult (which he left in 1985) in a book called Tabernacle of Hate, published by Voyageur Publisher in 1998.
In 1977, Kerry Noble joined a small Arkansas church, known as Zarephath-Horeb Community Church, whose members and doctrine underwent a frightening metamorphosis from pacifist to survivalist to paramilitarist to terrorist in the short span of four years. The church’s dark descent began when its members embraced the extremist notion that the federal government was bent on world domination and the elimination of Christian thought. By 1981, the group designated itself “Covenant, Sword and Arm of the Lord” (CSA) and adopted teachings against Jews, blacks, homosexuals and other groups.” The CSA became a terrorist organization in every sense of the word, and its “Propaganda Minister” was Kerry Noble.
Noble is all too familiar with the evolution of the right-wing extremist movement and is intimately familiar with paranoia and hate. He knows first-hand how they can seize control of the body and soul so completely that they twist the psyche into a grotesque antithesis of humanity. He knows that the transformation can take place swiftly and absolutely, leaving one without thought, without conscience, utterly unaware of the corrupt nature of his conversion.
In 1991, Kerry began writing the story of CSA. After 7 years, that story was published as Tabernacle of Hate. In early 1995, Kerry began teaching law-enforcement agencies about the dangers and teachings of the extremist right-wing movement. To date, Kerry is the only former cult leader who has written a book which details the racist and violent philosophies of the Christian Identity Movement.
As related by Kerry:
I was still committed to the extremist hate movement theology and philosophy by the end of 1982, while still an elder at CSA. By this time I had written most of the propaganda booklets that our group had put out. But something changed for me the next year.
STEP ONE TO FREEDOM: THE REVELATION — In February of 1983, while studying for a Bible study I was to teach, I was reading Matthew chapter 24. A revelation hit me that suddenly and totally changed my entire vision and undestanding of the Latter Days, the time before Christ was suppose to return to earth and establish His Kingdom. Although I had read this chapter dozens, if not hundreds of times, before, it suddenly brought on a new meaning. Jesus, it seemed to me, was saying in this chapter that except these days be shortened, even the very elect would almost be deceived. I had always been taught that the deception was in the form of false christs, or cult leaders. But for the first time I realized that Christ was speaking about the time period itself, not people.
Then I logically asked, “How could a time period almost deceive God’s elect, those people who walked closest to God and who understand more of Him than others did? How could they be deceived by some evil antichrist thinking he might be Jesus?” And then it hit me: Deception can only be by something that looks so much like the real thing that it is almost impossible to distinguish between the two, except by an expert!
For the first time I realized that the latter days could not possibly be what we had always envisioned it to be: a dark and gloomy time period which manifested to worst in man, where an evil, new age, witchcraft-inspired government would make war on Christianity. That would not almost deceive the very elect! Instead, it had to look so much like the real Kingdom of God that THAT would almost deceive God’s chosen. In other words, it would have to be not the worst that man could do, but the best. It could not be an evil New World Order, but a godly one based, not upon witchcraft, but upon God’s laws and upon Christian principles. And it could not be ruled by an evil antichrist, but by someone so like Jesus Himself, that people would think him to be the real Son of God.With this change came also the realization that everything we were doing as a group was based upon the errorneous interpretation. And if our basis or premise was wrong, then our actions had to be also. For what we all do stems from what we believe. Now, for the first time, I began to question what we were doing and where we were headed.
My understanding of the basic nature of man also now changed. The former understanding stemmed from a denominational teaching that man was basically sinful and evil and, were it not for the grace of God, would manifest the very nature of the devil upon the earth. Instead, now I saw that man was created perfect and, were it not for the frailty and weakness of the flesh, would indeed manifest the nature of God upon the world!
In other words, a totally 180 degree change in my theology!!! I now saw the world anew and God’s purpose anew!
Though I still had many questions to answer, I suddenly saw numerous scriptures that I never understood before, to now make sense. But when I approached our group’s leader with this new revelation, he would not listen, and instead said this was simply based upon my fear of being a warrior for God. But deep down inside I knew I was right and he was wrong.
I now believed that, as a group, we should not be making plans for destruction, but should instead to a positive influence in the local community. Our leader allowed me to open a health food store in the area in order to appease me. His real motivation, though, was as a convenient way to cash in on the food stamps our group’s members were taking from the government.
But 1983 soon brought us back into the fold of the right-wing, after our group experienced a split (when we lost 2/3 of our members), with the death of tax-protester Gordon Kahl. That summer and fall war was declared by the movement on the government of the United States and we began criminal activities. By early 1984, the leader of our group and I were arguing almost continually over the direction of our group. But in August 1984, in a move to appease him and out of being tired of arguing, I initiated a plan “to start the revolution.”
STEP TWO: ALMOST BECOMING A DOMESTIC TERRORIST — My idea was to take a briefcase of military explosive C4 and a silenced .22 to Kansas City, Missouri, with another man from CSA who was from Kansas City. There we would circle a gay park late Saturday night and shoot anyone we saw, figuring them to be homosexuals. After that, I would take the briefcase into an adult bookstore/arcade and blow it up. Thus making war on two evils in society: homosexuals and pornography. As in all cases in the movement, I thought this action would then be followed by others in the movement and revolution would begin.
We got to the park on Saturday night around 11pm or midnight (with silenced .22 in hand), circled it several times, and SAW NO ONE! Absolutely no one! Frustrated, I decided to go on to the adult arcade. I went in with the explosive device and realized what I had not contemplated before. Upon arriving, the clerk said I could go in but had to leave my briefcase with him! Then I realized that he would suspect me of shoplifting unless I left the case with him. That, obviously, would not work — I couldn’t set the timer before giving him the case; I sure couldn’t set it and go on in, unless I wanted to die in the explosion (which was not my plan); and I couldn’t set it and leave without raising suspicions. So I left with the briefcase!
Not knowing what to do, we decided to simply stay over in Kansas City that night and see “where God would lead us” the next morning. That Sunday morning, my accomplice asked if I wanted to see the Baptist Church “where he had gotten saved.” So we drove there. Upon arriving I asked him if he were sure this was the right church. It said it was. I informed him it was no longer a Baptist church but was now a gay church, the Metropolitan Community Church. This infuriated him and seemed to be the sign from God we were looking for: the correct target to start the revolution!
Before going inside I informed my friend that we would have to stay inside for probably 15-30 minutes before setting the timer on the briefcase and leaving, so we wouldn’t raise any suspicions. We entered the church and were welcomed by the usher, who probably assumed we were two gay men looking for a church to visit. The scene was unlike anything we had ever seen before. Here, the men sat on one side of the congregational pews and the women on the other side of the aisle. Men were showing affection to men (arms around each other; holding hands; heads on shoulders; etc) and women were showing affection to women. In addition the male preacher was discussing his affair with the male music director. This represented everything we had come to believe was wrong with America! I was now ready to commit what would have been the largest domestic terrorist act in the country up till that time.
Then, while waiting to set the timer, the music finally began in the service. And for the first time I watched homosexuals reaching out to God in the best way they understood how: in praise to Him. And I reacted, not in anger, but in compassion. For the first time, I looked at these people, not as demonic beings filled with lust and depravity, but as individuals trying to love God to the best of their ability. Now I saw them as people just like other people: with mothers and fathers, brothers, sisters, other family members, friends, etc.
Then for the first time I began to question what would happen if I really went through with this act. First of all, I would kill about 50-70 people who had never done me any harm, who had never harmed anyone I loved. I no longer saw them as a threat to my existence, but as real people. And if I did this act, I would kill not only them, but possibly innocent residents across the street.
That was “mistake #1” — putting a face on the enemy.
“Mistake #2” (in terrorist terms) was to start thinking about the consequences of my actions. Now I had to be brutally honest with myself: would this action, if I go through with it, really start the so-called Second American Revolution by causing others to uprise and do likewise? Or would I simply go down in history as a mass murderer after being caught by the police and either die in a shoot-out or spend the rest of my life in prison or on death row (not to mention losing my family and friends)? I knew the truth and it didn’t appeal to me. I had lost my desire to appease the leader of our group and told my friend next to me to get up, that we were leaving.
Kansas City was my slap in the face of reality. The reality of what I had become and what I almost became. I didn’t like this reality.
STEP THREE: MOTIVES — I explain my thoughts to my accomplice while driving back to CSA. I knew I would find disappointment there with the leader. Upon entering his living room, where he was watching for the news of the event, he asked what had happened. After filling him in, it was clear he was disappointed in me. I no longer cared.
Over the next several months, our leader and I continued to argue over God’s purpose and the direction of CSA. I saw our standard for allowing others to join us lower; I saw us leaving God and things of the spirit for Identity, a larger army to replace those who had left the year before, and for the glory of the flesh. And reality hit me again.
Now I began to understand the motives and intents of the leaders of the hate movement. They were not concerned with God, with race, with the Constitution. They were all concerned over one thing and one thing alone: POWER. CONTROL. Now I realized how leaders had been manipulating members to commit crimes in the name of God, watching them either die (now proclaiming them as Martyrs) or go to prison (now Prisoners of War). All in order to support their own “ministries.” If the leaders wanted war so badly, why not start it themselves??? No, it was easier to sacrifice the sheep at the slaughter than to expect the shepherds to sacrifice themselves.
I knew I could not stay at CSA with the way things were and decided to quit trying to change it back to where it was when I first came. The time had come to leave. But I didn’t get out soon enough.
STEP FOUR: THE SIEGE ON CSA — On April 19, 1985 the government’s #1 SWAT team, the Hostage Rescue Team (HRT), surrounded our group for a four-day standoff. The next step in my changing and leaving the movement came through the enemy itself. Their leader, Danny Coulson, and his team of 200 behaved opposite of what I thought they would do. Instead of storming the compound with a desire to kill us all, they waited and negotiated. I was the negotiator between our group and the government and immediately liked and respected their leader. He broke several FBI rules in order to show us respect. He never lied to us during the entire ordeal. And after 4 days, our “courageous” leader surrendered to the Beast. Then I watched over the next 4 days, while the government searched our property for evidence (mostly illegal weapons) and saw them take care NOT to destroy our place.
STEP 5: BETRAYAL — I was arrested on May 31, 1985 for weapons charges. The government initially offered me no prison time, only probation, if I would agree to testify against the leader of CSA. I declined the offer. Our leader, on the other hand, asked me to help him by supplying information to the government. I reluctantly agreed, though I knew he was lying to them. I was confused and angry with him for what he was doing, but I felt like I still owed him for so much. But by the time the government offered me a plea bargain with a maximum of 5 years, without testifying against him, our leader, Jim Ellison, had already asked me to take the blame for everything that had happened at CSA, for me to say I was the power behind the throne. I declined.
At my sentencing, the leader of CSA could have stood before the judge and said that none of his men were in control, and chances are none of the men would have gotten any more than probation. But he did not. When I was sentenced to the maximum the man I had once looked up to and revered said the time would do me good. I no longer wanted anything to do with him or his betrayal — of the movement and of his own men.
I began to understand that the leadership of the extremist movement cared only for themselves. I finally said good-bye to Jim Ellison in 1989.
STEP 6: PRISON — 26 months in jail and prison gave me time to think. Though still indoctrinated with Identity, over time I did manage to take Hebrew classes and attended 2 synagogue services off grounds. I finally came to grips that Jews and others were no different than us whites; they had feelings, loved their family and could be honorable men. Though prison gave me time to think further about my life and what I had done, I still had so many unanswered questions: racial questions.
But I had no one to talk to that could help me.
STEP 7: PUBLIC SPEAKING — What helped me so much to escape the mental bondage of the movement was to speak out. I did this first by calling the Jewish Anti-Defamation League and telling them how sorry I was for what I had done and said, and for the actions of CSA.
Next, in 1991, I joined a Toastmasters Club and for the first time was able to speak publicly about my experiences to a group of people who not only did not judge me for my past, but who befriended me. For several years probably 70% of my speeches had to do with my past, ALL of it.
That same year I began writing my book as a venue for those buried emotions to surface. That book, Tabernacle of Hate, was published in 1998.
By 1992 I had my racial and spiritual questions answered enough to where the propaganda from the movement no longer bothered me. I had learned to hate and now I had unlearned it. I felt free.
Then in 1995 I began to speak out publicly about the movement, educating people about its mentality, its theology, its propaganda, its motivations. I did not make a living of this nor did I desire to. I spoke when asked and was available to media and various organizations.
STEP 8: THE MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL — The final step was actually there through all the steps. The grace of God; the support from my wife and children; the support from my parents, grandparents, my wife’s family; the support and encouragement from so many federal agents that had been involved in the case, including the FBI negotiator Danny Coulson, whom I became friends with.
Every day is a blessing to me now. I take nothing for granted any more. Small things mean so much for me: the sunshine, quiet surroundings, a family meal, working to support my family. I am thoroughly aware of the grace of God and how close I came to ending my life in shame and horror.
My years at CSA taught me so many good things, in spite of all the bad. My walk with Christ has never been stronger. Prison (especially the three months of solitary confinement) broke me of my ego and pride. My life is blessed and for that I am eternally thankful.
And I pray that others find a way out of the movement, so they too may know joy and peace.
Today Kerry works full-time distributing children’s books. He also occasionally speaks at law enforcement conferences, to human-rights organizations, schools and civic groups about the ramifications of the hate movement. Kerry has been interviewed by NBC’s Dateline and The Today Show, CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, CNN, PBS’ News Hour with Jim Lehrer, Court TV, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Fifth Estate and various other television and print media, including Newsweek.
Having learned some hard lessons from the Potter — and some glorious insights into Him that is all-loving, all-present, all-purposeful and all-knowing — Kerry now ministers a message of “going out in joy and being led by peace.”
QUOTES ABOUT KERRY:
“Kerry Noble knows more about the Christian Identity Movement than anyone I have ever known. His rejection of that hateful philosophy helped us avoid a bloodbath in the Ozarks.” Danny Coulson, FBI Agent, ret.
“Kerry Noble tells a riveting story of a part of America few people could ever imagine exists. Noble has emerged from a truly incredible journey as a witness to a dark side of our world.” James Ridgeway, author of Blood in the Face.
“I met Kerry Noble while working on a story about the Oklahoma City bombing. In the early ’80s he had committed himself and his family to a cause for which he was willing to give his life. Kerry then had the courage to see that what he was willing to die for was wrong. The turmoil he experienced has left him a humble, respectful, intelligent and wiser man. He knows of what he speaks and he says it straight. I am glad I have made his acquaintance.” Michael Singer, Producer CBS
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