Saturday, April 10, 2010

Christian Terrorists

I was a youngster when I first heard "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice," and I thought that was about the coolest thing I had ever heard. I was so moved by the phrase that I promptly marched down to the local Republican Party headquarters and volunteered. My assigned task was not to pass out campaign literature at grocery stores, or to take part in phone banking. I was considered too young for such important jobs. My job was to read all of the Milwaukee Sentinel and the Milwaukee Journal and to clip articles that I considered would be useful to the party and its candidates.

I guess I've come full circle. I don't often read the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (yes, the two papers merged so the city now has one daily), but I surely read a lot of newspapers, collecting articles that intrigue, infuriate, or enlighten me. Yesterday I came across one that fell into the last category, a commentary written by Leonard Pitts Jr of the Miami Herald and reprinted in McClatchy DC. He makes some powerful statements on the kind of extremism we're witnessing right now.

A few words about Christian terrorism.

And I suppose the first words should be about those words: "Christian terrorism." The term will seem jarring to those who've grown comfortable regarding terrorism as something exclusive to Islam.

That this is a self-deluding fallacy should have long since been apparent to anyone who's been paying attention. From Eric Rudolph's bombing of the Atlanta Olympics, a gay nightclub and two abortion clinics to the so-called Phineas Priests who bombed banks, a newspaper and a Planned Parenthood office in Spokane, from Matt Hale soliciting the murder of a federal judge in Chicago to Scott Roeder's assassination of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, from brothers Matthew and Tyler Williams murdering a gay couple near Redding, Calif., to Timothy McVeigh destroying a federal building and 168 lives in Oklahoma City, we have seen no shortage of "Christians" who believe Jesus requires — or at least allows — them to commit murder.

If federal officials are correct, we now have one more name to add to the dishonor roll. That name would be Hutaree, a self-styled Christian militia in Michigan, nine members of which have been arrested and accused of plotting to kill police officers in hopes of sparking an anti-government uprising.

Many of us would doubtless resist referring to plots like this as Christian terrorism, feeling it unfair to tar the great body of Christendom with the actions of its fringe radicals. And here, we will pause for Muslim readers to loudly clear their throats


Why does their Jesus need the help of men in camo fatigues with guns and bombs? In this, he is much like the Allah for whom certain Muslims blow up marketplaces and crowded buses. Muslim and American terrorists, it seems, both apparently serve a puny and impotent God who can't do anything without their help.

It saddens me that we have come to the point where the man who said "Even as you do unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me", who blessed the poor, the meek, the peacemakers, is used as justification for murder. It grieves me that the term "Christian terrorism" is not an oxymoron. It disgusts me that those who claim to adhere to the Gospels urge their co-religionists not to retreat but to reload.

Mr. Pitts (whom I will henceforth refer to as "Our man, Mr. Pitts") has nailed this dangerous lunacy brilliantly, naming it for what it is. And for that I am grateful.



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