Thursday, April 08, 2010

Return of Christian Terrorism?

The arrest last week of members of the  Christianist Hutaree militia from Michigan has served to remind us that terrorism comes in many forms, including Christian ones.  There is zeal for the faith and then there is zeal for the faith -- when zeal turns to coercion and violence, then it becomes dangerous.  We've watched this happen inside Islam, but this potential is also present in Christianity. 

I know of no better interpreter of this potentiality for religiously inspired violence than Dr. Mark Juergensmeyer, a professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara and author of the important work -- Terror in the Mind of God 3rd ed., (University of California Press).  He has written an important essay for Religion Dispatches that describes the roots and expressions of Christian rooted terrorist activity, focusing specifically on the anti-abortionist activities of  Scott Roeder, recently convicted of killing George Tiller, and precursors -- Paul Hill (a Presbyterian pastor) and Michael Bray (a Lutheran pastor).  One was convicted for killing a doctor who provided abortions, the other was convicted for firebombing abortion clinics.  Both Hill and Bray claimed that they were acting as agents of God, and Roeder took inspiration from them. 

The question then is this -- what is the ideological foundation for these activities?  What Mark  (I've spent time with Mark, so I have some sense of who he is as a person and as a scholar) does in this article is provide some important background to these groups, many of which claim support from or connection with Dominionist or Reconstructionist theology.  This movement, which traces its roots through Rousas Rushdoony to Cornelius Van Til and then back to John Calvin, seeks a merger of church and state -- as a precursor to the return of Christ.  Now, most Reconstructionists don't justify terrorist acts, but some on the fringe have pushed in that direction.  The question then concerns where this is going.

What is important, in my mind, is that we understand that terrorism and extremism is not limited to Islam, but can be rooted in all religious traditions.  Andrew Sullivan speaks of Christianists as parallels to Islamists.  This is a militant form of religion that believes so strongly in its cause that it will use violence to achieve its aims. 

I recommend a close reading of Mark's article and his book.

Note:  the picture comes from the Religion Dispatches article. 


Montana said...

I love that they asked for “Public Defenders” (and they thought they could bring down our government), undercover FBI agent, sweet. Since their inception the Teaparty crowd (not a movement since they do have the numbers or clout) because they are haters not debaters or as others have dubbed them screamers not dreamers. The simpleton Tea baggers are the same whiners that were crying when the McCain/Bailin ticket lost. Now that their yelling and screaming failed to stop the health care debate and the bill from passing they are crying again. Lets face it the Republicans had eight years to deal with health care, immigration, climate change and financial oversight and governance and they failed. The Republicans are good at starting wars (two in eight years, with fat contracts to friends of Cheney/Bush) but not at winning wars as seen by the continuing line of body bags that keep coming home. Instead of participating in the health care debate of ideas the Republicans party turned inward to your old fashion obstructionist party. In my opinion the Republican Waterloo loss was caused by the party allowing a small portions (but very loud) of the republican party of “birthers, baggers and blowhards” to take over their party. I will admit that this fringe is very good at playing “Follow the Leader” by listening to their dullard leaders, Beck, Hedgecock, Hannity, O’Reilly, Rush, Savage, Sarah Bailin, Orly Taitz, Victoria Jackson, Michele Bachmann and the rest of the Blowhards and acting as ill programmed robots (they have already acted against doctors that preform abortions). The Teaparty crowd think they can scare, intimidate and force others to go along with them by comments like “This time we came unarmed”, let me tell you something not all ex-military join the fringe militia crazies who don’t pay taxes and run around with face paint in the parks playing commando, the majority are mature and understand that the world is more complicated and grey than the black and white that these simpleton make it out to be and that my friend is the point. The world is complicated and presidents like Hamiliton, Lincoln, and Roosevelt believe that we should use government a little to increase social mobility, now its about dancing around the claim of government is the problem. The sainted Reagan passed the biggest tax increase in American history and as a result federal employment increased, but facts are lost when mired in mysticism and superstition. Although some Republicans are trying to distant themselves from this fringe most of them, having no game plan/ vision for our country, are just going along and fanning the flames. For a party that gave us Abraham Lincoln, it is tragic that the ranks are filled with too many empty suits. But they now claim they have changed, come on, what sucker is going to believe that? All I can say to you is remember Waterloo.

Anonymous said...

You can't scare me, I'm stickin with the Union (as in USA).