Sep 22 2009

On Fundamentalists, Terrorists and Phantom Threats

Published by at 8:07 am under Current Events,terrorism,USA

What’s the terror alert level at, right now, anyway? This month, we’ve seen the following headlines about foiled Al Queda-inspired terror plots:

‘Toronto 18’ member pleads guilty
New York imam held in al Qaeda bomb plot probe
Life for liquid bomb airline plotters

But the real threat in our midst? Christian Fundamentalist Terrorism.

On that note, one puffed-up Canadian writer recently described the fundamentalist movement that chills so many hyperbolic pundits above the 49th parallel:

Me? The only thing that really scares me is them. That is, the only thing that really terrifies me is the possibility of these right-wing Christian conservative blow-hard homophobes one day actually taking over America. It may seem unlikely now, but seeing that their numbers continue to grow almost as fast as their minds continue to close, it is, sadly, a distinct possibility.


Oh, I’m not disputing that the newsworthy cases (because they are so rare) of Christians who commit murder and other violence against innocents in the pursuit of political change are terrorists (although I’m not convinced that the lone nuts cited in the Huffington Post article above had any particular political aims). But are we really so blind as a society that we cannot distinguish qualitatively different phenomena?

We are given the example of a guy who walks into a church and starts shooting randomly in order to target, in his words, liberals and gays (which may seem like an odd place to carry out his goals, for those who assume that anyone who attends church is automatically a conservative, religious fundamentalist homophobe). Even if this is terrorism — and it’s not clear that this qualifies — it is simply not a threat on the scale of blowing up large buildings in metropolitan areas, or destroying airliners, or slamming said airliners into large buildings in metropolitan areas.

“But what about the Oklahoma City bombing?”, the tattered argument goes. Surely, this proves Christians in North America are a fifth column of dangerous religious fanaticism? Except that Timothy McVeigh wasn’t a religious fundamentalist. Gun nut, check. Enemy of the US government, check. Christian radical? Not so much:

McVeigh professed his belief in “a God”, although he said he had “sort of lost touch with” Catholicism and “I never really picked it up, however I do maintain core beliefs.” The Guardian reported that McVeigh wrote a letter claiming to be an agnostic. McVeigh at one time said that he believed the universe was guided by natural law, energized by some universal higher power that showed each person right from wrong if they paid attention to what was going on inside them. He had also said, “Science is my religion.”

Three quarters of America’s 300 million people are Christian. When you’ve got numbers that large, you’re going to see some scary ambassadors of the faith emerge. We mainly make fun of their views and behavior, rather than locking them up. But given the numbers, if Christian fundamentalists were really as violent as some pundits make out, we’d be seeing terrorist attacks from coast to coast every hour of the day.

Meanwhile, Al Queda-inspired groups have been using Islam as a recruiting tool in the USA for years, if not decades. In the USA, the population of self-declared Muslims is suggested to be 2.35 million, or 0.6 per cent of the population — a far smaller recruiting pool than accessible to a would-be Christian terrorist with a bomb and a grudge against the ZOG authorities. Yet we’ve already seen an ever-increasing list of foiled Al Queda-inspired plots planned on American soil. This, despite a climate of suspicion and vigilance in America that has presumably deterred a significant number of plotters who decided they’d probably get caught before the scheme went very far.

This is not another misguided argument that the Christian religion is inherently more peaceful than Islam, or that Muslims are inherently prone to violence. It isn’t and they aren’t. It’s not an alarmist screed about terrorism, either, since the chances of dying in a terrorist attack are close to zero. But so long as there are real terrorists plotting and scheming in our cities and suburbs, we might as well be realistic about which kind of radical fundamentalism is the real breeding ground for potentially devastating politically-motivated violence on our own soil.

Religious Extremists in America

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5 responses so far

5 Responses to “On Fundamentalists, Terrorists and Phantom Threats”

  1. Patrick Rosson 22 Sep 2009 at 6:52 pm

    I must disagree with you, Jon. Christian Fundamentalist Terrorists do exist, and they’re as dangerous as any other terrorist.

    They may even be more dangerous, but not on their own merit alone. They may be more dangerous because many people in the western world don’t take the idea seriously (it seems to be thematic in this post).

    Perhaps Jim Adkisson had no political aims when he shot up that church. The man who killed Dr George Tiller, however, did. As does every Christian fundamentalist who kills or threatens an abortion clinic.

    I think those people should be charged as terrorists, and convicted to the fullest extent of that particular law. They should be treated no differently than Muslim terrorists, Sikh terrorists, or any other terrorist.

  2. Joshuaon 22 Sep 2009 at 8:24 pm

    Despite the fact that extremists exist in all faiths,Islamic faith in particular has been dragging its feet to get with the modern times- on purpose.That points to an agenda.Christian bible thumpers are not all that hard to spot.Islamists on the other hand ,willingly hide behind others and use our own laws,loopholes and all,to exploit and deceive.Constantly ranting abour Israel ,and continuing dumb ass theories about jews,dead give aways.

  3. jnarveyon 23 Sep 2009 at 7:47 am

    Hey Patrick. Actually, my contention is not that Christian terrorists don’t exist — I absolutely agree that Christian fundamentalists who target abortion clinics might be effectively charged under terrorism laws (those who simply threaten such acts would probably be charged under our laws about “uttering threats”, I suppose).

    But there is a qualitative difference between murdering someone at a local clinic and the far more devastating and audacious attacks (9/11, 7/7 or the Mumbai massacre) inspired by Al Queda. Very few people are actually “terrorized” across the country when a violent act occurs at some local clinic.

  4. Patrick Rosson 24 Sep 2009 at 12:10 am

    Well, I think Rachel Maddow would disagree with you. But, Rachel Maddow is little more than an ideological chatterbox, so I digress.

    You certianly are right that the attacks that Muslim terrorists have planned and executed have been on a much broader scale.

    But the one thing that I would say is that if we allow ourselves to become complacent about the small and isolated attacks of Christian fundamentalist terrorists (and it seems like we agree fully on how they should be addressed under law) we leave ourselves open and unprepared for any such group that may attempt a broader-scale attack a la McVeigh.

    My argument is that they’re potentially more dangerous because we don’t address these threats properly and with the credulity of an Islamic threat.

  5. slashingtongueon 27 Sep 2009 at 9:13 pm

    Firstly let me make this clear. Islam and Christianity are OK. Crazy Islam and Crazy Christianity are the problems.

    Te threat of Islam is physical. The threat of Christians is much more ideological. The is just a stone throw away from the former.

    For example, in Florida, parents took their kids out of school when they found out that Muslims are studying in that school. They have the option of removing kids from the class when they are being taught about evolution (not to mention our President’s speech). We have crazy politicians like Michele Bachmann that believes that “America should be back in the hands of God.” There are people that cheer the arrival of our dead soldiers because America allows homosexuality to exist and therefore, in their minds, should be punished.

    To me, the threat of Islamic terrorism is primary. It can happen any time. Whereas the threat of the crazy Christians is long term and would not harm us yet. Should the threat of Islamic terrorism be compared to forest fires and hurricanes, Christian fundamentalism in US is climate change… Both need to be addressed.

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