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Sort 422: Christians and Militias in the News

and a text from someone else who is scared

by Dear Jon
March 30, 2010

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Sort 422: Christians and Militias in the News
ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON:

Dear Jon,
i do not know when it's going to end but i am scared

Dear Scared,

First of all let us review our etiquette. Letters to Dear Jon should be signed. It is likely that this was sent to me as an actual letter when it was really intended as a comment on one of my "end of the world" articles about Mayans and 2012 in an earlier sort that I frankly am too busy to look up. It is also likely, given the butchery of grammar, that this message has been texted. Chances are if you are too busy to write a proper letter, you are also too busy to read an answer. I was not going to bother with this letter until the news came in on Monday of a major bust of a group of bigot terrorists in the upper midwest who were plotting to kill police officers.

This was an AP story that came over on Yahoo associated home-pages, and was printed on the front page in suburban Chicago. Apparently one of the busts was in or near Hammond Indiana, which is approximately my back yard.

I realize there may be columnists on this very website who will accuse me of buying into the media's biased story, and I will be reminded that in this country we are supposed to be innocent until we are proven guilty. In upper midwest speak, "Yah I know." Consider the point taken in advance and let me do my thing.

Having lived for several years in several locations in the upper midwest, I can tell you that white bigots are not hard to find in these parts. Even with the dense population centers there are still plenty of wooded places where persons can park their trailers and mix their fertilizer bombs. However I do detect media bias in the story. The words "Christian Militia" were included in Monday's Daily Herald headline, and this morning on Yahoo.com featured a follow-up AP story by correspondent John Seewer, who writes,  "a ninth suspected member of a Christian militia group...is to be arraigned Tuesday in federal court."

I have a bunch of comments. Let us begin with the unsigned letter. You are scared. Of what and of whom? The end of the world? Why?

President Roosevelt's wisdom that "there is nothing to fear but fear itself" holds true 75 years later.  These nine clowns were preparing for war against the Anti-Christ, according to Seewer's article. Apparently they were afraid too, and they acted from their fear, turning it into aggression. (Allegedly. Yah I know.)

As a Christian I am not particularly afraid of the end of the world, or terrorists, or global warming, or economic melt-down, or President Obama, or the police, or the Russians, or the Chinese, or the World Socialist Baby-Killing Government. I don't like spiders, I am highly suspicious of unleashed dogs, and I think the neo-Conservative regime of Bush II was the worst presidential administration since Warren Harding.

So I have opinions and feelings. I don't like pain and I don't want to die. But this does not have me turning fears into aggression. As a Christian I turn these things over to God in a spiritual contact called "prayer." I will recycle and I will use this forum to speak on issues of concern and I will vote according to my conscience, but I will not act out of hate. I may disparage others for their actions, like these nine fool neighbors of mine, in order that we may see clearly what ought not to be done. But I do not seek their harm. Honestly I hope they change their minds and hearts about these things. (Sorry. Their alleged minds. Yah I know.)

Faith has me under no illusions that every generation lives a better life than the one before. Rome did not fall in a day. Other world empires have come and gone, and the transitions have been painful. The United States may well be on the brink, and my children may end up as refugees to another land of promise. But what puts the USA on the brink is when fearful people begin to target police-officers and funerals for terrorism. What puts the USA on the brink is not only the hyper-spending for Warfare/Welfare (the neo-Cons) and for Welfare/Warfare (liberal dems), it is also the hysteria of those who, in wanting to put warfare first, express hatred and shame on those who put welfare first, while those who put welfare first go on the air to speak of the "vast right-wing conspiracy."

Nothing undercuts fear like humility in one's opinions and empathy towards the humanity in another. Realizing we are in the soup together puts paranoia back where it belongs--on the margins of society, in the woods and mountains of hide-away places. This is the very essence of the Christian faith: Blessed are the meek, blessed are the peace-makers. This comes from putting the fear of God first, rather than fearing those who can only destroy the body but cannot touch the soul.

All of this leads me to my critique of correspondent John Seewer and his editors. What in the sam-hill is meant by "Christian militia?" The mainstream media did the right thing early on in the wake of September 11th in distinguishing between "Muslims" and "Islamicist extremists." They have even laudably qualified the term "fundamentalist" as applied to Muslims, since not all Muslim fundamentalists are extremist. In reporting on the actions of Israeli governments in Jerusalem and in the territories, there are always qualifiers. No one with the AP speaks of "the Jews" doing this or that to "Muslims".  (I can't make any guesses for Al Jazeera.) Groups are identified by faction and alignment, because it is more truthful and accurate.

Christians, like Jews and Muslims, are in a global fellowship of faith that has produced many forms and traditions, what we might call "denominations" in certain contexts. Each of these religions has its contemplative traditions, its conservative and its liberal expressions, and its fundamentalist "back to the basics" movements. What is common in all of these is the identification with a global faith, and an ethic for that faith that has been understood and transmitted for generations. Terrorism is decried by the mainstream, global culture of these faiths in all of their mainstream forms, including fundamentalist forms. Those that espouse violence and the slaughter of non-combatants are at a distance from the mainstream. The press understands this as it applies to Muslims and Jews. It is time for the press to understand this about Christians.

The term "Christian" as a qualifier for "militia" makes no more sense than putting together the terms "Muslim" and "Terrorist." Armeggeddon cults that (um...allegedly?) spring up on American soil from time to time may have the Bible as their supposed frame of reference, but they are not accountable to any wider Church community. They are sectarian cults, and it offends me deeply that instead of sharing a common faith with them I am made to share a label, "Christian," which in this context all too easily becomes an epithet.

Please do the dialogue in our country a favor. When a home-grown militia or terrorist group has some kind of religious contour to its agenda and formation, please do not call them "Christian." Please refer to them for what they really are: A Sectarian Militia. Or, A Cult Militia. 

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