Monday, March 5, 2012

An Up-Close Look at Christian Terrorism

Analyzing the Threat of Extremist Evangelicalism Across the Globe

There’s no way around it - in this day and age, Muslims are almost universally persecuted people. It doesn’t matter if they live in the U.S., the U.K. (which, according to a flyer for The Weekly Standard, is “where terrorists get college educations”) or most notably Israel…for the most part, if you’re a Muslim, you’re going to get treated, at best, as a “suspicious person”, or in the more extreme environments, as “second class” citizens.

Ever since 9/11, it seems as if mainstream American culture simply lacks the ability to differentiate between the terms “Islamist” and “terrorist,” to the point where many, many people (certainly way more than our supposedly enlightened culture would like to admit) genuinely think that the terms are interchangeable.

The problem with the “Islamist” / “Terrorist” association is that it correlates far too many components together, which, from a rationalist’s standpoint, are completely separate notions. The very idea of “Islamic terror” is really a selective interpretation of the term, since most of the organization we consider as “Islamic terrorists” (Hezbollah, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, etc.) are really more or less political reactionary movements than they are fundamentalist jihadist groups.

We tend to forget that organizations of the like are nationalists as opposed to sectarian, choosing to focus on the fact that, yes, they are indeed Muslims, instead of focusing on their political demands and desires. This doesn’t excuse such groups for using violent means to achieve their wanted ends, but at the same time, we seem to completely overlook the fact that most militant Arabians are fighting for geopolitical causes, and not because they’re drunk on the Koran and looking to spill blood for Allah to slurp up.

Regarding modern terrorism, we seem to completely discredit the idea that such can be achieved without religious underpinnings, when, in most actual scenarios, the cause of such acts are rooted in political and national motives.

That, and we seem to have totally forgotten the fact that, in our modern world, there are plenty of terrorist organizations out there with clearly religious motives that aren’t based on Islamic tenets...and much to the abject horror of many a Wall Street Journal subscriber, some of these organizations do so under the umbrella of Christianity.

Christian terrorism. When was the last time you heard that particular term? Hell, have you ever even HEARD that phrase used before? Contrary to what the Jack Van Impes and Pat Robertsons of the world will tell you, there are indeed organizations out there that can be construed as both terrorist factions AND Christian fundamentalists. In fact, there are quite a few of them, truth be told…including several that have been domestic threats to the United States for decades.

Today, I figured I'd take all of you on a tour of international Christian extremism, where rapes, bombings, kidnappings and ceaseless civil violence are all considered appropriate means of getting on God's good side. They may not get the ink their more publicized Arabian kin get, but rest assured...for hundreds of thousands of Christians on this planet, the concept of "thou shall not kill" is undoubtedly the most negotiable of commandments.  

The Tripura Baptist Christian Union has lent financial assistance - and even weaponry - to the National Liberation Front of Tripura for years.

The National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) is as a good a place to start as any, I suppose. Quantified as one of the ten deadliest terrorist organizations in the world by the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, the rebel sectarians have terrorized northeast India and portions of Bangladesh for the last two decades, forcing Hindu practitioners to convert at gunpoint, with the stated agenda of converting everyone in the region into Baptists. 

The organization – which said that it has received financial aid and even weaponry from the state Baptist church of Tripura to carry out its “mission” – is responsible for a number of kidnappings and murders since 2000, including the deaths of tribal leaders Shanti Triupua, Labh KumarJamatia and Kishore Debbarma. 

Alike most terrorist organizations, the NLFT, as well as smaller Indian extremist factions, like the Manmasi National Christian Army, is known to utilize children as foot soldiers, whom periodically break into Hindu temples and paint crosses on the walls with the blood of those unwilling to convert. After ceasing tribal strongholds, NLFT “leadership” are known to ban Hindu festivals outright, and in 2009, it was revealed that not only were NLFT operatives abusing female prisoners, but releasing videos of the attacks to help finance their “holy calling.”

This child is one of the thousands upon thousands of internally displaced people resulting from a Lord's Resistance Army insurgency throughout central Africa.

Of course, the most infamous Christian terrorist organization of them all is the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a multi-state, paramilitary operation originally fronted by Joseph Kony in Uganda in the late 1980s. 

Kony, a hyper-superstitious leader, claims to be chosen by god to form a sectarian state within Africa. Ironically, the LRA says that it wants to establish an autonomous state “guided” by the Ten Commandments – at the same time its leader is wanted by the International Criminal Court for, among other charges, murder, kidnapping, sex slave trading, forcing children into military ops, and even accusations of cannibalism

Splintering from the Holy Spirit Movement - a Ugandan rebel force led by a woman that claimed to have psychic powers - in 1987, the LRA has “troops,” many of which are children, in at least four different African states, and has committed multiple massacres in at least six different countries. In 2002, LRA troops were said to have forced Sudanese villagers to jump off mountains at gunpoint, and in 2009, the organization claimed the lives of more than 300 Congolese villagers in what has become known as the “Makombo Massacre.” According to the ICC, the LRA’s reign of terror – largely perpetrated by a brainwashed brigade of exploited youth -  has created more than 2 million refugees in Africa since its inception. Today, Kony is listed by Forbes as one of the world’s ten most wanted fugitives, while the ICC accuses him of 33 different crimes against humanity.

Protestant-led Ulster Defence Association violence was rampant in Ireland for almost 40 years, with "post-fighting" flare-ups common to this day.  

Needless to say, the rise of the Provisional Irish Republic Army in 1969 has opened the floodgates for virulently anti-Catholic Protestants to commit numerous deadly attacks in the country, even after the “armed campaign” officially concluded in 2005. 

Paramilitary separatists with names like the Orange Volunteers, the Red Hand Defenders and the Real Ulster Freedom Fighters – comprised mostly of hardcore Ulster Defence Association holdovers, which was Ireland’s deadliest anti-Catholic organization during the “Troubles” – continue to send death threats, plant explosives (sometimes next to elementary schools) and periodically gun down Catholics in the nation. 

A rap sheet containing the numerous terrorist activities perpetrated by the UDA and its remnant factions entails almost four decades of murders, bombings and rocket attacks – perhaps indicating that Christian terrorism is unavoidable, even in states comprised almost entirely of Christians themselves. 

A look at the carnage left in wake of Anders Behring Breivik's 2011 terrorist attack in Oslo.

Perhaps the most infamous display of Christian terrorism of the past 25 years occurred in 2011 in Norway, when Anders Behring Breivik embarked upon a tandem bombing/spree shooting that claimed 77 lives as part of a mission to “preserve” European Christendom.

An extremely disturbed right wing fundamentalist, Breivik said that his homicidal spree was meant to “curb” the rise of Islamic influence on Europe, which he believed would end “the Great Christian Congress” of the continent. 

In a lengthy manifesto released prior to the shooting, Breivik stated that he was "100 percent Christian”, and that he would pray for “strength” from god during his attacks. A self-professed “Christian crusader,” Breivik’s rampage severely injured more than 150 people, with a majority of his slain victims reported to have been teenagers and younger children. 

Members of the Michigan militia Hutaree, who were indicted in 2010 for amassing "weapons of mass destruction" to carry out religiously-motivated attacks.
In the United States, Breivik’s hyper nationalist, hyper Christian ideology is shared, albeit localized, by perhaps the longest running Christian terrorist organization on the planet, the Ku Klux Klan. Modern day KKK spinoffs, such as the Knights Party, USA, retain a strong Christian sentiment – which is echoed much more violently by an array of unaffiliated white nationalist organizations, including the Michigan militia group Hutaree, who in 2010, were indicted by a federal grand jury for amassing “weapons of mass destruction” in a plot to advance their “Christian Patriot”-inspired agenda. Many hardline white nationalist organizations in the country – among them, the Aryan Nations, the Aryan Republican Army and the Phineas Priesthood – are also known for promoting radical Christian ideology, and have been suspected in countless terrorist attacks over the last 30 years.

Domestic Christian terrorism entails threats from both “apocalyptic” anti-globalist organizations - such as Concerned Christians, a “Christian Identity” group that attempted to attack several mosques in the Jerusalem in order to bring about the “Second Coming” of Jesus Christ - and much more commonly, anti-abortion factions.

From 1978 to 1993, the New York Times  reports that over 600 abortion clinics have been bombed or invaded, almost always at the hands of terrorist Christian dissidents (a brief list of attacks and murders perpetrated by anti-Abortionist proponents can be accessed here). Despite accusations of innocence, members of hardcore, anti-abortion groups such as the Lambs of Christ and Army of God have been suspected of numerous lethal attacks against clinics and physicians, with members of groups such as The Freeman Community and The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord (CSA) being indicted and arrested for terrorist activity – it’s even been suspected that the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing was “retaliation” for the execution of former CSA mastermind Richard Snell, who died the very day Timothy McVeigh attacked the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

And that, of course, excludes all of the historical violence at least partially instigated via Christian ideology, from the Crusades and the Inquisition to modern anti-gay violence and, in some ways, even the mentalities of Mexico’s barbarous drugtrade. The pervasive influence of Christian ideals on some of modernity’s most heinous acts of terror and warfare is hard to overstate – there’s some difficult content to digest, but I would strongly advise checking out this site for a more in-depth look at the state of 21st century Christian violence, particularly for those desiring a more comprehensive take on the matter.

At the end of the day, it’s quite hypocritical to accuse one religion of fostering violent proclivities, especially when there’s a wealth of evidence out there that demonstrates that those pointing the finger of blame are every bit as guilty as those they are deriding. That’s not to say that Christian terrorism is any “worse” than Islamic terrorism, or that the motivations of Islamic terrorists are any “better” than the Christian terrorists discussed above – ultimately, the point to be taken here is that fundamentalist violence takes many forms, and regardless of which faith, ideal or belief that is used as an “excuse” for such violence, it’s all comparably wasteful, pointless and destructive for the totality of humanity.

“Extremism” is “extremism,” and “evil” is “evil,” no matter what form the supposed “rationale” consists of.


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