Terrorism: Why Don’t We Just Call it What it is?

A group of men take over passenger aircraft and ram them into buildings.  Another group of men kidnap people and hold them, some issue death threats, some attempt to assassinate someone.  Some people are killed by another group of men over their views on certain subjects.  Others occupy large areas of land that does not belong to them and shoot innocent civilians who only want their land back.  Most of these men are highly irritable, well-armed, and the will to do whatever it takes to inflict fear and terror in people.  All of these groups have something in common and it has nothing to do with religion.  It has to do with their goals.

Christian, Muslim, Israeli, Palestinian, American, Pakistani, whatever title you go by, if you commit an act meant to harm others while inspiring fear and terror, you are a terrorist.  Let us please call it what it is.  Why do we feel the need to cloud the issue by ignoring the acts of such depravity with labels which have nothing at all to do with the people committing the crime?  It is time we stopped calling all Muslims terrorists.  It is time to remember that Christians and Israelis are just as guilty of acts which can be considered ‘terrorist’.

As Bill Hamby highlights on his recent blog:

  • 1993: Operation Rescue, a Christian organization, got one of the targets on its “Wanted Posters.”  Dr. David Gunn is dead because of Christian terrorists.
  • 1994: Dr. John Britton and James Barrett became victims of Christian terrorist Reverend Paul Jennings Hill.
  • 1994: Shannon Lowney and Lee Ann Nichols were killed by Christian terrorist John Salvi.
  • 1996-98: Christian Terrorist Eric Rudolph killed at least two and injured more than 150 in a series of bombings, including Atlanta’s Olympic Centennial Park.
  • 1998: Christian terrorist James Kopp killed at least one and went on a series of anti-abortion shooting sprees, both in the U.S. and Canada.
  • 2009: Christian terrorist Scott Roeder killed Dr. George Tiller in Kansas.

These are just a few notable examples.  In total, there have been 17 attempted murders, 383 death threats, 153 incidents of assault or battery, and 3 kidnappings in America committed by Christian terrorists over the issue of abortion alone.

And more recently, Tea-Party advocate and conservative-Christian Anders Behring Breivik killed over 60 people, including teenagers.

But Hamby might be wrong; these aren’t really ‘Christian terrorists’.  They are just terrorists.  Plain and simple.  After all, we can’t call the Columbine massacre shooters ‘Heavy-Metal Rock terrorists’, we don’t call Jared Loughner a ‘political terrorist’.  They were just terrorists.  We should attempt to find the motives for these attrocities, if only to recognize the signs and plan accordingly.  But we shouldn’t seek to include labels that signify religion, race, or belief.  In truth, anyone can be a terrorist.  All they need is the will to committ violence against others, be mentally unstable, have a conviction that they are right, and the mentality that ‘if you’re not with me you’re against me.’  Race, religion, birthplace, or political viewpoint don’t play into it.  A crazy person with a gun is a crazy person with a gun.

All of this religious and political labeling does nothing but raise agendas, force division amongst us, and quite literally, lets the terrorists win.  So if you don’t want to let the terrorists win, stop buying into that same sort of delusional rhetoric they spout.

11 Responses

  1. Tom, you and I agree very much on several things, but I adamantly disagree in calling this man a ‘Christian’ and allowing him a measure of religious zeal.

    other than that…

  2. Joel, I understand your position. But consider that regardless of how you view Christianity, Christians can be susceptible to delusions and mental instability the same as anyone else. We cannot change who he viewed himself as, and just like any Islamic extremist who happens to also be a terrorist, we can’t also discount their faith. That is not for us to judge. This person called themselves a Christian. It’s a bit of a logical fallacy to say ‘well he wasn’t really a Christian because he didn’t ascribe to my same belief structure’ don’t you think? He was a crazy person who happened to call himself a Christian. Whether or not you accept that fact, well, that is another matter all together. My point overall is we need to accept this man considered himself a Christian, but that doesn’t mean he was a ‘Christian terrorist’. If anything, this is a calling to those of us who deal with religious texts to be ever more ardent in our campaign to explain the difference between a faithful reading of the Bible and a literal, extremist reading, and what the implications of those are.

  3. Wouldn’t you agree that there is a difference in religious zeal and political zeal? For him Christianity was a political tool, and nothing more. To allow that he even came close to understanding Christianity as a religious tool is to misrepresent him. He wasn’t acting in the name of God, but in the name of Western Supremacy. He wasn’t acting on faith, but politics. That is a difference with other Christian terrorists and even Islamic ones.

    But, I agree that we need to call him a terrorist, instead of separating it out.

  4. On your first point, I am under the impression that for a large number of Christians, there is no distinction between religion and politics. I don’t think it is fair to discount their faith in their convictions any more than if they were to claim you weren’t a true Christian because they disagreed with your epistemological perspectives. I’m glad you make a distinction, but I don’t think we should refuse to call them what they are. If we did that, we’d have to discount a good deal of early church fathers who held similar views, would we not? And a good portion of church history would also have to removed as well. You might not agree with his version of Christian, but that doesn’t make him something else.

    I’m glad you do not associate with such intolerant sects of Christianity, and if you did I imagine your wife would beat you senseless, so I’m not too worried. ;-)

  5. Tom the reason the Columbine Kids aren’t Heavy Metal terrorist (note to self, great name for a metal band) is because they are not terrorist. Terrorism is a political act to serve political goals. The Columbine Kids were expressing private anger and it doesn’t appear they were really aiming for goals beyond personal revenge. I don’t think this was an attempt to start a revolution against bullies or anything. Traditionally terrorist are labeled by the ideology they are pursuing, be it Anarchism, Marxism, Fascism, or any number of faith based political radicalisms.

    Generally since the people doing the labeling are the foe of the terrorist (terrorist belonging to groups of course have names for themselves, IRA, Contra, PLO, FARK, etc., but when there are a number of sub units in a general movement, they will identify with a larger movement, Jihadi, Marxist, what have you) the name tries to differentiate between the terrorist and the public, so we don’t call American or Christian terrorist American or Christian terrorist. Since nearly everyone you know fall under those banners, specifying “Far Right Wing” seems a bit better. No one is served by asking how John Spong books may have inspired domestic terrorism.

  6. Well Tom, in Ander’s own words:

    ““If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God then you are a religious Christian. Myself and many more like me do not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God. We do however believe in Christianity as a cultural, social, identity and moral platform. This makes us Christian.”

    I think this define what he means by Christian, and rather like his use of the language of ‘saving’ Norway its not what we would recognize by the word…

  7. Tom, if the dominant culture continues to identify Sikh and Muslim terrorists as such, why are Catholic and Christian terrorists to be exempted? If we could get a blanket removal of religious ID from terrorism, I think that would be one approach, but if any person of one religion is called a religious terrorist, than all should be if none can’t.

  8. I don’t agree that throwing gas on a fire puts it out or extinguishes it. What you suggest is to fan the flames rather than attempting to smother them. Taking the high road is what needs to happen, not to jump the face and trod down the muddy path towards the mob with the pitchforks because there is another mob forming on the other side of town. Capice?

  9. No, no I don’t really understand.

    It’s not as if there isn’t violence already on both sides. There is violence taking place and subsequently these labels are being applied, but only to marginalized religious beliefs that don’t partake of the dominant culture of the American Empire. If they are being withdrawn from all sides, then that is the ideal situation; in that we are in agreement. However, if they are not withdrawn from all sides, it is the job of critics of the religious impulse to violence to identify all such cases and not favor one religious outlook over others. To accept the hegemony of your dominant culture and not criticize it from within when it fails to be fair, honest or beneficent is to be complicit with its actions.

  10. So your argument is that because everyone else is using the term, we should use it as well? The last night a group of people were categorized into what beliefs they held, millions of people lost their lives. I’m not saying that is what you are suggesting, but those are possible consequences to the type of logic you are using. And don’t think I didnt catch your argument from popularity.

    I’m sorry Evan but I don’t find your case to be anything but naive. Terrorists don’t really care about religious conviction, they care about the results of their actions and themselves. Often their motives atlas more political than religious, and I am not so sure ‘religious’ works as a qualifier for an extremist, anyway.

    Even if you were right, however, it would not change the fact that terrorists would be terrorists with or without religion. We see similar behavior in primate species as we do in humans. Some creatures, human or not, have social problems, mental problems, and they need to act out against society in the only way they know how: violently.

    I’d say Stalin was a terrorist as well; what religion did he follow? Yet this is my point. They are gods unto themselves. Throwing ‘religion’ onto the label will only inspire more violence, muddy the issue, and fuel the hatred. The sooner you figure that out, the better off you will be.

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