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Christian terrorists and the mark of Caine

By Oscar H. Blayton/George Curry Media Columnist
On December 29, 2015

Planned Parenthood attack suspect Robert Dear
likened to Christian terrorist.
Credit: npr.org

Not all Christians are bigots and not all bigots are Christians, but the nonsense that is spewing from the mouths of many Christians in recent months has more than a few thoughtful people scratching their heads.

A White man walked into a Colorado Planned Parenthood health facility on Nov. 27, and began firing an automatic rifle. He killed three people and wounded nine. He did not know any of his victims personally. After being apprehended, the shooter, Robert Dear, said to the police, “No more baby parts.”

The next day, a debate began to rage over whether the killer should be called a “domestic terrorist.” Those who argued against labeling the shooter a “terrorist” said that because his motives were “unknown” at this time, the terrorist label should not be applied.

Let us step back and reflect for a moment. Would this argument be taking place if the shooter had been a Muslim?

Why do Christians get a pass when one of their number commits an atrocity?

There are those who would argue that Dear does not represent the many millions of Christians in the world. This would be a satisfactory answer if it were not for the fact that many of the Christians who make that argument do not hesitate to tie all Muslims to the acts of a few violent extremists who claim affiliation with that religion.

Many White Christians see Christians generally as the “good guys,” while they see Muslims generally as the “bad guys.” And this is true, to a lesser extent, in the Black community. It is to a lesser extent among Blacks because many Black Christians are painfully aware that members of the KKK proclaim adherence to Christianity, and that Christianity was used to justify slavery in America. One would be hard pressed to find a Black Christian who would argue that all Christians are without lapse in their regard for humankind. The Black Christian community, however, often will try to insulate its religion from terrorism and hate-inspired violence by claiming that the perpetrators were not “true Christians.”

The problem with separating “true Christians” from any other type of Christian is that no one can see into the heart or the mind of a believer. The acts of a terrorist may be contrary to the majority’s interpretation of the tenants of a belief system, but that does not mean that a terrorist has not acted in accordance with his own interpretation of that belief system.  And it does not work to say that there is only one correct interpretation of the “Word of God.”

We have a myriad of self-described believers who perceive their religion to reflect their own personal beliefs, and anyone who strays too far afield risks losing the identification of a true believer. This allows self-described (and usually self-righteous) Christians to disassociate themselves from people such as Dear; Dylann Roof, who murdered nine Black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina or even Officer Michael Slager of the North Charleston police who is charged with murder after shooting a Black man in the back eight times because “good” Christians do not do things like this.

Thinking like this makes it impossible to include the term “Christian terrorist” in the dialogue on American violence. In fact, it makes it impossible to apply the term on a global scale.

Fifty years after its founding, the Ku Klux Klan began to conduct cross burnings not only to intimidate their targets, but also to show their reverence for Jesus Christ while they sang hymns and said prayers.

In 1934, Adolph Hitler stated in a speech: “The National Socialist State professes its allegiance to positive Christianity.”  And in case you have forgotten, German National Socialism was more commonly known as Nazism.

Christians all. Or, at least self-professed Christians – and every one a terrorist.

The absence of language with which to identify Christian terrorists is not merely the ignorance of those political leaders and media personalities whose voices we hear and read every day. There is a conscious effort to omit Christian terrorists from the dialogue about criminal violence in America and around the world. And it will take an effort by those people who believe in justice and fairness to bring about an honest discussion about who is responsible for violent terrorism and why.

Oscar H. Blayton is a former Marine Corps. combat pilot and human rights activists who practices law in Virginia.

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