In 2007, a New Jersey school came under criticism after staging a mock hostage drill in which the intruders were not radical Muslims or other, known terrorist groups. Instead, they were Christian fundamentalists dubbed the “New Crusaders.” As noted by JihadWatch in April, 2007, the intruders were described as “members of a right-wing fundamentalist group . . . who don’t believe in the separation of church and state.” And these fake gunmen were driven to attack the school because they were “seeking justice because the daughter of one [member] had been expelled for praying before class.”
Conservative Christians who learned of this drill were rightly outraged. Where, they asked, had any of their people committed such acts? Where were the 9/11-type massacres carried out by American, fundamentalist Christians? Where were the barbaric killings, carried out in our country in Jesus’ name, similar to the slaughter of school children in Beslan, Russia that had been carried out by Islamic, Chechnyan sympathizers? Obviously, they did not exist.
“But,” we were warned, “they could be coming soon. After all, these Christian groups use violent, warfare language, and they talk about a ‘Jesus revolution.’”
In other words, singing old hymns like “Onward Christian Soldiers” might lead to bloodshed, and those conservative Christians who feel their rights are being violated by the government might just put down their hymn books, pick up their rifles, and lay siege to the school building across the street. Right. Just like those who believe in the “war on poverty” also believe in killing poor people (or perhaps rich people?) and those who engage in the “culture wars” believe in slaughtering the people with whom they differ. Yet there are many who truly believe that conservative Christians will somehow turn violent in the name of the Lord.
In the summer of 2009, in my current home city of Charlotte, North Carolina, a local gay journalist warned about religious leaders (which included me) who were allegedly “preaching and teaching with violent and militant theology and rhetoric, painting the social conflict over LGBT equality as a ‘battle’ and a ‘war.’” He asked, “How thin of a line exists between violent word and thought, and violent action and deed? That’s a question answered plenty of times before, from Christian Crusades and Inquisitions of ages past to the modern day of radical Islamic terrorism. But, it is a question yet to be answered in Charlotte, N.C., where I believe there is a potentially dangerous and violent threat ramping up its efforts to counter the annual LGBT event, Pride Charlotte.”
And what was this “potentially dangerous and violent threat”? It was a group of 500 Christians who gathered to pray, worship, and share the gospel with attendees of the gay pride event, declaring that “God has a better way.” After the event (which I helped organize and which was as peaceful as could be imagined), a local lesbian activist told me that what we were doing was an act of “radical love.”
Yet the murderous acts of Anders Breivik in Norway will be seen as proof that conservative Christians in America might just turn violent too, as if the demented actions of an anti-Muslim, anti-multiculturalist Norwegian have anything to do with the spiritual, moral, and cultural aspirations of American Christ-followers who espouse the non-violent teachings and example of the Master himself.
Sadly, the atmosphere in our country has become so toxic that venerable ministries like Focus on the Family and the American Family Association have been branded as “hate groups” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, while People for the American Way sends out regular warnings about evangelical Christian leaders on its RightWingWatch website. And this will surely intensify in the days to come in the wake of the tragedy in Norway.
Let us, then, who call ourselves conservative Christians, redouble our efforts to expose the folly of these false charges, overcoming evil with good and hatred with love, thereby proving ourselves to be genuine followers of Jesus.
Amplified Bible (AMP)
Romans 131LET EVERY person be loyally subject to the governing (civil) authorities. For there is no authority except from God [by His permission, His sanction], and those that exist do so by God's appointment. 2Therefore he who resists and sets himself up against the authorities resists what God has appointed and arranged [in divine order]. And those who resist will bring down judgment upon themselves [receiving the penalty due them].
3For civil authorities are not a terror to [people of] good conduct, but to [those of] bad behavior. Would you have no dread of him who is in authority? Then do what is right and you will receive his approval and commendation.
4For he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, [you should dread him and] be afraid, for he does not bear and wear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant to execute His wrath (punishment, vengeance) on the wrongdoer.
5Therefore one must be subject, not only to avoid God's wrath and escape punishment, but also as a matter of principle and for the sake of conscience.
6For this same reason you pay taxes, for [the civil authorities] are official servants under God, devoting themselves to attending to this very service.
7Render to all men their dues. [Pay] taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, and honor to whom honor is due.
8Keep out of debt and owe no man anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor [who practices loving others] has fulfilled the Law [relating to one's fellowmen, meeting all its requirements].
9The commandments, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet (have an evil desire), and any other commandment, are summed up in the single command, You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself.
10Love does no wrong to one's neighbor [it never hurts anybody]. Therefore love meets all the requirements and is the fulfilling of the Law.
1 Pet 3:8 Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. 9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For,
“Whoever would love life13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear[b]; do not be frightened.”[c] 15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil . . . .
and see good days
must keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from deceitful speech.
11 He must turn from evil and do good;
he must seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”[a]
4:14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? . . . 19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
The human tragedy in USA has also served to bring into sharp focus the use of terror by religious fanatics/fundamentalists. Fundamentalism or fundamentalists are terms that are applicable to every extreme conservative in every religious system . . . . During the twentieth century in particular we have seen the rise of militant expression of these faiths by extreme conservatives who have sought to respond to what they identify as 'liberal' revisions that have weakened the fundamentals of their faith . . . They opt for a belligerent, militant and separatist posture in their public discourse that can easily employ violence to achieve their goals. [Gleaner, Sept. 26, 2001, italics added. Cf. discussion of the Fundamentalism debate in Jamaica, here.]