OSCAR H. BLAYTON
GEORGE CURRY MEDIA COLUMNIST
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.
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 Robert 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.”
We know better
However, many Black Christians are painfully aware that members of the Ku Klux Klan 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.”
Catholics profess in the Nicene Creed – a pronouncement of their faith – to believe in the “resurrection of the dead.” And this is not just a metaphor. Article 11 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that upon the resurrection, the “’mortal body’ will come to life again.”
Many Christians who are not Catholic, and quite a few who are – all of whom profess the Nicene Creed – do not believe that the flesh of the faithful dead will arise from their tombs and be made whole again.
With the belief in the resurrection of the flesh, which is one of the essential doctrines of Christianity, being accepted or rejected on an individual basis, how can there be any strict uniformity in who is or who is not a Christian? And belief in the resurrection is only one doctrine in the very intricate Christian belief system that is rejected or accepted by self-identified adherents.
So, 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 Robert Dear; Dylann Roof, who murdered nine Black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C.; 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.
The conquistadors who came to the Western Hemisphere in the 15th century and terrorized and eradicated whole civilizations of indigenous people carried the Christian cross with them and were led in prayer by their Christian priests.
Fifty years after its founding, the KKK 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.
A conscious effort
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.
We must be a counterbalance to people like State Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt of Colorado Springs, who, when speaking of Robert Dear, said, “You cannot call him a pro-life activist, or a Colorado Springs conservative, because he is not one of us. That is not how we act.”
When pressed to explain the difference between conservative Christians not wanting to be associated with violent extremists who share their faith and moderate Muslims who likewise do not want to be associated with violent extremists who share their religion, Klingenschmitt complained that the question was not fair. “We as Christians are almost universally willing to renounce violence,” he said.
Tell that to the victims of the Conquistadors, the Klan and the Nazis. Or, tell it to the victims of Robert Dear, Dylann Roof and Officer Michael Slager.
Oscar H. Blayton is a former Marine Corps combat pilot and human rights activist who practices law in Virginia.