Monday, March 29, 2010

Are Christian terrorists Christian?

An open letter to Andrew Sullivan in response to this claim:
Surely we can all assent to the notion that a Christian militia of the type now accused of planning domestic terrorism is not Christian. This is why I call them Christianist. Anyone planning to murder innocents by way of IEDs cannot plausibly call himself or herself a follower of Jesus of Nazareth.

I'm not so sure. Can we also surely assent to the notion that an army that invades Iraq or Afghanistan is not Christian? Are you saying that all followers of Jesus need to "turn the other cheek" and be total pacifists?

Just to be clear, I think these militia folks are totally crazy and immoral. And I do appreciate your term "Christianist."

But it seems that main reason that you expect everyone to agree that these aren't *real* Christians is because we all accept two claims.
  1. 1. The police are not a legitimate military target in a legitimate military struggle; they are "innocents" as you say.

  2. 2. A person who can "plausibly call himself or herself a follower of Jesus of Nazareth" would not attack innocents.

Now, the crazies would presumably accept Point 2 (allowing for some "collateral damage" as we do in wars); their disagreement lies with Point 1. However, this seems irrelevant to their status as Christians. That is, the teachings of Jesus don't tell us that Michigan police officers are innocents. So we need to point to something besides their delusions here to argue that they're not *real* Christians, if we're going to allow that the pilots of drones killing al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan do get to be "True Christians" (TM).

It seems like you want us to accept the claim that no *real* Christian would engage in such horrible plots, because *real* Christians are (by definition?) not evil. This sounds like a perfect example of the "no true Scotsman" fallacy.

(For the record, I do of course agree with Sullivan's second point that "every single one of these terror suspects is innocent until proven guilty, and shouldn't be seized as enemy combatants and tortured until they confess.")

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