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Christian Militia in Michigan

Published March 30th, 2010 by Bobby Henderson

The FBI took down a Christian militia group in Michigan on Monday.

The indictment said the Hutaree, who describe themselves as “Christian warriors,” viewed all law enforcement as their enemy. It said they had planned a violent act to get the attention of the police, possibly by killing an officer at a traffic stop, and then attacking the funeral procession with explosives.

The arrests of the Hutaree members comes amid what the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama non profit that tracks extremism, has called “an explosion of new extremist groups and activism across the nation.” The organization has cited the economic downturn as a major reason for the change, and also contends that the far-right has been particularly animated by the election of the nation’s first black president.

That is pretty disturbing. I agree with the author that a lot of these occurrences are related to nutball “conservatives” rather than nutball “Christians”, however the two groups have quite a bit of overlap. I got a lot of flack a few days ago for saying religious people don’t stand up against extremists in their own religion (only in opposing religions). It will be interesting to see the Christian response to these arrests. I suspect we’ll hear a lot of the No True Scotsman* type arguments. “No True Christian would do these things”, immediately close mind.

* From Wikipedia:
No true Scotsman is a logical fallacy, an ad hoc attempt to retain an unreasoned assertion. When faced with a counterexample to a universal claim, rather than denying the counterexample or rejecting the original universal claim, this fallacy modifies the subject of assertion to tautologically exclude the specific case or others like it.

Imagine Hamish McDonald, a Scotsman, sitting down with his Glasgow Morning Herald and seeing an article about how the “Brighton Sex Maniac Strikes Again.” Hamish is shocked and declares that “No Scotsman would do such a thing.” The next day he sits down to read his Glasgow Morning Herald again and this time finds an article about an Aberdeen man whose brutal actions make the Brighton sex maniac seem almost gentlemanly. This fact shows that Hamish was wrong in his opinion but is he going to admit this? Not likely. This time he says, “No true Scotsman would do such a thing.”
—Antony Flew, Thinking About Thinking (1975)

Update: There’s a related article today in the Washington Post, The Hutaree militia and the rising risk of far-right violence.



63 Responses to “Christian Militia in Michigan”

  1. Danimal says:

    I thank Bobby for asking why christians are silent when a group commits (or attempts) evil in the name of christ. I also thank Ellen for being that christian voice Bobby asked for. The back and forth between Ellen and UUniversal Love has raised another (rhetorical) question for me along that same line. If the christian god is such a loving god why does god remain silent? I’ll throw this one out to anyone who cares to chime in as I don’t want to butt in on UL and Ellen’s conversation.
    RAmen

  2. Daniel from Denver says:

    I’m sorry to see Ellen go, too. I very much appreciated her simplistic view of Christianity and congratulate her if she’s living it. Just to love your god and others is a laudable goal. If it were that simple, the ‘Christian’ label wouldn’t be as tarnished as it is. Unfortunately, that particular ethos also includes rape, murder, pedophilia and all manner of atrocities. And, it would be so easy to blame these on extremists, but these have been traditionally carried out by the purported leadership of the various Christian denominations.

    Add in the fact that they, as most other religions, just WILL NOT be satisfied until every living person believes exactly as they do – and her simplisitc view of her religion breaks down. Bottom line, if she wants to START a religion that espouses love of god and others, and none of the nasty baggage – I’m in. Unfortunately, that doesn’t meet the core needs of organized religion (power and money), so I’m not holding my breath.

  3. UUniversal Love says:

    Well, Danimal, some Christians believe that we are the voices of God, metaphorically speaking. Regardless of the scientific and theological discussions we could have over that, I don’t want to give crap to someone who’s just trying to be a decent person. It’s not always easy to find people down with other belief (or non-belief) systems.

    To be entirely honest, I’ve participated in conversations knocking all kinds of theism. I kind of made up for it when I went after a cold, dead atheist in the open letter just a bit ago, but really I don’t want to hate on anybody. Y’know, Ellen never made her position on evolution clear, but I’m happier knowing that she’s a loving person than I’d be knowing her theology.

    D-in-D, I highly recommend hearing what Sinead O’Connor had to say about the “leaders” in her faith:
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/#36748468
    Also I want to suggest that everyone read what Jesus says in the New Testament about dogma and doctrine, because he says a lot, and “Christians” tend to ignore a lot of what he says. Just because Ellen’s interpretation of her faith is simplistic doesn’t mean it’s at all wrong. I don’t think it’s necessarily a religion problem, I think it’s a people problem. That said, I desperately want to believe that people can and will organize for things other than power or money.

    I’m really sorry Ellen left. FSM is about supporting science, not excluding faith.

  4. UUniversal Love says:

    Well, Danimal, some Christians believe that we are the voices of God, metaphorically speaking. Regardless of the scientific and theological discussions we could have over that, I don’t want to give crap to someone who’s just trying to be a decent person. It’s not always easy to find people down with other belief (or non-belief) systems.

    To be entirely honest, I’ve participated in conversations knocking all kinds of theism. I kind of made up for it when I went after a cold, dead atheist in the open letter just a bit ago, but really I don’t want to hate on anybody. Y’know, Ellen never made her position on evolution clear, but I’m happier knowing that she’s a loving person than I’d be knowing her theology.

    D&D, I highly recommend hearing what Sinead O’Connor had to say about the “leaders” in her faith:
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/#36748468
    Also I want to suggest that everyone read what Jesus says in the New Testament about dogma and doctrine, because he says a lot, and “Christians” tend to ignore a lot of what he says. Just because Ellen’s interpretation of her faith is simplistic doesn’t mean it’s at all wrong. I don’t think it’s necessarily a religion problem, I think it’s a people problem. That said, I desperately want to believe that people can and will organize for things other than power or money.
    I’m really sorry Ellen left. FSM is about supporting science, not excluding faith.

  5. Danimal says:

    UUniversal Love,
    Thanks for the response. So if we follow the assumption that Ellen and Sinead O’Connor serve as the voices of god then this raises a few questions.
    1. In the interview, Maddow asks O’Connor about her becoming a lightning rod, and that when she speaks out against evil in the church her faith is questioned. It would appear to imply that you can be the voice of god only if you praise the church. Even your assessment of Ellen’s belief as over simplistic seem to imply that Ellen can’t be the voice of god because her views don’t encompass christianty as you see it. So with everyone doubting everyone else there is no consensus on who is the “voice of god”, and if there can’t be a general consensus then I don’t think you can say that people are the voice of god.

    Of course my question “Why does god remain silent?” was a leading question. It was meant to imply that there is no god. You can say that people are the voice of god but that doesn’t prove there is a god, it just proves that people attempt to speak with the authority of god when it suits them. That is something most people on this site have come to accept and is a major reason why so many reject the church.

    When looking at what Jesus has to say about dogma in general I found that the New Testament spoke of Jesus in turns defending the Old Testament and rejecting it. Often times you here Mark, Matthew and the others speak of how shocked or surprised the people were at the doctrine of Jesus, so the authors of the New Testament were trying to show a split from the jewish faith but other than that I’m not sure what you’re driving at here. If you have specific sections you’d like me to re-read please post them.

    I want to respectfully disagree with what you said about the evils done in the name of god not being a religion problem but a people problem. The religion is what inspires these people to do these things. Granted if there wasn’t the christian faith they would find something else to organize their craziness around, but in this case they have a institution with a couple thousand years of history to hide behind. So I think it’s both a religion and a people problem but if the religion was removed from the situation it would be a less complicated problem.

    Finally I want to say that I agree with a lot of what you said in your post. I don’t want to give any crap to anyone for being a good person and I hope I haven’t come off that way. Yes without religion I think there would be fewer problems but on the flip side there are good things that come of religion too. I just think religion as we know it results in a net loss for the world not a net gain but that’s my opinion and I admit that I can be wrong. I also want to believe that people can and will organize for things other than money and power but I think those two things are at the core of every organized religion. And a big Ramen for the FSM supporting science. Now if faith could just be kept a private thing I’d be all set. I have enjoyed reading your comments UUniversal Love so I’m sure this goes without saying that I do not mean this to be an ad hominem attack. I’m just looking for some vigorous discussion.
    Peace
    Danimal

  6. UUniversal Love says:

    Thank the FSM for vigorous discussion!
    All right. So your first point is bringing it back to the original discussion of the post. Just to clarify, I don’t think Ellen’s belief is too simplistic. I think simple is good; she’s trying to interpret her religious text the way she sees fit. I don’t know what she believes about the infallibility of the bible, for instance, but I’m imagining she’s pretty lenient on that point, so arguing that she’s being ignorant about science seems off to me.
    So, my family’s Catholic, and the more positive side of Catholic history includes a lot of service to the poor and disenfranchised. Here’s how “people as the voice of God” makes sense to me: Theists don’t believe that humanity is infallible, or that they interpret the bible perfectly (not all of them, I mean); similarly, we don’t presume to act with infallible intentions or information from our scientific foundation. We do the best with what we have, which is all anybody can do, and if we listen to each other, and ourselves, in good faith :), we have the power to do better.

    Jesus rarely says anything doctrinally specific, and much if not all of what is dogmatic was probably added later to solidify the church; I can give you a few specific examples of that later if you’d like. Jesus’ silence on doctrine is the best thing going for my argument. Some theologians like to say that the only reason Jesus never said anything about homosexuality and such was because it was already accepted that it was wrong in his culture. The reason I have a problem with that is not only is it a bullshit cop-out, but Jesus preached to Gentiles as well as Jews. Of what he does say, my favorite is Luke 10:25-37 (not cited from memory), about the “good Samaritan”. The significance of the story is that the Samaritans are ethnically similar to the Jews, but their laws and cultures are different. They’re different from the emerging Christian faith as well (and early Christians tolerated a lot more diversity), so Ellen’s boiled down faith I think gets much closer to what Jesus actually preached, which are more like the Basics for Not Being a Dick.

    The church I go to and others like it are religiously inclusive (including atheists), which is why I am happy to still attend. You could actually say I attend church religiously :). Other faiths, like Baha’i, Buddhism, and Ellen’s Christianity are accepting and have little, if any, dogma. And I feel I can never judge individual members by my prejudice of a religion as a whole. The most important thing I think we can all do, regardless of our faith, is to always be ready to listen fairly to others and to always present our position honestly from what we truly believe. If we do that, it’s reasonable to think that Reason will come around eventually. “The arm of history is long, but it bends toward Justice”. (from memory) :)

    I’d like to end with this quote from James; I don’t remember which verse, but it’s one of my favorite:
    Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.
    RAAAmen!

  7. Danimal says:

    UL,
    Ok so what you said about the voice of god:
    Theists don’t believe that humanity is infallible, or that they interpret the bible perfectly (not all of them, I mean); similarly, we don’t presume to act with infallible intentions or information from our scientific foundation. We do the best with what we have, which is all anybody can do, and if we listen to each other, and ourselves, in good faith :), we have the power to do better.

  8. Danimal says:

    UL,
    Sorry I submitted my post by mistake before I was done. So to finish my thought…
    What you’re describing sounds more like the voice of humanity or maybe the voice of your church. Based on the typical description of god given by christians he IS infallible, so there appears to be a disconnect between the typical (infallible) god I’m so used to christians spouting off about and the voice of god that you describe as just trying to do the best that it can. Maybe you do consider the voice of god as a different entity than the bearded dude in the clouds god? I guess I’m just not sure. Regardless there is a clear split here between how you describe christianity and how the hutarre does and so that raises the questions, “Who get’s to say their christianity is the right christianity?” Now what you say about your chruch being so inclusive leads me to believe you would be open to everyone having their own view, which is cool, until people start shooting police in the name of jesus with the plan to blow up more police and their families in the name of jesus. If you think that jesus preached “the Basics of Not Being a Dick” then I would go out on a limb and say the hutarre are in direct conflict with the god you describe. So then (back to my original question) why isn’t this god putting a stop to people like the hutarre?
    Thanks again for the response.
    Peace
    Danimal

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