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.

68 Responses to “Christian Militia in Michigan”

  1. UUniversal Love says:

    I didn’t mean that Christians believe God is infallible, but that they believe their understanding of what God wants is. (Just to be clear, I don’t think there is a bearded dude in the clouds, or anything remotely like like that. If god does exist, I think personifying God makes no sense, but maybe this is part of another discussion).
    But it is our duty to do the best we can with what we know, regardless of how little we do know. I hope that made sense. I’m trying to put this in a Christian context, but I think I just slipped into my own way of thinking. Okay… as Christians, we are the voice, or hands, of God on earth; it’s our responsibility to do God’s work. How do we know what God’s work is? Through the bible. But even if we think that the bible is infallible, we don’t have to think our interpretation of it is. We probably think that our interpretation is the most likely, but I think there are many Christians who feel that ultimately perfection is lost when the word is passed from an infallible God to a fallible human being.

    So your question of who’s Christianity is right is at the heart of one of the points I tried to make to Ellen. The divisions between her Christianity and the Hutaree’s Christianity are enormous, while I thought the divisions between her faith and that of, say, many Buddhists are relatively small. I think her problem with my suggesting that might have been because to her the defining divisions between religions should be theological; so, because her beliefs about the supernatural differ from a Buddhist, a Buddhist is not Christian and she is not Buddhist. It’s really a semantics issue, isn’t it? To me, my interpretation of Christianity seems right (as an outisder now, my opinion might be less valid), to Ellen hers is, and to the Hutaree theirs is. My theories about the world make the most sense to me, and I’m sure yours make the most sense to you, but we both label ourselves Pastafarian. :) Which theories actually make sense to a community are agreed upon by that community using similar experiences and observations that everyone can evaluate the theories with. Praise the FSM! The scientific method! Even the Hutaree, as a community with a unique perception of facts, can’t escape that process.

    My church does allow a variety of beliefs, but we have a few Principles we all agree on; one thing we value is the free and responsible search for truth and meaning in the world. The Hutaree are being irresponsible by violating the freedom of others. They don’t go to my church, so they’ve never agreed to our Principles, but all of us reside in the same country which has principles of its own.

    They are in direct conflict with the god I described, and they are in conflict with the God Ellen understands. In addressing your original question, it would be best posed to a Christian, but as I am trying to argue this from a Christian perspective… We must do God’s work to the best of our ability, which includes preventing violent extremism ourselves.
    Thank you.

  2. UUniversal Love says:

    Sorry. In my opening sentence I meant “that Christians belive God is FALLIBLE…”

  3. Danimal says:

    I guess what I’m trying to say here is that either there is no god, or that if there is a god, it has no direct contact with people. This is just what I think that doesn’t mean it’s true. I’m just coming to this because people claim that god is good but this same god does nothing when evil is done in his name and because that there isn’t a uniform idea of christianity. If there was a god and he was how the bible described him I would expect he would enforce something like “the one true christianity” and not the hodge podge of different ideas that exist today. Also, when people did something evil in his name he would step in to do something about it.
    That being said when people do good things in the name of god that’s great and when people do good things just to do good things that’s even better. And please don’t get me wrong I’m not trying to argue for a “one true christianity”. I much prefer it when people can be free thinking. I’m just pointing out that christian god in theory is different than christian god in practice and that I have no time for christians who fail to admit this. (which is what brought me to this website in the first place) After talking with you, it makes me happy to know that you have a healthy and unique take on religion. (but of course you do or you wouldn’t be on this website either) Don’t feel like you have to defend christians or try to argue their point of view, they do plenty of that themselves when really they should be taking a more honest look at their own beliefs and maybe even seriously checking out the FSM.

  4. UUniversal Love says:

    I got what you were saying there; I guess I was just trying to clear up some of my thoughts (sorry my post was so long).

    Just another thought on what you said. It’s not that I think Christians need defending. Or really maybe I do; I kind of feel Christianity needs a little defending from itself. I think it’s good to look at beliefs from different perspectives, even – even especially – Christianity. It’s the dominant religion in the world, which I’m reminded of all too often. What makes that a bad thing is that many Christians aren’t like Ellen. I don’t know if I would say a majority, but certainly a lot, as most people on this site know (again, all too well). What you said about the Christian God in theory is a lot like the Christian God in practice: it depends on which Christians you’re talking about. That’s what’s so insanely ironic about the idea of a “One True Christianity”; there is absolutely no such thing. At least, that’s how I think. I mean, even among people who think their version of their faith is the only way, they still differ in their theologies, and that just makes their differences that much more blatantly obvious. Who is right if there is only one Right, everyone else is Wrong, and EVERYONE believes something a little bit different? That makes, at most, one self-righteous SOB and a lot of people who are unwitting hypocrites. The closer you get to the other end of the spectrum, towards the people who concede they don’t know everything, the more unified I feel people actually are.

    I’m sorry every time I post it’s a like a deluge of words; this just draws me into another related thought. I think theology is cool, but doctrines are kind of invalidated when they become impractical. I basically agree with what you hinted at about the Christian God in practice. Theories are fine, even largely unsubstantiated ones if there’s a lack of information to substantiate it with, but when someone’s religion demands that they commit violent acts against others that should be recognized as impractical, and their beliefs should be considered disproven. Of course it’s not as simple as that, but that’s essentially the argument I try to make to people who sliding towards extremism.

    I’m interested in your thoughts; you make good conversation. :)

  5. Danimal says:

    For the most part I agree with your last post except at the end you say that, “Theories are fine, even largely unsubstantiated ones if there’s a lack of information to substantiate it with…” I’ve got to say that it is this blind faith in unsubstantiated ideas like, jesus died but came back to life, or god speaks to true believers, or if you’re a dude you can’t marry another dude or the whole world is doomed, etc. etc. that produce these crazies. You go on to say that, “…but when someone’s religion demands that they commit violent acts against others that should be recognized as impractical, and their beliefs should be considered disproven.” I agree that these people are wrong (or as you more kindly put it “their beliefs should be considered disproven”) but we need to point out that these unsubstantiated beliefs are little more than fairy tales that should not earn one’s unquestioning faith but at best should be seen as allegory, and at worst as total bull shit used to control people. They should not have any place in class rooms (thank you Bobby) and I really have a problem with them even being taught to children in church. If you are a well educated adult and still choose to believe in christianity than fine, but don’t brainwash kids who haven’t developed the reasoning skills to critically look at the bible. If the first thing people learn is how to use logic, reasoning and critical thinking to deal with lifes problems, instead of just being told, “Follow the bible without question or you’ll burn in hell forever.” Then maybe we wouldn’t have the hutaree in the first place and you’d have a lot fewer conversations with people who are sliding towards extremism. I’m guessing you get all this I’m just trying to flesh out the point a little bit as well.
    I’ve got to keep asking though, “If there is a god why doesn’t he do something about the hutaree?” I don’t mean god working through people like the FBI or local police to stop the hutaree, that’s humans helping humans, that’s not god. I mean divine intervention, like Lot’s wife (the original salty wench?) style good old fashion smite down. Until there is an answer to that question I just have to keep praising the FSM.

  6. UUniversal Love says:

    Well, I don’t know what the majority of Christian practitioners believe about God and God’s motives. Of course the stereotype is that God is human-centric. The problem is there are so many different answers that I can’t really give you one. Some theists I know don’t even believe that God is omnipotent. So there are possible answers, but I don’t know if I should make conjecture about what others believe, as an outsider.

    To clarify what I said about unsubstantiated beliefs, you either misinterpreted my meaning or I’ll have to dispute your definition of blind faith. What I meant was “scientifically unsubstantiated”, but there are other reasons people hold beliefs, among them being practicality. We live daily based on assumptions that are not as concrete as I would like. Our science is based on years of assumption. That said, it’s not as bad as I said; I like living in this assumptive world, and I can do so based on what is practical. My beliefs don’t have to be scientifically proven, just likely, based on what I already know. Theories are acceptable possibilities until they are proven false, based on what we already know. So the problem is inconsistency. I agree with you that the literal bible is amazingly inconsistent, but that doesn’t mean all Christian beliefs are as well. Many theists live consistently with what they know scientifically and with what they find practical and helpful to their appreciation of life.

    I think I’ll have to qualify this, though. What is taught is school is based on the centuries of assumption that have been found practical and consistent with the natural world. Just because there are other possibilities doesn’t mean they should be taught. The point is that if those beliefs are found within the boundaries of rational thought they are valid, but can’t possibly be considered boundaries themselves. Hypotheses are valid, but they cannot invalidate other hypotheses.

    “Intelligent” design takes a theological hypothesis and tries to insert it into scientifically accepted theories. The important word there is “accepted”, because although IDers might find it practical to believe in a sentient creator, its practicality can only be judged and accepted by them. Natural selection has been judged and accepted by a wide community of scientists including Christians, so it can be used as a foundation for the beliefs of our children.
    That’s what makes ID “theory” a dual insult to religion and science. You’re right: it denies children the right to explore their beliefs from a sound foundation.

    Well, crap… I’ve gone on again. I got really agitated thinking about that. I’ll ask some of my friends to help me with an answer to your original question. What I’ve learned and experienced makes it difficult for me to argue for a just God, so that’s a question I should come back to myself.

  7. Danimal says:

    OK so in short:
    1 Dogma that encourages violence = bad
    2 Taking away free will through indoctrination = bad
    3 Teaching ID as science = bad
    4 There are about as many different christianities as there are christians
    I could say a lot but then I’d feel like I was beating a dead horse. Thanks for indulging me, it felt good to put all that down. I love this site b/c you can get ideas out and let other people poke at them in hopes of creating a more well thought out arguement. Don’t bust your hump over the original question, I never expected it to be answered anyway.

  8. UUniversal Love says:

    Thank you for good, intelligent conversation, and for indulging my thoughts too. :)
    I have one more thought, about the last point:
    I don’t think you should dismiss the possibility of an answer, because if an honest christian gives you their answer you can better inform their beliefs, or they will redefine yours. At least, you will each have a better understanding of the other.


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