Over the weekend, federal raids in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana resulted in the arrest of eight suspects affiliated with a Christian militia group called Hutaree.  According to the organization’s website, Hutaree means “Christian warrior”; I’ve got no clue about the supposed linguistic derivation of the name.  I tried to access the website today and got a “Service Temporarily Unavailable” message, but the blurb connected with the Hutaree web address in my search engine was a quotation of John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  Today, the suspects were charged with conspiring to kill a police officer and then attempting to kill more law enforcement personnel by launching another attack during the funeral.

Nearly 15 years ago, I wrote the following:

“In the aftermath of the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, a great deal of media attention was focused on the organization and nature of citizens’ militias.  The U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism heard testimony concerning the militia movement.  The testimony was both enlightening and frightening.  To say the least, these groups are extremely disaffected with the federal government and the enforcement of its laws.  While one should be extremely careful about painting with a broad brush and using overly generalized terms in describing them, it remains that many militia organizations do share some common, disturbing features.

One of the most unsettling aspects of the militia movement is the partnership that it has found with some individuals who possess strong, conservative, religious convictions.  The June 1995 issue of Christianity Today featured an article entitled “Guns and Bibles,” which dealt with this volatile mix of ideologies.  The article identified broad families of militia groups such as “Christian Patriots” and “Christian Identity and Aryan Nations.”  One of the men profiled in the article, who also appeared before the Senate subcommittee, was Norm Olsen of the Michigan Militia.  Mr. Olsen had served as the pastor of a Baptist church until shortly before the hearings.  The heavily armed and well-trained Olsen claims to be a “warrior for the Lord.”  Similarly, an Alabama group describes itself as a “Christian militia founded on the principles of the Holy Bible.”

Much of this strange mixture of Christian thought with a militia mentality emerges from radical millennial views which are themselves based on gross misinterpretations of portions of the book of Revelation.  These millennial beliefs are blended with fears of one world government, United Nations troops occupying American soil, mysterious black helicopters traversing the skies, and concentration camps being constructed for the imprisonment of religious and political conservatives.  The most extreme elements within the movement are characterized by deep paranoia and a total distrust of the federal government.  The manufacturing of conspiracy theories has been elevated to an art form among them.

Those who have mingled discipleship with armed militancy have demonstrated that they are well-versed in their knowledge of the U.S. Constitution, but severely lacking in their understanding of the Word of God.  Their strength in exegeting the Bill of Rights is matched by their weakness in comprehending the mind of Christ.  Like so many misguided individuals of the past, they seek Divine sanction for their political ideologies; they seek to make their cause a “holy war.”  The entire weight of Scripture runs counter to armed resistance against one’s government.  The involvement of Christians in such rebellion is fundamentally inconsistent with the teachings of Christ and His apostles.

Many, perhaps most, of those who would be classified as conservative Christians are politically conservative as well.  For that fact we should generally be grateful.  However, as is the case with political liberalism, it is possible for one’s extreme political conservatism to lead to the support of positions and activities that are at variance with the will and word of God.  We are Christians first, and patriots second.”

I shared the above thoughts, along with a few others, in a bulletin article for the church in Alabama where I was serving at the time.  Within a couple of weeks, a hand-delivered (no postage) packet appeared in my mail slot at the church office.  The material was all related to a document entitled “Operation Vampire Killer 2000,” a disturbing anti-government diatribe complete with a “battle cry” and a smattering of Scripture.  Some well-meaning brother or sister in Christ apparently thought that I needed some enlightenment on the subject.  It creeped me out to think that they had been right outside my office door. 

To be honest with you, health care reform doesn’t really scare me that much.  But the thought of deluded Christians, armed with explosives, who see the Antichrist in each new election and are intent on inaugurating their vision of Armageddon is enough to keep me up at night. 

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