The recent resurgence of right wing violence turned particularly bizarre and creepy over the weekend.
Beginning Saturday evening, the FBI staged multiple raids across Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio to arrest nine members of an apocalyptic Christian militia who were allegedly conspiring to murder police officers, carry out terrorist atrocities, and initiate a war against United States. The initial raids captured eight of the suspects. The ninth was captured on Monday. Fortunately, every member was detained without bloodshed - no Ruby Ridge, no Waco, no pretext for revenge along the lines of Oklahoma City.
According to the federal indictment unsealed on Monday, the justice department alleges David Brian Stone, aka "Captain Hutaree", of leading 8 other militia members, including two sons, in an insurrection against the US government and its "footsoldiers" (state and local law enforcement). These "Hutaree", or Christian warriors, according to the indictment, planned a cowardly massacre of police officers and civilians.
In the most diabolical scenario, the Hutaree would murder an unsuspecting police officer to lure others from around the state and country to the fallen officer's funeral. Then these Christian warriors would spring into action, attacking the funeral procession with improvised explosive devices. After the surprise attack, Hutaree militia members would retreat to "rally points." From these locations, "the Hutaree would wage war against the government and be prepared to defend in depth with trip-wired and command detonated anti-personnel improvised explosive devices, ambushes, and prepared fighting positions", the indictment alleges. Ironically, in a country forever anticipating the next al-Qaida-inspired attack, Baghdad and Kabul would be brought to their doorsteps by born-again terrorists rather than homegrown jihadists.
The similarities, however, do not end with tactics. Like jihadists, the Hutaree had adopted a violent theology humane reason could not penetrate. On its website homepage, just underneath a picture of its camouflaged, assault-rifle wielding members, the Hutaree make their mission known: "Preparing for the end times to keep the testimony of Jesus Christ alive." These nine Christian warriors believed they were preparing for the rise of the antichrist, the favorite scenario of the apocalyptic evangelical mainstream. According to premillennial dispensationalism, Christ will bodily rapture all real Christians up into heaven as the antichrist plunges the world into seven years of darkness. Those left behind will suffer mightily for their infidelity until Christ's final return in Jerusalem, where he defeats the antichrist and imposes the placid millennium.
The Michigan-based Hutaree, it seems, believed the end was indeed nigh. And they were determined to be good self-sacrificing Christian soldiers before their "top general of all things" returned. "We, the Hutaree, are prepared to defend all those who belong to Christ and save those who aren't," the group proclaims, again on its website. "We will still spread the word, and fight to keep it, up to the time of the great coming." One has to wonder whether the Hutaree's god has the power to do a Shawshank Redemption and bodily remove them through prison walls.
The website contains other links to dispensational beliefs. The most conspicuous is a link to Jack Van Impe Ministries International, a noxious example of the Christian supremacist demagogue. Despite the stench of charlatanism, the Hutaree list Jack Van Impe's website as one of their major sources of information. It's this kind of gullibility that provokes the question of how anyone could believe this nonsense, much less kill for it. But the Christian warriors supply the simple answer: "For we live by faith and cannot see nor understand what we believe, entirely, but nevertheless the reward is worth it in the end." Most Americans would agree with the preceding words, if they did not know their provenance. But, while most Americans applaud such faith as enviable, they also need to recognize it as positively irrational and harmful.
"It started out as a Christian thing", Captain Hutaree's ex-wife Donna Stone told the Associated Press, adding "I think David started to take it a little too far."
Evidence that the path to violent radicalization doesn't always lead to a scimitar; sometimes it leads to a cross.
Originally appeared on the guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010