That’s the question the folks at The Washington Post are asking in an article that’s sure to deluge them with angry letters over the next few days.
The arrest of alleged Olympic bomber Eric Robert Rudolph may finally allow authorities to answer a question that has loomed since the beginning of the five-year hunt for him, but that has taken on deeper resonance since Sept. 11, 2001: Is he a “Christian terrorist”?
The question is not just whether Rudolph is a terrorist, or whether he considers himself a Christian. It is whether he planted bombs at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, two abortion clinics and a gay nightclub to advance a religious ideology—and how numerous, organized and violent others who share that ideology may be.
“Based on what we know of Rudolph so far, and admittedly it’s fragmentary, there seems to be a fairly high likelihood that he can legitimately be called a Christian terrorist,” said Michael Barkun, a professor of political science at Syracuse University who has been a consultant to the FBI on Christian extremist groups.
Another expert on such groups, Idaho State University sociology professor James A. Aho, said he is reluctant to use the phrase “Christian terrorist,” because it is “sort of an oxymoron.”
“I would prefer to say that Rudolph is a religiously inspired terrorist, because most mainstream Christians consider Christian Identity to be a heresy,” Aho said. If Christians take umbrage at the juxtaposition of the words “Christian” and “terrorist,” he added, “that may give them some idea of how Muslims feel” when they constantly hear the term “Islamic terrorism,” especially since the Sept. 11 attacks.
I thought the above two statements raised a very important point. We don’t normally refer to people who commit terrorist acts for ideological reasons related to Christian faith as “Christian terrorists” even though the label fits yet the moment anyone associated with Islamic beliefs commits a terrorist act the first label used is “Islamic terrorist.” Personally I think if we’re going to insist on calling Islamic terrorists by that label then we should apply the same standard to terrorists who are motivated by Christian ideology.
Found via Atrios.