Who Are the Hutaree Militia, And Why Do They Want to Kill Cops?
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Late last month, the nine members of the Hutaree Militia were charged with, among other things, ‘seditious conspiracy,’ which carries a maximum of a life imprisonment if convicted. The incident has raised concerns over domestic terrorism and left many confused about Christian apocalyptic belief, which requires some basic history to sort out.
The Hutaree [hoo-TAR-ee]—which means “Christian warrior” in the group’s secret language—were preparing “for the end time battles to keep the testimony of Jesus Christ alive.” They believed that “one day, as prophecy says, there will be an Antichrist. All Christians must know this and prepare, just as Christ commanded.” And they obliged by forming a citizens’ militia underground cell and arming themselves. Their plans, according federal officials, began in August 2008.
In order to explain why the Hutaree militia was arming itself to battle the Antichrist and federal law enforcement we need to explore the intersection of Christian fundamentalist apocalypticism with citizen militias, the Patriot Movement, and right-wing populism.
Something Old and Something New (World Order)
Conspiracy theories date back many centuries, with a major outbreak in the late 1790s of plots by Freemasons to smash both church and state. These plots were rewritten in the latter part of the 1800s to target Catholics; then by a sector of the Populists who saw the perpetrators as a giant octopus of plutocrats and bankers; and again in the early 1900s to scapegoat Jews. Talk radio pioneer Father Coughlin railed against the ‘banksters’ and Jews working behind the scenes in the Roosevelt Administration.
Since the early 1990s, a sector of the political right in the United States has embraced a specific set of conspiracy theories revolving around government plans to impose tyranny through the United Nations or some such international body. These conspiracy theorists, egged on by groups like the John Birch Society, claimed that George H.W. Bush was planning a New World Order before attacking the Clinton administration for political assassinations and drug running. The storyline morphed in recent years into fears that the government of the United States planned to destroy national sovereignty by merging with Mexico and Canada to form a North American Union. That theory first surfaced among right-wing opponents of President George W. Bush. Along the way, right-wing media demagogues and Republican Party activists and elected officials fanned the flames.
Now as the Obama administration enters its second year, these conspiracy theories have led to aggression and violence and an alleged domestic terrorist plot. Why is anyone surprised? The widespread public dualist demonization of scapegoated targets has a sordid and violent history. It has happened here. Some fundamentalist Christians portray the government as in league with the Satanic Antichrist in the prophetic End Times.
Christian Apocalypticism and Fundamentalism
An “apocalypse” in its simplest generic sense is an approaching struggle between good and evil during which hidden truths are revealed and the course of history is dramatically altered. Major Protestant denominations, the Catholic Church, and the Orthodox Churches embrace a soft form of Christian apocalyptic expectation, which in many cases refers back to prior historic periods. Some, though not all, Christian fundamentalists are imbued with heightened apocalyptic expectation about upcoming prophetic events.
Before the Puritans became colonists, “Protestant apocalyptic tradition envisioned the ultimate sacralization of England as God’s chosen nation,” observes Avihu Zakai in Exile and Kingdom. We tend to forget that the shining “city upon a hill,” was a beacon for a patriarchal Protestant theocracy that executed recidivist dissidents. The goal was to sanctify a new nation as the proper place for the prophesied return of Jesus the Christ. And the Civil War? “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord?” See the narrative emerging?