Fighting the Culture Wars With Hate, Violence and Even Bullets: Meet the Most Extreme of the Radical Christians
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If there is one name some residents of Amarillo, Texas wish they could forget, it’s Repent Amarillo. Based in that North Texas city, Repent Amarillo is a militant Christian fundamentalist group whose antics have ranged from staging a mock execution of Santa Claus by firing squad to posting a “spiritual warfare” map on its Web site that cited a Buddhist temple, an Islamic center, gay bars, strip clubs and sex shops as places of demonic activity.
Repent Amarillo is also infamous for mercilessly harassing a local swingers club called Route 66. Throughout 2009, members of Repent Amarillo made a point of showing up at Route 66’s events, where they would typically wear military fatigues, shout at Route 66 members through bullhorns and write down the license plate numbers of people attending the events. After finding out who the swingers were, Repent Amarillo’s members would find out where they worked and try to get them fired from their jobs (according to Route 66 coordinator Mac Mead, at least two members of the club lost their jobs because of Repent Amarillo).
None of that has kept Repent Amarillo founder David H. Grisham from dabbling in local politics; earlier this year, he ran for mayor of Amarillo and lost to former city commissioner Paul Harpole.
But Repent Amarillo is hardly alone when it comes to promoting a decidedly radical and militant brand of Christianity. From the Army of God to the Hutaree Militia to Gary North and his Christian reconstructionists, radical Christianity is alive and well in the United States—and Christianists aren’t shy about turning up the heat when it comes to fighting the "culture war." Some radical Christianists have employed bully tactics and hate-mongering rhetoric without resorting to actual violence (Repent Amarillo, the Rev. Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church), while others have committed acts of terrorism and said the culture war will have to be won with bombs and bullets.
When religion is discussed, it is important to make a distinction between radical and non-radical practitioners. Radical Christianity is not representative of Christianity any more than al-Qaeda is representative of Islam. The average Lutheran or Episcopalian minister is no more a threat to public safety than the average member of Islam’s Sufi sect, who are arguably the Hare Krishnas of Islam. Not all Christians are Christianists; not all Muslims are Islamists. But an abundance of disturbing events bear out the fact that radical Christianity, like radical Islam, is quite capable of violence—and contrary to what Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter would have us believe, the examples are numerous.
Active since the early 1980s, the Army of God is a loose network of radical anti-abortionists with a long history of promoting terrorism and premeditated murder in the name of Christianity. The Army of God has published an anti-abortion training manual that offers instructions on bomb-making, arson and other ways to attack clinics.
The group’s Web site praises a long list of Christian terrorists who have been convicted of violent crimes, including Paul Jennings Hill (who was executed by lethal injection in 2003 for the murders of abortion provider John Britton and his bodyguard James Barrett), Scott Roeder (who was convicted of first-degree murder for the 2009 shooting of George Tiller, a Kansas doctor who performed late-term abortions), Michael Frederick Griffin (who was sentenced to life in prison for the 1993 murder of Dr. David Gunn, an ob/gyn based in Pensacola, Florida), James Charles Kopp (who shot and killed Barnett Slepian, a physician who performed abortions, in 1998), Matthew Lee Derosia (who, in 2009, rammed his SUV into the front entrance of a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Paul and told police that Jesus ordered him to carry out that attack) and John C. Salvi (who attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic in Brookline, Massachusetts in 1994, shooting and killing receptionists Shannon Lowney and Lee Ann Nichols and wounding several others).