Got into a shit storm recently with predictable results. Someone posed the question that if we have Muslim terrorism, that is terrorism that is performed specifically in the name of and motivated by Islamic beliefs, are similar acts performed by Christians, in the name of Christianity and motivated by Christian belief, likewise terrorist. Now clearly, the answer is yes, there is no logical or rational way around this, but of course, the Christian fanatics came out in force, demanding that Christians can never be terrorists and even if they could, there’s a lot more Islamic terrorism out there today so anything Christians do is entirely irrelevant.
Sure, tell that to the victims of The Army Of God (USA), Eastern Lightning (China) or The Lord’s Resistance Army (Kony’s little group of nutters in Africa), all of whom have been guilty of terroristic acts, if they’re irrelevant. I would say no. But because we were “attacking” Christianity and I guess being a bunch of meanies that are making them feel bad, we just have to be wrong.
But as I pointed out, while lots of acts can be considered terrorist, assigning meaning comes from motivation, not from membership. Just because someone happens to be a Muslim or a Christian or a Jew and performs a terrorist act doesn’t make them a fill-in-the-blank terrorist. We have to look at why they do the things that they do. To do so, I used two common examples. See, Adolph Hitler was very open and honest that the reason he was doing what he was doing to the Jews was his Christian religious beliefs. In Mein Kampf, he stated “Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.” This is certainly not the only passage where he says so, but he lays it out very clearly, he is doing the will of God in wiping out the Jews. While what he did wasn’t terrorism because it was state-sponsored, it certainly was Christian in nature. Then you can look at Stalin, who was just as much of a murderous madman as Hitler, but he was also quite clear why he was doing what he did and it had nothing whatsoever to do with his atheism. It was for political power. Yet there are a lot of Christians out there who are supremely convinced that he and Pol Pot and other communist dictators acted out of atheism, not out of political expediency. For Hitler, you have his direct words explaining his motivations. Christians just don’t like those words so they try to distance themselves from them. For Stalin, you do as well, but those words don’t support the claims of the religious. In both cases, the beliefs of the religious are not supported by the reality and honestly, none of them care.
So for some terrorist violence, we know why it’s being done and we can properly assign blame. When a bunch of guys with machine guns come on shooting people yelling “Allahu Akbar”, it’s pretty obvious what their motivation is. For things that are not as clear cut, we can only speculate but we can never know for sure. But to deny that those crazies screaming “Allahu Akbar” are doing things for religious reasons, that’s to deny reality and far too many people are far too willing to do exactly that.