Hutaree: Going Too Far Or Not Far Enough?

April 1, 2010

In case you missed the news about Hutaree, here is a quick snapshot:

The undercover agent credited with infiltrating a Christian extremist group before it could carry out its alleged plot to kill law enforcement officers has provided potentially damning evidence that Hutaree leaders were planning a “new revolution.” ….

Court documents charge that the group had planned to kill an unidentified law enforcement officer, then target the officer’s colleagues with IEDs and other explosives during the officer’s funeral.

-ABC News

For the sake of argument, I’m going to assume the accusations against Hutaree are true.  I am not going to prosecute or defend Hutaree.  Instead, I am concerned about how people think about such accusations, assuming they were true.

Some on the left are quick to label Hutaree as just another “Rightwing extremist group”.   This simply isn’t fair.  It is difficult to see what Hutaree has in common with conservative principles like limited government, fiscal responsibility, personal responsibility, and so on.  Okay, perhaps they embrace all of those principles, but dedication to those principles doesn’t lead, with logical necessity, to forming a militia and planning armed rebellion.

Atheists are quick to point to Hutaree as an illustration of how religion is a scourge upon the earth.  This paints with too broad a brush.  Hutaree was united around religious beliefs, and perhaps motivated by religious beliefs.  However, had one of Hutaree’s religious beliefs been “God forbids the use of weapons” or “God demands that you never get out of bed”, then Hutaree wouldn’t be in the news today.  The problem is not religion, but rather particular religious beliefs.

Some think Hutaree are Christian fundamentalists, part of an ugly movement that is somehow parallel to Islamic fundamentalism.  This is an abuse of language, whereby “fundamentalist” is equated with “radical” and “extremist”, where those terms are given negative connotations (probably also an abuse of language; wouldn’t a radical love be a good thing?).  Here is the definition of fundamentalist (Webster):

1 a often capitalized : a movement in 20th century Protestantism emphasizing the literally interpreted Bible as fundamental to Christian life and teaching b : the beliefs of this movement c : adherence to such beliefs
2 : a movement or attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles

Historically, Christian fundamentalists were dedicated to the fundamentals, i.e. the basics, of Christianity.  As a movement, they, and their heirs, do tend to have some certain shortcomings, but forming militia groups to wage war against the US government is not one of them.

Perhaps Donna Stone, the ex-wife of one of the arrested Hutaree members, had the “fundamentalist” label in mind when she commented on her ex-husband’s actions.  “It started out as a Christian thing,” said Donna Stone, 44. “You go to church. You pray. You take care of your family. I think David started to take it a little too far. He dragged a lot of people with him.”

Apparently, Donna thinks David took Christianity too far.  People seem to think there is a spectrum of Christian belief and practice; on the right are folks like the Hutaree, those who go too far, who take Christianity too seriously.  In reality, groups like Hutaree don’t go far enough.   They take a few verses from the Bible and stop there, having justified their agenda to themselves.  Hutaree didn’t go far enough.  They should have continued on: seeking to be peacemakers, recognizing God establishes governments for our good, loving one’s neighbor, living humbly before God, forgiving, and so on.   Faith, hope, love, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.  These are the marks of people deeply committed to the fundamentals of Christianity.  If only the Hutaree had been Christian fundamentalists.

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