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Column says steer clear of extremist groups
Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press
April 15, 2010
6 MIN READ TIME

Column says steer clear of extremist groups

Column says steer clear of extremist groups
Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press
April 15, 2010

WASHINGTON — A former

conservative Congressman and ordained Baptist minister says extremists like

Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church and members of a Christian militia group

arrested in Michigan for plotting to wage civil war against the United States

are giving Christians a bad name and should be repudiated.

J.C. Watts, a former

four-term Congressman from Oklahoma and the first black Republican elected to

the House of Representatives since Reconstruction, said in a newspaper column

that “depraved people” like Phelps and nine members of the self-named “Hutaree”

militia charged with seditious conspiracy and other crimes help feed “a growing

and troubling anti-Christian bigotry” that is sweeping across the nation.

Along with battles like “Merry

Christmas” becoming politically incorrect and negative portrayals of Christians

on television and in movies, Watts, now a business consultant

who left Congress in 2002, said Christianity now has to contend with “nut

cases hijacking the name ‘Christian’ while committing atrocities in the name of

Christ.”

Watts, a former youth

minister and associate pastor at Sunnylane

Southern Baptist Church in Del City, Okla., said every Christian in

America should be “outraged” by both the self-described “Christian” militia

group and the independent Baptist congregation from Topeka, Kan., notorious for

picketing funerals of American soldiers with placards bearing messages like “God

Hates Fags.”

“Christians cannot allow the

lines to be blurred, which is what the secularists want,” said Watts, who spoke

last August at the New Baptist Covenant Midwest Regional meeting in Norman,

Okla. “Christians should denounce such groups because what these people are

doing does not reconcile with true Christianity or biblical principles.”

On April 7 Baptist Press,

the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service, carried a story

repudiating Westboro Baptist Church. The article made it clear the small

congregation — composed mostly of members of the pastor’s extended family — is

not affiliated in any way with the SBC.

American Baptist Churches

USA updated their webpage with a “news

flash“ denouncing Westboro Baptist Church’s tactics and pointing out it

is not an American Baptist church.

Media in Michigan,

meanwhile, reported that David Brian Stone, 45, ringleader of the group accused

of plotting to kill police officers, had attended Thornhill Baptist Church, a

congregation in Hudson, Mich., affiliated

with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Elton Spurgeon, pastor of

Thornhill Baptist Church, told

the Detroit News that Stone had attended infrequently for about eight years.

Stone’s 21-year-old son, Joshua, who is also named in a federal indictment

unsealed March 29, had recently gotten married

in the church, but Spurgeon did not officiate.

Both Spurgeon and his wife, Donna, said they did not condone the group’s

activities and had no clue about what was going on. They said they knew the

family owned guns and wore camouflage but thought they were hunters.

Donna Spurgeon said

she recently had lunch with Joshua Stone, who described himself as “second-in-command”

to his father, but she did not know what he was talking about and thought it

was odd.

Authorities say

the Hutaree (pronounced hu-TAR-ay), the name that Stone picked for the group,

planned to kill an unspecified law-enforcement official and then ambush other

officers by using homemade bombs to attack the funeral motorcade. They then

would retreat to a staging area defended by booby traps. They hoped the attacks

and retaliation would become a catalyst for other militia groups to engage in a

more widespread uprising against the government.

Authorities don’t know what

the word Hutaree means. They suspect it is a made-up word with no meaning

except reference to the group.

A Hutaree website defines

the term as “Christian warrior.”

“We believe that one day, as

prophecy says, there will be an Anti-Christ,” the website proclaims. “All

Christians must know this and prepare, just as Christ commanded.”

“Jesus wanted us to be ready

to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment,” it continues.

“We, the Hutaree, are prepared to defend all those who belong to Christ and

save those who aren’t. We will still spread the word, and fight to keep it, up

to the time of the great coming.”

The pastor of Thornhill

Baptist Church said the group didn’t get its religious views from him. But Chip

Berlet of Political

Research Associates, a liberal think tank that focuses on the political

and Christian right, said

the notion that the end times are an imminent historical event is fairly common

for a large segment of American Christianity.

Popularized beginning in

1970 by Hal Lindsey, whose book The Late Great Planet Earth has sold over 19

million copies, Berlet said about 30 percent to 40 percent of Americans believe

the end is near and they watch for signs of the times for Christ’s Second

Coming.

Such a conception of the

Second Coming provides the theological basis for the Left Behind series of

books by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, which have sold 70 million copies in the

United States.

LeAnn Snow Flesher, a

professor at the American Baptist Seminary of the West, countered in a 2006

book that the Left Behind novels “perpetuate a massive misunderstanding of the

nature of scripture and how scripture should be studied” and “create and

support a separatist worldview in which all who disagree are deemed ‘the enemy.’“

She said the book of

Revelation, frequently quoted as Bible prophecy, does not contain a call to

arms or contain any examples of human combat. In fact, she says the book’s

fundamental message is non-violent resistance to evil and faith in the power of

suffering love as revealed through the cross of Christ.

The Southern Poverty Law

Center (SPLC), which has been investigating the Hutaree since 2009, said the 1990s saw

the rise of several anti-government paramilitary groups, but they moderated

after the 1995 bombing of Oklahoma City’s federal building, which killed 168.

With the election of

America’s first black president, the group said

the movement is back and this time, fueled by a concurrent influx of non-Anglo

immigrants to the United States, is more racialized.

In a report

released in March, the SPLC documented 512 anti-government “Patriot” groups,

which include armed militias, operating by the end of 2009. That represents a

244 percent increase over the previous year’s count of 149. The number of armed

militia groups rose from 42 in 2008 to 127 in 2009.

The SPLC documented

a total of 75 domestic terrorism plots between the Oklahoma City bombing in

1995 and 2009. The majority of those plots were concocted by individuals with

extreme anti-government views.