As if we don’t have enough trouble and bad press in Michigan, now we have a news story featuring the FBI raiding a “Christian militia” group compound in Adrian, Michigan. Set aside for a moment the oxymoron of a “Christian militia” and that the media will have a field day using that misnomer. Having grown up in Toledo I was already familiar with Adrian and I also have a client there so I get down to Adrian on at least an annual basis. It is not what you would think of as a hotbed of militia activity, it is just the opposite: a small, sleepy Midwestern college town.
This is going to be great fodder for the news media. See how crazy those right-wing Christian nutjobs are! Every tea party type is in church on Sunday and in the woods running around in camo with a rifle on Saturday. Quotes like this one from the website of the group called Hutaree are going to be gleefully reported over and over again:
Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment.
Besides being atrocious grammar, the problems with that stance are myriad. Statements like this demonstrate at best a gross misunderstanding of the Scriptures and at worst a literally anti-Christian cultic movement. There is no such thing as a Christian militia because Christians are never called to take up arms to slay infidels or even to defend ourselves. The church of Jesus Christ will always stand even amidst persecution because it was bought and is preserved by Christ, even amidst persecution and martyrdom. The website of this group is a theological trainwreck. Whether they have broken the law of the United States or not is for the civilian government to decide but I can say without hesitation that even if they are found not guilty by men, they stand in opposition to the teaching and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To use John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends as an excuse to play dress up and arm yourself is a perversion. Jesus died for His sheep as a sacrifice, not in battle. Jesus didn’t conquer by the sword and the Bible tells us we are to deny ourselves and die to self, not to kill the infidel and overthrow the government.
The survivalist strain within some quasi-Christian groups and unrelated cults is a powerful one. One of the little known doctrines of mormonism is the idea of family preparedness. If you search for sellers of survival gear, MREs, grain grinders and other paraphernalia to survive economic turmoil, a disproportionate number are based in Utah. A good mormon family will have an enormous supply of food in their basement, canned goods, bottled water, whole grains which are easy to store. Whether you are looking at mainstream cult groups like mormonism, militia groups like the Hutaree or individuals like Randy Weaver, way too many people blend misdirected religious fervor with paramilitary leanings and end up with an “end-times” mentality that sees us preparing for the return of Christ with freeze-dried foods and assault rifles.
Many more mainstream or perhaps to put it more bluntly rational Christians are puzzled by this strain of pseudo-Christian paramilitary craziness. There is a very specific reason it is puzzling to American evangelicals. It is because they don’t understand the militia part of it that withdraws from comfortable middle-class American society. The militarism part though? That is right in our wheelhouse. American evangelicals have been raised with a combination of Bible stories, patriotic fervor expressed in a willingness to kill or die for our secular state and a lavish helping of kookie end-times prophetic preaching. All of this combined makes for a dangerous mix. Rather than humble and meek peacemakers, Christians are expected to be patriots waving a flag in one hand and an M-16 in the other. These militia groups are a dangerous but understandable outgrowth of American evangelicalism. It is high time that we start teaching that when Jesus said “Blessed are the peacemakers”, He wasn’t talking about a Colt .45. It is also high time that we call out these militia false prophets and false professors who would turn the Gospel of peace into a call for war for the heretics that they are. I don’t like or trust our government but as a Christian I recognize that God is sovereign over all things, including Barack Obama, and we are called to proclaim Christ and Him crucified even if that means our deaths, not to take up arms in the woods to “defend” ourselves.