David Westerfield

Theology, Culture, Technology, Reviews, and Other Commentary

Concerning Language from the DHS

Update: on second thought, it’s probably not nearly as bad as I’m making it out to be in this. You know how sometimes you realize you’ve written something that probably isn’t totally the case? Well, I’ve had some second thoughts about what I’ve written here. I’ll leave it intact though so you can see how sometimes I can get a little too worked up. “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9


Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment (PDF) – Leaked Department of Homeland Security Assessment

“Historically, domestic rightwing extremists have feared, predicted, and anticipated a cataclysmic economic collapse in the United States. Prominent anti-government conspiracy theorists have incorporated aspects of an impending economic collapse to intensify fear and paranoia among like-minded individuals and to attract recruits during times of economic uncertainty. Conspiracy theories involving declarations of martial law, impending civil strife or racial conflict, suspension of the U.S. Constitution, and the creation of citizen detention camps often incorporate aspects of a failed economy. Anti-government conspiracy theories and ‘end times’ prophecies could motivate extremist individuals and groups to stockpile food, ammunition, and weapons. These teachings also have been linked with the radicalization of domestic extremist individuals and groups in the past, such as violent Christian Identity organizations and extremist members of the militia movement.” – Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment, pg. 5

Now on the surface, I know exactly the type of “violent Christian Identity organizations” they are talking about. Tune into the latest live radio episode of Irvin Baxter, Jr.’s ultradispensational end time prophecy show, mixed with a dose of Michael Savage’s far right radio show to see what I’m talking about. Just think in terms of the general audience these people are reaching. There are people out there who confess to be Christians on the far right I’m concerned about taking up arms against either citizens or the government. We should never take up arms in defense of a political position as believers on the basis of Romans 12:9-21, Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:17. That should concern all of us when violent confessed Christians and far right conspiracy theorists gain momentum in culture, because the very martial law these people fear from what they see as an “oppressive” government may become a self-fulfilling prophecy, enacted because of their own ridiculous actions, if they were to get out of control that is.

However, in addition to this concern I have is the language used in this leaked DHS report and how they and other government organizations are defining these Christian groups. This is an unclassified, yet “official use only” document. But what is the chatter behind the scenes, in the “classified” documents?  I’m a conservative who holds many of the same points of these rightwing extremists concerning abortion, illegal immigration, government expansion into our lives, the nationalization of companies, the quick slide toward socializing our economy, the intrusion of government into our personal lives, the subtle, potential/probable intrusion of government into religious beliefs down the road, etc. And at the same time I would never take up arms to attack those who disagree on those things, including the government. To respond in this manner is to respond in the same way Peter did to those who took Jesus away to be crucified (he cut off the High Priests’ servants’ ear in defense of Jesus). And Peter was rebuked by none other than Jesus Himself. In addition, there are not just a few people even at my own church who hold differing points of view on economic issues and a few other things who I consider brothers and sisters in Christ and would never set a political agenda above that unity, despite my very strong convictions of the conservative ideology (and my desire to convince them of these positions).

But what’s concerning about all of this is that it’s possible many DHS officials and law enforcement personnel on the street level would drop all distinctions and lump nonviolent conservatives in together with violent rightwing extremists who hold the same political positions yet believe breaking the law is the best way to achieve their ends. In Texas, I’m not nearly as concerned with this as in other places around the country. But hopefully law enforcement wouldn’t do that at all and I give them the benefit of the doubt that they won’t do that should things get rowdy. But we do live in a fallen world where all kinds of wrong things are possible. And wrong things can and do happen at the hands of government all the time in this world. Just glance over the BBC’s news site. Our government is no exception to the rule either, though one can certainly get worked up into a frenzy over what will likely amount to nothing in all likelihood.

Here’s my question though: would defending conservative principles, the same as those held by violent rightwing extremists (who have wrongly believed violence is an appropriate method of effecting their political beliefs) on a forum or blog (like I’m doing right now) … would that be considered rightwing extremist propoganda as defined by Homeland Securtity? Could there be a resolution to shut down any such postings? That is very concerning. And let’s forget the political argument for a minute and move merely to the moral: is defending a position pertaining to unborn children and denying the moral correctness of homosexuality (things clearly prescribed in Scripture) … standing for or against those things respectively, be enough to link you to a rightwing extremist organization or grouping? I do have to wonder.

This is the first time the government has ever really directly singled out “Christian” organizations that I know of. And I don’t want to get fanatic about such a thing. Granted, most of these groups are anything but historically Christian theologically speaking. But we’ve never seen an assessment like this coming from the DHS against any Christian group. For the longest time, the DHS has had their sites set on Muslim extremists who theologically believe that what they’re doing is right, based upon passages in the Quran. 9/11 got it all started. But now the DHS seems to have broadened their scope a bit. And whereas the Muslim population is rather small and extremists can easily be found who wish harm to this country amongst these groups, there are a massive amount of people who consider themselves conservative Christians (though of course, many of those people statistically are not even believers) who could potentially be lumped together with these other rightwing extremists.

Now again, I’m concerned about these extremists who call themselves Christians as well. And for the record, I do believe they should be watched and monitored for unlawful behavior and plans. But how far and broad could the government take it? Could they take a “shotgun” approach if things got rough and potentially lump us all in together? That’s a question we should all be pondering. Just in the past year, even within the Bush administration, we have seen unprecedented acts taken by our government. Long-term, and even short-term, where is all of this headed? The government  is asserting its power in what might be considered unconstitutional ways. Rick Perry made that clear yesterday concerning the 10th Amendment of the Constitution. There seems to be almost no oversight in many sectors of the government. President Obama swooped in recently and dethroned the CEO of GM. What other powers could the government assert that are constitutionally outside the scope of their power? The Constitution is only as good as its enforcement. We can have laws and doctrines all day long stating what rights we have as states and individuals. But if the government itself fails to uphold checks and balances within its own branches, literally, anything is possible.

I bring all of this up to get us all as believers to just stop and consider the cost of standing up for what’s right and standing against what is wrong. I’m not talking about conservative vs. liberal political stances necesserily (though we should certainly question the cost of that too now), but standing up against the pervasive immorality of our culture that is clearly, clearly commanded against in Scripture and the risk of being identified as an extremist spreading propoganda. Are you willing to stand against these things, not because we’re so much better or moral or righteous or legalistic, but rather because we love holiness, because Christ is the King and Lord of all, and we want to please Him out of the sincerity of our faith?

To the DHS’s credit, in so far as you can take a press release from the government on its face (more like damage control in this instance), as I was typing this post, I received an email from the DHS email delivery service that I’m signed up for, in which DHS Secretary Napolitano said this: “We are on the lookout for criminal and terrorist activity but we do not – nor will we ever – monitor ideology or political beliefs. We take seriously our responsibility to protect the civil rights and liberties of the American people, including subjecting our activities to rigorous oversight from numerous internal and external sources.”

(Original): http://www.dhs.gov/ynews/releases/pr_1239817562001.shtm

(Archived): http://www.westerfunk.net/archives/security/Secretary%20Janet%20Napolitano%20on%20the%20Threat%20of%20Right-Wing%20Extremism/

And I hope that holds true. But I have little faith with in our government after all that has happened in the past year. It’s a good thing that any form of earthly government isn’t our ultimate hope.


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  1. George Montague

    For the record, I don’t think singling out Christian Identity groups was in any way intended to relate to actual Christians. Christian Identity (as you many already know – if so it’s just not clear in the post) is kind of an umbrella under which a lot of loosely affiliated extremely violent white supremacists groups unite. We’re talking legitimately extreme, murderous rampage groups like The Order and Aryan Nations. Their beliefs are far from Christian but Christian Identity is what they call their “movement”.

    • Good call to specifically make the distinction. Thanks.

    • I was just making the point that DHS is aiming their sites in a certain direction and hopefully those who are not violent don’t get caught in it.

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