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Exploring Christian and Muslim terrorism

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Ground Zero, New York City, N.Y. (Sept. 17, 2001) -- An aerial view shows only a small portion of the crime scene where the World Trade Center collapsed following the Sept. 11 terrorist attack (Credit: US Navy / Chief Photographer Mate Eric J Tilford)

An essay claims that Wade Michael Page was a “Christian terrorist.” The author, a noted Christian scholar named Mark Juergensmeyer, claims that Page “thought he was killing to save white Christian society.”  He concludes: “If the hard-talking, swaggering al Qaeda militants can be called Muslim terrorists, certainly Page can be called a Christian terrorist.”

While there’s no evidence that Page was a practicing Christian (a fact Juergensmeyer acknowledges), he was clearly a white supremacist and neo-Nazi.  To the degree that members of those groups consider themselves Christian (some do, though many do not), do they then deserve the title of “Christian terrorist”?  Juergensmeyer is right: if we blame Islam for 9-11, we could then blame Christianity for the Milwaukee tragedy.

But neither assumption would be true.  The 9-11 terrorists embraced the two tenets of radical Islam: (1) the West has been attacking Islam since the Crusades; (2) there are no “innocent” victims in America, since our society is a democracy in which our citizens elect our leaders and support our military.  To al Qaeda, 9-11 was not an unprovoked attack on innocent civilians.  Rather, it was a defense of Islam that struck back at the heart of “Western imperialist aggression”—the Twin Towers representing finance, the Pentagon symbolizing the military, and the White House representing the political.

However, surveys indicate that only seven percent of the Muslim world accepts these tenets.  The vast majority would condemn the terrorism of 9-11 as an aberration of true Islam.  The same is true of Page’s atrocities.  Juergensmeyer states, “like Timothy McVeigh, Page thought himself a soldier for Christendom.”  If he did, he could not have been more wrong.

Jesus showed us the best way to prove that we are “soldiers” in his spiritual army: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).