As I write this column, I am teaching a class on terrorism at LaGrange College. We watch films, have discussions, and conduct research projects into terrorism to see if it works….and its ability to accomplish its goals are vastly overstated. We ask what is terrorism, and who is a terrorist.
If the Austin bomber had a Muslim-sounding name, or converted to Islam, people would have no problem pegging him as a terrorist. But because he’s American, and claims to be a Christian, so many seem so reluctant to call him what he is: a terrorist, and a particularly nasty one. Instead, they paint him as a sad “troubled soul” that we’re supposed to sympathize with.
People are wary of calling Mark Conditt a terrorist because he posted a number of religiously conservative views at his online college class. But of course being a Christian conservative doesn’t mean you are a terrorist. In fact, Jesus Christ would clearly reject Conditt’s actions.
But maybe there’s another way to look at this. One of the films I show for people is “Katherine,” starring Sissy Spacek, set in the 1970s, based on a real person. She’s a nice college girl from a rich family who goes to Guatemala to teach the poor people, and finds nothing but oppression abroad. She finds the same when she tries to aid inner-city kids. Even those she tries to help in both cases reject her naïve idealism.
She self-radicalizes, joins a group of leftist militants, and tries to set off a bomb to kill many, but it explodes prematurely, taking her life. She’s painted as a sympathetic character, but she’s still obviously a terrorist. Regardless of your aims or ideals, you’re judged by your methods, and no end is justified by the means of the slaughter of innocents.
The other reason people fear labeling Conditt a terrorist is perhaps they fear their own son or daughter could easily become this person. As CBS reports “Conditt’s family said in a statement they had ‘no idea of the darkness that Mark must have been in.’”
However, Conditt’s family didn’t have him in your typical church and Sunday school where you learn that Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself. He was a part of a group called “RIOT” (Righteous Invasion Of Truth), where this “Christian” survivalist group discussed weapons and dangerous chemicals (and how to mix them) and would role-play, according to The Independent. He had a target list of additional victims, provided a video report where he expressed no remorse for the killings. And he waited to detonate the bomb until the police got to his car door, trying to take down a few officers in his own cowardly suicide blast.
Are we surprised when someone enters an ISIS camp, and then carries out a terrorist attack? Even if that kid is “troubled” or “seemed like a nice guy” beforehand, does it really matter?
What’s important to remember that just because someone is liberal or conservative, Christian, Muslim or otherwise, it doesn’t make you a terrorist to believe in something or seek change. When you take steps to implement your views which violate your religious beliefs, or in our case, what America stands for, you’re a terrorist, regardless of skin color, religion, economic class, or ideology. And we need to investigate the connection between hate groups and terrorism, as such attacks threaten our country.