"Christian Domestic Terrorism"?
Dan Clanton, biblical studies scholar, has written an article, "Biblical Interpretation and Christian Domestic Terrorism: The Exegeses of Rev. Michael Bray and Rev. Paul Hill" (SBL Forum, n.p. [cited Aug 2008]), that analyzes Christian 'terrorism' against abortionists and suggests ways of countering such violence, and since Islamist terrorism is one of the topics that I often post on, I thought that I should at least take a look at Dr. Clanton's article.
Despite the title's reference to "Christian Domestic Terrorism," the term "terrorism" does not elsewhere appear in the article -- nor does "terrorist" or even "terror." Consequently, no definition of "terrorism" is provided by Dr. Clanton that would clarify why he applies this term to the violence advocated by Michael Bray and used by Paul Hill. Presumably, "the bombing of abortion clinics and the planned murder of abortion providers" is so obviously "terrorism" that the issue need not even be broached, but I'd like to have seen some treatment of this point.
What Dr. Clanton does talk about is violence used in religion:
Most scholars who examine the relationship between religion and violence agree that one of the most important factors in using sacred texts to justify violence against another person, community, or institution is the process of making them an "Other." Religiously speaking, these others serve as the discordant example of belief and behavior over and against which the people of God are to be constructed, and thus it is easy to see why violence is often employed to remove, punish, or defend innocents from these others. The emphasis on defending innocents from the "Other" is central to the most common form of scripturally justified violence in America: violence in the radical anti-abortion movement(s).This is a commonly noted point about violence directed toward an "enemy" and has been discussed at length, as Dr. Clanton notes, but he has more specific things to say about the use of the Bible by Bray and Hill:
 See, e.g., Regina Schwartz, The Curse of Cain: The Violent Legacy of Monotheism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 4-5 and passim. See also the comments of Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, Is Religion Killing Us? Violence in the Bible and the Quran (Harrisburg, Penn.: Trinity Press International, 2003), 112-13.
 See John J. Collins, "The Zeal of Phineas: The Bible and the Legitimation of Violence," JBL 122 (2003): 11: "Identity is defined negatively by a sharp differentiation of Israel from the other peoples of the land, and positively by the prescriptions of a covenant with a jealous sovereign god." See now Collins, Does the Bible Justify Violence? (Facets Series; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005), 15. See also "The Zeal of Phineas," 18; Does the Bible Justify Violence? 27: Collins sees this construction of the "Other" and the divinely guaranteed absoluteness of that category as "the root of religious violence in the Jewish and Christian traditions."
It should be clear that both Bray and Hill view the Bible in a specific way. For them, the text serves as what Bruce Lincoln calls a transcendent discourse upon which they base their practices, that is, "embodied material action [that] render religious discourse operational." These practices affect both the way(s) in which believers encounter the world and the way(s) in which they shape their own identity. That is, given the assumptions that believers like Hill and Bray hold about the Bible, it is not surprising that they would seek answers to perceived problems in its pages, but what is not so obvious is that "prior familiarity with the text -- and the sedimented familiarity of others, which he experiences as an interpretive tradition -- provides the lens through which he [i.e., a believer such as Hill or Bray] understands and responds to the problem." Lincoln calls this situation one of "mutual mediation," that is, one's devotion to a specific religious discourse and/or sacred text both colors and in turn reinforces the way in which one views the world in general, and specific issues in particular. With Hill and Bray, it is obvious that they both hold the view that the Bible is a repository of wisdom, a handbook for living due to their understanding of their particular brand of evangelical Christianity. This view allows them the exegetical freedom to turn to their sacred text with real-life issues and situations, such as the plight of the "pre-born," and find viable instructions and paradigms for action, where others may find only thematic or tangential parallels. Similarly, their investment in the Bible also allows them to view their present situation through an interpretive grid developed through years of study and an imbededness in a particular interpretive tradition. Thus, the Bible serves as the font of action, belief, and identity for them, as well as providing the matrix through they perceive their own political, social, and ideological location in the world.I'm not sure how much this explains. Many evangelicals -- and perhaps other Christians as well -- consider the Bible "a transcendent discourse upon which they base their practices" and hold "the view that the Bible is a repository of wisdom, a handbook for living," yet they don't turn to violence against abortionists. The number of Christian 'terrorists' must be very tiny, though I don't know the statistics. Since the numbers are so small, we should perhaps look at the idiosyncratic motivations to explain particular Christian 'terrorists' rather than generalizations that fail to distinguish them from a larger body of Christians who share similar views of the transcendent status of the Bible but who do not commit religiously inspired 'terrorism'.
 Bruce Lincoln, Holy Terrors: Thinking about Religion after September 11 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), 6.
 Ibid., 35; ee also 47.
I suppose that I ought to say more on this issue, particularly on Dr. Clanton's views on preventing this sort of violence, but my day's duty calls me to my own nonreligiously inspired actions that will terrify my students.
I'm giving a test.