Exquisite Timing: USAT Runs Op-Ed on 'Beware the Christian Extremists'

Sandwiched in between two domestic terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists in Canada during the past three days, USA Today ran a Tuesday op-ed which appeared in Wednesday's print edition by Mary Zeiss Stange called "Beware the Christian Extremists."

With all due respect, ma'am, we've got bigger worries. But in Ms. Stange's world, Christian "religious extremism taken to potentially lethal ends" is really the "primary threat to homeland security." She castigates the news media, which in her view "have been remarkably slow when it comes to zeroing in on the pervasive reality of hate-based Christian extremism," because "It is easier, after all, to blame the un-American other."

Stange's op-ed is not a one-off misstep by USA Today. She is one of about 33 people on its Board of Contributors, absurdly giving her a status equal to credible commentators like Jonathan Turley, Jonah Goldberg, Kirsten Powers, and Michael Medved. She's a professor of religion at Skidmore College in New York.

Stange pegs her contention that Christians are a bigger problem than Islamists to a July report by the federally funded National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism.

That report has come in for a great deal of derision from people who live in the real world. First, it was based on a ridiculously tiny sample of participants. The survey relied on 364 responses from individuals who worked at 175 different state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies, or SLTs. The U.S had almost 18,000 "state and local law enforcement agencies employing at least one full-time officer or the equivalent in part-time officers" in 2012.

Second, it is entirely possible that SLT law enforcement has more routine and direct contact and familiarity with Christian extremists than Islamists, depending on what parts of the U.S. the survey respondents represented. If so, even though the number of murders they have committed pales in comparison to the lives lost in jihadist attacks in the U.S., SLT officials might be expected to rate the threats they see more often themselves as more serious than the ones they only see or read about in the news. It's reasonable to contend that officials in Federal law enforcement, which is very involved with monitoring Islamist activity, likely would have answered the survey quite differently.

Other distinctions between the small number of Christian extremists and the apparently growing number of violence-prone Islamists in the U.S. should be obvious to Ms. Stange, but they clearly aren't. Here are just a few:

  • A jihadist generally sets out to commit murder — sometimes mass murder, often of complete innocents. Many of the offenses committed by Christian extremists, though annoying and outrageous, are nonviolent and relate to filing false liens and the like.
  • A jihadist believes he (or she) is carrying out Allah's will. It is far from clear that this is the case in the few instances where Christian extremists have committed murder.
  • A jihadist often gets his (or her) inspiration as a result of participating in Islamic services at a publicly recognized mosque and fraternizing with its members. The roster of Christian churches advocating a murderous crusade against non-Christians is somewhere between zero and almost zero.

USA Today's judgment in allowing Ms. Stange a spot on its Board of Contributors is extremely poor. Here's hoping it won't continue. Her most recent column is an egregious waste of editorial page space, newsprint, and online bandwidth.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

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