Authorities are still sifting through the details surrounding Sunday's tragic shooting rampage at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. As they learn more about Wade Michael Page, the suspected killer, the public will, in turn, gain a better picture of what unfolded. But while officials have made it clear that they may never know what truly motivated Page, one California-based college professor is advancing his own theory -- one based on alleged "Christian terrorism."
In a guest blog for Religion Dispatches, Mark Juergensmeyer, professor of sociology and director of global and international studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, laid out his views in detail, dubbing Page's murderous actions "an act of Christian terrorism." The professor explains this theory in his own words:
It is fair to call Page a Christian terrorist since the evidence indicates that he thought he was defending the purity of white Christian society against the evils of multiculturalism that allow non-white non-Christians an equal role in America society. Like the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh, and the Norwegian militant, Anders Breivik, Page thought he was killing to save white Christian society.
Though there is no evidence that Page was a pious Christian, that is true of many religious terrorists. If the hard-talking, swaggering al Qaeda militants can be called Muslim terrorists, certainly Page can be called a Christian terrorist.
Many of the al Qaeda activists—including the World Trade Center bomber Mahmud Abouhalima and the Iraq al Qaeda leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi—were attracted to the jihadi message not for reasons of personal piety, but because they were lured by the image of cosmic war. They saw themselves as religious warriors.
It's interesting to note Juergensmeyer's admission that there is currently no evidence -- at least when it comes to information that has been released -- that would link Page to an active Christian adherence. The professor goes on, still, to call him a "religious terrorist" who thought "he was a soldier in a cosmic war" and that he "thought himself a soldier for Christendom."
Juergensmeyer recapped some of the main events in Page's life that we already know about -- his military service and eventual release and his ties to neo-Nazi groups. But, throughout the piece, he continued to harp on the theme of "white Christendom" and of the shooter's apparent need to defend it.
While it's clear that America is -- by all statistical accounts -- a majority Christian society, the notion that a man who allegedly operated under white supremacist guidelines was doing so also out of religious fervency is currently factually unfounded. Juergensmeyer continued, describing what he views as Page's "military mission":
His imagined war was more personal than just cultural grievances, however. The great struggle gave him a role. He became a warrior, something that he was not able to achieve in his failed military career.
This is a common pattern among activists involved in religious terrorism. The cosmic war of great religious struggle provides an imagined arena of conflict for warriors in search of a role. It appeals to former soldiers abandoned by wars that have come to an end, and it appeals to want-to-be warriors like Page.
You can read the piece in its entirety here.
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