Christian Militias (Use Your Scare Quotes Equitably)

I’ve seen quite a few bloggers place “Christian” in quotation marks when referring to the “Christian Militia” group Hutaree which has been making headlines recently. There is a Hutaree web site here.

I do hope that people will be consistent in how they refer to groups such as Christian militias and Islamic terrorists. We can either acknowledge that these are groups that understand themselves, rightly or wrongly, to be Christian or Muslim, and refer to them as such. Or we can recognize the tension between the aims and actions of these groups and the mainstream of these religious traditions and Scriptures, and place “Christian” and “Islamic” in quotation marks. But I see little justification for not doing one or the other consistently in both cases.

There is violence in both the Qur’an and the Bible. Both texts have had individuals and groups find inspiration and/or justification in them for engaging in conflict or promoting and working towards peace.

In light of all this, I encourage all readers to use their scare quotes in a fair and equitable manner!

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  • Stuart

    It's a fair criticism. I think we are all trying to distance ourselves….

  • Jim

    in my estimation it's up to muslims to put scare quotes around those militants calling themselves adherents of Islam. and it's the duty of Christians to denounce those besmirching the name of Christ's Church.

  • Robert Cornwall

    James — good words. These militas are to Christianity what Al Qaeda is to Islam — a perversion of a religion for other aims. And just as these folks don't represent Christianity, neither do they represent Michigan (at least I hope not).

  • mikew1584

    I agree with Jim. Christians put the quotation marks in because they don't feel the militia folks are truly Christian. Most of us are not scholars of Islam so we wouldn't know what would be an authentic Muslim group or action. If we made our own judgment whether a group is Muslim or not then I think we would have to put the quotes around Muslim in nearly every use. Is the charity Muslim or "Muslim". Is the official religion of Iran Islam or "Islam"? It's encouraging to see the use of "Christian" because it means that many Christians are offended by the militias use of the word. If the outcry from Muslims over the use of the title, Muslim, from Al-Quada or the Taliban is great enough then the word Muslim might also appear in the quote marks. Ultimately the image of a religion is not determined by it's most enlightened members but by the bulk of its members.

  • James F. McGrath

    I don't particularly disagree with Jim and Mike on this – but presumably journalists should refer to the Hutaree as a Christian Militia, and it is for bloggers and pastors and spokespeople to speak out against them. Is that the essence of your point? In your opinion, should Christians who are well informed about Islam, and the views of not only individuals they know personally but groups such as ISNA and the public statements they have issued, express this by using scare quotes just as they might in reference to such violent groups within their own tradition?

  • mikew1584

    I agree James. When the media labels groups the idea should be to make clear who they are speaking of. The Hutaree group believes its identity is in Christian themes. Though it may choose to find a away to word it so as not to imply that Christians regularly have militias, but for thinking adults Christan militia or terrorist group sums them up. It describes what they do and what they base their ideology on. I suppose for Muslims this a bigger issue since so much of there mentions in the U.S. press is as a prefix to "terrorist". The issue is a bit blurred by other terrorist who happen to Muslim but may be more described as nationalist. The Chechens and Palestinians for example. Unfortunately when groups of imams come together their denouncement of terrorism is often qualified with exceptions for Israel and their friends and associates, so it appears half hearted. But polls have been showing a decline in Muslim support for terrorist tactics, likely due to the large numbers of Muslims killed by them in Iraq and Pakistan.