Thursday, December 4, 2014

Extremist Views

You may have missed a news item that happened this past Friday, obscured by Thanksgiving weekend and Christmas shopping sales. I did not go to a store that day. Shopping is kind of an ordeal on normal days, so I avoid the crowded ones. So I guess that made me available to hear the occasional news story.

There was a shooting in Austin, Texas. An armed gunman shot up the downtown area, using about 200 rounds, tried to burn the Mexican Consulate, and was actually shooting at the police station when he was taken down by a single shot from police. What caught my attention was the assumption that he was a “right-wing extremist.” That is said about so many individual incidents, as an assumption early on when little information is known, and almost always it turns out to be a left-wing extremist nut job, which we eventually find out without any retraction or explanation for the error.
Houston Chronicle, Tuesday, December 2, 2014
So this time I was surprised to find a follow-up story on Tuesday in the Houston Chronicle, not even front page: “Police say shooter harbored extremist views.” Apparently he really did have extremist views. They weren’t of the freedom-loving sort that could possibly be considered conservative—or, in the language of the Spherical Model, northern hemisphere. But they were what are sometimes called “right-wing.”
I thought this would serve as an example of the Spherical Model giving us better vocabulary for identifying ideology.
Here’s what the story says investigators found inside the perpetrator’s van, according to Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo:
[A] copy of “Vigilantes of Christendom,” a 1990 book associated with the Christian Identity movement known as the Phineas Priesthood. The shadowy sect holds religious beliefs against banking, abortion and a strong central government and espouses anti-Semitic and racist views. The book describes the Phineas Priesthood as Christian guerrillas who avenge Judeo-Christian traitors. A handwritten note referred to [the perpetrator] as a “priest in the fight against anti-God people.”
Looking for motivations, the FBI noted, from acquaintances of the perpetrator, “that he couldn’t find a job and believed immigrants were given more services than he was.”
OK. Beyond that, he seemed to be delusional about starting a revolution. He thought his “revolutionary” act would set off a series of revolutionary events from other fellow revolutionaries. Or something. But he acted alone. There was no broader group helping him.
I am Christian. I have never heard of the Christian Identity movement, so I looked that up. They are a loose collection of  “churches” with a white supremacist theology. Is that a subset of Christianity? Not if you read the scriptures, which declare that “God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that heareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34-35), and “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:28-29). It's not the identity; it's the behavior that qualifies a person as belonging to Christ.
So, if you’re a follower of Christ, you love and accept all people who work righteousness. You don’t “avenge” yourselves against others because of race, gender, or some other tribal issue. You live in peace with all others willing to live in peace.
Normally I allow others to define whether or not they are Christian; as a Mormon, I understand the irrationality of excluding someone just because they don’t share all your same beliefs. But in this case, I’d say that randomly shooting in a crowded city (fortunately no one but the shooter was killed), intending to murder innocent people and cause property damage—it’s safe to say Christ wouldn’t like your associating that with his name. That may be the quintessence of using the Lord’s name in vain.
But there’s the additional difficulty of not being able to find a job with the immigrants getting more services that he was. That could motivate a person to frustration, even anger. But there are ways toward improvement that don’t include shooting up a large city.
What this perpetrator did was incite chaos, as the alternative to state control: he chooses southwest quadrant chaotic tyranny to southeast quadrant statist tyranny, from what I can tell. He may be anti-state, but he isn’t pro-freedom.
I was puzzled about the anti-banking belief of the Phineas Priesthood, which I had also never heard of. So I looked them up too. They are not what we’d call a religion, or even an organization. But believers (anyone who self-declares such beliefs) is one. They are known as terrorists—for abortion bombings in the Pacific Northwest in 1996, and also bank robberies. I don’t know why they hate the idea that people can store their accumulated wealth in a way that allows the capital to be invested and bring in interest. They apparently don’t understand economics, if they think robbing a bank is an appropriate way to encourage prosperity.
The economic question that decides whether you’re in the northern hemisphere or not is whether the person who earns the income gets to decide how to spend it. They may be right that a too-big central government takes too much in taxes. But the northern hemisphere solution is to lower taxes to cover only essential government roles (not to zero taxes and no government), and allow individuals to decide on the rest. The southern hemisphere chaos alternative is to rob and plunder. There isn’t anything conservative or prosperity oriented about that.
So, we can agree this guy was an extremist. We could even call him a terrorist. But, as with all other terrorists, he believes in southern hemisphere chaotic tyranny. He may have rationalized his behavior differently than Islamist terrorists do, but his ideas fit in the same quadrant of the sphere as theirs. There is no way to get freedom, prosperity, and civilization through heinous terrorist acts.
Conservatives want to conserve and/or restore freedom, prosperity, and civilization by following the principles that get us there, and by convincing—through example and persuasive words—enough others to choose the northern hemisphere as well.
When someone refers to right-wing extremists, they almost always mean southern hemisphere chaotic tyranny. That is every bit as far from freedom, prosperity, and civilization as you can get. They are, literally, polar opposites.
But when they use the same term to refer to people who want the freedom of small, limited government, free enterprise, and cultural practices that create civilization—like many actual Christians, most Tea Party conservatives, people who honor the US Constitution, homeschoolers, entrepreneurs, and just basic decent people—then that is a lie. They are probably using that lie to discourage moving northward, where such people might not have the power to dominate.
If we can change the language, we can change the thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. And then we change behavior. Then we get to enjoy freedom, prosperity, and civilization. That’s my private little revolution going on here at the Spherical Model.

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