Now that we're going to be talking a lot about Islamic terrorism, you're going to hear the inevitable double-talk about how "We condemn all forms of terrorism -- be they Islamic, Mormon, Buddhist, or Amish."
I looked up the internet know-it-all's guide to talking points, Wikipedia, to know what to be prepared for when I hear about Christian terrorism. I expected to find a small list of bad acts, just to be aware of them and not be caught off-guard when they're brought up, while pointing out how much longer the list of Islamic terrorist atrocities is.
Shockingly -- or not -- I couldn't find a single incident of terrorism committed by Christians. It turns out that all of their examples are either not terrorism, or not committed by Christians. I don't mean that I'm disqualifying the perpetrators of being Christians ex post facto -- they committed this attack, so they could not have been true Christians -- I mean they showed no proof of being believing and practicing Christians beforehand.
We must bear in mind some key traits of terrorism. It is meant to harm people or things whom the attackers themselves believe to be innocent, but are in some way standing as representatives of something larger that the attackers hate. This is what gives terrorism its indiscriminate and mass-killing character, rather than focusing on a small number of guilty individuals. And it is meant to send a message, via public spectacle, to other members of that group, putting them in a state of fear for their safety, way of life, and so on.
For example, killing random workers at the World Trade Center on 9/11 -- none of the jihadists knew who they were at the individual level, let alone had beef with them specifically. They were just interchangeable "Americans" whose foreign policy Al-Qaeda wanted to change. The concert-goers in the Paris attacks were not chosen for having committed specific bad acts, but simply for belonging to a group whose way of life the terrorists wanted to change ("decadent Westerners," French imperialist foreign policy, etc.).
We must also bear in mind that being a Christian means you have certain key beliefs about the New Testament and Jesus Christ. Ranting about the Ten Commandments or Sodom and Gomorrah doesn't distinguish you as a Christian, although it would be compatible with being Christian. And it means you follow certain practices and attend religious services in a Christian way. Practice and ritual are as important, or perhaps more so, than mere beliefs when it comes to determining who belongs to a religious group. So, someone who reads the book of Revelation every night but never goes to church, doesn't confess their sins, doesn't repent, doesn't try to "go and sin no more," etc., is not a Christian.
With that in mind, let's run through Wikipedia's list of examples, none of which hold up.
The Gunpowder Plot. Not terrorism because it was part of factional violence leading up to open civil war in England. It did not target innocents or civilians, but the King and members of Parliament who were on the other side of a religious conflict between Protestants and Catholics.
Pogroms. Not religiously motivated, but an ethnic clash between Jews as an ethnic group and Slavs. The motivation given was to free our ethnic group from a parasitic ethnic group, not to avenge a central figure from our religion who was killed or maligned by members of their religion.
Ku Klux Klan. Similar to pogroms. Not religiously motivated, rather an ethnic clash between founding-stock whites vs. blacks and some new immigrant groups. They used Christian symbolism (burning crosses), but did not hold Christian beliefs or follow Christian practices according to any mainstream or even not-so-mainstream tradition. Believing Jesus was the first Klansman, for instance. They were cosplay Christians.
Various conflicts in Africa and India. Sounds more like more local ethnic conflicts where one group decides to identify its side by appropriating Christian symbols and rhetoric, without being believing and practicing Christians. Or having the goal of ethnic cleansing, rather than creating a state of terror or panic in order to enact certain policy or lifestyle changes. Or being parties to civil war (see below).
Maronite Christians in the Lebanese Civil War. Politically motivated violence between two factions of a civil war. Terrorism assumes a certain level of central government control, and the terrorists are either sending a message to The Powers That Be, or they are telling other non-state groups that the central authorities cannot protect them as well as they had believed. That feeling of insecurity, fear, etc., is a break from normalcy.
In a civil war, though, no such central authority and security of groups and individuals is assumed. One side targets innocent civilians on the other -- of course, that's how it's always been in warfare. The experience is certainly terrifying, but it is not terrorism, which is a marked disruption of everyday order and stability -- not one of an endless number of everyday acts of indiscriminate violence during the anarchy of civil war.
Anti-abortion violence. Far and away the main focus of denunciations of Christian terrorism, especially in America. The many examples in this category can be ruled out due to the acts not being terrorist, and in a large fraction of the examples, the actors not being Christians.
First, killing an abortion-providing doctor is not indiscriminate and does not harm people and places whom the attackers believe to be innocent. Since in the attackers' mind, abortion is a form of murder, the motive is straightforward revenge for past murders, and prevention of future murders. You're free to disagree with where they set the beginning of life, that abortion is not murder, etc., but you can't say that their motive is anything other than punishment of past crimes and prevention of future crimes, as they see abortion as a crime.
And by going after the doctors themselves, they show a concern with reciprocity at the individual level -- provide abortion, become a target -- rather than going after "doctors" in general, most of whom have not performed an abortion, just to send a message to the profession about its participation in abortion. Someone shooting up a conference of the American Medical Association, say. But that assignment of collective guilt and indiscriminate targeting of individuals never happens with the anti-abortion attacks. Hell, they don't even try to attack proponents or propagandists for abortion rights -- only the doctors who perform them, and any collateral damage from that.
Their property destruction is likewise focused and based on reciprocity. They don't target hospitals in general, clinics in general, offices belonging to medical professional organizations, or the press organs of abortion rights groups -- or even general press outlets that wrote pro-choice editorials. It's only those specific sites where abortions are being performed. If they were true terrorists, they might even blow up something completely unrelated to abortion, like a subway or a marathon, in order to grab the attention of people who might not otherwise be thinking about abortion politics, or to suggest that any target is legitimate in the service of a just cause.
Furthermore, most of the attackers in these non-terrorist attacks are not Christian. Some follow the familiar pattern of appropriating Christian symbols or rhetoric, but are not believing and practicing Christians. Just ask what church they go to, and how often. Or what parts of the Bible motivate them -- probably something as simple as "Thou shalt not kill," which is part of the Old Testament and not distinctly Christian. Quoting Jesus or Paul would be more convincing of a Christian motivation.
A handful are actual Christians, usually it seems from the Catholic Church.
Aside from the cosplay Christians, though, the other major sub-group is the paranoid anarcho-libertarian type, linked more to an anti-government militia than to a Christian church, or indeed to any religious body. Being paranoid about just about any form of government, and thriving more Out West, it's clear that they're libertarian rather than conservative.
Their focus only on abortion rather than also on pornography, sodomy laws, gambling, drugs, prostitution, etc., also belies their libertarian moral foundation, which like its liberal cousin, is based on preventing harm and administering justice. Matters of purity, taboo, sanctity, and so on, do not play much of a role in their anger. They see abortion as the state-sanctioned harming of innocent people, not as a perversion, corruption, or abomination.
And of course the two main groups show some overlap, with paranoid anarcho-libertarian militia-men LARP-ing as Christian warriors (without actually having any beliefs about Christ, performing Christian rituals, or attending Christian services).
I'm not surprised that "Christian terrorism" turns out to be just another liberal urban legend, but I thought at least there would be a kernel of truth to it that was being hysterically exaggerated. Nope, just like there's no Buddhist terrorism, Mormon terrorism, Voodoo terrorism, or indeed anything other than Islamic terrorism. And perhaps Jewish terrorism -- most terrorism from Jews is part of an ethnic conflict and often committed by secular or atheist Jews, but there are incidents like the Ultra-Orthodox Israeli man who has gone on two separate stabbing sprees during a gay pride parade in Jerusalem.
In fact, think of how absent Christian terrorist boogey-men have been at gay pride parades in the West. Targeting abortion clinics is so Nineties. These days, it would be a pride parade. And yet where are the explosions? There is no anti-homo terrorism, let alone from a believing and practicing Christian group.
Christians did not spread their religion by violent conquest, but by persuasive evangelism. Early Christians were in no position to conquer the Roman Empire, who had already crucified their Messiah. Likewise Christian efforts to defeat the scourge of abortion, sodomite marriage, etc., take the form of changing hearts and minds.
The initial spread of Islam was by violent military conquest, so it shouldn't be surprising to find that their ideological battles will have a distinctly violent component to them.