Sticks and Stones

In the days following the Oklahoma City bombing, you could almost see the shock waves coming. I'm talking about the accusations exploding out of Washington—accusations that blame the murders not on accused killer Timothy McVeigh, but on conservative Christians. The drumbeat started last Monday when President Clinton blamed the rhetoric of conservative radio commentators for pushing unstable people over the edge. Liberal commentators fell right in line behind him, blaming "the harsher rhetoric of Gingrich and Dole" for creating a climate of violence in America. That was bad enough. But a week ago we saw a commentator take direct aim at conservative Christians, putting us in the crosshairs. Michael Lind of Harper's magazine, writing in the Washington Post, claimed that lurid talk and paranoid fantasies spun by religious conservatives have "helped to legitimate the world view of the Oklahoma City bombers and the Michigan Militia." Listen to that! Lind then took a final step in demonizing the religious right. He wrote: "The story of Oklahoma City and the militias should not make us forget that the main form of political terrorism in the United States is perpetrated by right-wing opponents of abortion." According to Lind, the real terrorists are the right-to-lifers and other cultural conservatives. Even if we don't pull the trigger or plant the bomb, our words make us just as guilty—just as much a threat—as those who do. As outrageous as that sounds, it's really nothing new on the political landscape. Cultural elites always look for scapegoats. For example, back in the 1930s, when the New Deal was in trouble, Franklin Roosevelt went after the National Association of Manufacturers. His attacks on big business rescued his political fortunes. Calvin Coolidge made his political career when, as governor of Massachusetts, he called out the National Guard to stop a police strike. It's a game I used to play myself. When I was in the White House, I sent President Nixon a memorandum entitled "Choosing Our Enemies." I argued that presidents were defined as much by their enemies as by their friends. If you blame all the problems of society on your enemies, it takes the heat off of you. In our case, we laid the blame for campus bombings by anti-war fringe groups at the feet of the entire anti-war movement. But now the tables have turned. It's conservatives and conservative Christians who are getting the bogeyman label—from both the president and those in the media who pick up the drumbeat. That's why Clinton's request to the Congress for 1,000 new anti-terrorist agents should alarm us. If our rhetoric is tied to this kind of violence, guess whose doors they'll be knocking on? What can we do about it? First, we have to vigorously denounce terrorism. Second, we need to watch our own rhetoric. This is no time for inflammatory language that the secular world can use against us. And third, we have to lovingly educate our neighbors. Christians are not merchants of hate. When people see the Gospel, the love of Christ, lived out among us, accusations that our words cause violence just won't stick.


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary