BlogLogic: “Christian Fundamentalist Terrorists” Outed?

It would happen at The Huffington Post. Contributor Shannyn Moore shocks the world today with her post warning us all about “Christian fundamentalist terrorists.” Her contention is that Jim D. Adkisson is a Christian fundamentalist terrorist. He’s the scurrilous individual who killed 2 people at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church as a result of firing 76 rounds and a shotgun.

Her complaint is that this Adkisson guy, who was charged with murder, “should have been charged with terrorism.” This suggests that she believes that terrorist acts are distinguishable from murder in general, that terrorist acts are in the category of worse or worst, and that perpetrators of such acts should be regarded and treated differently, i.e., more severely.

On the face of it, this is an odd thing for someone on the far left to say. Liberals on the far left are better known for rubbing out such distinctions. So it is initially heartening to see one of their own take up this cause.

It is disconcerting, on second thought, that this apparent shift is more likely an expression of the left’s characteristic animosity toward a certain brand of Christianity—the “fundamentalist” brand.

Moore thinks she’s making a sound argument for a definite position. But really she sounds angry, rather than calmly rational. In her post for today she spools out another specimen of BlogLogic. “BlogLogic” is the endearing term I use to denote digitally viral fallacious reasoning spread by bloggers and infecting unsuspecting readers who are ill-equipped to pick out the flaws.

The first problem with Moore’s argument is that her conclusion is too vague to be useful. She doesn’t define this term that she’s applying with such gusto to specific individuals: “Christian fundamentalist terrorist.” Maybe she thinks the meaning of her label is obvious—a Christian fundamentalist terrorist is a Christian fundamentalist who happens to be a terrorist; or maybe a Christian fundamentalist terrorist is a terrorist who happens to be a fundamentalist Christian.

It’s doubtful that this is quite what Moore means. She seems to be plugging for a stronger link between terrorism and Christian fundamentalism. Part of what makes this murderer, Adkisson, a terrorist is that he is a fundamentalist Christian. Otherwise, he would simply be a murderer. It’s as if he killed in the name of, or for the sake of, or out of commitment to Christian fundamentalism.

I’m not sure this is quite a strong enough link to satisfy Moore. Adkisson could be more of a nutcase than a Christian fundamentalist, and still kill in the name of, or for the sake of, or even out of (fanciful) commitment to Christian fundamentalism.

It seems, then, that Shannyn Moore deliberately employs the phrase “Christian fundamentalism” in connection with terrorism in order to shame Christian fundamentalists. And this, it has to be said, is itself shameful. Moore is simply poisoning the well against a block of conservative Christians who do not, as a group, sanction the heinous crimes of Adkisson and others. If she thinks there is something inherent in the belief system of people broadly considered Christian fundamentalists that incites the exceptional and incalculably immoral behavior of persons such as Adkisson, then she needs to demonstrate that with evidence. She, of course, cannot.

So Moore’s conclusion is vague because her use of the phrase “Christian fundamentalist terrorist” is vague—or not. If not, then her reasoning is specious and onerous, because it is maliciously ad hominem.

There are more problems with Moore’s thesis. She does not say precisely what distinguishes an act of terror from any other murderous act. There’s also a confusion in her understanding, both of the law and of ordinary application of the concept of terrorism. Clearly she believes that Adkisson should be tried as a terrorist. But one need not commit a murder to perform an act of terrorism. There are terrorists who do not commit murder, nor even conspire to commit murder. And whether or not Adkisson’s action was a form of terrorism, it was an act of murder. He can and should be tried for murder; he almost certainly will be found guilty.

Moore isn’t satisfied with the charges. They don’t go far enough. Why? Surely things wouldn’t be any worse for Adkisson if he was tried for terrorism rather than murder. So how does Moore calculate that more would be accomplished, as she seems to think? Well, for starters, it would stigmatize a large segment of the Amerian population. It would place them under suspicion. Is that really what Moore wants?

Shannyn Moore seems to confuse hate crimes with terrorism. She should consider the difference. Terrorism, as that concept is applied most broadly today, constitutes a threat to national security. Terrorist acts may be motivated by hatred, but they are not merely “hate crimes.” They usually involve conspirators whose ideology entails a denunciation of all other ideologies, and violent action against those ideologies.

Use of the term “terrorist” has evolved considerably since 9/11. Shannyn Moore would like to see the concept stretched even more broadly to encompass those she calls “Christian fundamentalist terrorists.” If she wants to make her case rsponsibly, she’ll need to tidy up her definitions of key terms, locate incentives to perform acts of terrorism within an ideology that can justly be called “Christian fundamentalism,” demonstrate that Adkisson and similar characters are appropriately affiliated with Christian fundamentalists and not lunatics who can call themselves whatever they want, and establish her generalizations on the basis of a sufficient (i.e., far greater, number of cases).

Meanwhile, she should cease and desist her use of the phrase “Christian fundamentalist” in connection with terrorism. And, consistent with the culture of the left, it seems reasonable to ask that she apologize to Christian fundamentalists nationwide for carelessness in her use of this phrase.

* * *

Note to Shannyn Moore: I’ve linked this post to the comment section of your post with a trackback. If I’ve misrepresented your position, or you wish to add the clarification that I claim is needed for your argument to work, I welcome your response.

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About Doug Geivett
University Professor; PhD in philosophy; author; conference speaker. Hobbies include motorcycling, travel, kayaking, sailing.

6 Responses to BlogLogic: “Christian Fundamentalist Terrorists” Outed?

  1. Medici says:

    Hey Jeff, your “Muslim murder” came true. Where are the busloads? Also, it’s only Catholics that believe contraception is a sin, not all Christians. LOGIC FAIL!

    Like

  2. Doug Geivett says:

    Hi Shanny,

    Wow. Thanks for taking the time to read my post and to enter the discussion here. Do you think I misunderstand your position? I’m committed to being accurate and fair at this blog.

    -Doug

    Like

  3. shannynmoore says:

    Didn’t see this until today. Please read my understanding of the difference in my post: Hate; the real anti-Christ.
    The one thing I will agree with is that I was angry when I wrote the piece. I was angry, and a man was dead. I wrote, he couldn’t.

    Like

  4. Pingback: “Christian Fundamentalist Terrorism” and the Logic of Murder : Thinking Matters Talk

  5. Jim says:

    Adkisson, from what has been released, seems to have been a pretty secular guy, so “fundamentalist christian” is innacurate. My problem with the whole Adkisson shooting case was that the pundits whose books he was reading were totally silent on it. They just went on as if the event never happened.

    Like

  6. jeff saginaw says:

    This is terrorism pure and simple. Just because the perpetrators are Christian doesn’t make them not terrorists. The term is used often to describe animal rights activists, environmental activists, why not include the murderous fringe of anti abortion activists. The majority of them are dreadfully mislead and incited by publicity seeking mouthpieces who run like cowards from blame when atrocities like the murder in KS happen. The US government would be arresting busloads if the connection were to Muslim incitement resulting in the murder of an innocent doctor. This whole thing is crazy–the very people who fail to educate their children about sex and wishfully hope kids will just not have sex is the cause of this madness. No sane person would use abortion as birth control but the religious cults have created a catch 22 where people are told contraception is a sin, abortion is a sin but we know you’re going to have sex anyway so GOD help you because the adults buying into this madness won’t lift a finger

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