Onward Christian Soldiers

To a wave of criticism, the new head of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, released a 2009 report on the impending danger of “right-wing extremist activity.” Now it seems that the Department might have its first par exemplar: a group of middle American soldiers prepping to battle the Antichrist.

Last night, the FBI raided the homes and arrested nine mid-westerners allegedly involved in a Christian militia. The militia is dubbed the Hutaree, a self-described synonym for “Christian warrior.” The indictment arrives with some epic charges, including murder plots and the “attempted use of weapons of mass destruction,” according to documents from the U.S. Attorney in Michigan.

On its website, Hutaree has several training videos documenting your average survivalist combat-preparedness. But the group has an openly Christian bent. Its site explains that Hutaree’s members—reportedly only a dozen or so—are “preparing for the end time battles to keep the testimony of Jesus Christ alive.” Its members aspire to be “Hutaree soldier[s]” in the “the one true church of Christ,” although their denominational affiliation remains unclear. The description on Hutaree’s MySpace page summarizes the group’s mission succinctly:  “Hutaree for Jesus Christ, All the Way to the End.”

Hutaree’s website features links to other militias, an organization documenting the persecution of Christians, and a couple original blogs, including one that offers handy homemade survivalist tips. Another is an eschatological barometer of sorts called Beast Watch, which includes a Christian Zionist essay warning of the impeding doom of a unified European state.

The site also catalogs conspiratorial developments on “bio chips” and declarative findings on end-times theology. (It seems that “the End” the members commit to fighting for Christ “All the Way to” does not involve a pre-tribulation rapture. Neither is their holy insurgency a rain or shine affair. During the indictment, one Hutaree leader mentioned their plans to join a militia “summit” in Kentucky. Their pilgrimage was cut short when inclement weather “prevented them from reaching their destination.”)

The site is not all apocalyptic doom. A “humor” section plays on the 666 number for the mark of the Beast:

666 F – Oven temperature for roast Beast

$665.95 – Retail price of the Beast

$710.36 – Price of the Beast plus 6.66% state sales tax

$769.95 – Price of the Beast with all accessories and replacement soul

$606.66 – Price of the Beast at Wal-Mart

$566.66 – Price of the Beast at Costco

But the plots the militia’s nine were allegedly plotting are far from humorous—they were malicious and murderous.

Hutaree’s lifts its motto from John 15:13 (“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”), a commonplace, elegant verse about sacrifice and love. While their theology is undeniably provocative, it does not appear to stray too far from some mainstream versions of Evangelical Christianity. Their belief that Christ’s return is imminent and the end times are upon us echoes in pews across the country.

The notable exception, of course, being Hutaree’s call to—and proclivity for—actual arms. “Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment,” explains their website. The hermeneutics of Christ’s endorsement of explosions and WMDs is a little slippery. Hutaree acknowledges their theological singularity. Their website admits that “even christians [sic] don’t agree with the things we do.” These dissenters, the “about us” page continues, are influenced more by worldly philosophy than strictly biblical text. “Christ is our king of kings,” the site declares, “and top general of all things.”

Their rhetoric of defense from government tyranny is not atypical for a modern conservative group. But with the FBI crack down other militias are quickly distancing themselves from Hutaree. One leader of Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia told Gawker that members of Hutaree “are very religiously driven, they believe that it is their duty to prepare to assist Jesus Christ when he returns and do battle with the forces of Satan.”

Apparently “forces of Satan” include police officers. Court filings revealed that the arrested suspects were plotting to kill at least one law enforcement officer. Following the murder, the group intended to deploy explosive devices to terrorize the officers’ funeral procession.

These homicidal intentions are too extreme for even most right-wing Christian or militia groups, and will likely be judged as indefensible. But I imagine there will be a few true believers that assert the martyrdom of these “Christian warriors.” As the hymn reads, “Like a mighty army moves the church of God; brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.”

Mark Bergen is a contributing editor at KtB. He lives in Chicago and blogs here.