And Jesus wept.
Over at the blog What Would Jack Do, Oregon blogger Jack Cluth highlights one of the many reasons he is so glad to find himself in Portland these days, rather than Houston.
An evangelical Christian hate group called "Repent Amarillo" is reportedly terrorizing the town of Amarillo, Texas. Repent fashions itself as a sort of militia and targets a wide range of community members they deem offensive to their theology: gays, liberal Christians, Muslims, environmentalists, breast cancer events that do not highlight abortion, Halloween, "spring break events," and pornography shops. On its website, Repent has posted a "Warfare Map" of its enemies in town.... According to a new exposé by the Texas Observer, Repent set out earlier this year to destroy a discreet club of swingers they discovered in town. On New Years eve, the harassment began, with Repent members, almost exclusively young men, showing up in military fatigues and bullhorns, blaring Christian music at the swingers' club building. The swingers, made up of "regulars" of middle aged, working class couples, were then stalked at every following visit to the club. Repent not only took video of each member, but obtained the swingers' license plates and dug through their trash, informing neighbors and coworkers of what was once private.
Now, I personally don't hold with swinging, and if a swingers' club were to set up shop across the street from me, I would be very interested in protecting my property rights. However, if the swinger's club is a quiet place, with no real outward indication that it is a swingers' club, where the attendees don't end up parking on my lawn, or make me worry about my children, I don't particularly care what goes on inside. There is a difference between complaining about a nuisance, and peering into a neighbour's windows and being offended by what you find inside. And the folks at Repent Amarillo cross that line pretty early on.
Going through people's trash? Confronting people at their place at work? If these people were jilted lovers dealing with their ex-girlfriends, the restraining order would have been issued a long time ago. Worse, these brownshirts aren't limiting their activities to just the swinger's club. Their mission explicitly states that they'll take their military-fatigue-wearing brand of intimidation to gay pride events, Earth Day celebrations, Planned Parenthood events, and even events raising awareness about breast cancer, if those events fail to promote a connection between breast cancer and abortion (a link that has been pretty thoroughly scientifically disproven). Further targets include "Idolatry locations such as palm readers, false religions, and witchcraft."
You know, it's no accident that these guys are wearing military fatigues, blaring their intimidation through bullhorns, and using terms such as "may involve more aggressive use of soldiers and prayer warriors." Even your average evangelicals wouldn't touch these tactics with a ten foot pole (it would be rather hard for Jehovah Witnesses to get converts by this means, but clearly conversion isn't the goal here). As unChristian as these so-called Christians are, it is unfortunately true that our religions have sects within them that twist the religion's message of love into hate, and spin that hate into the threat of violence, and even its act. it's clear to me that, in the long term, the United States has as much to fear from terrorist attacks by Christian-extremist-based domestic groups as they do from foreign-based Islamic-extremist groups. Indeed, some would argue this has already happened, what with Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City and, more recently, the looney who flew his plane into a building containing offices of the IRS, although some Republicans are reluctant to make the connection.
Once again, as a Christian, I am shamed by those individuals who claim to follow my faith but in reality follow a darker version that has been twisted into the opposite of the truth. And for this reason, I had to bring this story to the attention of Dr. Dawg. I think it's important that more real Christians speak out against this small town terrorism. It's time for real people of faith to tell these idiots that what they're doing is not okay.
(Update: 4:33 p.m.): I should note that there is some opposition by decent people in Amarillo. A group called Angel Action is standing up to the group's actions, and there is a Facebook group you can join.