Holding the coats of killers?

Repentant religious righty Frank Schaeffer — son of the legendary fundamentalist Francis Schaeffer and a former evangelical leader in his own right — lays the blame for the recent uptick in domestic terrorism squarely at the feet of of our nation’s conservative leaders.  He recalls the biblical story of pre-conversion Paul (then known as Saul) holding the coats of people who were stoning a Christian to death — and claims modern right-wingers such as James Dobson, Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, and the NRA are doing much the same thing. “These coat-holders sow the seeds of hate with their words,” he says, “then pretend horror when those words are taken seriously.”

The right-wing terror machine has, indeed, been in full force lately.  In addition to the litany of misdeeds I mentioned in my last post — Tiller’s murder, the Holocaust museum shooting, and the lesbian beatdown — Schaeffer reminds us of the most gruesome act yet: the slaying of a man and his 10-year-old daughter (as well as the attempted murder of the wife/mother) in their home in Arizona.  The family members were Mexican immigrants, a fact that the self-proclaimed vigilantes who murdered them apparently didn’t like.  There is undeniably a sick trend at work in this country.

Nevertheless, I wrestle with the extent to which we can legitimately accuse right-wing leaders of complicity in such acts.  We do, after all, live in a democratic society.  We have a marketplace of ideas.  If one believes abortion is murder, he or she should be free to say so without being held responsible for the nutjobs who decide to kill abortion providers.  Indeed, look at it from the other side: some folks on the left have accused George W. Bush and his neoconservative cohorts of being murderers themselves.  Would the left therefore be responsible if someone assassinated Richard Perle?  I’d hope not, and for that reason would like to extend the benefit of the doubt to our right-wing friends who despise liberal policies but would not condone domestic terrorism.

Then again, there is the pesky matter of how things actually play out in the real world.  And the violence at issue is essentially coming from one side: the right.  Notwithstanding extremely rare cases of eco-terrorism, we’re talking about a phenomenon that reflects fundamentalism, racism, and nativism — all outgrowths of right-wing extremism.  If we’re going to tackle the problem of domestic terrorism, conservative leaders need to condemn such violence frequently and forcefully.  That is not their legal obligation, of course.  Speech is free.  But with lives on the line, it is their moral obligation.


  1. Truth
    July 1, 2009

    Of course, you left out the fact that the Holocaust museum shooter also hated Fox News, hated conservatives, hated Christians, and hated Israel, which of all those things the left are famous for. To paint him as right-wing is just flat out dishonest. I won’t take your level and call him left-winger. He was just flat out whackjob, and nutcases exist in all sides of the debate. Of course, you also might like to mention death threats against pro-lifers, pro-lifers murdered and brutalized over the years, and murder attempts against pro-lifers like the one recently where a pro-abortion supporter try to run over with his car a pro-life protestor.

    And each time the left cites Frank Schaeffer for support on anything is each time the left shows itself to be guillible. The man left the evangelical right movement years ago and never repented of his hateful rhethoric he leveled against everyone he disagreed with. He simply found different targets for his hate speech. He left the evangelical right to become Greek Orthodox and for decades badmouthed abortionists. So he is a liar now to say he left his dad’s movement because of the rhetoric about abortion.

    People who knows anything about him knows he never sees an excuse to bash his parents that he does not like. He takes swipes at his parents time and time again, including his own mother’s looks even when she was alive.

    The fact that he lies about his dad’s writings on civil disobedience in regards to abortion is shameful enough (since his dad never advocated violence or vigilantism). The fact he exploits a murder to shame his deceased parents who no longer can defend themselves is worse.

    But that is his ammo, and he has been doing it for decades. The abortion issue is just a new topic he used to bash his parents in his pretend apology for words he claim incite the murder of Tiller.

    If he and all those he bash now as guilty as he says, he needs to turn himself in to the police and ask to be punished under the law. No, he is not being principled at all. He is the usual person we all know: a hateful fake. It does not matter who he did it to, be to the left or to the right: his rhetoric is as hateful as it always been, but only with different targets of that.

  2. Jesse Lava
    July 1, 2009

    Truth —

    First, the reasons that von Brunn (the Holocaust shooter) expressed opposition to Fox News was not that he saw it as somehow too right-wing, but that it was supposedly beholden to Jews. As for his contempt for certain conservatives (mainly neocons), there’s a strain in the right that strenuously opposed the Iraq War — just for very different reasons than liberals did. (Pat Buchanan is an example.) So there was nothing in von Brunn’s reasoning to suggest, “Well, he had some left-wing views and some right-wing views, so let’s just call him an equal opportunity nutjob.” He really does seem like a more significantly more fanatical version of Pat Buchanan. Surely, these are not views that we should associate with the mainstream right. Rather, they are metastasized offshoots of right-wing extremism.

    As for Frank Schaeffer, my understanding is he had a long process of abandoning his previous views. If in fact he continued speaking against abortionists after being Greek Orthodox, I’m not sure what that proves.

    If you could lead me to evidence of left-wing murder and terrorism against pro-lifers, I’d be grateful. Thanks.



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