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11 God absolves those who commit violence of personal responsibility,” says Blanchard. Advocates of anti-abortion violence derive similar comfort from the fact that the religious message not only justifies what they are doing, but “adds an element of moral redemption,” explains Moore. “Oftentimes the people who commit violence might not otherwise be all that successful in other things in life, but by taking action with religious justification they feel they are redeeming their lives and giving them value.” Thomas highlights the utilitarian justification for violence that the religious message provides: “These people were against abortion, but their movement had failed in the courts. Roe v. Wade was the law of the land and even the massive clinic blockades weren’t effective. Frustrated by their inability to end abortion, they found Bible verses that would justify their actions. And to them, eliminating the clinics or the doctors—which they considered the `weak links’ in the abortion chain—was the only option left.” Potok notes that aspects of the message put forth by Christian Identity believers and others similarly situated offer an easy explanation of the world. “When you’re in a situation where you have other difficulties, it is a far easier to blame another group rather than take responsibility for one’s individual difficulties or shortcomings, especially if you can point to the Bible and say that it gives you the reason.” Though simplistic, the explanations are not necessarily devoid of complexity, he notes. “Americans are peculiarly susceptible to conspiracy theories and many of the religious beliefs of those who commit violence are conspiratorial in nature. As such, they can be appealing to people who may not necessarily be critical thinkers.” Both Christian Identity adherents and anti-abortion militants are likely to see the world in rigidly black and white terms. “To them, it is obvious what is evil and what is not evil,” says Blanchard. However, where Identity followers regard Jews as the literal children of the Devil, abortion opponents see themselves as Bible-believing Christians engaged in a Manichean struggle with the forces of evil, not the flesh-and-blood agents of Satan himself. As a practical matter, however, both points of view can readily lead proponents to commit homicidal violence. “Extremists in the movement see abortion as a standin for satanic archetypes and are most likely to perceive events as if they were a grand morality play,” says Blanchard. “This is why the religious message usually appeals to people who are strongly fundamentalist, including those Catholics who are fundamentalist in accordance with their own tradition.” Finally, despite the attractiveness of the religious message, German notes that individuals genuinely

committed to violent action often recognize that hyperreligiosity can compromise their operational effectiveness, both on an individual level and in terms of their ability to collaborate with others who share their goals, but not necessarily their particular beliefs. As a result, radical religious ideology does not always play as visible a role in the context of operational activities as one might think. This was true within the Order, a highly effective criminal enterprise launched by white supremacists that included Christian Identity believers, Odinists, atheists, and those with more mainstream Christian beliefs. Additionally, notes German, certain terrorist groups whose members are followers of Islam will be perfectly willing to compromise their ideology and religious beliefs in order to collaborate operationally with Christian Identity followers and other white supremacists and vice versa. “This is not a matter of time; it already has been attempted,” says German. For opponents of abortion, this same tendency toward operational efficiency is evident in the collaboration between Catholic and Protestant extremists who have set aside huge doctrinal disagreements in favor of collaboration to support violent acts against clinics and health care providers. Saporta, Lau, and Thomas all note that the religious message of abortion opponents also is attractive to many activists because it reinforces their preference for traditional gender roles where men are dominant. “The protesters…may say their beliefs come from biblical inspiration, but I think they’re motivated more by anger and attitudes towards women and a feeling that they don’t want to let go of their place in the world… [and] they find it convenient to employ theology to support their cause,” says Saporta. How have these actors, or the movements that have supported them, used the language of religion to justify their violent actions? The core element of Christian Identity doctrine that is used to justify racist and anti-Semitic violence is the belief that modern day Jews are the actual descendants of Devil and the notion that blacks and other non-whites are literally sub-human. According to these beliefs, Jews are not seen simply as an evil or satanic force but the Devil incarnate, thus heightening the imperative to act violently against them. The theology of Christian Identity thereby creates a reservoir of shared beliefs and values that translates into support for those who do commit violence. As Zeskind explains, some individuals emerge from this religious framework to urge violence and command it, even if they do not commit it themselves. And then there are those few who step forward and say “I believe. I will do.” Identity theology also lowers the barrier between what is normally regarded as violence and what true believers perceive as normative ideas