“Spiritual Warfare” is one of the top-sermon subjects in various churches these days, speeches on the subject often accompanied by clips from the recent Lord of the Rings (and even Star Wars) films to describe how Christians (some believe) are constantly at war on a “spiritual level” with Satan himself. It’s easy to go overboard with this concept, plenty of people blaming the devil for getting a flat tire, not finding a parking space, losing their job, etc., but that is not where the lunacy ends. As PZ and John McKay, and Greg Laden have already uncovered, the executed murderer and “Army of God” member Paul Jennings Hill is to have “Paul Hill Days” in memorial to the man who was a monster.
For those of you unfamiliar with the name Paul Jennings Hill, on July 29, 1994 Hill murdered physician John Britton and security guard James Barrett (wounding Barrett’s wife as well) outside an abortion clinic in Pensacola, Florida. Throughout the process of his trial and execution, Hill showed no remorse for his actions, his last words being;
The last thing I want to say: If you believe abortion is a lethal force, you should oppose the force and do what you have to do to stop it. May God help you to protect the unborn as you would want to be protected.
Hill is far from being an isolated case. The organization with which he affiliated himself, the Army of God
being affiliated with others who lack of conscience or respect for human life like Eric Rudolph, Clayton Waagner, and Michael Bray (the wikipedia entry has a more complete listing). The terrorist organization even issued a statement in support of Hill, stating in their “Second Defensive Action Statement”;
We declare and affirm that if in fact Paul Hill did kill or wound abortionist John Britton, and accomplices James Barrett and Mrs. Barrett, his actions are morally justified if they were necessary for the purpose of defending innocent human life. Under these conditions, Paul Hill should be acquitted of all charges against him.
Sympathizers with the AoG haven’t taken kindly to criticism either, and it’s already put a number of bloggers on edge. John McKay, who initially brought the “Paul Hill Days” to the attention of PZ and everyone else, received a disturbing e-mail from Rev. Donald Spitz, the head of Pro-Life Virginia and one of the sponsors of the Paul Hill event. Spitz wrote;
Most, if not all problems on the planet earth are from people like you who reject Jesus Christ. Our prisons are filled with people, like you, who reject Jesus Christ. Most if not all rapes, murders, robberies and thefts are committed by people, like you, who reject Jesus Christ. AIDS is mainly spread by people, like you, who reject Jesus Christ and have sex outside of marriage or else like children with AIDS get it from people, like you, who reject Jesus Christ. I hope you will turn from your sins and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and escape the fires of eternal hell. Turning from your sins and giving your life to Jesus Christ is the only way you can escape the fires of hell and receive everlasting life. If you persist in your sins and continue to turn your back on Jesus Christ, you will be lost forever.
While a link might have been sufficient, I agree with McKay and others that threats and intimidation guised as “prayer requests” will not shut up those horrified by the actions of Paul Hill and other religious extremists. As McKay himself wrote;
Violent thugs and terrorists thrive in darkness. If you care about a woman’s right to own her body, if you care about the right of all people to live free from intimidation, or you just think “Paul Hill Days” are tacky in the extreme, please post on this and send these creatures scurrying back to their holes.
It is interesting to note that the Rev. Spitz blames people who don’t agree with his fundamentalist view of murder and child abuse when it is (in reality) the religious extremists who have such disregards for human life and morality. Outside of the obvious hypocrisy of Spitz’s statements given that Hill was a murderer, other extremists like John Burt have been found to be child molesters as well.
What is perhaps most disturbing about zealots like Hill, however, is that they think they’re doing good and going to get a reward in heaven. People like Hill kill in order to save the unborn, matching insanity with religious extremism and making it impossible to deal with such people on any kind of rational level. Despite this, we should not simply be quiet or ignore people like Hill or terrorist organizations that will say they’ll pray for you just as soon as murder you, and I hope the reaction against those who support Paul Hill extends beyond a handful of blogs.
Update the 1st: Terrorists love to generate propaganda, and a religious fringe group has done just that. See Part II if you want a cold look at modern Christian zealots who view Hill as a hero.