By Mark Rhoads
One of the most popular humorists in 19th Century America, second in fame only to Mark Twain, was a writer whose pen name was "Josh Billings." His real name was Henry Wheeler Shaw (1818-1885). Not long after the Civil War, Billings wrote "The trouble with the world ain't ignorance, its just that people know so much that isn't so." Ronald Reagan re-worked the same Billings quote in 1964 only he said, "The trouble with our liberal friends is not ignorance, it's just that they know so much that is not so." Good old Ronnie was not above lifting good material from some other source to make his point.
The point itself however remains a valid one in the policy debates of 2010. Yesterday, commentator Juan Williams was fired by National Public Radio for comments he made on Fox News regarding the incident with Bill O'Reilly on "The View." Williams said only that he sometimes would feel nervous riding on a plane with someone in Islamic dress. Even though Williams has written many books on civil rights, the PC police at NPR cried foul for this slightest honest reference by Williams to a fear shared by many air travelers in recent years.
So I have some sympathy for Williams who apparently was the target of many liberal NPR listeners who objected to his second job as a Fox News opinion contributor even though most people would regard Williams as a liberal commentator.
However, another comment by Williams was one I found interesting also because he unintentionally perhaps started to slip and slide over a familiar Leftist canard that has become a cliche. He warned Fox host Bill O'Reilly against blaming all Muslims for "extremists," saying Christians shouldn't be blamed for Tim McVeigh. Indeed they should not, and here's why.
Many IR readers will remember that Tim McVeigh (1968-2001) was an Army veteran and militia sympathizer who blew up a truck bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murraugh Federal Building in Oklahmoma City on April 19, 1995 that killed 168 people. It was one of the most horrific acts of domestic terrorism in American history. McVeigh was found guilty of 11 federal offenses, sentenced to death, and executed by lethal injection on June 11, 2001 at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.
The radical Left Wing in America is often fond of citing the mentally unbalanced Tim McVeigh as a "Christian terrorist" even though there is very little evidence that religion of any kind was a primary motivation in his terrible attack or even that McVeigh was at any time in the 1990s a practicing Christian worshiper of any kind at all. But the legendary myth that Tim McVeigh was a "Christian terrorist" is so firmly embedded in Left Wing imaginations that the legend easily qualifies as something that Leftists "know that isn't so." Maybe they want to believe it so badly because McVeigh and the Oklahoma City terror are something they need to cite as an example of religiously-inspired fanatacial terrorism that was not committed by a Muslim.
But when one examines the facts, there is no proof that McVeigh committed his mass murder because he was motivated to do so by any "Christian" belief. Did he in fact have any religious belief at all in the 1990s?
All we really know from the record is that as a young child he would accompany his father to daily mass at Good Shepherd Roman Catholic Parish in Pendelton, New York where he then lived. According to a biography on Wikipeadia, After his trial, McVeigh told Time Magazine that he professed his belief in "a God", although he said he had "sort of lost touch with" Catholicism and "I never really picked it up, however I do maintain core beliefs." McVeigh wrote a letter to the Buffalo News claiming to be an agnostic and told the authors of American Terrorist that he did not believe in Hell. McVeigh once said that he believed the universe was guided by natural law, energized by some universal higher power that showed each person right from wrong if they paid attention to what was going on inside them. He had also said, "Science is my religion."
Note that there are no statements by McVeigh on the record to the effect that he belived in Jesus Christ as his personal savior or that he attended any church of any denomination at all on a regular basis since childhood.
Agnostic? "A God?" "Science is my religion" sound to me like random ravings of a very confused individual and yet the Left tells us he might so pervert the love and teaching of Jesus Christ as to commit mass murder in the name of Christianity?
There is some evidence that McVeigh was an NRA member who was friends with some white supremacists and he was very angry at the federal government because of Clinon Justice Department fatal military-style actions at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas in 1993 and at the Randy Weaver ranch on Ruby Ridge in Idaho in 1992. But there is no on-the-reord interview nor any concrete evidence that would indicate that the terrorist killings of McVeigh in Oklahmoa City were tied to any religious or "Christian" motivation.
Yet, the myth of McVeigh as a "Christian terrorist" is an article of dogma on the American Left.
Where do these myths come from? This one seems to be rooted in the imagination of people who equate a strong belief in Christianity to any evil deed by some unbalanced person. That belief is a monstrous prejudice and slander that intellectually honest pundits on the Left should own up to some day. But sadly we must conclude that if a myth, however untrue and slanderous, is good propaganda weapon, some unprincipled political extemists will continue to use it in the hope that many people including journalists will not exert themselves to check back on the facts.