Diary of a Christian Terrorist

Visitors to Mark David Uhl’s Myspace page will quickly learn that Uhl is a student at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, that he is a devoted Christian, that his name means “Mighty Warrior” — and that he likes Will Smith’s saccharine tear-up-the-club track, “Switch.” Uhl reveals his career ambitions on his page as well: “I will join the Army as an officer after college.” Already, Uhl was preparing in Liberty’s ROTC program.

Uhl waited until he was offline, however, to reveal his plot to kill the family of itinerant Calvinist provocateur Fred Phelps (famous for their “Fag Troops” rallies outside soldiers’ funerals). The Phelpses planned to protest Falwell’s funeral, a bizarre stunt designed to highlight Falwell’s somehow insufficiently draconian attitude towards homosexuals. Uhl made several bombs and allegedly told a family member he planned to use them to attack the Phelps family.

He was arrested soon after and charged with manufacturing explosives. On the surface, Uhl appears to be the latest version of Virginia Tech rampage killer (and “Richard McBeef” author) Cho Seung-Hui. Indeed, both Uhl and Cho were alienated young men who conceived or carried out campaigns of mass murder on college campuses.

But there is a crucial difference between Uhl and Cho: while Cho’s motives remain a source of intense debate, Uhl was an a devout evangelical Christian who advocated religious violence in the name of American nationalism. Uhl’s blog, featured on his Myspace page, offers a window into the political underpinnings of his bomb plot. In one post, Uhl implores Christians to die on the battlefield for “Uncle Sam.” He justifies his call to arms by quoting several Biblical passages and reminding his readers that the “gift of God” is eternal life.

“Christians, we have been given life after death and we should help others receive it and not sit here in our big buildings and sing to ourselves so we can go home and feel good about ourselves,” Uhl writes. “Christians, fear of death, fear of death. The fear of death shows you don’t believe.”

Uhl concludes, “God needs soldiers to fight so his children may live free. Are you afraid??? I’m not. SEND ME!!! ”

Uhl’s imploration sounds eerily like the battle-cries of another, more notorious religious radical: Osama bin-Laden. Consider what bin-Laden told the Independent in 1993. “`I was never afraid of death… As Muslims, we believe that when we die, we go to heaven. Before a battle, God sends us… tranquility.”

Christian right leaders from the late Falwell to James Dobson have turned Muslim-bashing into a cottage industry, using the words of bin-Laden and his acolytes to allege that Islam is an inherently violent religion that “breeds” terrorism. After meeting with President George W. Bush two weeks ago about Iran and Iraq, Dobson conducted a hysterical five-part broadcast hyping the threat of radical Islam. (CD’s of those broadcasts will soon be available on Focus on the Family’s website, with all proceeds going to support Dobson’s kulturkampf — and his paycheck).

The response of Dobson and his allies to Uhl’s arrest will reflect more on themselves than on any impressionable 19-year-old college student. The Christian right has warped religious doctrine to advance a Utopian political worldview that promises to purify the land of liberal decadence. Through one of its flagship universities, the Christian right produced a terrorist. Their hysterical warnings of the threat of radical Islam sound increasingly like projections.

But then again, maybe it’s all Will Smith’s fault.

7 thoughts on “

  1. Collin Brendemuehl

    This is troubling. Really troubling.
    First, I won’t ever attempt to either defend or justify Uhl.

    At the same time this statement is equally disturbing:
    “Through one of its flagship universities,
    the Christian right produced a terrorist.”
    Do you really find that this behavior is the
    direct product of this school?
    If so, what background evidence might you
    be able to provide to subsantiate this?
    Which profs? Which authors?

  2. Preston Powell

    But then again, maybe it’s all Will Smith’s fault.

    Ha! Too funny. I can already see Malkin and O’Reilly cooking up theories that it’s Hip Hop (not even mediocre, wack rappers like Fiddy Cent either, but middle-of-the-road Will Smith) the reason why this man turned into a domestic terrorist. That’s the lesson for today, folks: when all else fails, blame it on Hip Hop music.

    Anyway, good reporting as always, Max. While others will spend the next few days ranting about Rosie’s latest, insane opinions on The View, real journalists such as yourself make a solid argument regarding how dangerous Christian fascism has poison society over the years.

  3. Max Post author

    Colin, Uhl seemed to justify his planned crusade of violence through an extreme reading of evangelical theology and the nationalistic rhetoric of the Christian right. It’s also worth noting that he was on a scholarship. When fundamentalist religion (Falwell was a self-proclaimed fundamentalist) and nationalism come together, terrorism is occasionally a by-product. This phenomenon isn’t particular to any religion, though some Christian conservatives claim Islamic doctrine inspires terror. I refer you now to Karen Armstong’s “The Battle for God” and Mahmood Mamdani’s “Good Muslim, Bad Muslim.” Read those and get back to me.

  4. Collin Brendemuehl

    I know precisely what both “fundamental” and “evangelical” mean. I am, and have the theological training that goes with it. Undergrad Grace University (Grace College of the Bible), Omaha, 1981, currently enrolled @ TEDS, the alma mater or Jim Wallis, iirc.
    As one who has read the Qu’ran I can say that its message is significanly different from the NT message.
    You’re citing external discussions of the subject. That’s not an answer to the question:
    Which profs taught this behavior? Which texts? It his behavior is a definable product, then please provide the sources. If there is a clear source, then thes texts and profs will produce more like him. If not, then he is an anomaly and your position is in error.

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