The sole sound in the hushed Asheville, N.C., courtroom on June 2 was Eric Rudolph's leg shackles dragging on the floor as he shuffled in. The navy blue bullet-resistant vest against his orange jumpsuit displayed the official desire to protect his life even though, in his misapplied ardor to protect unborn children, he allegedly took the life of a police officer in Alabama and harmed others, as well.
At the arraignment, Rudolph responded with a polite, "Yes, Your Honor," to the judge's question about whether he needed a lawyer. He'll need several lawyers, because he will stand trial in Alabama and Georgia for bombings there. But Christianity, according to The Washington Post, might also need legal representation, or at least public relations help. "Is Terrorism Tied to Christian Sect?" a Post June 2 headline asked, and a prominently displayed photo depicted a metal cross at the entrance to a possible Rudolph hangout in the North Carolina mountains.
The lead paragraph of the story asked, "Is he a Christian terrorist?" Following paragraphs quoted a political science professor at Syracuse University saying the answer is yes and Idaho State University sociology professor James Aho offering an aha, gotcha: Christians who protest the juxtaposition of "Christian" and "terrorist" may understand "how Muslims feel" when they hear the term "Islamic terrorism."
It's fine to understand feelings, but facts are also important. The Post did not point out that leading American pastors have universally condemned bombing of abortion businesses, but many leading Islamic clerics in the Middle East have refused to condemn the murder by Muslims of innocent civilians. Nor did it note that the Quran (in contrast to a document of similar length, the New Testament) has only a few statements promoting peace but over 100 advocating warfare. (Example: "Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you (9:123)).
The New York Times also needs some theological education. That newspaper began its five-article coverage during the first four days of June by quoting one North Carolina woman as saying, "Rudolph's a Christian and I'm a Christian, and he dedicated his life to fighting abortion. Those are our values." Why, of all the possible quotations to be used, did the Times choose that one, and why did a later article report on "extremist Christian" groups?