Hoffman’s Slips

 

Given Hoffman’s harsh criticism of Sageman, it would seem likely that Hoffman’s own work could stand up to careful scrutiny.

It most areas it does, but not in terms of Hoffman’s review of the history of right-wing violence, Christian apocalypticism, and their relationship to the concept of Leaderless Resistance.

Introduction to Leaderless Resistance

Religion, Apocalypticism, and Millennialism

Hoffman’s book Inside Terrorism was originally published in 1998, and revised for publication in 2006. In fairness to Hoffman, his work clearly has more scholarly weight than Sageman’s book, is more detailed and nuanced, and has an appropriate range and number of citations to the work of previous authors.

There are, however, some slips.

According to Hoffman:

===beliefs involving the inevitability of Armageddon are actively encouraged by proselytizers of Dominion theology, the most recent reinterpretation of Christian Identity doctrine circulating among the Christian Patriots.

This statement is just plain wrong.

A) Beliefs about the “inevitability of Armageddon” are spread across Christian evangelicalism and are embraced by tens of millions of Americans, most of whom have never been part of the Christian Patriot movement.

B) Christian Identity, a White racist antisemitic theology, predates Dominion Theology, a term used to refer to either:

  1. the doctrinaire form of Christian theocracy promoted by the Christian Reconstructionist movement, or
  2. a tendency among conservative Christian political activists to dominate the electoral system (usually dubbed Dominionism).

In neither case is Dominion theology a “recent reinterpretation of Christian Identity doctrine.”

The rest of the paragraph is a similar mélange of ahistorical data and misused terminology.

While Christian Identity and Reconstructionist Dominion Theology are both apocalyptic in the sense of contemplating the arrival of the prophetic millennial End Times, Identity is premillennial (which has Christ returning prior to a 1000-year millennial reign by believers) while Reconstructionism is postmillennial (which has Christ returning at the end of a millennium of rule by the Godly). These are important distinctions in Christian theology—and also in predicting how violence or terrorism might emerge from these different theological beliefs.

Pre-millennial apocalyptic expectation is the core of the White supremacist theology of Christian Identity, but it is also central to the religious beliefs of millions of Protestant evangelicals who would be horrified by Christian Identity claims that Blacks are subhuman and Jews are either agents of Satan or his direct descendants.

When Hoffman writes that “in addition to anti-Semitism and racism, Dominionists believe that it is incumbent upon each individual to hasten redemption by actively working to ensure the return of the Messiah,” Here Hoffman is lumping together millions of politically-active evangelicals with racists and antisemites. In addition, most premillennialist evangelicals are not accurately characterized as Dominionists.

There are also some simply sloppy errors. Hoffman locates the Almost Heaven survivalist compound in Montana when it is in Idaho. White supremacist pastor “T h o m” Robb is called “T h o r n” Robb. The influence of Christian Identity on tax resisters, antifederalists, and Militias is overstated. The British neofascist group Combat 18 is said to have been founded by an American who ran the group’s U.S. mail drop, when even the term “co-founder” would be a stretch, and the group’s relationship to the Militias is overstated.

Although Hoffman’s section on U.S. right-wing terrorism and the role of Christian theology is weak and confused, the other material in Hoffman’s chapter on “Religion and Terrorism” on Islam and other belief systems and cults is more persuasive and well cited., as is the rest of his book.


An online “Remedial Bibliography” containing cites to important scholarly works in the areas discussed in this article.


Bruce Hoffman Background Information


Leaderless Counterterrorism Strategy:
The “War on Terror,” Civil Liberties, and Flawed Scholarship

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