Dear Director Comey & Secretary Johnson:
Director Comey, I sympathize with the frustration you expressed in your testimony before the Senate. I recognize that your agency is understaffed in the face of the unprecedented challenge of Internet-based radicalization and extremist violence. You have an impossible job!
You are of course entirely right to expect and demand that American Muslims do their part to monitor and inform on any proto-jihadist rhetoric that surfaces within their community. Every American Muslim should be signing up for this effort. Those who don’t sign up should be summarily liquidated. That’s simple logic.
Secretary Johnson, you are likewise entirely right to expect that any remaining reservations about Homeland Security’s Countering Violent Extremism program should melt away in the face of the new urgency.
Today, of course, we are also more aware of the Colorado Springs shooter’s mindset in deciding to become a “warrior for the babies” and thereupon shooting up the Planned Parenthood facility. Robert Dear is a Christian, but he is a Christian who seems to have lost his way. It shames and mortifies me as a Christian minister that I did not find a way to stop him from committing this dreadful act of violence. And that other Christian ministers likewise failed to intervene. This kind of sitting on the sidelines needs to end!
I am therefore offering my own time and energy along with my ideas for an effective CVE-equivalent program to combat Christian-inspired terrorism in these United States. I am ready to step up, and I am most eager to hear what you think.
Hartford Seminary notes that it isn’t all that easy to numerate all of the Christian congregations in the U.S., but they nevertheless put the number at roughly 338,000. I am willing to work with this number until a better one comes along. Of this number, roughly 8,000 congregations claim upwards of 1,000 members; most are smaller, indeed most are much smaller.
My concept is this: I think we can create a Christian Honor Corps (CHC) of perhaps 10,000 persons. Persons like myself who take our responsibility to monitor Christian extremist thought seriously and who are willing to work hand-in-glove with you and with other law enforcement personnel to spy upon and help quash the bad guys among the Christians.
Thinking of myself personally, I think I could take responsibility for watching approximately 50 congregations. It would stress me out to do this, but I think I could do it, visiting and assessing one congregation each week with two weeks off per year. I am well aware that one visit is hardly enough to determine the potential for violent extremism within a given church community, but I am confident that you and your people can assist me in making these visits worthwhile by helping me plant listening devices of various kinds. In fact, I am suggesting that each CHC volunteer spotter be partnered with a federal agent so that our collective effectiveness as a volunteer corps can be hugely enhanced. Great synergy, right?!
Using the 1:50 spotter-to-congregation ratio, we will need to recruit roughly 6,600 CHC spotters to cover the 330,000 Christian congregations of fewer than 1,000 members. I recommend that we add another 1,400 spotters who would work exclusively to monitor the 8,000 congregations that have more than 1,000 people in their ranks. These big congregations obviously want extra surveillance.
That’s 8,000 passionate people at federal law enforcement’s disposal, and I think that this is a realistic number to get started. But I would also want to add another 2,000 CHC spotters in order to make the effort truly complete. Half of these 2,000 could be asked to spend at least 15 hours per day monitoring the kind of Internet traffic that seems to appeal to the so-called “lone wolf” shooters; the others could be assigned to track violent extremism among some 120 self-identified American Christian colleges and the roughly 4,000 Christian high schools. (Many of these institutions are Roman Catholic, and I know we think of Catholics as kind of wimpy. But then you can never be too sure, can you?)
My mention of high schoolers supposes that American high schoolers with a “cause” can get their hands on major weaponry. Yes, they can! And please understand that the LAST thing I want to do is interfere with their Second Amendment rights. So-called “privacy” is negotiable; the Right to Bear Arms is not. As you and I know full well, access to guns is not the issue here. Bad intent is the issue.
Let’s get this project moving without delay, shall we?
Again, I appreciate that you’ve got your hands full with the Muslims right now. But you also know that you and the Administration in general will look better if you add some balance by also supporting appropriate surveillance of the Christian problem people.
I hate to see the faith that I love be stained by the actions of a few, and I’m more than willing to do my part!
(Rev.) Peter Laarman