The media is abuzz with information regarding the recent arrests of many participants in a group called “Hutaree.” This group, having invented its name that they take to mean “Christian Warrior,” are alleged to have devised a plot to murder a police officer, violently attack the funeral of said police officer, all in an attempt to in some way bring down the government, expose the “Antichrist,” and to facilitate Jesus’ return. Their website, among other things, indicates that their purpose is to “[prepare] for the end time battles to keep the testimony of Jesus alive.” John 15:13 is emblazoned upon the top of the page:
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
The participants in this group are pictured in full military gear. Many lived in Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio. They profess to be Bible believers, going only by what the Bible says.
It is my hope and prayer that most people who profess Christ would repudiate such people and their actions and intentions, and many have done so. This is a truly lamentable situation: the faith is blasphemed because of such things, and people are given more reason to believe that Christians are crazy and Christianity is extremely dangerous. The last thing we need is for people to associate Christianity with this type of behavior.
Perhaps these raids represent the demise of the “Hutaree” and their particular ideology. Nevertheless, it is good to ponder how on earth these people came to the conclusions to which they arrived and how they could profess to believe in God and Christ, go by the Bible, and yet believe and do as they have believed and done.
The “Hutaree” really represent a uniquely American conglomeration of bad religious and political doctrines. In political terms, they seem to be on the reactionary right wing of the political spectrum and have no doubt had their conspiracy theories fed or nurtured by what is passed off as “news” and “political commentary” on many radio and television shows.
But my focus is on their religious doctrines, because they demonstrate that despite what many profess, doctrines do matter and they have very significant and often severe consequences
While the methodology of the “Hutaree” group may be on the very fringe, their cherished doctrine, dispensational premillennialism, is quite mainstream in Evangelicalism. According to dispensational premillennialism, human history is divided into different time frames, or dispensations, and we are living in the time of the last dispensation. It is believed, according to this doctrine, that during a period of seven years there will be the “Tribulation” and the “Rapture” and that at its end Jesus will come again and rule on the earth for a thousand years. Everything seen in Revelation is taken on a very surface level. This ideology is spun together using all sorts of prophetic statements taken from Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah, Jesus, Paul, and John, among others.
I have no intention of going through and refuting dispensational premillennialism in this discussion; I encourage you to visit A Study of Denominations: Plymouth Brethren for such an analysis. Nevertheless, it is important to see that this doctrine posits a very earthly and physical “end times” scenario, focused very much on certain events believed to be near to come. Dispensational premillennialism stands in a long tradition of various people attempting to ascertain how the events described in Revelation and other books are being fulfilled in their own day. The “Hutaree” may believe that Obama is the Antichrist and the EU represents the horns of the beast or other such things; others before them have identified pretty much every political leader and empire of consequence as fitting those categories.
This focus on the physical using the means that the physical world uses is precisely the danger inherent in all dispensational premillennialism and in all “hyper-patriotic” movements, especially when the two merge. I recognize that most dispensational premillennialists would repudiate the “Hutaree” and their methods. Yet they share the same fundamental presuppositions. The “Hutaree” have just decided to take them to an extreme and intended to act on them.
This is not the way of Jesus or His Kingdom.
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.”
Pilate therefore said unto him, “Art thou a king then?”
Jesus answered, “Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end have I been born, and to this end am I come into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice” (John 18:36-37).
Jesus’ Kingdom is “not of this world.” This should not be misconstrued, as so many do, as “not of this world right now but it will be when I return,” for Jesus said no such thing nor promised such a thing. Instead, Jesus indicates that His purpose was to bear witness to the truth and to establish a Kingdom based in truth. This Kingdom is spiritual, not physical, and it already exists and is present today (Colossians 1:13, Revelation 1:6-9)!
The way of Jesus is not violence. As He told Peter, “all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword” (Matthew 26:52). Jesus’ declaration that there is no greater love to be shown than to die for one’s friends is a declaration of sacrifice, not “casualties of war” (cf. Romans 5:5-11, 1 John 3:16). Jesus challenges His followers to love not just their friends but also their enemies, and to pray not just for those who like them but also for those who despise them (cf. Matthew 5:44-48). Jesus’ way was the way of service (Matthew 20:28).
The way of Jesus is apolitical. The kingdoms of this world pass away; the word of God remains forever (cf. 1 Peter 1:24-25). He never advocates for His followers to rebel against earthly authorities. To the contrary; Paul and Peter both emphasize the believer’s obligation to respect and honor earthly authorities and to submit to them (Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:11-17). The forum for the “Hutaree” features the oft-used quotation, “resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.” You will search the Scriptures in vain for this quotation. It is not there and it is. in fact, entirely against what God commanded His followers. If there were ever a tyrant, it was Nero; and yet God told Christians to honor the Emperor. Even in Revelation there is never any indication that believers were to rise up against the Roman foe: instead, God would be the one to definitively act against the aggressor.
Victory in Jesus does not come from earthly fighting. Instead, as it is so eloquently stated in Revelation 12:11:
And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony; and they loved not their life even unto death.
Yes, Paul uses the image of the military in Ephesians 6:10-18. He tells believers there to stand firm against the Evil One; there’s no expectation for a forward advance, so to speak, but just to hold the ground we have been given. We must respect what Paul says in Ephesians 6:12:
For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood. It is against the spiritual hosts of wickedness, and therefore we are misguided if we think our war is with the government or any earthly institution. Many political ideologues would love for you to believe that it is so, but the Bible tells an entirely different story. Our fight is with the Evil One; it is never with our fellow man entangled in his snares, for whom we should have compassion and work to show the way of truth (cf. Ephesians 6:12, 1 Timothy 2:4, Titus 3:3-8)!
The New Testament never presents any approved example of a Christian fighting a physical fight for the Lord. We never find an example of Paul fighting anyone with fists or swords, even though there were plenty of times when Paul could have understandably tried to defend himself (cf. Acts 14:19). Even in Revelation there is never an illustration that can justifiably be interpreted as Christians physically fighting an enemy. “Armageddon” is never really fought: armies are lined up, and Jesus wins an overwhelming victory with only the sword of His mouth (cf. Revelation 16:15-21, 19:16-19). Therefore, there is no physical battle for which we are to prepare, and to do so is to just play into the hands of the Evil One.
Many people want to pretend that “it doesn’t really matter what we believe about the ‘end times.'” It most certainly does matter! What people believe about the “end times” invariably reflects what they believe about themselves, about Jesus, and about His Kingdom. The “Hutaree” see themselves as “warriors,” trying to help Jesus establish His rule with guns and missiles. In their myopic focus on their particular view of Revelation and a scattering of other prophecies they have entirely missed the true nature of Jesus and His Kingdom and His expectations for believers (John 18:36, 1 Peter 2:18-25). They got excited about Armageddon but missed the spiritual battle for their souls going on right now (Ephesians 6:12). They wanted to see a Jesus victorious on the battlefield and missed the Crucified but Risen Lord, currently reigning, no matter how terrible it may seem (Acts 2:36, Colossians 1:13, Revelation 12-19). They are attempting to sort through the various permutations of an apocalyptic theory while uncritically swallowing the American perversion of the true Gospel, marrying the cross, the flag, and the gun, when the message of the cross should triumph over the flag and the gun. The only thing Jesus ever killed, according to Scripture, was the hostility between men through the cross to lead to reconciliation and peace (Ephesians 2:15-16)!
The “Hutaree” might be finished, but have no fear: as long as the reactionary hyper-patriotism exists, and it gets married to apocalyptic speculation, more groups like them will sprout up. It is high time for us all to recognize that doctrine has consequences, and to vigorously oppose this perversion of Christ’s message. Let us proclaim the Good News of reconciliation with God and peace toward men. Let us affirm the way of Christ, the way of sacrifice and loss, and do so in Christ’s way, which eschews violence as a tool of the Evil One. Let us proclaim the spiritual Kingdom that transcends every barrier humans can construct, and recognize that it is here and it is now. Let us work to proclaim and magnify that Kingdom, and teach God’s truths regarding the “end times!”
Ethan R. Longhenry