In recent years, my region has hosted a healthy number of Religious Right events. Pennsylvania's Susquehanna Valley has been the site of two Exodus International events, Vision Forum's History of America Mega-Conference, the recent U-Turn Conference, and the annual meeting of the Restored Hope Network (which I'll write about soon). On Monday, Scotland, PA will be the site of a conference featuring William G. "Jerry" Boykin, executive vice president of the Family Research Council and a controversial anti-Islam activist.
The Academy for Global Leadership will host the "It Is Time!" Symposium at the Winebrenner Theological Seminary in Scotland, PA on Monday, June 29th. The conference schedule features presentations on topics such as "Becoming Warriors in God’s Kingdom" and "Strategies for Advancing the Gospel and Decreasing the Expansion of Radical Islam". Boykin, who has a long history of condemning radical Islam, is scheduled to speak at the event.
In an article at Public Opinion Online, Winebrenner CEO David Newell warns that Islamic extremist threatens America. "Once you understand the strategies that are being brought to bear to recruit and increase influence, you will understand the scope and the very real nature of the threat," he said.
With regard to Islamic extremist recruitment in the U.S., Newell lacked specifics. "I am not privy to the specifics of their recruiting strategies. I only know and have been informed of their presence, and the fact that they do indeed recruit," he told Public Opinion Online.
I have mixed feelings about conservative Christian speakers warning their audience about radical Islam in the U.S. On one hand, Islamic extremism is very real and very deadly, as ongoing strife in the Middle East and Friday's terror attacks in three countries demonstrate. However, will Monday's seminar provide a clear-eyed perspective on the Islamic extremist threat, or will it distract audiences from the much more pressing danger of right-wing extremism?
White supremacists, sovereign citizens, and other right-wing extremists are a growing threat in the U.S., and a far more immediate threat than Islamic extremists. For example, New America recently posted data on deadly extremist attacks in the U.S. from 2001 to the present, noting that almost twice as many victims died in right-wing attacks than in jihadist attacks. The Charleston shooting and the recent wave of arson attacks on African-American churches in the south remind us that white supremacists are still terrorizing communities of color. Pennsylvania, where the It Is Time symposium will take place, is home to over two dozen hate groups (including white supremacist, neo-Nazi, black separatist, and anti-LGBTQ groups), according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Islamic extremism might trigger fear in some American audiences, but right-wing extremism poses the more immediate threat.
At a time when right-wing extremist violence is dominating the news, will the It Is Time seminar acknowledge the threat of right-wing extremism alongside Islamic extremism? Or will Islamic extremism serve as a source of fear in their narrative?