Norm Olson's store in Alanson, Michigan, sells two items: guns and King James Bibles. The 48-year-old father of three has been removed as head of the Michigan Militia and pastor of Calvary Baptist Church because of views he expressed in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing April 19. Yet Olson is still involved in the militia and the pulpit. He recently preached in an auction barn in Wolverine, Michigan, to 30 militia members wearing fatigues and sitting in folding chairs. "Hey, they need the Lord Jesus Christ," he told CHRISTIANITY TODAY. "One young man received the Lord that day."
As with many state militia members, Olson, who calls himself a "pistol-packin' preacher," defies easy stereotyping. His grandmother was Jewish; he is a dispensational, Calvinistic evangelist and former pastor in the General Association of General Baptists. He served in the U.S. Air Force, then worked as a Christian school principal. But two details are clear: "I am a military man, and God raised me up as a warrior for the Lord," Olson boasts.
The combining of biblical injunctions with this sort of militancy has created widespread concerns and oversimplifications about the religious base of militia organizations. While some militia members subscribe to a twisted, racist gospel (one newsletter suggested bumper stickers to read "Ethnic Cleansing-The Only Way!" and "Speak English or Die"), others appear to embrace a genuine evangelicalism.
As far apart as mainstream evangelicals see themselves from some of the more fanatical elements within the militia, the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing-which occurred on the anniversary of the 1993 Waco conflagration-illustrates ...1
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