Ammon Bundy’s militia has occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon since January 2. The standoff with authorities continues despite the arrest of Bundy and 11 of his followers and the shooting death of LaVoy Finicum during a traffic stop last week, and despite Bundy’s pleas that the four remaining militia members leave the refuge. They insist that they will not leave until their comrades are released and everyone is pardoned. These conservative Mormons have claimed that God told them to seize the land in defense of ranchers sentenced to jail time for setting fires on federal land.
For complex historical and religious reasons,Americans have found it easy to view the U.S. as the “new Israel,” the carrier of God’s mandates in the world. This view has led to an expansive notion of the nation’s “manifest destiny” and to all manner of initiatives under the general rubric of America’s exceptional character and mission.
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