American Christianity has faced theological-political crises before. Repeatedly, visions of what is possible for the nation have fallen short of reality. In the past, periods of change pushed faithful people to reconsider what they believed, not only about the nation but also about the meaning of God’s call to justice. In each critical moment, for good or ill, Americans altered their religious views, and the horizon of what was possible expanded or contracted.
In revolutionary America, disunity resulted from debates over whether faith required obedience to the king or a revolt.
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.