Engaging Moderates and Marginalizing Extremists
In late February Chaplain (Col.) (Ret.) Janet Horton delivered a talk, “Divine Command Morality,” at Principia College. It was sponsored by the Euphrates Institute (headquartered at the College), an organization dedicated to advancing freedom and equality by investing in better relations between the West and Middle East.
Horton served as a Christian Science chaplain for 28 years and was the first woman to attain the grade of colonel in the Army Chaplain Corps. An expert on extremism, she advised the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness on Muslim issues following the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon and often consulted with both the Army Operations Group and the Air Force Operations Group about the terrorist mindset.
As Horton explained during her talk, “Extremists from Christian and Muslim groups are notable for inflammatory events that make headlines. Saddam Hussein’s torching of oil wells as he exited Kuwait, the bombing of the Lebanon embassy and the USS Cole, and the burning of the Branch Davidian Compound in Waco, Texas, are all examples of this mindset in its most extreme nature. The most dramatic example was certainly the 9/11 terrorist attack.” Horton knows firsthand about that last example, having prayed (in her official capacity as chaplain) in the Pentagon Courtyard with those injured on 9/11.
For senior Lisa Myles, a Euphrates Fellow, gaining a better understanding of the extremist mindset was extremely helpful. “It struck me that the value placed on a single human life is markedly different between Islamic and Christian faiths,” she commented. “While Christians seek to preserve each human life, Muslim extremists recognize death as inevitable and are more interested in the afterlife. This lack of concern for material life justifies suicide attacks.”
Junior Jamie Rybak, another Euphrates Fellow, found Horton’s presentation “substantial, powerful, and eye-opening,” not to mention relevant. As he pointed out, “Many U.S. citizens are related to or know someone who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, so it’s a reality that has touched lives one way or another.”
Emphasizing the importance of Horton’s talk, Janessa Gans Wilder, Euphrates Institute director, noted, “Her perspective on the differences in the mindsets between moderates and extremists is invaluable to understanding terrorism, extremism, fundamentalism, and how they drive behavior. This is an important message for our Euphrates Fellows, who are striving to learn more about the region and implement Euphrates’ mission of improving relations in the Middle East by engaging the moderate middle and marginalizing extremists in an era when our security, energy, and religions depend upon it.”