Former Pacific chaplain faced with death threats
Social media can be a dangerous place, and the Rev. Chuck Currie has and continues to learn that firsthand.
The former director of the Center for Peace and Spirituality at Pacific University spoke out this past week against the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., using his popular Twitter account, which has nearly 15,000 followers. He was dismayed to receive several death threats against him and his family in response.
"I think what you saw in D.C. was a lot of Christian nationalism on display, and I'm a strong opponent of Christian nationalism," Currie said. "(Donald) Trump supporters often get angry when I express that, which is nothing new over the last four years."
What was new was the explicitness of the threats, which Currie took directly to the FBI. To his surprise, the FBI said little could be done about the threats, saying they failed to meet the standard necessary to pursue legally.
"They responded that these threats did not rise to the level of something that they could do anything about," Currie said, "despite the fact that they were very specific and said 'we will kill you, we will kill your family.' And that's disheartening to me."
The reverend went on to say that the FBI never informed him as to what would meet their threat standard, but he said investigators took the threats to the U.S. Attorney's Office and that was the response.
Currie is concerned that calls for violence will only escalate in the coming days, weeks, months or even years.
"I remind myself that the number of clergy who are murdered in the U.S. is fairly low, so the chances of someone following through with a threat like this is probably low," Currie said. "But I also know that if you look at the attack on the Capitol, and the threats that weren't investigated or taken seriously, it's concerning. If something were to happen, are they going to say the threat wasn't explicit enough?
"After all, I don't know how you can get more explicit than 'we will kill you and your family.'"
Currie, who stepped down from his position at Pacific this past fall for health reasons, said threats in general are not new to him. He refers to himself as a "progressive Christian," noting that his ideology is often frowned upon by more conservative evangelicals. At times, when he worked at Pacific University, he took some of the more alarming threats to campus and local law enforcement authorities.
While he doesn't expect the harassment to end anytime soon, Currie said he does hope that with President-elect Joe Biden taking office next Wednesday, Jan. 20, the fiery rhetoric will dissipate, and with it, the anger that seems to have engulfed so many.
"Since Trump took office, the FBI said that threats like the ones against me have gone up roughly 70 percent, so I'm not the only one getting these things," Currie said. "It's disturbing, but hopefully now, if nothing else, we can get back to some level of civility."
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