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Forensic Theology – Ideological Threat Assessments by Randy Gonzalez 1

Forensic Theology – Ideological Threat Assessments by Randy Gonzalez
What is “forensic theology”? Another way to analyze modus operandi in criminal
cases? For instance, suspicion could fall on a seemingly dangerous cult, gang, terrorist
group or other organized criminal enterprise? Or, an evolving tactic to analyze anti-social
extreme belief systems? Such as hate groups. Still though, “forensic theology” might be a
potential investigative strategy to scrutinize probable criminality among fanatical
ideologies? Well then, let’s break down the components. Because there might be another
option to constructing threat analyses on the basis of extremist behaviors. An allegation
of the application of “forensic theology” has been suggested in relation to terroristic
activities. But, why stop there? Particularly as applied to radical domestic and foreign
belief systems. Or, terrorism perpetrated from a fundamentalist doctrine.
Yet, the word “forensic” holds many connotations. For which there are several
interpretations and viewpoints. Often misunderstood and confused with movie and
television stereotypes. For some students in undergraduate criminal justice courses, the
mere mention of the word invites salacious overtones. Kind of like an allusion to the
inaccurate non-scientific application of something called “criminal profiling” or some
kind of “scale of evil”. Again, the titillation amplifies with mystification.
Suddenly, with sufficient media hype, as well as heavy concentration of
sensationalism, everyone wants to “do” forensics. Become a crime scene investigator,
work in “CSI”, or become a “profiler”. Exciting, sexy and enticing prospects for creative
imaginations. Aside from any rational association with real world applications. Sort of in
the same realm with fortune tellers, mentalists and psychic detectives. No long term real-
word practical law enforcement expertise is ever required. Just capitalizing on
exaggerated claims masquerading as authenticity. Believability relies on gullibility. What
some investigators refer to as the “psychology of self-deception”. 1
Never the less, the term “forensic” has been applied to many philosophical disciplines.
Not to mention, of course, an array of various schools of thought within certain fields of
study. In modern America, for example, we have things such as “forensic debate”,
“forensic science”, “forensic autopsy”, as well as “forensic anthropology”.

1
Carroll, Robert T., articles relative to the following: “Psychic Detective”, and “Criminal profiling – Cold
Reading for Cold Cases”, from the Skeptic’s Dictionary, 02/23/09, at Skepdic.com,
http://www.skepdic.com/psychdet.html; and, http://www.skepdic.com/refuge/funk58.html;
Forensic Theology – Ideological Threat Assessments by Randy Gonzalez 2

The list of things “forensic”, or for that matter “forensic science”, could get lengthy.
Plus, we can’t forget about the pseudo-scientific notions of “forensic psychology”. And,
as mentioned earlier, even “forensic profiling”. So, “forensic theology”? Why not add
this to the mix of controversial criminological fascinations? Oh what the heck? The mere
mention conjures an array of adventurous possibilities. However, individual fantasies
aside, what exactly could this phrase mean? In one instance, the term surfaces in an
investigative report discussing Middle Eastern terrorism. And, in particular, the
connection between ideology and extreme forms of rebellious behaviors. As in terrorist
activities connected to religious fundamentalism of an ultra disruptive nature.
An issue, for some of us criminologists, is to refine the definition. And, at some point,
make practical the application of such thinking processes. Terminologies can get us all
confused and misdirected if we’re not careful. We can invent all manner of urban legend.
And, then call it fact, which in reality might simply be fabrication. But, in the effort to
identify and understand terrorist intentions. Reading signs, symbols and significance in
aggressive propaganda might bear clues to eventual intentions. Not to forget of course,
the symbolism that serves as precursor to probable criminal behaviors. By analysis of
writings, transactional documents, witness statements, intelligence gathering, surveillance
and so forth. Possibly, intent could be anticipated. And, thereby, purposes might suggest
hostile actions against communal safety and security. 2
Important here, to point out at this juncture. Contrary to “reading signatures” at crime
scenes, of so called “organized” or “disorganized” unknown murderers, termed “serial
killers”. Where the person or persons remain anonymous archetypes of some typecast
generic template. Instead, with regard to “forensic theology”, we’re talking about known
quantities of potential criminalities. As in terrorist groupings, gangs, dangerous cultic
activities, hate mongering organizations of various ideological spectra. Of which, we can
observe past, present and perhaps future probabilities in non pro-social endeavors. For
them, observation notes attendant associational activities, graffiti, online blogs, web sites,
assorted propaganda, and all kinds of symbolism. To this, investigators might link the
authentication of emailing, chat rooms interactivities, and group linkages.

2
Grey, Stephen, an article appearing online, entitled: “Follow the Mullahs”, The Atlantic, November,
2004; http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200411/grey;
Forensic Theology – Ideological Threat Assessments by Randy Gonzalez 3

In other words, with a workable conception of “forensic theology”, we’re dealing with
the potentiality of known evidentiary characteristics, circumstantial inferences and
informational data bases from definable sources. For definitional applicability, we could
say then, that “forensic” means the wide-ranging spectrum of legal issues affecting the
criminal justice system. Encompassing investigative, prosecutorial and evidentiary
parameters. Within which, we need to consider multi-level interfaces, from federal, state
and local law enforcement operations. With that, every effort should be made to ensure
methodical verifiable analysis of targeted objectives. Added to the application of
“forensic” operability, we could associate a concept of “theology” or “thinking”.
Again, in regard to those things “theological”, the term could be broadly interpreted.
Bringing together critical thinking efforts to address anticipation of violent behaviors
backed by dogmatic philosophies. This would cover the careful study of belief systems
that formulate extremism outside conventional social interactions. More generally, this is
suggested to be the analysis of religious, spiritual and ideological thinking processes.
With a focus on those individuals, collusive entities and groups that could be potentially
anti-social in a destructive sense. Such as with gangs, terrorist cells, organized crime and
others. The investigative process would be shaped by an external assessment of probable
criminality. So, together, we have a thumbnail depiction for a concept of “forensic
theology”. This focuses mostly on group threats to social stability.
In assessing criminal motivations, the classical perspective offers the rationality of
choice. Criminals, not unlike the rest of us, freely choose their planned, calculated and
selected targets for opportunistic self-gratification. As with humanity in general,
selfishness is at the core of motivational purposes. For terrorists, as an example,
aggression, violence and intimidation serve the basis to achieve individual or group
advantage over others. While they tend to operate on a larger scale, with a political cover
story. Similar to transnational organized criminal elements. Terrorists, like street
criminals or corporate criminals, commit typical crimes of murder, rape, robbery, theft
and so, for the sake of personal enrichment. They may plead or advocate a publicly
seductive cause, such as the environment, animal research and oppression. None the less,
their ideological dogma remains an illusion for their real intentions. 3

3
Samenow, S. E., Inside the Criminal Mind, (New York, NY: Crown Publishers, 2004), pages 164-166;
Forensic Theology – Ideological Threat Assessments by Randy Gonzalez 4

Behind the psychic scenes, that is, in the cerebral conduits of human thinking
processes. Not “psychic” in the sense of the paranormal, as in ghosts, goblins and other
ghoulish sleight of hand trickeries. Religiosity, philosophical belief systems and lifestyle
choices manifest a multiplicity of motivations toward criminality. We’re all looking for
opportunities to advance our covert agendas. Criminal inclinations are part of human
nature. Indwelling as it were, inside the essence of human potential. Not on the outside,
but internal to each of us. Our complexity of personal being, neural networking and
spatial presence. Everyone possesses the elemental desires to satiate prurient passions.
Libidinous reasons in the private ability to carry thoughts into reality.
Criminality’s a rational component for the cause and effect in premeditated intent to
knowingly breach communal constraints. Freely chosen through willful decision-making,
people create their own adversity, victories and calamities. In particular, we’re seduced
willingly by our darker side. Drawn to offense-specific endeavors given the level of our
offender-specific skills and abilities. We enhance our self-indulgent competitive edge in
the individual quest to achieve personal advantages. Neural complexity remains dynamic
in the selection of modes for maladaptive behaviors. Yet, once caught in the act, excuses
abound at every twist of the criminal event. Cover stories sell front page headlines in
well-calculated cover-ups. None the less, criminal activity is the result of rational choice,
hedonistic intentions, and personal gain through thoughtful planning. 4
Criminality finds much kinship. Crosses every socio-economic strata, as well as geo-
political nation-state boundaries regarding a diversity of doctrines, creeds and tenets.
Thus, with the intentions of extremism, cloaked in dogmatic facades and deceptive
doctrinal traditions, social disruption is exceptionally probable. Such terrorism spans the
societal spectrum. From cultic religious enclaves, to ethnic “gangsterism” and racial
supremacists. Not to forget, of course, many other forms of domestic and foreign terrorist
groupings. Diabolical, oppressive and tyrannical purposes hide behind a front of mass
media illusions. We can witness a diverse exhibition of such humanistic activities on a
daily basis. Across the globe, from sea to shining sea, groups of one persuasion after
another foment the cover story for varied anti-social endeavors.

4
Siegel, L.J., Criminology – The Core – Third Edition, (Belmont, CA: Thomson Higher Education, 2008),
pages 73-74;
Forensic Theology – Ideological Threat Assessments by Randy Gonzalez 5

Possibly, a process of so called “forensic theology”, taken in a broader sense, could
utilize known data elements to postulate motives, objectives and purposes of a variety of
dissident groups. Perchance, through investigative processes, by way of logic, reason and
deduction, we may be able to discern an estimate of hostile capabilities. That is, by
scrutinizing the verbiage, propaganda and symbolism of collective antisocial forces.
Naturally, such a critical thinking technique, for a viable threat assessment tool, would
necessitate a practitioner’s realistic knowledge base. And, to this, we should add his or
her pragmatic field experience in the real world. An experiential foundation that reflects a
well-trained skillful and tactical approach to criminality.
That is to say, applications for an evolving nature of “forensic theology” should focus
less on theory and more on reality. Given the facts of the case, hard evidence remains
essential. Investigatively, there would be decreased emphasis on the speculations of
theoreticians. As in the towered confines of academia. And, more relevance on the
convincing credibility of the realist. Genuine accuracy transforms intuitive processes
from the constant engagement with real world scenarios. Understanding criminalistic
intentions (forensic) requires analysis of ideological assertions (theology). As such, this
invites a critical examination of symbols, messages, images, verbiage, and propaganda of
all kinds. As well as cultic signposts, gang graffiti, inmate tattoos, and so forth.
All of these human aspects reflect mental proclivities transforming psychic processes
into potential action. In trying to anticipate the criminality of various associational
linkages, we often get fixated on the things that influence our subjective bias. Cults
typically conjure an array of salacious images. Mention for instance, “satanic cults”, or
communal “religious sects”, and all kinds of prurient passions get aroused. Yet, we get
distracted, overlook and forget abut the many other types of human collusions. These
include cultic extremists, gangs, racist enclaves, terrorist groups and other formations of
organized criminal enterprises. Every faction has an ideology. Within this foundational
basis of collectivity, people manifest their belief systems. Adherence can be extremely
dedicated and strongly entrenched. Even in spite of evidentiary contradictions. Many
cling to their reliability on subjective validation of ancient tenuous doctrines. 5

5
Alexander, J.B., Groller, R., Morris, J., The Warrior’s Edge, (New York, NY: William Morrow and
Company, Inc., 1990), pages 20-21;
Forensic Theology – Ideological Threat Assessments by Randy Gonzalez 6

Terrorism comes in many forms of criminality that transcends global boundaries.
Likewise, these and other threat groups pose a danger not only to local communities, but
also to national security as well. Thus, early warning through proactive intelligence
gathering remains critical. In so doing, practitioners therefore become tasked with
constructing logical and well-reasoned threat assessments. These could be based on the
implications of “forensic theological” appraisals. As an investigator, one must bear in
mind that nothing is ever foolproof. So, care and caution are extremely serious factors to
keep in mind. Evidentiary factors are vital to provability. Plus, we have to understand that
there are many variations of criminal group collusions. The ideological spectrum has
many representative factions, in diverse places all over the planet.
Regardless of doctrine or dogma, group criminality expresses the collective
inclinations of the human membership. Dangerous cult associations, street gangs, terrorist
cells and other organized criminal enterprises are precisely that. They are criminal
organizations assembled for the purpose of committing criminal actions. Commonality of
purpose expresses the basic seductive driving forces in our human nature. One good and
the other evil. Objectives include exclusivity of membership and perpetuation of
“elitism” among adherents. Doctrine forms the basis of a pretext in the deception of
disguised orthodoxy. In other words, symbols, images, signs, etc, are used as cover
stories, legends, and mythology to cloak their real intentions.
Criminal entities seek to maintain their anti-social viability through whatever criminal
means possible. They may or may not express a so called “political agenda”, “religious
affiliation” or “social righteousness”. For that matter, they might subscribe to discernable
political or religious goals. But, then again, some do others don’t. Never the less, their
intended purposes are to be monopolistic, employ aggressive violent means, and ensure
profit continuity at all costs. To this end, groups collude with other groups when it is to
their mutual interests. In the process, they promote conspiratorial activities in the
coordination of varied illicit activities. Gain is in the primacy of their motivating factors.
From within their structural framework, they utilize predatory tactics to intimidate, instill
fear and corrupt others in order to achieve their objectives.6

6
Siegel, L. J., Criminology – The Core – Third Edition, (Belmont, CA: Thomson Higher Education, 2008),
pages 302-303;
Forensic Theology – Ideological Threat Assessments by Randy Gonzalez 7

To facilitate discovery of malice aforethought in premeditated intentions, as opposed
to the usual rubric of “motive, means and opportunity”. As these are often illusionary at
best and deceptive at worst case scenario. The investigation might want to gather all
manner of suspicious documentation, evidentiary artifacts, and known associated
evidence. Subject everything to insightful critical analytic processes. To this endeavor,
we must ensure qualified forensic analysis. That means too, we have to apply logic within
a rational framework. In the process of scrutiny, you should conduct a thorough
validation for subject authentication. Also included could be reviewing the abundance of
hate oriented information sources, published group rhetoric, demonstrated history of
public displays, internet blogging, news stories, background histories and assorted media
expressions. In addition, assessment entails targeting potential criminals, selecting targets
for surveillance, covert analysis and extensive intelligence gathering.
Ideological scrutiny directs a microscopic focal point on the attendant militancy within
selected group affiliations. It is not limited to seemingly overt hostile elements alone.
Within a particular subculture, the inspection also addresses the less conspicuous
probabilities. Any group, social, economic, political, etc, could summon the convergence
of attention due to its illicit preoccupations. Because groups, including the broad
spectrum of social interaction, are naturally collusive collectives, with associations of
diverse people. Likewise, they can execute corporate intrigue, commercial espionage, con
games, frauds of every type, commit major crimes and engineer economic turmoil.
Commercial aggrandizement for business executives can also be extremely
conspiratorial. Whereby, money laundering and promotion of regional conflicts,
insurrections and aiding enemy operatives, ensure profit continuity.
Deciphering the clues requires creative decisiveness, critical thinking, logical analysis
and efficient examination of the evidence at hand. Conjecture, speculation and wishful
thinking are constrained to the movie world of fiction and entertainment. Plots, schemes
and conspiracies come in many organized forms. They reflect human ritual within the
nature of criminality. Anyone can justify anything, including multiple murders, genocide,
ethnic cleansing or a holy warfare. Terrorism just adds the press coverage with a political
flare. Veiled by some ideological press release, so that perpetrators can cover their tracks
about the real intentions in their criminality.
Forensic Theology – Ideological Threat Assessments by Randy Gonzalez 8

Take for instance, the gangster dubbed “Islamic Terror Suspect”. From a street gang in
an urban core, a clever criminal wears the cloak of the dedicated religious fundamentalist,
or ideologue playing “Robin Hood”. Whatever, nothing new here. Mobsters have done
that decades. So, the criminal hood travels to a foreign land. Joins other criminals.
Studies military tactics and techniques. Learns how to make bombs. Applies oneself to
the purposes of skillful social destruction. By converting to the chosen belief system,
another inventive form of story telling. The gangster becomes able to advance the skill
levels necessary to commit more crimes. But, deterministic social engineering would
have us believe otherwise. Many, desiring to be gullible for their needs. Buy into his lack
of social opportunity, immigration policies, ineffective public schools, bad parenting,
absentee father, neglectful mother, peer pressure and unemployment. 7
Excuses never end and intentions are always ready, willing an able to inflict cross-
cultural damage to satiate personal desires. Nevertheless, we like to fool ourselves.
Pretend how civil we are. Alleged our civilized progress. Make things simplistic,
trouble-free and easier for us to look in the mirror. Maybe that’s the reason people choose
to so easily believe in strange, weird and nebulous notions. Even among seemingly well-
educated persons, like college professors. Academia can be an intellectual war zone of
psycho-babble masquerading as alleged truths. We laboriously seek to makeover inner
psychic struggles for an effective confrontation with life and death realties. From which,
we quickly, outside the security of our communal group, find fault with those external to
us. Justifications for the ruse of ideological hatreds surface without hesitance. So that we
can take advantage, manipulate, and control the others.
From salacious inclinations, we pursue the amative means to unleash our competitive
edge. Conflict gives us a chance to project ritualized selfishness into social survival
engagement. After all, good and evil are the essence of human nature. This duality is
fundamental to our very makeup. We’re capable of any heinous act in the name of some
doctrinal rationalization. And, from there, we possess the ability to kill to ensure the
precepts for our continued communal competition. Cognitive bias roams the byways of
credibility in the hunt for subjective validation. All too often facts are avoided to the
allure of unfussy foggy murmurs of inferential fallacies for hasty generalizations.

7
Samenow, S., Inside the Criminal Mind, (New York, NY: Crown Publishing, Inc, 2004), pages 166-168;
Forensic Theology – Ideological Threat Assessments by Randy Gonzalez 9

Application of a working hypothesis, for a applied theory of forensic theological
analysis, requires the never ending quest for factual materiality. To that, add competence,
experiential essentialities and relevancy. Sound logic demands a special temperament in
developing a rational coherent investigative process. Generally, this might be calculated
as a standard operating inquiry using the traditional concept of what some of us call the
“W.H.O.A.”. As such, you could pronounce it “Whoa!” with emphasis to show focused
commitment to the mission at hand. Or, add a slight military flare of, “Who-Ah!”.
Regardless, the consideration is for answering basic queries. Such as, “Who, What,
Where, When, Why and How, Observations and Actions”. For a basis in the use of
forensic theology, we want to apply critical thinking skills.
This is the foundation for “pro-thinking” instead of “anti-thinking”. Rational,
reasonable and consistent in purposeful authenticity. The search, as a skeptical enquirer,
mandates a personal policy in the rational hunt for credible evidence. Rather than chase
speculative assertions based on inferential fallacies. As in trying to profile everything,
anything and all things. Attempts at “profiling”, naming multiple occurrences as “serial”
this and “serial”, and developing “scales of evil”. All these run risk of expressing
personalized egocentric self-interests that prove nothing substantial. These spurious
assertions come close to the edge; sometimes cross over, into racist, prejudicial and
ethnocentric thinking practices. An example, might be trying to define who is “Hispanic”,
“Arabic”, Asian and so forth. There are too many exceptions, diversities and variations in
terms of global ethnicities. Instead, we must focus on relevant evidentiary issues.
To comprehend the nature of criminality is to investigate every possible aspect of the
human inclination toward anti-social behaviors. It is, in every sense, a keen ability to
suspect everyone, trust no one and ensure a Holmesian eye for detail. Ensure a healthy
sensory awareness for an edgy cynicism concerning the “altruism” of human beings. For
which, we need to be cautious as to bogus claims as to “why” certain things happened.
Particularly, if we seek to evaluate ideological expressions steeped in religiosity. Plus, we
need to go to great lengths to analyze every probable suspicion. A healthy grip on
practical skepticism is essential to combat unquestioned acceptance of faulty information
and dubious conjecture. All too often, inquiries seek supportive collaboration for initial
hypotheses. That is, the theory finds friendly “evidence” to make it right.
Forensic Theology – Ideological Threat Assessments by Randy Gonzalez 10

Facts fuel the fruition of formative evidentiary characteristics for credible forensic
analyses. Investigatively, we remain skeptical as to all claims contrary to actual proof.
Instead, we want to examine the evidence at hand and prove the reality of evidentiary
artifacts. All too often, one hears a premise or theoretical construct argued from the
standpoint of selective validation. As though such an assertion were actually true without
a shadow of a doubt. Preconceived notions, based on contemporary commonality of
practice, absent critical verification, may lead to erroneous conclusions. In terms of the
several criminal justice systems, and associated investigative processes, that could be
very dangerous. Very often, we want to find what we think we are looking for. So, we
gather whatever we discover to make sure we prove ourselves correct.
Many are quick to pre-judge the outcomes of initial speculations. Your proposition
hunts down and locates by personal selectivity the necessary “evidence”. For that effort,
the scheme of an issue finds subjective reinforcement to back up the original insinuation.
For the sake of a concept of “forensic theology” we must ensure realistic applications are
sufficiently reliable and adhere to judicious assessments. Investigative processes must
avoid the pitfalls based on fallacies of inference. In like manner, personal opinions have
to be tempered by careful evaluation from a forensic standpoint. Too frequently, cleverly
presented personal stories, opinions and viewpoints, remain in the speculative realm of
hearsay. And, to this prospect, they offer little credible substantiation and eventually
devolve into intellectual heresy. So, long term, not much is proved beyond a reasonable
doubt. Or, for that matter, is it reinforced by the conviction of reliable evidentiary
provability. The idea of “forensic theology” is about the intricate examination of belief
systems, motives and intentions. Or, overall, the very intricate nature of humanistic
thinking processes, along with the probability of threat potential. In this regard, the tool
of critical thinking skills are essential along with a healthy inclusion of common sense.
Better yet, a proclivity for profound uncommon sense. 8

www.drgonzo.org
gonzoscti@hotmail.com

8
Shermer, M., “How Thinking Goes Wrong – Twenty-Five Fallacies that Lead us to Believe Weird
Things”, from the 1997 book based on Why People Believe Weird Things, located at the website of
Positive Atheism Magazine, http://www.positiveatheism.org/index.shtml;