Was Anders Breivik Really a Christian?
- Monday, July 25, 2011
What do we do with the fact that Anders Behring Breivik — the perpetrator of a terrorist attack in downtown Oslo and the mass murder of children on the nearby island of Utoya — identifies himself as a Christian? How do we make sense of the fact that he refers three times in his “European Declaration of Independence” to the “Lord Jesus Christ”?
1. First, before we say anything else, absolutely the first response of every Christian without exception must be unqualified condemnation of the horrific, disturbing, and profoundly sinful actions Breivik took last Friday. As I’ve written before, on occasion I’ve been frustrated when moderate Muslims fail to condemn acts of terrorism as loudly and unequivocally as possible; yet I understand how Muslims resent that the American public associates them with terrorism and looks to them for a response. The implication is that the moderates are somehow accountable for the actions of the fringe, and it’s incumbent upon them to distance themselves from the madmen who detonate school buses and attack summer camps.
I too resent the implication that I have to offer some sort of account for Breivik’s action. It should be abundantly clear that I have nothing to do with him. And yet – and yet – I do need to condemn his actions. Every Christian does. Every person of good will does. An act of such extraordinary moral monstrosity must, before anything else, be buried beneath an avalanche of condemnation. Christians should always be humbly willing to examine whether a cancer might be growing within their midst, a cancer that is hidden within the body because Christians assume that everyone in their community shares their best intentions. Extremists arise everywhere, and we ought not assume that our ranks are free of them, . So let us respond with the moral clarity to call evil evil, and the humility to examine the record and consider whether our actions or inactions, the things we’ve said or left unsaid, could have contributed to the worldview of the madman.
2. Second, we should clarify precisely what kind of “Christian” Anders Breivik is. Because, as it turns out, he’s not much of a Christian at all, at least by ordinary definitions of the term.
Then, square in the middle of his sprawling 1500-page manifesto, in a section (3.139) entitled “Distinguishing between cultural Christendom and religious Christendom,” Breivik himself tells us what kind of Christian he is. He argues that the inheritors of western Christendom are all, whether they like it or not, cultural Christians. Some are liberal cultural Christians, engaged in a massive act of cultural suicide by facilitating Islam’s demographic conquest of Europe. Others are conservative cultural Christians, such as himself, who have recognized the threat of Islamicization and the infection of a weak and accommodationist “cultural Marxist multi-culturalism” in the elite sphere of European society. Conservative cultural “Christians” should arm themselves for the new Crusade to reassert Christian cultural hegemony and drive the Islamic threat from European lands. As for religious Christians:Raised in a secular household, Breivik went from “moderately agnostic” to “moderately religious” and was baptized and confirmed in the Norwegian State Church at the age of 15. He is consistently critical of the Catholic Church and the Protestant Church (which he thinks has served its purpose and should reassimilate into the Catholic Church, in order to give a united front against Islam), as he believes both have abdicated their responsibility to defend Christian subjects against an Islamic invasion.
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