Was Anders Breivik Really a Christian?
- Monday, July 25, 2011
If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God then you are a religious Christian. Myself and many more like me do not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God. We do however believe in Christianity as a cultural, social, identity and moral platform. This makes us Christian.
Well, no, actually it doesn’t make you a Christian. Most believers – liberal and conservative alike – decry the notion of “cultural Christendom,” or the theory that a person could be Christian by participating in the outward forms of Christianity while abandoning its inward beliefs, values and relationships. Breivik several times asserts the superior authority of logic and science, and clarifies his commitment to “Christendom” as a monoculture, not “Christianity” as a life of personal devotion to Jesus Christ. Breivik does not see himself as a follower of Jesus Christ, but as a Crusader defending Christendom from Islamicization. He does not defend Christianity as a system of beliefs, stories and existential commitments; he defends Christendom as his own side in the clash of civilizations.
Breivik demonstrates no belief in the deity of Christ, in part because he’s not really sure that there is any God at all. Although he says that those who live “under full surrender with God the Father” will receive his “anointing” for battle, he also says that belief in God is a crutch in the face of death. He writes:
I’m not going to pretend I’m a very religious person as that would be a lie. I’ve always been very pragmatic and influenced by my secular surroundings and environment…Religion is a crutch for many weak people and many embrace religion for self serving reasons as a source for drawing mental strength…Since I am not a hypocrite, I’ll say directly that this is my agenda as well. However, I have not yet felt the need to ask God for strength, yet…But I’m pretty sure I will pray to God as I’m rushing through my city, guns blazing…
Breivik describes how he will be on a steroid rush in the midst of the attack, listening to his iPod (perhaps Clint Mansell’s Lux Aeterna, he says), in order to ward off fear. He explains that he chooses to pray and believe in God in order to overcome the fear of death. He recommends other martyr-crusaders do the same, as religion is “ESSENTIAL in martyrdom operations.”
So, while it was obviously wrong for some commentators to rush to the assumption that this attack in Norway was perpetrated by a Muslim, it is a dramatic mischaracterization to say that it was perpetrated by a “Christian fundamentalist.” He might have been a “cultural Christian” by some definition, and a political fundamentalist, but he was certainly no “fundamentalist Christian.” It’s important to be clear: by almost every definition, Anders Behring Breivik was no Christian at all.
3. Finally, Christians should consider how they can build relationships of mutual respect and understanding across religious boundaries, and should understand the distinction between cultural and religious differences. Breivik is critical of George W. Bush, among others, for saying that our war is not with Islam. Yet Breivik’s atrocity illustrates the wisdom and the importance of this approach. As a matter of fact, there may be a sort of implicit, long-term struggle underway between different cultures and different civilizations, in the way that cultures and civilizations evolve and grow or else fade into obscurity. Yet this is not remotely the same thing as a religious war, and what is emerging may minimize cultural differences and let the truly religious and spiritual differences come through more clearly.
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