Oslo Terrorist – Was He a Christian? [update]
At the Ricochet version of my prior post, a commenter listed two very excellent articles that were similar to mine, but with different approaches. I highly recommend them:
Timothy Dalrymple looks at the question of “Was Anders Breivik Really Christian?” with a moral outlook. That is, as a Christian, how should one respond to the accusation that Anders was a Christian, and that the Christian community has some culpability in his actions?
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’ve been surprised by how many virulent athiests/agnostics on the internet have made the empty claim that no Christian has condemned the actions of this monster. I can’t think of anyone who hasn’t! Still, this accusation will remain because the accusers want to believe it.
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.
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.
I tried to document the many instances where Anders denies the faith, and redefines it in a way that few Christians would affirm. It’s important to note that while Christianity has many denominations, at the heart of it is the simple belief that God does exist, and that Christ is His only Son.
These things Anders does not believe, and this makes him not a believer, but an pragmatic opportunist. He makes it clear that Christianity is the only religious framework that has a chance to combat and defeat Islam, but he would have preferred “Odinism” or what he considers the more masculine pre-Christian pagan faiths.
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….
Christianity is not a cultural system. In fact, in those cases where it has become so intertwined with a culture that the two cannot be separated, this is inevitably to the detriment of Christianity. Christianity is fundamentally a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, a community and a way of life, all wrapped up in historical, moral and theological beliefs, values and commitments. These things are not culture and civilization. They shape culture and civilization.
This is a beautiful and clear explanation of what Christianity really is, and why Anders was not really a Christian in the true, traditional, and philosophical understanding of the term.
Those who hate our faith will keep howling that we are to blame for the radicals who take up the mantle but not the cross; they will try to redefine what it means to be Christian in order to continue condemning us. This is why we need to arm ourselves with facts such as those presented, so that we can argue with our interlocutors, always in love, from a place of truth, and towards the final Word of truth.
I highly recommend reading the entire article.
Another, more philosophical, analysis by Michael Horton: “Enlightenment Fundamentalist slays 80 at Norwegian Summer Camp” ties the real ideology of the murderous monster, and rightfully identifies it as “Enlightened Fundamentalism”.
Anders Breivik. Here is someone who thinks of himself as a general in “a culture war”—a defense of Christendom without Christ. “As this is a cultural war, our definition of being a Christian does not necessarily constitute that you are required to have a personal relationship with God or Jesus.” In fact, “Being a Christian can mean many things,” he says, but mainly it’s about protecting “the European cultural heritage” with “reason [as] the primary source and legitimacy for authority.”
Again, my earlier post documents many of the instances where Anders rejects Christianity and describes his own “faith”. Anders reminds me of Lucretius’ description in De Rerum Natura, of the enlightened atheist who still uses the names and images of the gods in order to keep his place in society.
If a man insists on calling the sea “Neptune”
The name of Bacchus than to call wine what wine’s called,
We’ll give way, let him tell us and tell us the world’s
“The Goddess Mother” – so long as in truth he still
Keeps his mind clean of the taint of vile religion. (book 2, 652-660)
In the ancient world, the Greek gods offer no more consolation to Lucretius who had lived through the horrors of the Siege of Athens. Was Anders trying to manufacture a similar moment of extreme horror for the European in order to shake off the idols of lazy modern life?
Whatever his goal, it is clear that his understanding of Christianity is essentially opposed to the way it has been understood since its inception. For Anders, this religion is useful as a means, whereas the entire philosophical tradition of Christianity has been that God is the end, and never a thing to be used for the sake of attaining another. This is the reason for the famous Thomistic credo, “Philosophy is the handmaiden to Theology,” as the scientia, or knowledge, of God is the highest thing that all other sciences serve.
For the “Enlightenment Fundamentalist,” the relation is inverted – Reason is supreme through its own solipsistic inception in Descartes’ Cogito Ergo Sum*, and thereby becomes the thing by which all others are judged. Since it is unmoored from a constant and higher foundation, eventually, it turns on itself. This is the development Nietzsche prophecies, and Anders is the solution – he wills to power through necessity of survival under the threat of Islamist aggression, a return to the most useful framework that will become the handmaiden to nihilist, hyper-rational philosophy.
At least in religious terms, it sounds like the average European or North American: “It is enough that you are a Christian-agnostic or a Christian atheist (an atheist who wants to preserve at least the basics of the European Christian cultural legacy (Christian holidays, Christmas and Easter). The PCCTS, Knights Templar is therefore not a religious organization but rather a Christian ‘culturalist’ military order.” It’s hatred of the cultural “other,” not faith in Christ, that drives groups like Breivik’s.
Breivik’s formulation turns on itself just as destructively as the empty modern religion of his Marxist multi-cultural enemies. Horton identifies the intellectual inconsistencies of the irreligious “Enlightenment Fundamentalist:”
In another irony, Breivik’s portrait of the reinvigorated crusader invokes the “die-a-martyr-and-go-straight-to-Paradise” doctrine of Islamic terrorists. “We are not only automatically granted access to heaven in light of our selfless acts; our good deeds and final sacrifice will be added to the divine storehouse of merit and will therefore help other less virtuous individuals…”
One thing Breivik clearly is not: a Protestant. In fact, he hopes that all Protestants will return to Rome under a unified papal system that (he hopes) will recover its old crusader nerve. “I usually refer to Protestantism as the Marxism of Christianity. As long as you ask forgiveness before you die you can literally live a life as the most despicable character imaginable.” Interesting thing to say after you’ve massacred 80 Norwegian campers.
In the end, Breivik comes to the same failure of attempting to create a ethos, a masculine church without Christ, as a response to, and a critique of, what he considers the feminine church without Christ. In this, he is just as Godless as the “other” he hates, with slightly more traditional trappings, and much greater violence.
*”I think therefore I am”
—- other OSLO posts —–