The media has begun talking about the shooter in Norway, Anders Behring Breivik being a fundamentalist Christian.
My initial reaction was one of caution since afterall, in the past, people have been wrong about Timothy McVeigh being a Christian when he was an agnostic.
I thought I look into the matter myself, by searching through Breivik’s own manifesto accessible HERE.
I. Surveying his 1518 page manifesto, it is clear is that Breivik does not fit the description of a Christian fundamentalist, as claimed by some such as CNN.
To claim that he is a Christian fundamentalist is inaccurate:
1.) Christian fundamentalist believes that Catholicism and Protestantism has a wide doctrinal divide and stanchly opposes all things Ecumenical including Vatican 2. Yet we read of Breivik’s statement in his manifesto concerning what he think of this Catholic effort:
The Second Vatican Council from the 1960s was good for reaching out to Christians of other denominations, Protestant and Orthodox, and for reaching out to Jews.” (Page 675).
2.) The shooter is open about the fact that he is critical of Christianity:
I’ve been critical of Christianity sometimes because it is one of the impulses behind the Western inability to protect our borders, and it is.” (Page 675)
3.) From the above quotation (#2), one can gather that Breivik’s litmus test of Christianity rest on the basis of whether or not a religion would protect one’s border, rather than the Fundamentalists’ litmus test of the Bible and it’s doctrines.
4.) It’s not only some generic Christianity that Breivik criticizes, fundamentalist circles are within Breivik’s target of criticism. Reacting to a comment about leaving one’s brain at the door when entering the church, Breivik states:
In this regard, the evangelist, fundamentalist churches are no better than the liberal ones.” (Page 676)
It does not seem likely that if Breivik was a a staunch fundamentalist Christian would think of fundamentalist churches as being irrational.
5.) Christians of the fundamentalist stripes tend to pursue a Christianity that is “unadulterated” by Pagan beliefs since they believe this “pure” form of Christianity is the solution for man and civilization. Breivik instead believes that a Christianity without a mesh of pagan beliefs is the problem rather than the solution:
Yes, medieval Christianity had no qualms about resisting invaders, but medieval Christians (as Protestants love to point out) had adulterated their faith with pagan beliefs. Over the past few centuries, Christianity has stripped itself of its pagan accretions. In the process, it has become as much a threat to ourselves and our loved ones as Marxism used to be, if not more so.
That sounds like a harsh judgment. It is.” (Page 676)
This is very uncharacteristic for a fundamentalist to believe in.
6.) While Breivik is against feminism, he appeals to atheistic and Darwinian thinking and line of reasoning rather than religiously biblical ones:
Marriage is not a “conspiracy to oppress women”, it’s the reason why we’re here. And it’s not a religious thing, either. According to strict, atheist Darwinism, the purpose of life is to reproduce.” (Page 350)
Again, this is rather uncharacteristic of a Christian fundamentalist.
7.) Finally, a “fundamental” mark (irony) of a Christian fundamentalist is the profession by the individual of having a personal relationship with Jesus and God. This is something Breivik denies having:
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.”(Page 1307)
Moreover, for those who read his thesis, the issue that drives him is more about the survival of the West against Islam, Multiculturalism Marxism and Nazism (cf. Page 1237) more than anything. His game plan and idea of the organization that will save Europe is open to non-Christians, Jews, atheists, etc., and does not reflect a Christian fundamentalist’s “world-fleeing-Jesus-is-the-exclusivistic-answer” mentality.
II. If Mr. Breivik does claim to be a Christian, it is more as a “cultural” Christian because Europe has historically been Christian (given his adoration of European culture). Therefore any claim he might make of being a Christian is loosely a Christian at that, and must be understood in light of what he means by Christian. He is far from some kind of self-subscribing “fundamentalist Christian” that some think he is.
Breivik does talk a lot about Christianity in what he wrote. Again, what he means by “Christianity” must be understood in light of his nuances. In a section of his manifesto titled, “Distinguishing Between Cultural Christendom and Religious Christendom–Reforming our Suicidal Church”, Breivik makes a distinction between a “worldly Christianity” and a “Religious Christianity” and therefore a distinction between religious and cultural Christian (Page 1307). He writes,
A majority of so called agnostics and atheists in Europe are cultural conservative Christians without even knowing it. So what is the difference between cultural Christians and religious Christians? 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.” (Page 1307)
Note how his definition of a cultural Christian include “a majority of so called agnostics and atheists.” Highly unusual perhaps to many, but that’s how he uses the term and one should be cautious to think that Breivik’s shooting and terrorism has anything to do with religious motivation or that it was God-driven, since atheists and agnostics in his definition are cultural Christians too. Used in the cultural sense, it seems to point towards one who subscribe to European culture rather than something that has to do with Jesus per se.
Note also how Breivik define “religious Christians” as one has a personal relationship with Jesus and God, which he then proceeded to say that it’s something he does not have. By Breivik’s own admission, he is not a religious Christian, and his motives for his behavior lies elsewhere. It has nothing to do with Christianity as most understand it in it’s usual meaning.
Readers need to understand that this “Cultural” Christianity that Breivik subscribe to is about European culture and nothing to do with the Christian message of a personal relationship with God. Breivik writes,
European Christendom isn’t just about having a personal relationship with Jesus or God. It is so much more.” (PAGE 1341).
Some might say that Breivik is a “religious Christian” but he himself admits he is not religious:
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.” (PAGE 1344)
A very unusual thing to have written in one’s manifesto if the guy is supposedly a die-hard Christian fundamentalist. He even admit that he’s influenced by his secular surrounding and environment, will the media now give the narrative that Breivik is influenced by secularism?
If Breivik’s terrorism was religiously motivated and his manifesto is suppose to explain the religious ideology that drives him, it is unusual that he has his particular view on prayer. He does not even think he needs to prayed at the time of his writing:
However, I have not yet felt the need to ask God for strength, yet…” (PAGE 1344).
And then sees prayer more of a psychological booster more than anything:
If praying will act as an additional mental boost/soothing it is the pragmatical thing to do.” (PAGE 1345)
One has to understand that for Breivik, belief in God is not the motivation for what he does, but rather it is the pragmatic psychological crutch that helps one achieves their effectiveness in terrorism:
Pragmaticists or rationalistic minded individuals who are hardened atheists should consider the following; it may be pragmatic to believe in an afterlife as it will make you a more efficient soldier. The less fearfull a person is the more effective he will be as a warrior. A person who believes that death is eternal is likely to be more fearful than an individual who believes in an afterlife. And as we all know; fear is poison in combat and it will cause confusion and hesitation. A spiritually confident individual, who does not fear what awaits him, is less likely to fear death and will therefore act more confidently and professionally in warfare. As such (and from a pragmatical viewpoint), religion is an essential component in warfare but ESSENTIAL in martyrdom operations.” (PAGE 1345)
He makes it clear that his terrorist organization is not a religious order. For someone who is supposedly a fundamentalist Christian, he’s not seeing his religion as a big deal in what he’s doing. He explains the following reason why his terror organization will not be a religious order:
Furthermore, creating a religious order would be counter-productive as a majority of Europe’s armed resistance fighters are agnostics, atheists or relatively secular Christians. The organisation is therefore considered a moderate Christian identity organisation and not a religious order.” (PAGE 1363).
One of course have to remember what he means by “moderate Christian” is his idea of a European society and not “religious” Christianity.
It’s hope that those who think the shooter from Norway is a Christian fundamentalist would reconsider this claim as a myth.