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July 26th, 2011
10:15 AM ET

My Take: Christians should denounce Norway's Christian terrorist

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

Ideas matter; thoughts have force. This is an obvious truth. It is why pastors preach, why professors profess, and why pundits do whatever they do.

Yet whenever ideas do things we do not want them to do, as they did in Oslo , Norway on Friday, we try to pretend that ideas are powerless.

For the last two decades, Christian students have told me that Christianity had nothing to do with the Holocaust. After 9/11, many Muslims said that the men who flew those planes into those buildings had nothing to do with Islam. When Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot, we were told that the crime had nothing to do with our current climate of political hatred.

Unpacking the 'Christian fundamentalist' label for Norway terror suspect?

Now in the wake of the Oslo massacre bloggers and pundits are reassuring us that the crimes of the alleged perpetrator Anders Behring Breivik can be understood simply as the product of a deranged mind. They had nothing to do with his Christian faith or his anti-Islamic ideology. This is wishful thinking of the most dangerous sort.

According to Bill O'Reilly of Fox News, "Breivik is not a Christian." According Ross Douthat, the conservative Catholic columnist at the New York Times, “it’s fair to call Breivik a right-winger” but not a Christian  fundamentalist.

Meanwhile, Andrew Brown at the Guardian is reassuring his readers that “Anders Breivik is not Christian but anti-Islam.”

My Take: Norway attacks show why you can't #blamethemuslims

Brown goes on to describe the various anti-Islam bloggers Breivik read and apparently quoted in a manifesto, only to conclude, “Obviously these people cannot be held responsible for the use to which their ideas were put.”

I don’t find that obvious at all.

I think all of us who place ideas into books or blogs or lectures or sermons should be acutely aware of the use to which our ideas might be put. What is obvious is that those who read or listen to us will take our ideas in directions different from what we intended. But that fact does not absolve us of responsibility when they do.

If you devote your life to spewing anti-Islamic hatred, you should not be surprised if someone comes along and kills in the name of that hatred. In fact, you should expect it.  If you insist as a matter of revelation or dogma that the Jews killed Christ then you should not be surprised if Christians come along and kills Jews in the name of Christ. In fact, you should be surprised if that does not happen.

We live in an age of anger. That anger is fueled by ideas. And the most incendiary ideas are those that call down the force of God or nation (or both) in the service of denouncing those who follow other gods or belong to other nations.

Anders Breivik was obviously politically motivated. The 1,500-page manifesto that has been attributed to him draws on contemporary European and American conservatism in its attacks on Marxism, multiculturalism, secularism, academia and feminism.

But Breivik's motivations were equally, and obviously, religious. His manifesto cites the Atlas Shrugs blog of Pamela Geller, who has made a name for herself in the United States by opposing the Islamic community center near Ground Zero. According to the New York Times this manifesto also quotes Robert Spencer of another anti-Islamic web site, Jihad Watch, 64 times.

But Breivik does not just deny Islam. He affirms Christianity. He describes himself as "100% Christian" in his apparent manifesto. That work says he's a member of the “Knights Templar," which the document refers to as “a Christian ‘culturalist’ military order.”

The manifesto refers repeatedly to martyrdom, calls Breivik the "savior . . . of European Christendom," discusses Quranic views of Jesus and quotes extensively from the Bible.

In fact, in an extended section justifying violence in the name of self-defense (plagiarized, like much in the manifesto, from other websites), it quotes from Exodus, Samuel, Judges, Psalms, Luke, Matthew, Isaiah, Daniel, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians and other biblical books. "God will anoint you with his power to go into battle," the manifesto reads. "God can be a Man of War if He wants to be."

Finally, key dates in the manifesto, including the date for the rampage itself (July 22), are linked to key dates in the history of the Christian crusades. "Celebrate us, the martyrs of the conservative revolution," a video attributed to Breivik reads, "for we will soon dine in the Kingdom of Heaven."

Osama bin Laden was a Muslim terrorist. Yes, he twisted the Quran and the Islamic tradition in directions most Muslims would not countenance. But he rooted his hate and his terrorism in that text and that tradition. So Muslims, as I have long argued, have a responsibility to speak out forcefully against Bin Laden and to look hard at the resources in their tradition that work to promote such evil.

If he did what he has alleged to have done, Anders Breivik is a Christian terrorist.

Yes, he twisted the Christian tradition in directions most Christians would not countenance. But he rooted his hate and his terrorism in Christian thought and Christian history, particularly the history of the medieval Crusades against Muslims, and current efforts to renew that clash.

So Christians have a responsibility to speak out forcefully against him, and to look hard at the resources in the Christian tradition that can be used to such murderous ends.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Christianity • Crime • Europe • Politics • Violence

soundoff (619 Responses)
  1. Jake Sundholm

    So I simply declare you come up with a number of excellent points and I will post a number of recommendations to add to soon.

    November 15, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
  2. Mike P

    "If you insist as a matter of revelation or dogma that the Jews killed Christ then you should not be surprised if Christians come along and kills Jews in the name of Christ." Um...WHAT? See Acts 2: The Bible flat out says that the Jews killed Jesus. And then in the very next paragraphs it offers them salvation through Jesus. Nowhere in the Bible (unlike the Quran) does it teach that Jews (or any other unbelievers) should be killed for their unbelief toward Christianity.

    August 21, 2011 at 3:47 am |
  3. Paul

    Well Stephen, God is one because it is written, "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord he is one!".

    August 16, 2011 at 2:16 am |
    • ross1954

      I am a Christian but not everyone is here in the US therefore I agree with the atheists.

      September 5, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  4. sheisugly

    He is a christian hero, at least to the likes of the EDL and Geert Wilders. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if the more messed up members of these groups did not fund him.

    August 15, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  5. s baxxerley

    A terrorist is a terrorist regardless of his/her religion. Christians (as with all people of good will) denounced Hitler. Take a look at the crosses on military graves across Europe. Money where their life was. CNN, like most MSM, has some need to highlight religious differences and stir the pot for circulation. We should expect better from CNN in 2011 CE (I know CNN prefers BCE and CE).

    August 9, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  6. Thinker23

    Muneef: there are no "ISLAMIC" lands... But if you insist then you should explain what Muslims are doing in OUR JEWISH LAND.

    August 1, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
    • John Utah

      Land that you guys stole from the Palestinians. Your former Prime Minister even said it: David Ben Gurion "They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that? They may perhaps forget in one or two generations' time, but for the moment there is no chance" I dare you to argue this!!!

      August 2, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • ross1954

      It's more like stolen land a bit at the time.

      September 5, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  7. Colin in Florida

    "Author Stephen Prothero said: Christians should denounce Norway's Christian terrorist"

    Well, imagine that. Of course, if they don't renounce it, they are, ipso facto, supporting it.

    And we can't have religious people out there killing people-except god himself, who wipes out millions and millions in the bible.

    August 1, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
  8. Anti Christian Taliban Schizophrenics

    Jesus Muneef, give it a rest. You are so annoying sometimes.

    August 1, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  9. ralpha1961

    My Take: Christians should denounce CNN, HGTV, History Channel, Science Channel and National Geographic Channel for their take on Christianity. Their shows give views and attack without proper rebuttal.

    July 31, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
    • ross1954

      BOY, YOU ARE CRAZY

      September 5, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
  10. Muneef

    Islam or Christianity by Birth are Not Religions but rather a political Nationality..!!

    July 31, 2011 at 9:06 am |
  11. Muneef

    Peace and Ramadan Kareem to all Muslim Brothers and Sisters...Inshallah fasting from Monday Dawn to SunSet...
    Just wonder in Christians or non Religious have tried fasting as Muslims do...am sure with time they will adopt it as a system for the health benefits it holds health and body...it is told it helps the body to discharge and burn out the poisonous chemicals from our bodies other than controlling weights... Some say they can not because of smoking other for water or food...but other than that is controlling anger or bad mood of the empty stomach, controlling one's tongue from hurting any one,to control eyes from staring at desire... Above all those to a Muslim he is to Maintain Prayers and Quran Reciting which of course beside it being a spiritual matter it is meant the body exercise by the up's and down's of prayers....as well as training of tongue & lungs by the Quran Recitation...these beside Tasbih "Praise of Glorify" helps to control one's breathing..

    So you see it is all good and challenging since only by those means can you gain control your desires... 
    -–

    Control of Desire Quran verses same Verse in Arabic but in English check translation and God knows how many are other more...such as these things case confusion among non Arab Muslims and non Muslims..although all end to mean same thing but in different ways that caused it be misunderstood...then the fact of being translated in many languages in the same way...! This was just a standing example of the Quran although still alive existing and in one copy !?
    Then imagine what could have had happened to the Torah and or Gospel having passed through three dead languages,one after the other then from a classic language into modern language, in many different copies then into many languages.

    Read and Judge; 
    ----
    [79:40] As for the one who reverenced the majesty of his Lord, and enjoined the self from sinful lusts.
    [79:41] Paradise will be the abode.
    ---–
    But as for him who feared to stand before his Lord and restrained his soul from lust, (40) Lo! the Garden will be his home. (41)
    --–
    And as for him who dreaded standing before his Lord, and restrained his soul from lust, (40) Verily the Garden! -that shall be his resort. (41)
    ---
    And for such as had entertained the fear of standing before their Lord's (tribunal) and had restrained (their) soul from lower Desires, (40) Their Abode will be the Garden. (41).
    ----
    But as for him who feared standing before his Lord, and restrained himself from impure evil desires, and lusts. (40) Verily, Paradise will be his abode. (41).
    ----
    Whereas for the one who feared to stand before his Lord, and restrained his self from the (evil) desire, (40) The Paradise will be the abode. (41).
    ----

    July 30, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
  12. Kabel

    A christian is someone who follows the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. This man is no Christian and that is not a statement, but a fact, just look at what Jesus taught and how he lived and that should be enough proof for anyone. Being Christian means going beyond the principle of believing that Jesus is the son of God, it is giving your life over to his teachings, his way of life.

    July 30, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • LinCA

      There are more than 34,000 different christian sects. They all have an equal claim to the term.

      If he claims to be christian, that's all the evidence that is required. Just because he picked a different set of bits and pieces of your "holy" book to follow, doesn't mean he isn't one of yours.

      He appears to have committed these heinous crimes based on his religious beliefs. He appears to be a christian terrorist.

      July 30, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
    • Jameses

      By that logic, very few Christians are actually Christians. In fact, most of the prominent right-wing Christians in America would not be Christians, because Jesus was a socialist through-and-through.

      August 1, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • Thinker23

      Kabel: You'll have VERY hard time trying to prove that Mr. Breivik was a Jew, a Buddhist or a Muslim. The fact is that he was no less a Christian than Osama Bin Laden was a Muslim.

      August 1, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • BW

      The religious aspect of Breiviks actions has been way over-stated. His grievence was against multiculturalism rather than the religious aspect of Islam per se (Hence the attack on a political camp rather than a mosque). And he wasn't a christian in the religious sense either, he was actually an athiest that saw a need to believe and pray to god as a weekness. He considered himself a cultural christian championing christian (that is, western) societies. This isn't to justify his actions because obviously anyone who shoots up a summer camp full of unarmed kids is deranged to begin with, its just to add a little clarity to the discussion. And Jameses-Jesus wasn't a socialist. Didn't he say "render unto caesar that which is caesar's and render unto god that which is god's"? Essentially saying that religion and politics can and should be seperate issues?

      August 2, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
    • ross1954

      I agree with JAMESES words written below. Jesus was not like any republican I know. He was more like a socialist.

      September 5, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  13. John

    I know you're just trying to be sarcastic. But you're just as wrong as the people who think that all Muslims are responsible for the misguided acts of a few.

    July 30, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • Thinker23

      ALL Muslims are responsible for doing nothing to stop those "deranged few" from committing actions they do not want to be held responsible for.

      August 1, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
  14. Philip

    Editor's Note says, Mr. Stephen Prothero, you are a scholar...But how come you put up such an ill informed article. You need to open a Bible and see yourself.. I think you did not learn much in your University. My advice to you, Stephen, please do not write with out learning something. You are not qualified to write about Bible or christianity. Start learning Bible..

    July 30, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • Jameses

      But first, you should start learning English.

      August 1, 2011 at 11:33 am |
    • Bus2

      Hahahaha; there are few things funnier than someone saying "you are not qualified to write", then following it up by saying "Start learning bible". Lol!

      August 1, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  15. Muneef

    Could not open this report to see but maybe you can;
    http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/393042/july-25-2011/norwegian-muslish-gunman-s-islam-esque-atrocity?redirect=true

    July 30, 2011 at 12:16 am |
    • Muneef

      If it is true Europe is drowning in Muslims then it must be because Christians are becoming less...! 
      If it is true Europe is drowning in Colored then it must be because European whites are becoming less... !
      But what was the Question "Muslims or Colored" since both are same to certain blood races... The game of "Masters&Slaves" rather than "Equality to Mankind"..."The Beast in man is in regaining power over all Declared Rights".
      Mankind is under slavery in Different Colorful Masks by Religious or Poltical Ent-i-ties".

      July 30, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
  16. Muneef

    I'm a beast of a poster but no one reads my long rambling nonsense posts anyway.

    [1:23] mumbo jumbo jimbo in your samba islam shislam gislam in your tea sock garden rome tome

    [5:678] mumbo jumbo jimbo limbo in your samba islam shislam gislam in your tea sock

    [1:45] mumbo jumbo jimbo in your samba islam shislam gislam in your tea sock garden rome tome

    [1:23] mumbo jumbo jimbo in your samba islam shislam gislam in your tea sock garden rome tome

    [5:678] mumbo jumbo jimbo limbo in your samba islam shislam gislam in your tea sock

    [1:45] mumbo jumbo jimbo in your samba islam shislam gislam in your tea sock garden rome tome

    [1:23] mumbo jumbo jimbo in your samba islam shislam gislam in your tea sock garden rome tome

    [5:678] mumbo jumbo jimbo limbo in your samba islam shislam gislam in your tea sock

    [1:45] mumbo jumbo jimbo in your samba islam shislam gislam in your tea sock garden rome tome

    [1:23] mumbo jumbo jimbo in your samba islam shislam gislam in your tea sock garden rome tome

    [5:678] mumbo jumbo jimbo limbo in your samba islam shislam gislam in your tea sock joony toony

    [1:45] mumbo jumbo jimbo in your samba islam shislam gislam in your tea sock garden rome tome

    [1:23] mumbo jumbo jimbo in your samba islam shislam gislam in your tea sock garden rome tome

    [5:678] mumbo jumbo jimbo limbo in your samba islam shislam gislam in your tea sock

    [1:45] mumbo jumbo jimbo in your samba islam shislam gislam in your tea sock garden rome tome

    [1:23] mumbo jumbo jimbo in your samba islam shislam gislam in your tea sock garden rome tome

    [5:678] mumbo jumbo jimbo limbo in your samba islam shislam gislam in your tea sock

    [1:45] mumbo jumbo jimbo in your samba islam shislam gislam in your tea sock garden rome tome

    [1:23] mumbo jumbo jimbo in your samba islam shislam gislam in your tea sock garden rome tome

    [5:678] mumbo jumbo jimbo limbo in your samba islam shislam gislam in your tea sock

    [1:45] mumbo jumbo jimbo in your samba islam shislam gislam in your tea sock garden rome tome

    [1:23] mumbo jumbo jimbo in your samba islam shislam gislam in your tea sock garden rome tome

    [5:678] mumbo jumbo jimbo limbo in your samba islam shislam gislam in your tea sock

    [1:45] mumbo jumbo jimbo in your samba islam shislam gislam in your tea sock garden rome tome

    [1:23] mumbo jumbo jimbo in your samba islam shislam gislam in your tea sock garden rome tome

    [5:678] mumbo jumbo jimbo limbo in your samba islam shislam gislam in your tea sock

    [1:45] mumbo jumbo jimbo in your samba islam shislam gislam in your tea sock garden rome tome

    [1:23] mumbo jumbo jimbo in your samba islam shislam gislam in your tea sock garden rome tome

    [5:678] mumbo jumbo jimbo limbo in your samba islam shislam gislam in your tea sock

    [1:45] mumbo jumbo jimbo in your samba islam shislam gislam in your tea sock garden rome tome

    [5:678] mumbo jumbo jimbo limbo in your samba islam shislam gislam in your tea sock joony toony

    [5:678] rumble stumble in the whazzut har cat in a chimpanzee allah walla walla

    July 29, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • Muneef

      Well seems that did pain some beast... Now using my screen name to mumbo jumbo ....!?

      July 29, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • Muneef

      [51:52] Consistently, when a messenger went to the previous generations, they said, "Magician," or, "Crazy."

      [51:53] Did they make an agreement with each other? Indeed, they are transgressors.

      [51:54] You may disregard them; you cannot be blamed.

      [51:55] And remind, for the reminder benefits the believers.

      July 29, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
    • Thinker23

      Why don't you try to say something people WILL BE interested to hear/read, for a change? Why don't you say something that is TRUE? Why don't you say something promoting peace, love and life instead of hatred, death and lies?

      August 1, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
  17. Muneef

    This was not written by Muslims !! 
    But maybe explains that you should start cleaning ŷour own door step;

    "Revelation shows that the power behind the throne of the Roman Empire or the beast was the devil himself (Revelation 12:8-9)". 
    Read more;
    http://www.gci.org/bible/rev/beast

    July 29, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • Muneef

      This was not written by Muslims !!

      Revelation shows that the power behind the throne of the Roman Empire or the beast was the devil himself (Revelation 12:8-9). 

      Revelation tells us the beast’s mentor is the dragon or Satan, who gives him power, authority and a ruling throne (verses 2, 4). The dragon works behind the scenes through the beast, and he will not be mentioned much until chapter 20. But we know that he is the one who is responsible for leading the "whole world astray" (12:8). We can then define the beast from the sea or the Roman Empire as the agent of the dragon on earth.

      The beast from the earth
      Chapter 13 introduces us to the two agents through whom Satan carries out his war against the people of God. The first beast from the sea was grotesque, with seven heads and ten horns. It possessed the combined characteristics of leopard, bear and lion.

      The second beast comes out of the earth. His appearance is not so terrifying. While he speaks with the power of the dragon, he has only "two horns like a lamb" (13:11). This beast is later identified as "the false prophet" (16:13; 19:20; 20:10).

      The main function of the second beast or false prophet is to cause the world to worship the first beast, who represents secular political power. Thus, he is something of a chief priest in the beast’s kingdom.

      The second beast establishes the ideological foundation of the anti-God empire or kingdom on earth. He creates the instruments and rituals of worship in his name. The second beast uses his religious authority to underpin the political, military, social and inst-i-tutional power of the first beast.

      The second beast has been called the antichrist’s Minister of Prop-a-ganda. In many respects his nefarious work is a parody of Christ establishing the kingdom of God.

      Read more;
      http://www.gci.org/bible/rev/beast

      July 29, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • John

      WTH is that? That's some messed up translation you're quoting there....

      July 30, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  18. william wallace

    The fact being as long as one abides by ideas / beliefs
    then there will always be dispute conflict ideas beliefs
    can change with development of one's brain / as one's
    ideas beliefs may strengthen in the brains development.

    The reality one must go beyond ideas as beliefs to that
    where know the power / essence of ones own being.

    How is such to be achieved?. Through meditation / one
    turning one's senses inward bringing a unfolding of the
    spiritual self. / Not ideas beliefs / not of a heaven being
    somewhere beyond the clouds /rather that of practical
    spiritual experience in bringing clarity of understanding
    which answers all questions / even those yet unasked.

    On pc search put ( words of peace ) on the site a large
    selection of videos which Prem Rawat explains needed
    understanding towards meditation. In turning the senses
    inward / bringing spiritual experience that answering all
    questions.Thus ideas belief exchanged in knowing truth.

    July 29, 2011 at 5:13 am |
    • chief

      damn ... time to relight

      July 29, 2011 at 9:54 am |
  19. Muneef

    BBC2 has produced 'a presenter-led do-cu-mentary series' on the life of Muhammad (pbuh)
    which 'draw on the expertise and comments from the world's leading academics and commentators on Islam.'
    You will find all three parts of the do-cu-mentary in the following link.
     http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b012mkh7/episodes/player
     

    July 29, 2011 at 2:19 am |
  20. Muneef

    Such crime if it took place any where in our Islamic lands and was caught for the crime....he will be torn to pieces there and then with out trial since trials are supposed for those who are suspected and not proven guilty....but as a case that is as plain they should have condemned him to worst death with out any need for court trials...
    But by being soft on the issue and giving ear to such junk you open doors for those copycats whom seek fame...
    That is only fair and secure..

    July 29, 2011 at 12:02 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.