July 25th, 2011
11:13 AM ET
Is 'Christian fundamentalist' label correct for Norway terror suspect?
By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor
(CNN) - Given initial suspicions that Friday's bombing and mass shooting in Norway were carried out by Islamic militants linked to al Qaeda, the way police ended up describing the suspect behind the attacks came as a big surprise even to many security experts: The alleged attacker was called a "Christian fundamentalist."
But experts on European politics and religion say that the Christian fundamentalist label could overstate the extent to which the suspect, Anders Behring Breivik - who has told authorities that he carried out the attacks - was motivated by religion, and the extent to which he is tied to a broader religious movement.
"It is true that he sees himself as a crusader and some sort of Templar knight," said Marcus Buck, a political science professor at Norway's University of Tromso, referring to an online manifesto that Breivik appears to have authored and which draws inspiration from medieval Christian crusaders.
My Take: Norway attacks shows terrorism isn't just Islamic
"But he doesn't seem to have any insight into Christian theology or any ideas of how the Christian faith should play any role in Norwegian or European society," Buck wrote in an email message. "His links to Christianity are much more based on being against Islam and what he perceives of as 'cultural Marxism.'"
From what the 1,500-page manifesto says, Breivik appears to have been motivated more by an extreme loathing of European multiculturalism that has accompanied rapid immigration from the developing world, and of the European Union's growing powers, than by Christianity.
"My impression is that Christianity is used more as a vehicle to unjustly assign some religious moral weight," to his political views, said Anders Romarheim, a fellow at the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies. "It is a signifier of Western culture and values, which is what they pretend to defend."
"I would say they are more anti-Islam than pro-Christian," Romarheim said in reference to what appear to be Breivik's views.
The manifesto is religion-obsessed in that it rants for long stretches against Muslims and their growing presence in Europe.
Who is Anders Behring Breivik?
It calls for a European civil war to overthrow governments, end multiculturalism and execute "cultural Marxists." The manifesto includes a link to a video asserting that the majority of Europe's population will be Muslim by 2050 "unless we manage to defeat the ruling Multiculturalist Alliance."
The author of the document identifies himself as Breivik, but CNN could not independently verify that he wrote the document, and Norwegian authorities would not confirm that the man in their custody wrote the manifesto, saying it was part of their investigation
Opposition to booming Muslim immigration to Europe, exacerbated by high birth rates in the Muslim community, has become a mainstay of Europe's burgeoning far-right, helping right-wing parties gain seats in parliaments across the continent.
But those right-wing movements are mostly secular. Europe's hard right does not have deep ties to Christianity in the way that the United States' conservative movement is entwined with evangelical Christianity and other theologically conservative religious movements.
A far-right comeback in Europe
Recently adopted European laws aimed at curbing Islam's public visibility, including France's new burqa ban and Switzerland ban on minarets - towers that a part of mosques - were secular causes, not ones championed by Christian interests. Many Christian groups oppose such bans.
"The bulk of the anti-Muslim sentiment is not against Muslims as such, but is a secular rejection of how some Muslims allegedly want to place Islam at the center of society," Buck said. "It is more anti-religious than anti-Muslim."
Breivik's apparent manifesto, by contrast, cites biblical verses to justify violence for political ends.
"Clearly, this is not a pacifist God we serve," it says. "It's God who teaches our hands to war and our fingers to fight. Over and over again throughout the Old Testament, His people are commanded to fight with the best weapons available to them at that time."
"The biggest threat to Europe is the cultural Marxist/multiculturalist political doctrine of 'extreme egalitarian emotionalism,'" the manifesto goes on. "This type of political stance involves destroying Christendom, the Church, our European cultures and identities and opening up our borders to Islamic colonization."
The video that's linked to in the manifesto also includes some religious language: "Celebrate us, the martyrs of the conservative revolution, for we will soon dine in the Kingdom of Heaven."
Experts on religion in Europe said those faith-infused views are likely peculiar to the suspected gunman and do not appear reflect wider religious movements, even as they echoes grievances of Europe's right-wing political groups.
"He was a flaky extremist who might as well have claimed to be fighting for the honor of Hogwarts as for the cause of Christ," said Philip Jenkins, a Pennsylvania State University professor who studies global religion and politics, describing the suspected Norway attacker. "He did not represent a religious movement. ... People should not follow that Christian fundamentalist red herring."
At the same time, Breivik told investigators during interviews that he belongs to an international order, The Knights Templar, according to Norwegian newspaper VG, which cited unnamed sources.
He described the organization as an armed Christian order, fighting to rid the West of Islamic suppression, the newspaper said. He also told investigators he had been in contact with like-minded individuals and said he counts himself as a representative of this order, it said.
For many in Norway, the potential implications of the suspected killer's religion are still settling in.
"This is the first time we've heard of Christianity/religion as a driving force behind right-wing extremism," Buck said. "The mainstream right-wing movements in the Nordic countries (very small and disorganized groups in Norway) would generally point to the Old Norse beliefs, if anything."
"Norwegian, Nordic and European society," he said, "were totally unprepared for a violent attack from someone who calls himself Christian."
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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.
This article and to a much further extent the comments on it all fall to the "no true Scotsman" fallacy.
Don't think so. There REALLY is a problem with religious extremism, but not all extremists take it this far. I think you have the fallacy of thinking all labels are logical fallacies.
The article states that the suspect is "more anti-Islam than pro-Christian". I would say that argument also applies to most terrorists proclaiming to be Muslims, they are more "anti-Christian (or anti-Western) than pro-Islam". Neither Muslims nor Christians commit terrorist acts, extremists do. This horrific act illustrates this point. Extremism in all forms is bad, hatred in all forms is bad and nobody is safe from the consequences of hatred. In this case, hatred and fear of Islam lead to the senseless murder of 68 children, most of whom where Christian. I hope this horrific act will make us all understand that we all suffer the consequences of bigotry and make us all act accordingly.
Fortunately for Christianity, unlike islam, there ARE NO Christian terrorist organizations like Al Queda which fund, support, train, and instruct those amongst them to carry out mass murders. When one lone nut does something like this and tries to claim Christianity, you can look around to find no Christian organization to claim any ownership of him.
I've been expecting this type of action from conservative evangel Christians, fundamental Christians, for a long time.
I'm sadden at all the killing but not surprised but I honestly thought it would happen in the U.S. first.
I remember when the abortion doctor in Wichita Kansas was murdered in his church, all the statements made in the Kansas City Star news paper. So many talked about how proud they were of the murderer, that god would bless and reward him, that many thought it was about time that someone started killing abortion doctors, and a few said that they've thought about it but didn't have the courage.
As far as I'm concerned, these types of people are Terrorists, which is why I refer to them as the American Taliban! Same ethics as the Taliban, much of the same justification as the Taliban.
Sadly, I seriously doubt that this will be the last we hear of fundamental Christian people killing other people.
Remember Oklahoma City? It has happened here, but I get your point.
And what Christian terrorist organization was behind his actions? Oh, that's right, there wasn't one. This is one lone nut who claims to be Christian. It would be like me blowing up a building, calliny myself Hindu, and then having everyone talk about how "hindus" are doing mass murders"....just as silly. No Christian group owns him in any way. He is a lone, sick person, and can be attached to no Christian group. Nice try Christian haters.
That's ok David, I understand you can't help yourself. Your religion teaches denial and justification. It's simply an act of trying to distance your religion from the murders committed by this Christian.
In all fairness, I will say that I do draw a line between Christians and fundamental, conservative evangel Christians. These types of Christians I would never suspect of committing murders.
Ron, deranged people will attach to any number of things to meet their goals. To call this man a Christian is like calling me a vegan since I like eating dead animals, preferably at Texas RoadHouse or Steak N Shake.
No, it does not. Islamic Fundamentalist movements have produced thousands or tens of thousands of terrorists who have killed hundreds of thousands. This is a lone nut.
Exactly...one lone nut claiming a religion does not taint the religion. That happens when large groups in a certain religion organize world wide, create huge funding pools, training camps, schools, etc. Like islam for example.
Yea and they plan to implate us all with microchips... damn where's my tin foil hat... dude you got one i can borrow?
The correctterm is "Christian Terrorist". Too mnay people want to sweep the violence done in the name of Christianity under the rug by labeling him a "madman" or "Lunatic"... Yet they want to always call Muslims who commit violent acts in the name of Islam Muslim or Islamic "TERRORIST", because apparentlyy Christians can't be terrorists... Well... This guy , Tim McVeigh and many others throughout history have solidified that the terorist practices aand rhetoric are fundamentally symbiotic to Christianity as well. Anyone ever heard of the "Crusades..the Inquisition ???.
I agree completely. All the times I've seen Christians trying to sweep things under the rug so their religion doesn't look bad and then come up with justifications for the acts. Justification is one of their biggest tools.
Tim McVeigh was anti-government who was ticked off because he saw the government's attack on Waco as a threat to his rights. He did not operate in the name of Christianity. Please educate yourself before making stupid comments.
What well funded, well organized, global terrorist organization was Mcveigh part of? Where are their schools, training camps? What countries are they located in? What is another major attack you can name that we can point to? Do you see how silly your comments sound?
Norwegian Shooter Loves Israel
Anders Behring Breivik, the man being held for Friday's shooting at an island off the coast of Norway, expressed anti-Islamic sentiments in English in the past and was an enthusiastic supporter of Israel, according to a Sunday-evening report by Channel 2 television. Breivik's 1,500 page book attacks the European political establishment because he sees it as an ally of the Muslims against Israel, and praises Israel for not giving Muslims the same rights they enjoy in different European countries.
And with this....the "It's the JEWS fault" type comments begin....ugghh
The man did not follow the teachings of Christ and is not a Christian according to the words of Jesus Christ. Jesus said if you do not follow his teachings you are not his. Period. In my opinion anyone who calls the man a Christian is either ignorant of the Bible or a willful liar.
Mat 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Mat 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
Mat 7:23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
1Jn 2:4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
Jesus taught us to love everyone, even our enemies. Not to kill them. The Bible says anyone who claims to know God but who hates or murders is a liar.
Mat 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
1Jn 4:20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
1Jn 3:15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
Mr article writer, according to the Bible the man who killed all those kids did not know God. He is a liar in calling himself a Christian. He hates people and he murders and he does not live according to the core teachings of Christianity.
Mat 22:36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
Mat 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
Mat 22:38 This is the first and great commandment.
Mat 22:39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Does that mean that Al-Qaeda isn't composed of Muslim extremists? Many Muslims have said that Al-Qaeda does not represent Islam.
"Is Christian Fundalentalist label correct for Norway serial killer?" No. Why is CNN even trying to make this leap? It is absurd. Of course it isn't correct, or even remotely feasibly correct. No real Christian would ever do this. He is clearly "nuts", to commit an act like this. Either that or he's a psychopathic killer, which is probably the same thing. He can say he's a Christian all he wants to. Actions say otherwise. He could also say he's a astronaut, just back from the moon but that wouldn't be true either. It should be clear, to anyone capable of reading and comprehending, from the articles on this page, that CNN is anti-christian.
It's rather obvious that you're in denial and refuse to accept the fact that a fundamentalist Christian murdered in the name of politics and religion!
I accept that ONE LONE PERSON did something bad and then CLAIMED to be part of a religion, despite the fact that he was part of no Christian organization, and that no group of Christians of any size has or does support his actions. One person saying they are a given religion and killing people doesn't make it true, if there is no real support of any organization flying the flag of that religion. They are simply a nut.
hell they don't even know if the guy in custody wrote the damn thing yet they continue to report it as fact
Hilarious. Christians have no problem using the phrase "islamic extremist", but when it's one of their own, suddenly they object to the terrorism being linked to THEIR religion because it doesn't reflect their broader views. Muslims, oh sure, their religious fundies are all nuts, and it should be shown it's because they are Muslim, but Christian terrorists? Nah, anyone who does this isn't a real Christian. How...hypocritical and typical.
That would be because in islam, there are large, well funded, organized groups that plan and support mass killings. This like the abortion bomber killing, is an example of a lone nut, not a part of a world wide terrorist organization such as Al Queda. Most people are savvy enough to understand the difference.
Bloody labels. Give it a rest.
Wow. We're all too happy to label people as islamic fundamentalists but when the same behaviors come from christians it just has to be something else. If he were from Pakistan and committed the same crime, he would swiftly (and justly) be labeled an Islamic Fundamentalist. So because he is white and not *gasp!* brown, he doesn't fall under the label of fundamentalist or terrorist? No way, this case is no different... he IS a christian fundamentalist AND a terrorist, plain and simple. Any person who kills or maims people in the name of ANY religion is a terrorist and should be acknowledged as such.
Who is we? I don't recall electing you to speak for me.
Michelle, this guy is no more a christian than he is a muslim. He is a nut case. Plain and simple. Don't let your hatred for christianity overshadow the obvious truth.
When an Al Queda member blows up a market, or a school, he acts with the support of a well funded, world wide organization comprised of tens of thousands of members. When a nut like this, or the abortion bomber acts and calls himself a "christian", he does it as a lone wolf nut case. There are no Christian terrorist organizations like an al queda. If I blow something up and say I am of a certain group, it is not valid unless there is an organization who claims me, has helped support me, etc. Learn the difference.
For goodness sakes Michele read the bloody article before you make a comment.
Living in a society that adopts a religious worldview, and acting out the principles espoused by such worldview are two different things. Christianity as a belief does not promote violence nor justify it as a means to an end; Islam does. An "Islamic fundamentalist" committing an act of terror acts out what is permitted by that worldview; a "Christian fundamentalist" doing the same acts in direct contradiction to the Christian worldview. Regardless of what this guy is called, it is disheartening to see the worldview that allowed the formation of all western democratic societies being thrown in the mud as the motivation for such horrible acts.
Each time you make this claim about the lack of Christian terrorist organizations, I'll toss the following list at you:
The Manmasi National Christian Army, National Liberation Front of Tripura, The Army of God, the Aryan Nations, Aryan Republican Army, Phineas Priesthood, and The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord, The Hutaree, Defensive Action, The Freeman Community, Concerned Christians, Lambs of Christ, Lord's Resistance Army, the Iron Guard, Lancieri et cetera, ad nauseum
@Doc Vestibule....please read a comment carefully before responding....I spoke of world wide, well funded, terrorist organizations. The sorry list you came up with is none of that, and pretty laughable. But since you are at it....can you name a recent terrorist attack on American soil from these people where some type of mass killing occurred? Thanks.
@ Really David?
I distinctly remember Pat Robertson specifically calling for the assassination of Hugo Chavez on his TV program. Robertson, as far as I’m concerned, is a Christian fundamentalist terrorist. It amazes me how many conservative Christians are in denial.
You states quite explicitly a couple of comment pages back that you don't believe there are ANY Christian terrorist organizations.
I give you list of them, and you start adding qualifiers like "large international organization". So let's please set the ground rules.
How many members must an organization have to be before your consider it a proper terrorist group?
Must the organization be international for you to consider it a contender?
What consti.tutes international for you?
@DOC....I'll spell it out in crayon for you since you are rather obtuse....please give me the Christian equivalent of Al Queda. Thank you.
Putting aside your childish petulance, you failed to answer my question.
"Equivalent to Al Qaeda" is a mite general.
How many members must a terrorist group have for you to consider them a proper militant organization?
If you can define what consti'tutes a terrorist organization in your mind, then perhaps we can advance the debate.
He should be the poster boy for the Republicans in the USA.
....and the christian fundamentalist who shot the abortion doctor to death in church was not 'christian.' And eric whatshisname who bombed abortion clinics and then hid in the woods for a few years was not 'christian.' And the fundamentalist family who travel from funeral to funeral to mock deaths of military personnel are not 'christian.'
What's the recurring theme? They all want to impose their view of right-and-wrong on everyone else. Sounds like christian fundamentalists to me.
This guy is as christian as the guys who destroyed the WTC were muslims. Lunatic(s) trying to make a point. If there is a hell they will meet each other there.
EXACTLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THANK YOU so much. You took the words right out of my mouth.
Except for the fact that the people who blew up the WTC were part of a well organized, well funded, global terrorist organization, and this guy was a lone nut supported by NO Christian organization. Quite a difference don't you think?
This man is neither Christian nor fundamentalist. The God of the Bible does not condone premeditated murder. The only death by His hand in this dispensation is the eternal death of sinners who continue in their unbelief. Yet, He loved even them enough to sacrifice His Only Son so that even they may live eternally. Those who murder in the name of God are just murderers and should be treated as such.
You've never read the bible, have you?
Please re-read your bible. Scorched earth ethnic cleansing all over.
Well there are lot premeditated murders in Bible..have you read story about the wall of jericho how it was brought down..i can give you lot's of examples..
So, if an individual who identifies as Christian crusader undertakes an attack based on anti-Islamic and anti-immigrant sentiment, he's not a "Christian fundamentalist" and his attacks are not based in fundamentalist Christianity, but if an individual who identifies as a Muslim crusader undertakes attacks based on anti-Christian or anti-Israeli beliefs, then he IS an "Islamic fundamentalist"? We don't get to have it both ways. Either we start describing these kinds of of right wing attacks in the context of fundamentalist Christianity, or we do the right thing and temper our characterization of terror attacks involving self-identified Muslims.
You summation is quite correct. All to often one hears other Christians say, "but he's not a real Christian."
This comment gets really old as they seek to distance themselves and their religion from the other person.
Yes moron, because it depends on whether or not the religion was the motivation behind doing it. If someone randomly attacks another person on the street because he is deranged, that does not mean the attack was provoked due to religious motivations simply because he might have attended a church at one time.
When muslims are killing because it says in the Koran to "kill the infidels wherever you find them," that is a religiously-motivated crime. duh.
this manifesto also said that he is not religious, has doubts about God's existence, does not pray, but does assert the primacy of Europe's "Christian culture" as well as his own pagan Nordic culture.
so, IF it is his manifesto then he considers himself a pagan
My thoughts exactly. Thank you!
Most of Al Quada the Taliban and other Muslim Extremists who participate in terrorism have just as few ties to the Muslim religion as this guy has to the Christian religion, yet our hate and prejudice against things we don't understand stops people from seeing this.
Meanwhile, the idea that there hasn't been this type of Christian claim (albeit false christianity) behind right wing extremism or violence is absolutely ridiculous....ever hear of the Ku Klux Klan, attacks on gays or abortion clinic bombings? And that is in the last 50 years alone. Given the hate spouted by the right wing media, the real surprise is that this doesn't happen more frequently and that this happened in a place like Norway...I would have put money on some of Beck and Limbaugh's fanatic followers doing something even more severe in America long before now!
Extremism and fanaticism are the problems, no matter what religion seems to be attached. Neither Christianity nor Islam nor any other religion of which I am aware preaches hate or violence and as a percentage of the population none is more or less likely to have terrorists than any other. The difference is how we label it. For some reason when the individual cites Christianity we want to say "it has nothing to do with the religion", but when the indidual cites Islam, Judiasm or Hinduism, we are all too happy to embrace that as the cause rather than a personal defect or political position.
Correct. If ONE LONE NUT kills people and claims a religion, it has no credibility without some ownership by a group comprised of people in said religion. One person claiming to speak for a religion on his own, is just a nut.
If a Pagan committed a murder, it would be covered in all the news papers, stating that he was Pagan.
Why are Christians any different?
I know a lot of Fundamentalist Christians, and most of them CAN BE Judgmental, Self-righteous, Control-Freaks. But They don't generally start their arguments with bullets.
So, NO, this SOB wasn't behaving as a Christian ANYTHING. He's just EVIL.
Most Muslims would say the same things about Muslim extremists. Why is it that an extremist who espouses to be Christian can be labeled "not a real Christian," while an extremist who espouses to be Muslim is labeled a "Muslim extremist?"
Kim....because when someone like an Al Queda member kills as a member of a well organized, well funded, global terrorist organization, it is safe to say that he is killing under a religious banner, and is part of an organization. When ONE LONE NUT kills people, then claims a religion without any evidence of any group under that banner supporting him, he is just a nut.
Well many who call themselves christian in the united states could be characterized in exactly the same manner as this guy – they have no clue of theology but they parade around as holy rollers ready to curse anyone supporting abortion rights. It is proper to call this guy a christian fundamentalist. He is no different than many in the t-party in the U.S. One guy I met from the t-party was informing me that in the up-coming civil war the intellectuals would be the first to die. They are making plans just like this guy. They are all tied together and organized. Just be forwarned that right wing christian fundamentalists are just as dangerous as al queda.
I bet you are one of those conspiracy theorists. Lee Harvey Oswald didn't act alone. Did he? What about area 51? Just blame the tea party and set the record straight.
Yup – I know a couple.