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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."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Islam • Norway • Terrorism

soundoff (1,640 Responses)
  1. Logic

    So if there is a Satan and he wants to deceive people in a manner that would make them averse to the entire notion of Christ, would a strategy like having someone espouse anti-multiculturalism and murder and purportedly claim to be "christian", despite the fact that his actions in no way reflect Christ, sound palpable and effective? Looks like it's working.

    July 25, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • Belloch

      Yup.

      July 25, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  2. R Burns

    "Christian Fundamentalism" is an oxymoron, no matter who is using the term. Christ did not teach fundamental Judaism, but Christian Fundamentalists tend to fall back on Old Testament dictates – the very doctrines Jesus cautioned against. Christ taught the spirit of the law, forgiveness and acceptance, while the old laws were harsh and unyielding. Jesus' ministry was designed to bring sanity back to religion, and instead evangelical and other fundamentalist groups are heading right back into the dark times, fostering hatred and closing minds. It happens on both sides, Christian and Muslim. To be truly a fundamentalist Christian, one would have to adhere to and teach the actual message of Christ, which so often gets lost in zealous frenzy such as what we see in the Norway situation. It's an extreme example, but one we would be wise to keep an eye on. It's too easy for groups to get worked up like this, and stopping the insanity has to start with the individual. That takes more courage than going along with something like this.

    July 25, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Jo Jo

      Don't Christians believe in the whole Bible...Old & New Testament? Did Jesus not say that "Fear not that I came to destroy the law (of teh Jews) but I came to abide by it."

      Old Testament quote:
      "And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and woman: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house." (Ezekiel 9:5-6)

      New Testament quote:
      "But those enemies of mine who do did not want me to be king over them–bring them here and kill them in front of me." (Luke 19:27)

      Point here is not to point fingers at the Bible or Jesus's teachings, however scripture is often taken out of context and while many are quick to point this out when something like this happens and the terrorist is a Christian, however the same is not given when it involves someone who claims to be a Muslim and justifies his actions using his scripture.

      July 25, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
  3. Duke One

    The left wing media also said that Timothy McVeigh was a "Christian" turns out he wasn't. The media just loves to whip up the liberial atheist mob.

    July 25, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  4. Chris Williams

    Christians are trying to weasel out of it. Take ownership - your religion foments this sort of thing. Whether this is due to the inherent nature of the religion or whether it is due to an aberrant interpretation of it is of no importance. Many christians (as usual) will claim that "he was not a GOOD christian," but you too are a carrier of this disease. The world would be a better place without christianity.

    July 25, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • Conrad Shull

      No it doesn't you dumb a**h*le

      July 25, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • leelanau

      Are you serious, you bonehead? Please do tell me where and when this kook last went to church? But in your anti-religious fervor, you are comfortable in telling peaple to "own it". Well, I may be Christian, but perhaps not a perfect one, but I am comfotable in telling you to shove it, dikhd......

      July 25, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • Logic

      43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven." – Jesus (Matthew 5:43-45)

      July 25, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • Belloch

      The world would be a better place without Christianity?

      Geez...Chris Williams, I think the Oslo terrorist said something very similar in his manifesto. Except I think he said it about immigrant Muslims. I guess the only thing that separates your hate from his is that he acted on his, huh?

      July 25, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  5. cjb122

    Besides secret societies – freemasonry....knights templar

    He may of also had a darwin side:

    Q: What should be our civilisational objectives, how do you envision a perfect Europe?

    A: “Logic” and rationalist thought (a certain degree of national Darwinism) should be the
    fundament of our societies. I support the propagation of collective rational thought but
    not necessarily on a personal level.

    He also had a black metal music side: From Bergen, Norway a one man band called Burzum – Varg Vikernes

    A man for all seasons

    July 25, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  6. Rozelle

    More people have been killed in the name of power, glory, money, lust, greed, jealousy, etc. than in the name of any religion. Bad guys seem willing to use the name of God, Allah, etc. justify anything they want to do.

    July 25, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • leelanau

      A very sane, and astute observation. Thank you.

      July 25, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  7. Logic

    All actions by those who claim to represent different religions aside, isn't Jihad an authentic Quranic principle? And isn't it true that the Bible condemns murder and commands submission to government and love of enemy? How can it really be reconciled that this man's unfortunate actions reflect Christianity in any way, and how can people say that the origins of violent actions between the two religions are comparable? It seems to me that doing so is misleading.

    July 25, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Jenamire

      No. In the NT, disciples are urged to go spread the good news of Jesus Christ's resurrection. When they come across someone who refuses to listen, they're supposed to brush that person's dust from their feet and move on.

      In so many words...

      July 25, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • Logic

      "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you..." – Matthew 5:44

      July 25, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • leelanau

      Praying for, and submitting to, are not mutually inclusive principles.

      July 25, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  8. Ranzabar

    Christians are ideologues. That's the nature of named-religious organizations. The range of personality is wide, but the common thread is that they all have their lives invested in a belief structure that gives them a foundation on which to function. When they perceive that that foundation is in jeopardy, they as a whole are more inclined to act to counter that action. Most will act locally in either a personal or political way, but some, as in this case will take it to a level outside what is socially acceptable. This happens regardless if denomination. The crazies are out there and they are more likely to be religious that not.

    July 25, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • David Stone

      Fortunately though, there are no well funded, well organized, global, CHRISTIAN terrorist organizations, such as those found in say, islam. What we see here, as with mecveigh, or an abortion clinic bomber, is one lone nut, who CLAIMS to be a member of a certain faith, though no ties to any organized group can ever be found, no ties to any sympathetic church can be found, and no evidence to support his claim of "membership" can be found to the given faith. In a nutshell, a lone nut is just that, lone nut, and he can CLAIM anything he wants. That does NOT make it so.

      July 25, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  9. AndrewCarlton

    Absolutely fits! I have worked and lived with many Christians and and Christian Fundamentalists are just insane.

    July 25, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  10. baba

    A christian terrorist resorting to start a CRUSADE IN europe against immigrants. No need to sugard coat it.....
    By calling him a lone madman u are missing or ignoring lot of people who have similar ideas but have not operalized their plans...
    I see a double standard that in trying to analyze this christian terrorist grievances about immigration you europe they are trying to humanize him while the west does not try to see the greivances of a islamic counterpart.

    July 25, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
  11. Matt

    I disagree with the label, simply because he was acting from an anti-multiculturalist / anti-marxist perspective. Not as much Christian-motivated, e.g. God didn't tell him to do this. Classical muslem extremists would argue they were instructed by Allah, but this man is politcally motivated. Ergo, you should not mistakenly call him a Christian fundamentalist, because he is not.

    July 25, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Mikey

      That Christian terrorist had the holy spirit talk to him 🙂 ( you know , the holy spirit that's Satan himself)...Is a label like Satanic Christian terrorist works better with you ?

      July 25, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  12. Mikey

    More like a Christian Terrorist

    July 25, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
  13. volksmaniac

    "One guy I met from the t-party was informing me .." Hearsay times two . And we are supposed to accept this as fact ? This is fearmongering at its best by someone who doesn't know his @$$ from a hole in the ground .

    July 25, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  14. JustMe

    Religion - Christianity, Islam, you-name-it - is often used to justify harming others. Seems like some people just need a way to feel that they are equal to or better than others, and they will use whatever they can.

    July 25, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  15. Bruce

    If this guy isn't a Christian then Osama bin Laden wasn't a Muslim.

    Goose/gander and all that rot.

    July 25, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • Tom

      Gentile is NOT the same as Christian.

      July 25, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Scott

      Bible says to love your enemies, Quaran says to kill the infidel...

      July 26, 2011 at 12:41 am |
  16. Duke One

    It's bad enough that there is no "dislike" button. So where is the "like" button ?

    July 25, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
  17. Tom in the Great NW

    So, now the christians want some distance from Breivik. What group has killed more humans than any in the history of the world? Easy, christians. Look at the Crusades, the Inquisition, Napolean's christian army, Hitler's christian army (hell, they killed about 50 million folks alone!), the yearly rate of killed in the US, and what about those atom bombs? These folks have the absolute edge on killing. The question should be why does McVey and Breivik type incidents occur with more frequency?

    July 25, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Belloch

      McVeigh was an anarchist, not a Christian terrorist. He wrote in his book that "Science is his religion."

      July 25, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Tom

      Gentile does NOT equal Christian.

      July 25, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • leelanau

      Pinheads like you will never seem to get it right.....however, you have no need for the truth if it doesn't suit your argument. FACT is atheists are responsible for the persecution and execution of more people of faith in this century than in any true "religious wars" in the written history of mankind. Nice try though you blithering idiot.

      July 25, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Ryan in Michigan

      @Tom – Wow, are you off! First of all, Hitler didn't have a Christian army. He burned Bibles and imprisoned and killed Christians right along with the Jews, Muslims, and other religious groups.
      Second of all, you're leaving out the vast Atheist armies of Lenin, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, and Kim Jong Il, who have killed many millions on their own. Not exactly putting the best foot forward, huh?

      July 25, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  18. Barry

    I am an American, what I am about to say will inflame right-wing christian fundamentalists or as I called them the "Tea-bag Party"! I shudder to think how many of terrorists like the one in Oslo, actually reside in this country waiting to strike. Right-wing christians are far more scary than Islamic-fundamentalists, mainly because they haven't started their reign of terror. Maybe this is the beginning! Christian fundamentalist pervert everyhting they read in the Bible to justify their actions.

    July 25, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Scott

      I am not inflamed in the least. In fact you have my pity that you have bought into such nonsense.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:42 am |
  19. John

    He's a mass murderer. That's all. You want a label, look in your clothing.

    July 25, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Mikey

      MORE LIKE A CHRISTIAN TERRORIST. THE SURVIVORS WILL TELL YOU HOW TERRORIZED THEY WERE... NORWAY SHOULD START A WAR ON TERROR NOW THAT CHRISTIAN FANATICS STARTED TERRORIZING THE INNOCENT PEOPLE OF NORWAY

      July 25, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Scott

      LOL best comment award, ten points.

      July 26, 2011 at 12:42 am |
  20. Glenner

    For those who insist that the label "Christian fundamentalist" fits in this case, consider this. ALL of the Islamic terrorists found to have participated in 9/11 were attending mosques, participating in daily prayers, living lives as and professing Islamic faith for years prior to their attacks. In addition, they were part of a "known" Islamic training camp for terrorists.

    This Norwegian wing-nut has no known church congregation that he was a part of, nor is there any evidence that there was any known fundamentalist Christian training camp that he attended to resource and prepare him. He is a lone-ranger and a lunatic. Pick your label but to add Christian to it is just disingenuous at best. My personal favorite – wing-nut!

    July 25, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Bruce

      This guy was not acting alone, fyi.

      July 25, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • Glenner

      So 'he' says Bruce. Let's see how that report pans out. I guarantee you he was not attending any Christian church, praying to God for wisdom and direction or part of any Christian association. Knights Templar, yeah that's likes saying that Free Masons are Christian. Lots of ignorance out there unfortunately.

      July 25, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Maya

      So, who exactly gave you the authority to decide who is and isn't a Christian? I thought it was God alone who has knowledge of any man's faith. Is it not then blasphemy to go about declaring that you have knowledge of who is a "true" Christian?

      Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than living in a garage makes you a car.

      July 25, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Glenner

      Maya, you thought wrong actually. I don't know where read that but Jesus did say that we could and should know who are false prophets and those who are not his true disciples, "by their fruits." Read Matthew 7:15-23 for one example. I wasn't saying that I have knowledge of whether or not this guy is a Christian, but I can say that the evidence is weak that he is and stronger that he isn't!

      Secondly, your are partly correct about going to church and being a Christian. The problem with your analogy is that cars 'are' actually found in garages for extended periods if time 😉

      July 25, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • Tom

      @Maya ... exactly right with your car and garage analogy. But why then assume this wingnut is Christian? Jesus said "By their fruits you shall know them" ... it's not judgemental to be discerning! And I can easily discern this wingnut wasn't a Christian!

      July 25, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • Joshua the Agnostic

      According to Fundamentalists calling yourself a Christian is as easy as ABC.

      Accept that you are a sinner.
      Believe that Jesus is the son of God and died for your sins, then later rose again.
      Confess your sins to God

      It's very easy to become a Christian Fundamentalist. However doing what Jesus asked his followers to do is a whole different matter. A very small percentage of fundamentalists actually study or read the Bible outside of church or church functions. They are almost completely dependent on their pastor.

      July 25, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
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