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.
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.
Mr. Prothero, this is a great article. I wish more people would be willing to attempt to understand your points, but instead they just continue to commit the errors you address. It is easier for them this way, and blindly waving the flag of your faith is SO much easier than thinking.
Are you brown nosing for an A in his course? That ought to bring up your GPA.
Well said Tom. Anyone who has studied the New Testament knows that NO ONE who wrote in that text taught or espoused what happened in Norway. Christ taught that we are to love everyone just as God loves us. Anyone who truly believes and follows Christ (hince the name Christian) does the same to the point they are capable. Unfortunately, there are many who call themselves "Christian" who have never read the bible, darkened a church, or prayed. They instead allow themselves to be influenced by others who are in the same condition who have no idea what true Christianity is about.
Christ fed the poor, healed the sick, comforted the disturbed, and refused to let his disciples use violence.
Too many neo-christians these days letting others "decipher" the bible for them ("all Beck & no Bible"). Read it yourself folks.
Focus on the New Testament. Matthew is especially uplifting.
I must disagree with this article. This man claimed to be member of the Knights Templar – an organisation which does not exist anymore. His argument is with multiculturalism. His apparent adherence to Christianity is cultural, not spiritual. His lawyer stated quite clearly today that he is NOT praying. What he is doing is trying to start a war, and by calling himself a Christian he is well aware that this will enrage matters further. I'm sure he would love to see some 'Muslim' retaliation of some sort – or any retaliation. He wants matters to escalate and is using labels to push this escalation along.
Nothing he has said, nothing he has done, nothing he has paid tribute to is is in any way Christian. Anyone who buys into his reasoning is playing his game. He is 'anti-christ' and should be regarding as such by every other person on the planet. To think otherwise is playing into his prejudice and is being suckered in to his way of thinking.
How is what he said not christian? Jesus said "But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them–bring them here and kill them in front of me." Sounds like this terroist and jesus had the idea. Killing and violence.
It has to be considered as two faced logic, dangerous hypocrisy in fact, when someone subscribes to the notion that extremists who self describe as Christian are merely lone, deranged individuals carrying out individual acts of terror, bereft of Christian values, yet extremists self describing as Muslim are called Islamofacists, and an entire religion and its billion or so followers are singled out for indictment.
JJC, where do you find that in the Bible? Please let me know.
Ok this verse was used in a parable that Jesus was telling about money usage. He was talking about a King and what the King said. Not about what he would do. Please read the whole chapter and take in context.
Their calling this guy an MAD MAN.... IF he was Black or Muslim or Both... he would be Called a TERRIOST..
Sad isnt it?
i hear a lot of people calling him a terrorist
There is a difference between insanity and sanity. Sane people can do crazy things but they are tried and punished for it. Insane people are just that (un-sane). So this guy in Norway is different than the KKK or the Black Muslims or the Black September or the Baader-Meinhoff or the Hezzbollah. If you cannot see the difference then possibly you think they are all the same; there is a difference and the rest of us make the distinction.
He IS A TERRORIST
Hes just not a CHRISTIAN TERRORIST
A muslim terrorist is called that for that reason, BECAUSE he commits terror in the name if ISLAM.
Kind of strange, but many simple minded still can't understand this.
This is like saying the political class as a whole should apologize to everyone for the likes of Palin, Bachman, Pelosi, and Gingrich. Calling on Christians, Muslims, Jews, or any other group to denounce the madness of individuals is nothing more than implying that they've all had some role in creating or harboring a monster. It’s similar to calling upon the entire soft drink industry to denounce Dr. Pepper. The same stupidity prevailed after 9/11 when turban wearing Indian-American Sikhs were physically attacked in the streets because they looked Muslim, and when Muslim communities were subjected to increased state surveillance, extra airport screening, extrajudicial renderings of innocent people to torture chambers, racial profiling, and the heinous crimes committed against innocent Muslims everywhere by the US Military without so much as an expression of regret and remorse from the American public. Apparently they all deserved it by association if you ask any 'true' American. No community need take responsibility for, or specifically denounce apart from the general denouncement of society, the actions of lunatics. As terrible as the three monotheistic religions truly are, we needn’t single any out as scapegoats. Typically though, there are plenty of religious adherents/nut jobs who would disagree, to the extent of telling us we really should blame a particular religion in its entirety, including everyone practicing it, so long as its not their own version being blamed.
What poorly researched journalism. It is a huge "leap of faith" to call this dude a Christian. On one hand he does claim to be christian, and on on other hand he doesn't claim to even believe in God. He clearly acted in a non Christian way. Unfortunately his religion and source of values was the Internet. Our brilliant reporter needs to do his homework.
Which of the articles citations are incorrect?
But if your right, then all the White, Southern Baptist Christians who turned a blind eye to the civil rights abuses of the 50s and 60s weren't real Christians either. Right?
maybe useful to read http://ricochet.com/member-feed/Oslo-Terrorist-Was-He-a-Christian-Conservative
nuance is not a specialty at cnn
There isn't a question in peoples minds where Christians stand on this, and so it isn't really necessary to make a formal statement. That sort of like asking a Jewish person to make a formal statement on wether or not they disagree with Hitler's stance on killing jews. I think we all know the answer.
There is always potential for violence in a person who believes that their religion is the only way.
like the Vikings? Woden? .. like the Huns? Like the Mongols? Like the Kamikaze? Like the Reds? Like the Bolsheviks? Like the Gulag? Like the Ayatollah? Like the Duce? Like the Fuhrer? Like Napoleon? Like the Kaiser? Like the Aztec sacrifices? Like virgins into volcanoes? Like the Iroquois? Like the Zulu? Like Ghengis Khan? Like the Cossacks? Like the Turks? Like Lawrence?
Indeed, there is potential for violence in any person, period.
Just because he lives is a nominally Christian country and fantasize about the crusades does not make him a Christian! The Koran (and yes the Old Testament encourage evangelism by violence) thus we have relatively same Islamics trying to force Islamic government (and likewise Zionists taking land because it was in David's kingdom; therefore they do not have to pay for it or consider their brother semitics). But that is discouraged by the Bible. This guy is a raciest mad man and that is that.
Sorry, I goofed, I meant to say the 'New Testament'. Not what went before it.
You also goofed up by not reading the article before you commented.
"Christians should denounce Norway's Christian terrorist"
I think most have. Haven't seen anyone support the guy yet.
They are denouncing Norway's terrorist, not Norway's Christian terrorist.
I don't see a problem with just calling him a terrorist. I've seen the 9/11 guys called simply terrorists.
Alas, I cannot read the article for you.
No one asked you to sickly.
It's this guys opinion that Christians should denounce a terrorist? This guy is really going out on a limb here!
I think there was something else in there about acknowledging the role their shared faith played in this tragedy. But what do I know, I only actually read the article.
Actually, Hitler gave Nietzsche's writing to Stalin as a gift. The Holocaust had nothing to do with Christianity, but everything to do with a hateful man desiring to rule to the world. One thing I suggest is to separate what people do from the religion they say they believe in or belong. If you the know the teachings of Jesus at all, you will know that Breivik is not a follower of Christ, which is what a Christian is. Breivik is a follower of his own ideals, and the media is just pushing his so-called religios thinking to debunk Christianity.
"...separate what people do from the religion they say they believe in or belong."
Separate everything they do, yes.
Either God(s) influence us or not. If they influence us, then they have some responsibility for everything. If not, they deserve neither blame nor credit.
So, are you just willfully ignoring what the author has to say or are you so blinded by your faith that you can't read? He explains (and is completely right) where you are wrong. Please read it again. Breivik is a Christian terrorist as much as Bin Laden was an Islamic terrorist. Facts are facts. You cannot have it your way just because those facts don't correspond to your own beliefs. Some Christians have tolerated violence against gays, women and children, minorities, etc., for a very long time. Now, when this blatant act of Christian-based hatred occurs, some want to run from it. Sorry – this guy practiced what is unfortunately preached by many Christians. Whine about it all you want, but it's just a fact. Those Christians who are against this type of violence (against ALL people) need to start speaking up. Right now, it's easy to see why people are running from organized religion in droves.
Read your bible. There are cases where jesus advocated killing. Actually read the words, don't interperet them based upon your modern ideas, but read the actual words. And quit claiming what jesus stood for based upon the false modern day ideas that he stood for only peace.
Example: "But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them–bring them here and kill them in front of me" Sounds to me like jesus may have advocated killing and violence. And if you do not believe in everything that jesus said then you do not believe in anything jesus said. How can you not see that your very violent bible can lead people to violence? They are just following the words and actual believe what is written. You are the non-believer if you do not believe it all.
You are naive if you think the Holocaust had nothing to do with Christianity.
JJC, once again, please give book, chapter, and verse in the Bible as to where Christ said this.
Again @ Wow:
Learn how to use google.
Ok this verse was used in a parable that Jesus was telling about money usage. He was talking about a King and what the King said. Not about what he would do. Please read the whole chapter and take in context. This is what got Anders in trouble. You can pick and choose verses and justify anything. You need to read the whole chapter and know who the writer was talking to and why.
This guy makes a valid point. The words of those in "power" are empowering. Hate begets hate.
The lawyer of this guy is in bad shape hiding some thing that is bigger than him.....the issue is bigger than just a killing the issue is bigger than you imagine...and can read that on the face of the lawyer answering to media questions.... Prepare your selves for the worse coming now others will try to copycat him...shame really that human is over taken by the evil forces whether he is Religious or non religious....killing is evil.evil.evil..
This guy will be able to go for suing the Gvt of Norway and maybe the whole European system for openning the doors wide open for immigration of non Europian ancestors non Christians which to his balance should remain the majority 99.99 to any other race or religion...
When we Muslims said that those claim call for jihad and those of Alqaida are shallow Muslims and not are as our peaceful teachings of Islam by the Prophet Muhammed (saws)....no one believed us for that so why should now Muslims believe that now it accured to you ??!
Islam at the beginning held the sword only when it was necessary to survive the wars launched against it by the Pagans of Mecca beside the Persians who then were worshipping fire... Any way remember that we never came closer to the West until the launched their first attacks against Muslims by the crusaders that came from the west towards Jerusalem... Such acts has drove Islam to adopt the policy that says "Attack is the best means of defense" to push the crusaders further back.
The whole European,American economy falling and will wash out with it the whole nations that depended economically on their currencies the whole world system is falling apart..and new world will be born only God knows who's and if would be for the Good or the Worse on man being.....
Suggest we forget about Anti- Muslims and Anti-Christian issues and look upon their collaboration together towards correcting the economies of the world to come on together into integration for the sake of Humanity of Mankind otherwise we will all with out any exceptions be drowned all together.... We are all living on one ship and if it drowns we all drown with it....!
Wow.... get your history straight dude. You, you leave out, either on purpose or due to incomplete education, the Muslim expansion west first under Mohammad from ~622AD and ending ~1000AD. It is because of people like you and the writer of the CNN opinion piece that we live in a world like we do.... divided instead of unified- believing in things that are comfortable and fit our paradigm. Shame on us all.
Didn't know that Messenger of Islam lived 388 years?!!
.Islam was driven into expansions outer boarder came after the death of the Messenger of God and only went to outer the Arabian Penisular towards the Arabic countries boarders now because of the wars launched on their boarders by the Roman Empire before changing face when a new Religion was imposed that combined all Beliefs that was within it into one state religion based on which The Roman Armies became to be known there after as the Crusaders whom launched attacks by land or by sea on Islamic countries through many generations up to date
Christians should denounce all violence. That should not be limited to what happened in Norway but all the way down to how we treat the person who is immediately right next to you. Love wins!
Christians renounce violence. Why did you non-Christians approve of Iraq war and profit from munitions you sold to the US? Why did you approve the 1990 Gulf War? You sent others to do your violence and then burned your draft card.. why? Why did Jane Fonda approve of NVA violence? Why did she approve of POW torture? Why did non-believing liberals approve of violations of Geneva Conventions by communists? Why did non-Christians approve of the USSR in Hungary and Czechoslovakia and Poland?
The myth of so-called Christian terror. Here is an excerpt from a WND article 7/24/11 that reports the murderer's words. Perhaps, CNN should do its homework:
"Piecing together Breivik's various posts on the Internet, many media reports have characterized the terrorist – who says he was upset over the multiculturalist policies stemming from Norway's Labour Party – as a "right-wing, Christian fundamentalist."
Yet, while McVeigh rejected God altogether, Breivik writes in his manifesto 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.
Breivik instead hails Charles Darwin, whose evolutionary theories stand in contrast to the claims of the Bible, and affirms: "As for the Church and science, it is essential that science takes an undisputed precedence over biblical teachings. Europe has always been the cradle of science, and it must always continue to be that way. Regarding my personal relationship with God, I guess I'm not an excessively religious man. I am first and foremost a man of logic. However, I am a supporter of a monocultural Christian Europe."
Read more: Terrorist proclaimed himself 'Darwinian,' not 'Christian' http://www.wnd.com/?pageId=325765#ixzz1TERc29SC
He (Breivik) describes himself as a Christian and conservative on Facebook page attributed to him
So ... did Prothero read this material and ignore it when he wrote the article ... or did he just write his insulting opinion without having as much information? Either he researched it and overlooked all of it or he did not research anything and just spewed his own negative opinions about Christians .. either way it is an insult to all of us
Becuase World News Daily isn't biased in any way, right?
Aren't they the ones who broke the "news" that Obama wasn't born in the US and claimed that 9/11 was God's punishment for New York's moral depravity?
Right wing, conservative, evangelical claptrap.
Surely you don't expect to be taken seriously using information from Wing Nut Daily.
The Manifesto linked to by the WND article you cite does not claim the author to be "Darwinian" at any point. It uses the word "darwin," in any form, a total of 6 times, mostly incorrectly, but none of which claims that the author is "Darwinian." He does claim to be a "man of logic," but that claim is used by many people and usually inaccurately.
The word "christ," in any form, on the other hand is used 2473 times and includes such statements as:
"My parents, being rather secular wanted to give me the choice in regards to religion.
At the age of 15 I chose to be baptised and confirmed in the Norwegian State Church. I
consider myself to be 100% Christian."
And in the paragraph just before the quote you gave it states:
"I fully support that the Church gains more or less monopoly on religion in Europe
(government policies, school curriculum etc at least) in addition to granting the Church
several concessions which have been taken from them the last decades. "
Doesn't sound all that atheistics or Darwinian to me.
Blame Australopithecus afarensis .. she started it all. It makes more sense than Prothero .. and you anti's believe in the ape theory don't you. I do too .. so many retain their monkey origins .. .. now don't go ape .. have a banana or two
Clyde, you are the one who clearly does not get what Prothero is driving at. The manifesto reveals it is the CULTURE that Breivik believed was under attack by Islam, and that he identified himself, as many do, as a cultural Christian. It was the culture, which has a strongly racial componant when discussed in that contect, that Breivik was obcessed with and felt was under attack, and that would explain the mixture of Christianity and Old Norse ideas that he hashed together. I don't think Prothero is attacking Christians, but rather the excesses of belief. Breivik's words and actions are no different than McVeigh, or the 9/11 attackers: people who see and attack on their culture and dehumanise their "opponents" to such an extent that they will calmly carry out horrific acts in defense of their cultural view. Its sickening, but not uncommon. Think of the people who attacked the hotels in mumbai a few years ago: its the same thing.
Look at these loons turning themselves into pretzels trying to explain why this guy should not be called a Christian Terrorist.
What pretzels...he was a terrorist that happened to be a christian. Though in his manifesto he didn't claim to be a christian. Eh...what I think most christians are trying to do is not to get pegged along with this guy and that is understandable.
Closed minded fools might try to say all christians are like this guy...and they would be idiots if they tried that..right?
Just like Al Q'aida are terrorists that happen to be Muslim. I think what John was saying is that while a great many Christians are willing to paint all Muslims with the terrorist brush, they are bending over backwards to deny this guy was a Christian. Most of them cannot see the hypocrisy in that.