It is something which adds bitter insult to grievous injury, when a brutal killer is rewarded after the fact of his crimes by having his twisted personal manifesto widely publicized and analyzed, before the eulogies for the victims have even been heard. Often when it happens the killer himself is dead, but not so in the case of Anders Behring Breivik, who will apparently have the opportunity to enjoy his notoriety for many years to come, since Norway does not practice capital punishment (and in theory he may be released after 21 years in prison). Inevitably his 1518 pages of writing, titled “2083: A European Declaration of Independence,” will be pored over in an attempt to explain his demonic acts.
Since I already wrote something two days ago regarding the common description of Breivik in the media as a “fundamentalist Christian,” a follow-up on that point based on his writings seems called for, at least in my own mind. There’s no possibility of my reading his entire opus, but I thought a quick probe of his “Christianity” might be possible by simply doing a word search for the name Jesus. Unsurprisingly, the references I found this way betrayed no particular faith and even less any sensitivity to Christian teaching. He seems to stitch in cold references to Christianity merely as part of his process of documenting whatever it is he thinks he is documenting. On page 1307, he explicitly states that he has no “personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God” but instead believes in Christianity “as a cultural, social, identity and moral platform.” I speculate that he may find that this position leaves something to be desired when he meets his Maker. But I know of no kind of “fundamentalist Christian” (a term which in itself is poorly used far more than it is ever accurately used) who would say such a soulless thing.
Some discussion of the status of Christianity in Norway has been entered into in the aftermath of these events, and this snippet from Wikipedia provides some numbers:
Norwegians are registered at baptism as members of the Church of Norway; many remain in the state church to be able to use services such as baptism, confirmation, marriage and burial, rites which have strong cultural standing in Norway. About 79.2% of Norwegians were members of the Church of Norway as of January 1, 2010. However, only 20% of Norwegians say that religion occupies an important place in their life (according to a recent Gallup poll), the fourth-lowest such percentage in the world (ahead of only Estonia, Sweden and Denmark). In the early 1990s, it was estimated that between 4.7% – 5.3% of Norwegians attended church on a weekly basis. This figure has dropped to about 2% – the lowest such percentage in Europe – according to 2009 and 2010 data.
So you have a widespread nominal Christianity with almost no Christian formation, fellowship and community, and precious little professed belief. It’s a story reflected throughout Western Europe, and it is tragic.
What actually motivated Breivik’s murder spree? It is hopeless to try and find a clear reason for actions that self-evidently lack rationality, but I think we can be sure of this much: To carefully and methodically kill dozens upon dozens of innocent people, at close range, in the way that he did, requires a literal lust for blood. He looked into the eyes of terrified young people, many who must have been pleading for their lives, and he shot them, over and over again. If that is not bloodlust, then I don’t know what is. Reports indicate that he laughed while executing some of his victims, underlining the notion that he was taking genuine deep pleasure in the act. Perhaps previously in his life this bloodlust was expressed in other ways, as in the torture and killing of animals, as is seen with many serial-killers. We don’t know that at this point. But I think he was well aware of this desire of his to spill blood, and to cause suffering and death. I theorize that he spent the past nine years constructing an enormous artifice for himself, so that he could hide his bloodlust in an agenda that gave it, in his own mind, a nobility. He didn’t want to look in the mirror and see the blood-crazed fiend that he actually was; he wanted to look in the mirror and see himself as a hero. The absurd photographs he packaged with his manifesto illustrate this.
His stated rationale, of opposition to Islam, is absurd, because by claiming that cause and then committing such horrific crimes he has only made it more difficult for reasonable, rational voices to sound the warning in Europe and beyond regarding the dangers of Islamic supremacism and Sharia. They will be slandered as if associated with this lunatic; it is naturally already occurring, and these slanders need to be answered forcefully.
The killer Breivik invokes in his 1518 page manifesto a number of people who have spoken and written with great rationality and loyalty to truth about the dangers of Islam as an ordering force in society; people who however have never called for violence as a response. For instance, he refers to writings by the indefatigable Robert Spencer, author of numerous books and the director of Jihad Watch, who day after day simply points out what should be obvious: the cost worldwide in blood and anguish of adherence to the teachings of Mohammad as generally understood and promulgated, especially with regard to jihad, and the failure of far too many in the West to appreciate the implications of said teachings. Spencer’s condemnation and rejection of Breivik shouldn’t even be necessary. Nothing Breivik quotes from Spencer remotely suggests or encourages violence of any kind, let alone the pointless mass murder of defenseless youth that Breivik carried out.
It is very much those who most believe in liberal Western assumptions about democracy and human rights who must be most skeptical and critical of the philosophy—which is both theological and political—of Islam. It takes little time to survey the nations of the world in which Islam is dominant and to see how on a practical level it impacts the status of women, of those who would profess a differing faith (or none at all), of homosexuals and all others who might defy the expectations of Sharia. It is not racism and it is not bigotry for free people to criticize and resist the advancement of a belief-system which would deny them their freedom. Islam, obviously, is neither a race nor an ethnicity, but instead a creed which anyone can adopt (although it can sometimes be very difficult to un-adopt), and it’s beyond question that millions follow it to varying degrees with all goodwill, believing it to be the correct way to worship God, notwithstanding its broader and demonstrable results at the societal level.
Actual racists and ethnic supremacists will always be with us, and they should be cast out of legitimate organizations that exist to counter Sharia and jihad whenever detected. However, it is a terrible mistake to use slander and false accusations of that nature to attempt to marginalize reasonable and rational people who oppose Islamist ideology. People like Robert Spencer are among the most courageous we have, and will not be silenced, but none of us should feel that we have to deny truth or hide what we stand for because a depraved monster like Breivik perversely invoked the words of decent people to cloak the horror of his own soul from himself.