It’s impossible to humanly comprehend the carnage that was wrought in Norway yesterday. With a population of less than 5 million, the murder of more than 90 people on a single day is even worse for that society than it would be in the United States, and it would be horrific enough here, or anywhere.
The fact that the presumed perpetrator (Anders Behring Breivik) survived and was captured means that there will be some opportunity to plumb the motivation for the acts, but there cannot be a rational motivation for such evil. When the reports of the attacks first came in, most people assumed it was Islamists, because Islamism is one ideology which has a proven history of seeing purpose in causing mass, random death. The purpose is to terrorize and horrify entire societies, and the mass death is considered allowable because, to Islamists, infidels are sub-human. Europe has a long history of other forms of politically-motivated terrorism, but mass death is not generally a tool such terrorists sought to utilize, since it would have caused a backlash that would have guaranteed the defeat of their political aims (e.g. Germany’s “Red Army Faction” or Ireland’s “I.R.A.”). Instead, violence was targeted to bring pressure at particular points—which is not to say that the acts were ever justified or that innocents were not killed. But the aims were different.
It’s early in the analysis of the mass murder in Norway, but it’s impossible to see how any political goal could be served by such killings. Again and again in the news media reports today, we see the alleged perpetrator being referred to as a “right-wing fundamentalist Christian”—language which is apparently taken from a police source in Norway. It’s necessary as a Christian to speak up and say that no sane interpretation of the faith could ever permit—let alone encourage—such revolting murder. One is curious whether the killer is being described as “Christian” because he actually claims some religious motivation for his behavior—which at the time of writing we have not heard—or whether it is simply because he happens to be a baptized Christian. It should be obvious that being a nominal member of a religious group is quite distinct from claiming specific religious justification for one’s acts. (Timothy McVeigh, of the Oklahoma City bombing, is sometimes referred to as a Christian terrorist by those very eager to see equivalency in these matters, but of-course McVeigh claimed no religious motivation for his bombing.)
Early reports indicate that the perpetrator may have subscribed to an ultra-nationalist type of ideology. Such ultra-nationalist philosophies always come into conflict with Christianity, because Christianity insists on the preciousness of all in the eyes of God, created in His image, and accorded the status of brothers and sisters, with God as the Father, through Christ’s redemption. Hitler was not above using perverse religious references at a certain stage as a tactic to fuel his campaign against the Jews, but fundamentally he despised Christianity as representing weakness, as all ultra-nationalists and ethnic supremacists must.
It shouldn’t be necessary to say it, but with all these references in the media to the gunman being a Christian I guess maybe it is: What took place in Norway yesterday was the antithesis of Christianity. It is painful—as it should be—to see one’s faith associated even in sloppily-written newspaper stories with such vile acts. May God have mercy on the victims and those who grieve for them.