What a tragic irony it is, Mark Steyn implies at National Review, that racist, Muslim-hating terrorist Anders Behring Breivik murdered 76 of his fellow Norwegians in pursuit of cultural and racial purity.
If a blonde blue-eyed Aryan Scandinavian kills dozens of other blonde blue-eyed Aryan Scandinavians, that’s now an “Islamophobic” mass murder? As far as we know, not a single Muslim was among the victims. Islamophobia seems an eccentric perspective to apply to this atrocity, and comes close to making the actual dead mere bit players in their own murder.
But Steyn’s attempt to divorce the killer’s action from his motives rings hollow. At Religion Dispatches, Sarah Posner examines what drove the killer.
Breivik claims to protect a “pure” Nordic race, and apparently sees himself as launching a modern-day crusade … In the “Conservative Revolution” section of [Breivik’s] manifesto he lays out his views on “Solutions to prevent the extinction of the Nordic tribes and for implementation of conservative principles,” and opposition to “race-mixing” (in which he also decries what he calls “race-mixing,” either through marriage or adoption, by Lady Gaga, Madonna, and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, to name a few). …
He “offers clues as to why he targeted fellow Norwegians, even though he claims to love his “Nordic tribe,” and in particular government buildings and the young people he massacred at the youth camp. … 90% of the category A and B traitors in my own country, Norway, are Nordic, Christian category A and B traitors.
At CNN’s Belief Blog, Dan Gilgoff unpacks why the “Christian Fundamentalist” label that was bandied about by media outlets over the weekend is inaccurate. “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,” said Gilgoff, who interviewed several scholars to make his point. Among them was Anders Romarheim, a fellow at the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies. Romarheim told Gilgoff that Breivik used Christianity as a vehicle to assign religious moral weight to his political views. “I would say they are more anti-Islam than pro-Christian,” said Romarheim.
At the Washington Post’s, Mathew N. Schmalz, Professor of Religious Studies at College of the Holy Cross, argues that Breivik sees himself as a “cultural” rather than “religious” Christian.
Breivik calls himself a “cultural Christian.” Religious Christians, he observes, have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, which he himself does not have. For Breivik, “Christendom” is a vehicle for preserving European self-identity and is not necessarily opposed to elements of “paganism” such as Breivik’s own “Odnistic/Norse” heritage. …
The Christian history that Breivik seeks to reenact is not the passion of Jesus Christ, but the narrative of the Crusades. … Although he wishes that Benedict XVI would call Christendom to crusade, Breivik argues that the Roman Pontiff has been too accommodating to Islam and has thus betrayed the Church and Europe as a whole. The new Crusade will thus have to be initiated outside the authority of decadent institutional churches….
Schmalz concludes that Breivik’s manifesto exposes “a dark side of Christendom as abstract fantasy and nightmarish nostalgia.”
In the comments section of her Get Religion post called “Guilt by Footnote Association,” journalist Mollie Hemingway debates Jeff Sharlet about whether or not the writers Breivik quotes bear some responsibility for his rampage.
Sharlet: “It’s silly to say that any writer is responsible for the actions of others — Breivik pulled the trigger, not Robert Spence — but it’s an oddly relativist argument to suggest that we don’t ponder the ingredients Breivik used to make his toxic stew. As the conservative saying goes, ‘ideas have consequences.’ ”
Hemingway: “I’m just saying that the argument needs to be made, not just asserted via guilt by association.”
At Slate, William Saletan takes the irresponsible rhetoric discussion one step further and asks anti-Muslim activists like Pam Geller (who led opposition to the Park 51 Islamic Center that is scheduled to be built in lower Manhatten) how it feels to have their own arguments turned back on them.
When the terrorist is a Christian—in his own words, a “Crusader” for “Christendom”—and when the preacher to whom he has been linked is you, you suddenly discover the injustice of group blame and guilt by association. The citations you didn’t create, the intermediaries you didn’t recognize, the transactions you didn’t know about, the violent interpretations you didn’t condone—these exonerating facts suddenly matter.
Saletan goes on to say he is tempted to blame Geller and “her ilk” for the attacks, but references the Qu’ran in concluding that “no one should be held responsible for another person’s sins.” He says this belief is the “moral core of the struggle against terrorism” and wishes activists like Geller would “show Muslims the same courtesy.”
Finally, in light of the fact that a lone gunman was able to shoot and kill 68 people unimpeded, The Atlantic‘s Conor Friedersdorf asks if we need to “reburden” ourselves with the responsibility to confront mass murderers, as the victims of 9/11 Flight 93, Columbine, and Virginia Tech did in the midst of terror. Said Friedersdorf:
“We forget. That there isn’t always someone to call. That sometimes we’re confronted by horrors even if we didn’t volunteer for them. That we each therefore bear ultimate responsibility for defending ourselves and our communities. It is our inescapable burden.”
What do you think? Does the news that this mass murderer rooted his evil in Christianity rather than Islam change the way you think about labeling terrorists? Should we, as Saletan argues from the Qu’ran, hold only individuals responsible for their actions and, as the Bible instructs, do unto others as we would have them do unto us? Do we bear the responsibility to act in the face of terror, as Friedersdorf argues, or does turning the other cheek lead to peace?