Is Anders Behring Breivik a Christian terrorist? Let’s not mince words.
When a Muslim commits a terrorist act he or she is labeled a “Muslim terrorist.” The explanation? Well, they are Muslim and they are terrorists. Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooting suspect, is a prime example.
So is Breivik a Christian terrorist?
The Norwegian Breivik is a self described “Christian” who killed at least 76 people in the name of Christianity. Some Muslim terrorists kill in the name of religion. Some in the name of politics. Doesn’t it go both ways?
Breivik’s 1,500-page manifest was an Islamophobic, anti-immigration rant. Many of his ideas came from anti-Muslim bloggers in the United States. With growing Islamophobia throughout Europe and becoming more prevalent in the United States, we, sadly, can probably expect more of this kind of violence.
The anti-Muslim rhetoric in our campaigns is especially troubling. What do voters think when John McCain says he would have trouble voting for a Muslim for president? Or when Herman Cain says he wouldn’t appoint a Muslim to his cabinet? Or Rick Santorum goes off on Sharia law? Never mind Rep. Peter King and his crusade to stop the “Mosque at Ground Zero” (which was not a mosque and not at Ground Zero) or Newt Gingrich warning that we could one day be living in a secular atheist county that is potentially dominated by radical Islamists.
Impressionable voters who don’t understand Islam have to be affected by this kind of hate speech. Especially when other Republican candidates don’t call their colleagues out on it.
Clearly fundamentalist Christians can be as violent as fundamentalist Muslims. In her excellent piece for On Faith, Christian theologian Susan Thistlethwaite writes that these Christian perspectives can be: 1) Making supremacist claims that Christianity is the only truth; 2) holding the related view that other religions are not merely wrong but “evil” and “of the devil”; 3) being highly selective in the use of biblical texts that seem to justify violence; 4) identifying Christianity with a dominate race and/or nation; 5) believing that violence is divinely justified to “cleanse” or “purify” as in a “holy war”; and, 6) believing the end of the world is at hand.”
Do some of these positions sound familiar? Don’t they sound like some Christian fundamentalists and Islamophobes describing the Muslim religion?
If people kill in the name of religion should they be identified by their religion? How would you describe a Palestinian suicide bomber who wants the Israelis expelled from Palestine? Is that a political act or a religious act? How can you know? Isn’t identifying people by their religion if they commit a violent crime bigotry?
We should think more carefully about how we describe people.
Many on the Christian Right have objected to labeling Breivik a “Christian” terrorist, calling it a liberal media term used by those on the Left who don’t like Christians and want people to believe that if a Christian creates a violent act he must be crazy.
Breivik talks about the need for a new cultural crusade to rid Europe of creeping “Islamitization.” He reportedly refers three times to the “Lord Jesus Christ,” and though he admits he is “not going to pretend I’m a very religious person,” he calls himself a “cultural Christian.”
Sally Quinn | Jul 26, 2011 5:51 PM