Columnists have been calling for Christians to condemn the Norwegian terrorist who blew up a building and shot dozens of young people in a tragedy beyond our comprehension.
As if we wouldn’t. But just to be clear, I condemn Anders Breivik’s actions. He is a bad man. And probably a mad man too.
But the media’s rush to describe him as a “Christian fundamentalist” seems a little sensational. And the suggestion that we should condemn him on those grounds unnecessary.
No Christian groups jumped right up and said that’s our guy, we’re proud of him. And to say he is a Christian fundamentalist because his weird, heavily plagiarized manifesto (mis)quotes Jesus proves little, since we don’t know what parts he actually wrote, and we don’t know how or why he mangled the application so badly.
It’s not like this was what he was taught in Sunday school.
The fundamentalists I know and identify with believe becoming a Christian is a transforming work of God. And this was no work of God. It was the work of a madman who misunderstood practically everyone he quoted.
More than that, Breivik calls himself the “savior….of European Christendom.” Here is a guy who has no understanding of the concept. We already have a Savior, and it’s not him.
In fact, in his manifesto he says he is not “excessively religious,” and that he is a “cultural Christian,” more interested in preserving Western traditions than biblical faith. He says we should replace both Protestant and Catholic churches with a new and improved European church and work alongside neopagans and atheists to protect our cultural traditions. He doesn’t sound like any American “Christian fundamentalist” that I know. They will barely work with each other.
And yet the clear implication of many media pundits is that conservative Christians should feel guilty that this great evil was done by one of our own.
Stephen Prothero, a professor who wrote a book entitled God Is Not One,says on his blog over at CNN that Christians have a responsibility to speak out forcefully against him [Breivik], and to look hard at the resources in the Christian tradition that can be used to such murderous ends.”
Prothero believes Breivik is a Christian terrorist because he says he’s a Christian. But you don’t get to be a Christian by calling yourself one. And Prothero believes Breivik is a Christian because he quotes the Bible, which even Satan can do.
Prothero seems to think we should eliminate or ignore the parts of the Bible someone could use to justify unrighteous acts. This of course could be all of it, if the someone was as crazy as Breivik or as smart as Prothero.
Better yet, why not put all Bible-believing fundamentalists in America on the terrorist watch list, and the evangelicals too since not many of the media (or professors of comparative religion) can tell the difference.
As you can tell I’m not entirely comfortable with where this line of reasoning takes us, even if there are a few fruitcakes hiding out in the mountains and stockpiling guns. To the degree that they are motivated by hate and fear, they are no more Christian than Breivik.
But I resent the broad stroke with which several media sources have painted “Christian fundamentalists,” which in our own culture can refer to anyone who takes the authority of Scripture seriously and uses the Bible to make sense out of this life. And the one to come.
Even at their narrowest, most such people condemn the actions of those who shoot abortionists or slaughter teenagers in Norway.
Because the Word of God and the Spirit of God require them to do so.
No scolding necessary.
What labels am I willing to wear? See my discussion (and critique) of fundamentalism.