Is this the face of a terrorist? It is perhaps too soon to say, if one takes the approach that one is innocent until proven guilty. But it is a photo of a suspected terrorist – Anders Behring Breivik, who Norwegian police have arrested in connection with the bombing and shooting that took place yesterday.
His isn’t the face of someone likely to be singled out for close inspection at an airport, or to inspire a reaction of fear, suspicion and prejudice from most Americans.
But it appears his is the face of a right wing conservative/fundamentalist Christian nationalist. And if he is also responsible for the recent terrorist acts in Oslo and Utoya Island, then there are things that need to be said in relation to that.
Many Christians will respond to these recent tragic events by emphasizing that Breivik’s actions are in fact at odds with core Christian teachings and principles. I am perfectly fine with that – provided those who make that claim in relation to Christianity also accept it from Muslims who make the same point about their faith and its core teachings that are at odds with terrorism.
But hopefully this will also lead to Christians who say that such acts are despicable and incompatible with Christianity to distance themselves from the culture of right wing nationalist religiosity and rhetoric which finds natural, if extreme, expression in acts of violence and terror.
A culture that uses the rhetoric of war and places targets on their opponents provides a context that encourages extremism. And so if anyone wishes to denounce the act, I hope they will also distance themselves from the worldview that inspired it.
Because Christianity is indeed at its core at odds with not only violence, but also nationalism as well.