Waiting for facts in Norway bloodshed (updated)

The story of the day, of course, is the massacre in Norway. Thus, let’s start with a note from a GetReligion reader in Norway, which was attached to a URL for the main story in the New York Times:

The norwegian gunman Anders Behring Breivik (of whom we yet know very little) is being described as Norway’s “Timothy McVeigh,” and unlike McVeigh, apparently self-identifies as Christian. On top of that though, he seems pretty strange. He seems like a died-in-the-wool far-right extremist, but he’s also been described as a previous freemason, and then his cryptic twitter post is “one person with a belief is equal to the force of 100,000 who have only interests” by John Stuart Mill (not exactly famous for his theism).

So… this guy seems pretty screwed up. Would like to see some deeper discussion of what exactly this strange guy believes, as comment threads are already slamming “conservative christians” who are “like this guy.” …

Pray for Norway.

Here is my quick summary — focusing on journalism issues here, nuts-and-bolts reporting — of what journalists are putting into print.

Clearly this is an attack on the Norwegian government that is rooted in violent opposition to policies that Europeans usually call “multiculturalism.” In the end, this is rooted in opposition to waves of immigration into European nations by Muslims and, thus, in its extreme forms can truly be called Islamophobia. The man charged in the shooting has self identified as Christian, but, apparently, with no other evidence of beliefs or links to any known Christian group. His online writings focus on politics.

This massacre has taken place in the Internet age, so there is a chance that actual writings from this man may show up that express his views in detail and allow journalists to do the responsible thing — which is quote him. New details may emerge from the camp ground, the right-wing secular or Christian equivalent of the gunner shouting “Allahu Akbar” (which, in and of itself, would point to motive, but not prove it).

The New York Times, to put it bluntly, showed restraint and published a story that is based on the public facts as they are known right now:

OSLO – A lone political extremist bombed the government center here on Friday, killing 7 people, the police said, before heading to an island summer camp for young members of the governing Labor Party and killing at least 80 people.

The police arrested a 32-year-old Norwegian man in connection with both attacks, the deadliest on Norwegian soil since World War II.

The explosions in Oslo, from one or more bombs, turned the tidy Scandinavian capital into a scene reminiscent of terrorist attacks in Baghdad or Oklahoma City, panicking people and blowing out windows of several government buildings, including one housing the office of the Norwegian prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg, who was unharmed.

Later in this story, readers are given this summary of some of early leads on the alleged gunner/bomber:

After the shooting the police seized a 32-year-old Norwegian man on the island, according to the police and Justice Minister Knut Storberget. He was later identified as Anders Behring Breivik and characterized by officials as a right-wing extremist, citing previous writings including on his Facebook page.

The acting police chief, Sveinung Sponheim, said the suspect’s Internet postings “suggest that he has some political traits directed toward the right, and anti-Muslim views, but if that was a motivation for the actual act remains to be seen.”

Contrast that with the top of the Los Angeles Times report which, it appears, is based on some of the same sources — but with fewer direct attributions.

Yes, the word “fundamentalist” is in the lede.

Norwegian police said Saturday that the death toll from Friday’s attacks has risen to 92 and confirmed that they have arrested a suspect whom they described as a right-wing Christian fundamentalist.

In a news conference Saturday morning in Oslo, police confirmed that they had arrested Anders Behring Breivik, 32, on suspicion of orchestrating both the Oslo bombing and the youth-camp shooting rampage and had begun searching two apartments that he owns. …

Police would not comment on whether he acted alone but said no other arrests have been made. They said Breivik had no criminal record. They would not speculate on his motives, but said, based own his own Twitter and Facebook accounts, he appeared to be a right-wing Christian fundamentalist.

Note that the previously mentioned Twitter quote — singular, at this point — and these rambling writings that have been recovered, so far, add up to Protestant fundamentalism. Say what?

The use of the term “fundamentalist,” in this case, appears to be based on a quotation from a police official, not on actual facts that have been made public about Breivik at this time. Here is the quote in question, as used high in a Washington Post report:

“What we know is that he is right wing and he is Christian fundamentalist,” deputy police chief Roger Andresen said Saturday morning at a televised news conference. “We have not been able to link him up to an anti-Islamic group.” He said that the suspect had not been arrested before, and that police were unsure if he had acted alone.

Here’s an obvious question: What does “fundamentalist” mean in Norway? Is there a Norwegian word that is accurately translated “fundamentalist”? Does that word have specific content in that language and culture? Just asking.

Later in the Post report, readers are given another summary of the man’s influences:

A Twitter account with Breivik’s name and photo has a single post, from July 17: “One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100 000 who have only interests,” slightly misquoting British philosopher John Stuart Mill. A Facebook account linked to Breivik cites his favorite books as John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, Franz Kafka’s The Trial, and George Orwell’s 1984, among others. Another interest is hunting. It was not possible to confirm if the Twitter and Facebook accounts and posts belonged to the suspect in the shooting.

Sure sounds like typical Protestant fundamentalist reading material to me — not.

In terms of the religion angle of this story, what are journalists looking for? I would say they are seeking the exact kinds of facts and leads that they would be seeking if this person was alleged to be a radical Muslim. We need to know what he has said, what he has read, what sanctuaries he has chosen and the religious leaders who have guided him.

Also, follow the money, since Breivik certainly seems to have some. To what religious causes has he made donations? Is he a contributing member of a specific congregation in a specific denomination? Were the contributions accepted or rejected?

In conclusion, at this early stage, let me recommend the following Poynter.org classic from media ethicist Aly Colon, which ran with the headline, “Preying Presbyterians?” It focuses on the news reports that emphasized that Paul Hill, executed in 2003 for killing an abortion doctor, was a “former Presbyterian minister.”

Colon notes that journalists failed to note what brand of Presbyterianism they were dealing with. I would also add that Hill had been thrown out of these ultra-orthodox Presbyterian bodies because of his theological justifications for violence. In other words, they decided that he was a heretic.

These words from Colon are must reading right now, as journalists look for facts, instead of labels, in Norway. Yes, I would be saying precisely the same thing if it was alleged that the suspect was tied to some form of radical Islam.

Let us attend:

When we use religious terms, especially designations of denominations, sects or groups, we need to offer more clarity about what they are and what they believe.

We need to connect faith to facts. We need to define denominations. Context and specificity help news consumers better understand the religious people in the news and how religion affects what they do.

UPDATE: The New York Times has updated its story to include the police quote. However, I would still praise the way the Times has worded this reference, in comparison with, oh, the Los Angeles Times:

The Norwegian police on Saturday charged a man they identified as a right-wing fundamentalist Christian in connection with a bombing in central Oslo and a shooting attack on a nearby island that killed at least 92 people. Officials said the death toll could climb as they continued to search for the missing.

As stunned Norwegians grappled with the deadliest attack in the country since World War II, a portrait began to emerge of the main suspect in the case as a gun-loving Norwegian obsessed with what he saw as the threat of multiculturalism and Muslim immigration.

Key words, of course, are “they identified.”

One more thing: Is someone a “fundamentalist” to Norwegian elites if they reject the current leadership of the Church of Norway?

Image: A photo of Anders Behring Breivik that is currently being used on Norwegian television.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Norman

    This massacre has taken place in the Internet age, so there is a chance that actual writings from this man may show

    Harry’s Place has dug up some of his writing in this post: http://hurryupharry.org/2011/07/23/anders-behring-breivi-worried-that-muslims-were-threatening-norways-youth-wanted-to-establish-norwegian-edl/

    I can’t make much sense of it so I won’t even try to say anything intelligent, only that he seemed to live in a world of abstractions and hand-waving Really Big Ideas.

    This isn’t a journalism related comment so feel free to delete, but some readers might be interested in the killer’s internet scribbles.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt


    Thanks. Keep ‘em coming.

    I believe that there is some overlap there with the link that’s in the post.

    Things are going to be scrambled. For GR purposes, please help us look for specific references to religion — books, groups, etc.

    We KNOW he is opposed to Islam and its current role in Norway. That is a given.

  • Ben

    Apparently this link is a translation of some of his online writings (can’t verify that). Here’s a bit about religion:

    “2009-12-09 17:14:41

    Here is a nice overview …


    I myself am a Protestant and baptized / confirmed to me by my own free will when I was 15

    But today’s Protestant church is a joke. Priests in jeans who march for Palestine and churches that look like the minimalist shopping centers. I am a supporter of an indirect collective conversion of the Protestant church back to the Catholic. In the meantime, I vote for the most conservative candidates in church elections.

    The only thing that can save the Protestant church is to go back to basics.”

  • Martha

    Wow – talk about serendipity, but literally this minute, as I’m reading this post, the radio news is describing the suspect as “He is known to be a Christian fundamentalist”.

    Well, I suppose that tells us everything we need to know, hmm? Crazy Bible-believing nutcase, nothing to see here, move along now.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    In that alleged overview, where is the comment from Breivik?

    I searched for the words “jeans” and “Palestine” and found nothing in the comments thread.

  • Ben

    I don’t find the above comments I cited to be “ramblings” or “abstractions.” It seems pretty clearly articulated to me. What does make the writing somewhat difficult to follow is that these appear to be comments under online articles, but we don’t get to see the original articles.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    I’m hungry for more information on this, too.

    Here’s a link to a translation of all the many comments he left at one site.

    There is not much religion there, much less anything to indicate fundamentalism. But it does give more insight into his views both against Islamic extremism and Norwegian racists.

    I’m very confused.

  • Ben

    Hi tmatt — yeah, it’s frustrating because the test is not searchable or cut/pastable. It’s midway down under the header I included: 2009-12-09 17:14:41. Just look for that time stamp.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    By the way, the jeans comment (known to be shared by fundamentalists the world over) is in the link I posted just above.

    I think the writings either seem more or less rambly based on the translation, too.

  • Ben

    Mollie — that lengthy take I cited on being a Protestant but hoping for mass conversion to Catholicism comes from that same link you posted. It’s about mid-way down.

  • http://www.themediaproject.org Arne H. Fjeldstad


    This guy is a typhical nominal Norwegian Christian. His post on religion says:

    “Todays Protestant church is a joke. Priests in jeans marching for Palestine and churches looking like small shopping centres. I am for an indirect collectic conversion from the Protestant church to the Catholic. In the meantime I vote for the most conservative candidates in church elections. The only that may save the Protestant church is to go back to basics.”

    ( Posted 2009-12-09 17:14:41 on http://www.document.no/anders-behring-breivik/ – a fairly right wing conservative web site.)

    Anders Behring Breivik says he is baptized and confirmed (by his free will, he stated) in the church, but says the Protestant church will die. He supports what is said in this article:

    So, from what I have been able to read in Norwegian media (including the site he used to post on) my conclusion is that his view is all framed in politics, with a cultural involvement also including religious views. This is rather distant from any faith commitments . .

    There has so far been no statement from any pastors/priests or other Christians telling about any Christian involvement on his side. Rather he is characterized as an “underdog”, becoming silent and keeping mostly to himself by old friends from school. “As a small boy he was an ordinary boy but during the years he became more and more quiet and inward centered. .. I met him coincidentally a few months back and he did not event want to greet me,” tells an old friend from school to Nettavisen.no

    One last interesting issue, though: A few days ago he wrote his only Twitter message: «One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100 000 who have only interests» Written in English a quote from the philosopher John Stuart Mill. This quote appears to have ment a lot to him . . .

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    If there is any tie to Catholicism, it is really going to be important for reporters to look for ties to specific groups.

    You know this is in total opposition to the Catholic mainstream and will be condemned.

    A far right Catholic splinter of some kind? Maybe. That will take some proving.

  • Ben

    tmatt: already condemned (of course):

    (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI’s envoy to Norway is lamenting the terror attacks as “madness” and says the Roman Catholic Church is praying for the victims.

    Archbishop Paul Tscherrig, interviewed Saturday on Vatican Radio, called the attacks “irrational and difficult to comprehend, whether they had personal or political reasons.”

    The apostolic envoy says what happened is “unbelievable.”

  • Jerry

    A comment about reporting in this age: when I first heard about the terror attack, I went to twitter to get first-hand reports. I found a post saying there is a curated Washington post site that selected people to follow. This is an interesting model for the twitter age and a real service. I’m not sure how the WaPO can make money off curating twitter feeds, but it’s very helpful. I found the facebook, twitter and document.no references there.

    So while we don’t have a complete picture yet, I am able to reflect on the reporting based on his actual writings which would not have been possible even a few years ago. I would like to think that the average reporter is at least as savvy as I am when it comes to tracking down sources, but at least the best are.

    And, yes, the word fundamentalist appears which gives people a chance to tilt once again at that windmill just like I used to do about the word hacker.

    I became interested in his comment

    I am a supporter of an indirect collective conversion of the Protestant church back to the Catholic. In the meantime, I vote for the most conservative candidates in church elections.

    So I searched for Norway church election I found that there is an official Church of Norway

    Article 2 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Norway declares that:
    All inhabitants of the Realm shall have the right to free exercise of their religion.

    The Evangelical-Lutheran religion shall remain the official religion of the State. The inhabitants professing it are bound to bring up their children in the same.


    So the first thing that would have to be explained for a US audience is that in Norway religion is handled differently compared to the US. But I did find similar stories about women priests etc so the doctrinal disputes we’re all familiar with are playing out in a very different Norwegian environment.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt


    Excellent. Keep the links and info coming.

    Hopefully, you can help get info out to reporters through GR as well.

    As can our own Arne H. Fjeldstad

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    I had read on Twitter that the shooter was anxious to explain his motivations to the police. I am very curious to find out what those motivations were.

    Even if he is some anti-Nazi, anti-Muslim, some-other-combination guy, I’m having a hard time understanding how shooting 81 children advances any cause.

    Am I missing something very obvious?

  • EpiscoPal

    The insanity of his actions aside, the press will need to examine / report on what role his religion – or his PERCEPTION of his religious precepts – played in them. Religious extremism rarely produces rational results, being irrational by its very nature.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Did the media get the right photo of the terrorist? The man in the photo looks like American actor Chevy Chase’s twin.

  • tmatt


    The attack on the children is, for me, what makes this primarily an attack on THE GOVERNMENT and its future. Attacking that particular group of children is both hellish and quite literal. He is attacking the government on all levels.

  • Elijah

    Here’s a link to a Telegraph profile of Breivik; it is remarkable that nobody (thus far at least) seems to know much about him.


    Note how the police chief’s description of the man differs with some that you cited above, e.g. he does not describe Breivik as a fundamentalist Christian or whatever.

    Like you, I thought the NYT did a good solid job.

  • John B

    Trying to understand the thoughts of a disturbed lunatic is hard enough, but trying to interpret them via a translation program like Babel Fish makes it very difficult for me to make heads or tails of him.

  • Norman

    I think Terry is on to something, it’s as though he was trying to destroy the future of the party by killing its future leaders, after an attack on the present party with the bombing.

    Mollie, I don’t see how anybody could shoot 80+ people if they saw them as human, but I can see how a twisted mind could shoot 80+ multiculturalisms or Frankfurt Schools or kulturmarxismes. Obviously I’m getting well ahead of solid, factual reporting here, but I can’t see any other way that an individual could stand on a beach somewhere shooting at children if he actually saw them as children. I hope to see some reporting that could give us some insight into how a human being could do something such as this to other human beings. Part of what we are going to see in the next day or so will be character study as we all struggle to understand just how someone could actually do something like this.

  • Elijah

    Report from The Guardian with some rather disturbing details…


    It’s important that we remember he’s a “self-identified” Christian. No thinking Christian could do this.

  • tmatt


    The alleged foreign ties are logical, and secular, at this point.

    The Guardian writes:

    The disclosure of Breivik’s claimed links with other far right organisations came as details emerged about the rightwing Christian fundamentalist and freemason behind Norway’s worst post-war act of violence.

    Yet the article, again, has no content whatsoever that shows either fundamentalism or links to any religious group, past or present.

    Still waiting for some facts.

    It does look that the police quote — fundamentalist Christian — is being normalized, with no reporting to provide a foundation for that (other than the police quote, with no evidence there either).

  • Ben

    tmatt — There is his own writing, cited above in numerous comments, which explain that he is Protestant, was confirmed under his own free will at 15, wants Protestantism to go “back to basics” and move toward Catholicism. He dislikes “Priests in jeans who march for Palestine and churches that look like the minimalist shopping centers.” He also endorsed a web link which argues against “modernist” Christianity as a theology destined to die out. That’s actually quite a bit of content, is it not? I’m somewhat confused by your contention that there are few facts out there pertaining to religion. However, I agree these facts should be verified and make it into newspaper copy rather than just twitter and blog com boxes.

  • Ben

    I’m not well-versed on the original definition of “fundamentalist” Christianity but would it include returning Christianity back to basics and opposing modernist Christianity? Returning to Catholicism, I am guessing is very much not fundamentalist. Disliking jeans-wearing priests, if I understand Mollie to be sarcastic, doesn’t fit the bill either?

  • Bern

    Ben: “fundamentalist” is a word that is misunderstood and misapplied. It could be in this case as well–it could be a translation issue, too, or a cultural one. What’s considered “fundamentalist” in a fairly secular state like Norway–”official” religion notwithstanding–could be considered something else in another context.

    Or, it could be an accurate assessment of the shooter’s religious affiliation: it’s just not clear yet. now; all we know is the police say the suspect is “eager to explain” and that one policeperson at least has been quoted–or misquoted–as characterizing the suspect as “fundamentalist Christian”.

    Blowing up a building in one horror; deliberately targetting children, shooting at them as they tried to swim to safety is beyond comprehension. If I was to characterize the one who did this as anything, I’d characterize him as insane.

  • Norman

    Here’s a pretty full picture of the killer from middle-market tabloid.

    It has some interesting details, including that he is from a privileged background who went to the same school as the crown prince of Norway. Quotes from school-friends tell the familiar story of a loner who drifted into radicalism and eventually shunned relationships with his old friends.

    The religion angle isn’t developed any further here, there is just this one line: “Andersen said the suspect posted on websites with Christian fundamentalist tendencies. He did not describe the websites in any more details.” I’d definitely like to see this fleshed out more, and that is going to require getting journalists on the ground to actually track down and interview his close family and acquaintances. Only a very few organizations can do that.

    The Mail article is a good read, seemingly culled from the web. It gets a little unfocused at the end though, because they have a practice of taking one article and constantly adding to it. The last half of the article comes from the original reporting on yesterdays bomb blast and really is not germane any more in any way, shape or form; it’s a bunch of speculation on possible Muslim motives that an editor really should snip away.

  • Allie

    Interesting point Bern about the man being “insane.” The coverage is interesting as the NYT, LA Times and many other media outlets almost refused to report the Muslim connections of the Fort Hood Massacre, preferring to just say that the shooter was “not well” and “disturbed.”

    It makes me wonder why the default determination for this man is not the same?

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    I think we can be safe in determining that the “fundamentalist” descriptor from the police chief doesn’t mean the same thing as either it’s actual definition or even its slang definition as used in the States.

    It could be a translation issue or it could simply mean something completely different that we have yet to find out.

  • Julia

    The camp on the island was for youth members of the Labor Party that has been in the majority since WWII. So these were not just children of the adult Labor Party members, they were youth members themselves, and the future of the Labor party, as TMatt noted.

    the annual summer camp for the youth wing of Norway’s ruling Labor party.


    The camp has been an important rite of passage for the country’s young budding liberals for decades. The current prime minister attended the camp in the 1970s. “It was for me the safest place in the world,” said Khamshajiny Gunaratnam, 23, a member of the youth group’s board. “I still haven’t cried. I’m still in shock.”


  • tmatt


    So posting on a conservative Catholic site, one primarily about religious issues, is “fundamentalist”?

    This again underlines my question: For Norwegian officials, is criticizing the Church of Norway or the current Norwegian leadership the same thing as “fundamentalism”? Is that what the police are saying?

    BTW, I must again stress that it is very clear that multiculturalism and his fears/hatred about Islam are at the heart of the massacre. But is that “fundamentalist” in terms of doctrine?

  • Norman


    I missed the part in the Daily Mail article about posting on a conservative Catholic site, but they constantly update their articles over there. (After I posted it, I re-read it quickly and saw that they had cut away an account from an old classmate who said he had run into Breivik recently and got the cold shoulder.)

    The only Catholic site I’ve seen drawn into this is Fr. Longenecker’s, and in Catholic terms he would fit more in the center-right, as he has makes (gentle) criticisms of traddies fairly regularly. Longenecker might seem a fundamentalist to a Norwegian cop, but he is pretty vanilla in a Catholic context.

  • Julia

    The suspected shooter was politically active in the Progress Party, a conservative group.

    The 32-year-old man joined the Progress Party in 1999 and paid his final dues for the year 2004, writes Aftenposten.no. He was a member of the local team at St. Hans Haugen in Oslo in 2001-2003 and briefly in the local team at Frogner in Oslo in 2003. In 2006 he was removed from the Register.

    He was also involved in the Progress Party Youth (FpU) from 1997 to 2007. He joined actively in 2007.


    The Progress Party (Bokmål: Fremskrittspartiet, Nynorsk: Framstegspartiet, FrP) is a conservative liberal political party in Norway. It is currently the second-largest party in Parliament, with 41 seats.

    Founded in 1973 largely as an anti-tax movement, the party highly values individual rights and supports the downsizing of bureaucracy and increased market economy,[5] although it also supports an increased use of the uniquely Norwegian Oil Fund to invest in infrastructure.[6] The party in addition seeks a more restrictive immigration policy and tougher integration and law and order measures.


  • Elijah

    “But is that “fundamentalist” in terms of doctrine?”

    Good question – but I’ve yet to see that much detail. As someone pointed out, we really have no idea what that word means to a Norwegian.

  • Julia

    The only Catholic site I’ve seen drawn into this is Fr. Longenecker’s, and in Catholic terms he would fit more in the center-right, as he has makes (gentle) criticisms of traddies fairly regularly. Longenecker might seem a fundamentalist to a Norwegian cop, but he is pretty vanilla in a Catholic context.

    I just checked over at Standing on My Head and it appears that Father Longenecker is unaware of this – he has made no comment. What is the supposed connection with Father Longenecker? He is certainly more centrist than, say, Fr Z.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt


    To journalists, that site would seem conservative.

    I fear conservative now equals fundamentalist.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Spiking away.

    This is not the place for theological speculation on the suspect. It’s the place for sharing info and discussions about the information that is emerging and how that does or does not affect the news coverage.

    Journalism, please.

  • Norman


    The connection is tenuous. Breivik approvingly posted a link to one of Fr. Longenecker’s articles on a Scandinavian political site, and used that as a launching pad for a very brief description of his own religious background: vaguely Protestant (he speaks of voting for priests, so probably a member of the national church),conservative in outlook, and hopeful of a future reconciliation with Rome.

  • John B

    Wait a moment:

    Has there been any information released as to theories about his accomplices in the car bombing?

  • Ben

    Julia — I think there’s a bit of confusion here on where Breivik’s comments appeared. Breivik posted comments on a website called Document.no, which is described in some reports as an anti-Muslim site. The site has provided a copy of all the comments he ever posted there. Here: http://www.document.no/anders-behring-breivik/. Someone has translated those comments into English. Those can be found here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/60705175/Anders-Breivik-From-Document-No

    One of the comments that Breivik made on the Document.no site linked approvingly to this writeup by Fr. Longenecker:

  • Elijah

    Sorry about the need to spike – I should have let it go.

    Interesting comments here in ref Christianity from two evangelists who worked in Norway:


  • Julia

    Sorry, I just found the connection – the shooter linked to Fr Longenecker’s post on why modernist Christianity is fated to die out. The linked post has nothing to do with Islam or politics.

    Since the guy wrote a lot about his opposition to modernism, I’m guess he was googling for “modernism” and came across this post on “modernist” Christianity.


    The shooter does seem to like these websites:

    http://gatesofvienna.blogspot.com/ where it seems some people are accusing the man who posts as Fjordman of being the shooter.


  • Darel

    The New York Times can’t seem to make up its mind on a headline for this story. The Steven Erlanger piece earlier this afternoon (around 4:30pm EDT) called Breivik a “Christian Extremist”. Now (5:20pm EDT) it calls him a “Right-Wing Extremist”. An evolving interpretation, surely.

  • Allie

    Just curious if many in the media even have a grid to filter theology through that would bifurcate “Christian” and “Christian fundamentalism.” For most of the media, it seems that all Christianity is fundamentalist as well.

    I know the details are still coming in, but I would at least say in the American context I have not heard of to many “Christian fundamentalists” who are not dedicated members of some church or denomination. To me, it would seem that devoted church involvement would be a necessary criteria to use the fundamentalist label.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    As I suspected….

    Folks, the Catholic Church is not a fundamentalist organization.

    Spiking away.

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    And rightwing Christian fundamentalist Freemasons, in EUROPE, must be very thin on the ground. Especially rightwing Christian fundamentalist pro-Catholic Freemasons.

  • Norman

    Breivik’s 1500 page manifesto is available, in English, online. I won’t bother slogging through it myself, but I know the download url and can share that with anyone who would like a peek at it.

  • dalea

    Does the word fundamentalist even exist in Norwegian? Checked an online translator:


    Result, fundamentalist does not have a Norwegian equivalent. Another dictionary


    gives a result of fundamentistiske. Which appears to to take the English word and make it a Norwegian adjective. But we do not know what it means in Norwegian. The online dictionaries were no help on that. The press should be very careful when dealing with translations.

  • Julia

    Somebody commented that Norwegians think they are Christian just because they are Norwegians. Having Norwegian heritage from my mother, I agree.

    Keeping that in mind, skimming through the shooter’s postings on-line, there are many wistful comments about the lost culture that went with Christianity. He says he’s not a nationalist, but wants to conserve Norway’s culture. He may be looking back to the era of Christendom in Europe that, for the most part, had a common culture – Catholicism.

    On-line I discovered the farm of my Norwegian ancestors and their church, one of the stave churches in the Numedal Valley. All were built as Catholic churches and now are mainly used for cultural events.

    A famous series of Norwegian novels about Norway in the Middle Ages by Sigrid Undset won the Nobel Prize for literature. They depicted a still-Catholic culture and may have intrigued Breivik. There are Catholic pilgrimage pathways kept up by the government similar to pilgrim path to Compostella in Spain.

    So – retrieving the old culture to him might mean going back to cultural things he sees around him. Not meaning religious beliefs particularly, but he probably associates the old unified culture of Europe with Catholicism.


    Stave churches:

    Pilgrimage trails:

    Lots of Norwegian festivals these days where the folks dress up in their village’s particular garb. These are not for foreign tourists. A prime area for medieval preservation is the Numedal river valley not far from that island where the children were shot. It has a medieval festival every year.


  • Norman

    I see Mollie already put the link up, indirectly, in her latest post. Never mind my earlier comment then, it looks like this has spread pretty widely.

  • dalea

    The Church of Norway’s official history


    does not mention fundamentalism but goes into detail on Pietism. At the church of Norway’s site


    there is some coverage of the shooting which translated into English reads:

    Need someone to talk to?

    The serious events in the city center and on Utøya cause grief, uttrygghet and anxiety among many of us. Do you want someone to talk to a priest or another representative of the church, call your local priest or deacon or contact SOS Church at 815 33 300

    Silent stream of mourners in the Oslo Cathedral (nrk.no)
    All the eleven cathedrals and many of the nation’s other churches are now open to make room for silence, prayer and lighting of candles. In Oslo, apply it, in addition to the Oslo Cathedral, among other churches in saws, Nordberg, Tonsen, Roa, Skøyen and Majorstuen. Helgerud church in Bærum is also open throughout Saturday. Asker, Asker is and island churches open until noon.

  • Ryan K.

    Very good comment Julia, I think you are right in Christendom being more of a draw for the terrorist than Christian fundamentalism.

  • dalea

    The Swedish paper Dagens Nyheter has an article about this.

    I inlägg på den norska sajten beskriver sig 32-årige Anders Behring Breivik som konservativt kristen, enligt Dagbladet.no.

    which translates as:

    The posts on the Norwegian site describes itself 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik as conservative Christians, according Dagbladet.no. He also writes that he has been politically active since he was 17-18 years.

    The term used is konservativt not fundamentalist.

    Found at: http://www.dn.se/nyheter/varlden/behring-breivik-kritiserade-forra-statsministern

  • Julia

    Are translators equating conservative with fundamentalist?

  • Jerry

    In post 48, Norman mentioned a manifesto but did not provide a link. The link is http://www.kevinislaughter.com/wp-content/uploads/2083+-+A+European+Declaration+of+Independence.pdf

    I did some searches in the document trying to find more about his religious beliefs but did not find anything notable but I could have easily missed something.

  • Darel

    From the leading Norwegian daily newspaper Aftenposten:

    Han bekrefter at Breivik skal tilhøre et kristent, fundamentalistisk, høyreekstremt miljø på Østlandet.

    This translates roughly as “He confirmed that Mr. Breivik belongs to a Christian, fundamentalist, extreme-right environment in Norway.”

    The “he” in this sentence is Deputy Police Chief Roger Andresen who seems to be the ultimate source of the “fundamentalist” adjective — although even here there is not a direct quote. And as you can see in the original Norwegian, “fundamentalist” is indeed the correct translation into English.

  • Julia

    Again – what does fundamentalist mean in Norway?

  • http://www.themediaproject.org Arne H. Fjeldstad


    You may want an update from the Norwegian media regarding Anders B. Breivik. No one here really understand how a person with a very conservative political view could transform into a terrorist. There may be a missing link somewhere?

    Late Saturday a major document most likely written by Breivik was posted online with a lot of philosophical stuff and a detailed report on his own preparation for the atrocious acts.

    However, one person from the radical left who for some time used to debate with Breivik and others online at http://www.document.no is post doctor Lars Gule. In an interview with Norway’s largest newspaper Aftenposten he says he does not consider Breivik as a neo-Nazi (my translation:)

    “He is national-conservative. One cannot say right wing extremism and the Nazi ideology are the same. He has a conservative, Christian ideology but I do not think it is right to call him a Christian fundamentalist. He has wanted the (Lutheran) Church of Norway to collectively convert to Catholicism and has supported the most conservative ((candidates) at church elections. But this Christian conservatism is only one element in his national conservatism”, says Gule.
    Anders Behring Breivik also distances himself from the Nazi ideology in his writings online. At http://www.document.no he writes he thinks it is very hypocritical to treat Muslims, Nazis and Marxists different. ”They are all adherents to hate-ideologies.”

    Source (in Norwegian) http://www.aftenposten.no/nyheter/iriks/article4181274.ece

    Dr Lars Gule is himself an interesting person: In 1977 Lars Gule was arrested in Beirut, Lebanon for carrying explosives, intended for an armed attack in Israel.

    I agree with Dr Gule when he clarifies Anders B. Breiviks “Christian conservatism” as only one element in his national conservatism. As far as I have read previous posts from Breivik, as well as in his new (and very long document) there is no traces of a committed Christian faith or value system.In his world verything is nationalism and politics.
    (PS: I have posted the same comment at Mollies very good piece.)

  • Erik

    My take on it after reading chunks of his manifesto would be that he’s a “cultural Christian” with the fundamentalist modifier applied to that. He seeks a monocultural Christian-derived state, not a theocratic Christian state. He only nominally believes. He thinks of the church as a gathering-place to keep the people united in ideology, not as a house of worship.

  • Felix

    Breivik was not a Christian in the sense one would identify the founders of Christianity based on Acts 11:26

    He was really a gun lover secularist who believes in using guns to kill people in order to reach a political agenda. He claimed that religion was a “crutch for weak people” and that he was much happier with secularism; this is how he described himself:

    “As this is a cultural war, our definition of being a Christian does not necessarily constitute that you are required to have a personal relationship with God or Jesus… Being a Christian can mean many things; That you believe in and want to protect Europe’s Christian cultural heritage. The European cultural heritage, our norms (moral codes and social structures included), our traditions and our modern political systems are based on Christianity – Protestantism, Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity and the legacy of the European enlightenment (reason is the primary source and legitimacy for authority). It is not required that you have a personal relationship with God or Jesus in order to fight for our Christian cultural heritage and the European way. In many ways, our modern societies and European secularism is a result of European Christendom and the enlightenment. It is therefore essential to understand the difference between a ‘Christian fundamentalist theocracy’ (everything we do not want) and a secular European society based on our Christian cultural heritage (what we do want). So no, you don’t need to have a personal relationship with God or Jesus to fight for our Christian cultural heritage. It is enough that you are a Christian-agnostic or a Christian atheist (an atheist who wants to preserve at least the basics of the European Christian cultural legacy (Christian holidays, Christmas and Easter)). The PCCTS, Knights Templar is therefore not a religious organisation [sic] but rather a Christian ‘culturalist’ military order…

    I’m not going to pretend I’m a very religious person, as that would be a lie,” he says. “I’ve always been very pragmatic and influenced by my secular surroundings and environment. In the past, I remember I used to think: ‘Religion is a crutch for weak people. What is the point in believing in a higher power if you have confidence in yourself!? Pathetic.’ Perhaps this is true for many cases. Religion is a crutch for many weak people, and many embrace religion for self-serving reasons as a source for drawing mental strength (to feed their weak emotional state [for] example during illness, death, poverty etc.). Since I am not a hypocrite, I’ll say directly that this is my agenda as well. However, I have not yet felt the need to ask God for strength, yet.”