Breivik's Religion

Mark Juergensmeyer at Religion Dispatches wades through some of Anders Behring Breivik’s 1,500 page “manifesto,” which seems to be a disjointed document where Breivik laid out his plans for a coming war between the righteous Europeans on one side and the multiculturalists and Muslims on the other:

Is this a religious vision, and am I right in calling Breivik a Christian terrorist? It is true that Breivik—and McVeigh, for that matter—were much more concerned about politics, race and history than about scripture and religious belief, with Breivik even going so far as to write that “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)).”

But much the same can be said about Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and many other Islamist activists. Bin Laden was a businessman and engineer, and Zawahiri was a medical doctor; neither were theologians or clergy. Their writings show that they were much more interested in Islamic history than theology or scripture, and imagined themselves as recreating glorious moments in Islamic history in their own imagined wars. Tellingly, Breivik writes of al Qaeda with admiration, as if he would love to create a Christian version of their religious cadre.

If bin Laden is a Muslim terrorist, Breivik and McVeigh are surely Christian ones. Breivik was fascinated with the Crusades and imagined himself to be a member of the Knights Templar, the crusader army of a thousand years ago. But in an imagined cosmic warfare time is suspended, and history is transcended as the activists imagine themselves to be acting out timeless roles in a sacred drama. The tragedy is that these religious fantasies are played out in real time, with real and cruel consequences.

I guess this is religion used as a cultural marker to provide a sense of identity. Breivik wasn’t really interested in the content of Christianity, just its use as a label to unite good Europeans against the invading hordes of Islam.

Spencer Ackerman also picked up on the similarities between the Breivik and the Islamic terrorists:

Anyone who’s watched and listened to a decade’s worth of bin Laden and Zawahiri communiques will notice the familiar themes.

The elites have betrayed and brainwashed the faithful
. Much like how bin Laden conceived of the decline of the Middle East, what Breivik considers the cultural rot of Europe isn’t the fault of the “authentic” Euros. It’s due to a decades-long betrayal by their rulers.

Multiculturalism and “cultural Marxism” does for Breivik what Mideast bandwagoning with the west does for bin Laden: provides each man with a galvanizing sense of victimhood and beseigement. It also writes those elites out of the realm of authenticity, providing a way for their audiences to switch their allegiances over to the “strong horse” — and also a way to justify killing their targets.

Destroy the apostate regime.
The apostate regime will collapse due to its inability to withstand attacks from the principled believers. For bin Laden, the believers are the true Muslims, the vanguard of an Islamic revival. For Breivik, it’s the “cultural Marxists” and their media sycophants who’ve been attacking (!) European nationalists since the downfall of the Third Reich.

Notice the essential point: for both the Islamic supremacist and the Islamophobe, what matters most is winning the battle with the apostates. It’s not an accident that al-Qaida kills orders of magnitude more Muslims than westerners. Nor is it an accident that Breivik targeted white Norwegians instead of the Muslim immigrants that so stir his ire. For both, the stated grievance is pretextual. “Before we can begin our Crusade,” Breivik states, “we must do our duty by decimating Cultural Marxism!”

Also in the manifesto, we find out that Breivik was a fan of the American Tea Party. According to the selection quoted at Unsettled Christianity, he took the formation of the Tea Party as a sign of the weakening grip of the Marxists. For context, you can also read Hilde Løvdal’s piece about the Norwegian Tea Party:

At a time when the more moderate Christian Democratic Party (est. 1933) struggles with massive loss of popular support and strives to find its way back to political power, right wing groups are networking heavily and taking cues from conservative American Protestantism.

Kristenfolket (The Christian People, or just The Christians), a coalition inspired by the Moral Majority, tries to encourage Norwegian Christians to vote for conservative political parties based on a nice bouquet of issues such as support for Israel, defense of traditional marriage, and Islamophobia. In 2009, Kristenfolket and other conservative Christians gathered at Moster, where the first national law based on Christianity was signed, to reclaim Norway for Christ and pray for God’s blessings over Norway. (If God really listened to their prayers, he must be a left wing social democrat.)

All the things that America could export, and we’re sending the Tea Party and Christian Rock.

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