Just how Christian is Anders Behring Breivik?
Anders Behring Breivik, the 32-year-old man who has admitted to killing nearly eighty people and injuring dozens more in a violent rampage across Norway last Friday, has been painted in some media reports as a “Christian terrorist". Yet the alleged killer has claimed he is not a religious man.
In court Monday, Breivik pleaded not guilty to charges of terrorism for the atrocious acts that claimed so many lives, telling Judge Kim Heger that he believes the killings were necessary.
“What the court understands (is) the accused believes that he needed to carry out these acts in order to save Norway and Western Europe from among other things cultural Marxism and Muslim take over,” Heger said during a televised news conference after the hearing.
Breivik is believed to be the author of a 1,500-page manifesto posted online which insists that Marxism and Islam are growing threats to Norway and Europe in general.
In the manifesto, written in English and reportedly posted on the internet hours before the killing, Breivik reveals that he had been planning the attacks for years. He had hoped the massacre would help to market his manifesto.
Breivik, who described himself as Christian on his Facebook page, writes extensively in the manifesto of his reverence for the Knights Templar and his hopes that the group, including his own local chapter, would lead the revolution to save Europe from Marxist and Islamic influences.
He describes the Knights Templar as “a defensive military organization who only seek to protect the peoples of Europe and our cultures from genocide”.
Breivik, although claiming to stand up for Europe’s “Christian culture”, in no way links that ideal to true Christian faith.
He writes on page 1307 of his online manifesto:
“If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God then you are a religious Christian. Myself and many more like me do not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God. We do however believe in Christianity as a cultural, social, identity and moral platform. This makes us Christian.”
Many media reports have apparently been following along with Breivik’s self-definition of his so-called faith, branding the alleged shooter as a “Christian terrorist” and describing him as a “Christian fundamentalist” or “Christian extremist".
Yet the Christian community, which has been quick to condemn the attacks, has been making it known that authentic Christianity does not espouse such heinous and immoral acts.
Associate International Director of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), Gordon Showell-Rogers, said he was shocked by the events.
“Norway’s strong Christian history has created a long history of peace within her borders and has been a significant contributor to Norway’s very positive impact on global peace efforts,” Showell-Rogers said in a statement on the WEA website.
“Evangelical Christians globally condemn religious violence in the strongest possible terms, and are sickened when such violence is carried out in the name of Christ.”
Norways’ Pro Deutschland group said in a statement: "As Christians and Conservatives, we want to express solidarity with the victims of the attacks of July 22. The hate that is driving Islamic assassins and fanatic individuals a la...Breivik is foreign to Christians and Conservatives."
Although Breivik may call himself a Christian, Ed Stetzer in a recent blog post calls for caution in the media, saying that the facts are "simply not there to ‘announce’ such that at this point".
"He may well be a ‘Christian fundamentalist,’ but right now that label may have more to do with some preconceived notions, rather than the firm evidence.”