One of the many sad things about the aftermath of the atrocities in Norway last week was the way the media and blogosphere leapt on Anders Behring Breivik’s claims of Christianity. Immediately, this became the work of a “Christian Fundamentalist”.
It’s hard as a Christian to hear that. The commentators who called Breivik that must have a limited understanding of what Christianity is.
In the hours before he launched his attack, Anders Breivik released a ‘manifesto’ of his personal ideology and beliefs. In it, he specifically states he does “not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God”. He wrote about Christianity being a “cultural, social identity and moral platform”.
His definition of himself as a ‘Cultural Christian’ is not one that I or many other Christians would recognise as biblical. So it’s particularly galling that some journalists have said that Christianity in general is to blame for the specific actions of this one individual.
People calling themselves Christians, even with a twisted definition, does not make them a Christian. Jesus sets out very clearly in Matthew 7:15-20 how to recognise those people of true faith.
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Deeds, not words, make a Christian.
Scripture also has some very specific things to say about what happened in Norway:
Exodus 20:13 specifically commands
Thou shalt not kill.
That’s not one of those passages of the Bible that is open to interpretation. It’s as black and white as it gets. Speaking of commandments, we learn in Mark 12 that Jesus said of them
29And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: 30And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. 31And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
Now, you could try and debate a definition of neighbour, but once again, there’s very little grey area here. A true Christian must love his neighbour as himself. Let’s assume for a moment that Anders Breivik did indeed debate the definition of neighbour. Perhaps, in his mind, neighbours could be defined as people you get on with. People who you don’t see as enemies. Allies. So, he might have thought, he should love members of the EDL or fascistic groups from across Europe. But he didn’t have to love the next generation of his country’s Labour politicians.
The trouble with that – entirely theoretical – line of his argument is that it falls apart when we see Matthew 5:44 showing Jesus teaching
44But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
I know what you’re thinking. You’ve seen Christians pull obscure quotes from the Bible in order to justify their point. There are so many lines in the Bible that you can always find some passage to use. Except that these three passages aren’t obscure unread lines from Nahum or Obadiah. These are three passages that are at the very core of Christian teachings. These are passages that every Christian will have heard in sermons, read in studies, and learned in confirmation lessons.
For journalists and commentators with even the scantest knowledge of Christianity and Scripture to believe that a faithful follower of Jesus Christ carried out the cold-blooded killing of over 70 people is, frankly, ridiculous as well as insulting to true Christians.
But some, initially at least, believed exactly that. The live TV reporting on the day of the killings and over last weekend used ‘Christian Fundamentalist’ and ‘Right-wing Christian’ were used to describe the killer. It was worrying for me how easy it was for people to assume that Christianity was the cause of the Norway deaths and that Christianity is in some way ‘evil’. Christianity and other Abrahamic faiths come under attack enough already from Secularists and Atheists who think that belief in God is a sign of a misguided mind.
The logic that allowed the commentariat to say that Breivik was a Fundamentalist Christian who believed in the literal truth of the Bible was flawed by the fact it ignored Breivik’s own statement that “it is essential that science takes an undisputed precedence over biblical teachings.” He preferred, he said in his manifesto, ‘Darwinian logic’.
I’m not saying there aren’t Christians who become extremists or terrorists, but Breivik is very clear that he rejects ‘religious Christians’ in favour of some kind of crusader-type ‘cultural Christian’. Unlike journalists desperate for an angle, Christians around the world are very clear that without faith in Christ, you are not a Christian.
I hope that journalists, commentators, and those with an agenda are more careful in future to learn about an individual’s ideology before attacking Christianity and the 2 billion people who do believe in a personal relationship with Jesus.
Breivik’s actions and the statements about Christianity in his manifesto tell us he plainly was not a Christian.
Deeds, not words, make a Christian.