Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Anders Behring Breivik: Some Thoughts

My first response to the massacre in Norway is grief and sorrow. My heart goes out to the survivors, to the families of those killed, and to the nation. I have no comprehension of what it must be like to be one of those people and to have lived through this. I pray that somehow those deeply wounded by this can find it in their hearts to forgive and go on, I'm not sure I could.

It seems that Anders Breivik, baptised at 15, claims to be a Christian of sorts, and whether he is one or not (it is disputed), as a Christian myself, I want to disassociate myself from everything he stands for. What he has done is repugnant and a complete reversal and corruption what Jesus came to do on planet earth. Jesus came in non-violence to bring peace, to show that the path of God's Kingdom is non-violence, urging his followers to turn the other cheek. Sadly, too many of his followers have not heard this and since the adoption of Christianity as the 'state-religion' of the Roman Empire in the early fourth century, have been engaged in violence whether State sponsored or otherwise. This act is a violation of everything Christ came to do – it is evil. I would ask that people who see this not to judge Jesus, Christianity and Christians on the basis of what he has done. I would say that we should also not blame Norwegians or Freemasons (he claimed to be one). He was clearly deeply troubled, calling for a revolution led by the Knight's Templar, a Medieval military group who wore white mantles with red crosses who were involved in the Crusades! 

My grief is compounded by more than a nagging feeling that this is not the last of such events from so-called Christians and other right wing extremists. The rapid growth of Islam in Western Europe and other European nations, the continuing problem of a small number of extremist Muslim acts of terrorism, and out-of-proportion Islamophobia will no doubt lead others to join Breivik's crusade.  God help the world if any of these sort of people get near power, we never want to see the likes of Hitler again (of course we have in other nations of the world and no doubt will again).

Breivik represents one of the differing responses to Islamization of Norway and Europe. He sees himself inaugurating a crusade against Islam and left-wing liberal ideology which he believes is corrupting his nation and Europe. His hope is that others will join him in his crusade. His approach is utilitarian, genuinely believing that the deaths of those he killed is justified for the greater good. The sad thing is that there will be others who will act in the same way. He will inspire others to attempt the same. His patient preparation and inability of the authorities to stop him is a warning to other nations, the threat is not merely from some Muslim extremists, but from so-called 'Christian' fundamentalists. We who are Christian need to stand up and shout loudly against such actions supposedly in the name of Christ. Christ would completely and utterly renounce him and his views, and so do I.

The answer we find in the New Testament is not such attitudes or acts. It is to reach out to others in love and reconciliation. It is not to live out of fear and judgmentalism, but in freedom and grace. While living among people of other cultures is a challenge to all of us in our limited cultural worlds, the gospel calls for unity at the cross. And where others do not live out of the cross, but adopt false ways of living including violence as in extreme Islam, ours is not to respond in kind, but to follow Jesus' way and pray for our persecutors and bless them, to heap coals on their heads by living of out of love. It is a much harder path than the path of revenge and meeting kind with kind. But Jesus came to end an 'eye for an eye', hard though it always is. Indeed, it is as we respond out of grace, mercy and love that they will see that we are Christ's disciples (John 13:34-35).

The shift in the cultural make up of the west is inevitable in a world where European birth rates are in decline and the world is increasingly 'coloured' and culturally diverse. We have to remember that colour is only skin deep, and underneath every one of us is equal, an image bearer, granted freedom and volition to live out our humanity in different cultures. Sure, we need to expect immigrants to live by the laws of our land, based on rights, responsibilities, respect and dignity. But what people wear, what they eat, the colour of their skin, the languages they speak, their cultural expressions, are all to be celebrated rather than feared. After all, eternity will be made up with people from every nation joined in Christ as one. The first Christians stood against the demarcation Gentile-Jew, and so must we stand against that of Arab-European/Indian-European/etc etc. There is no room for cultural supremacy in the Kingdom of God.

I have heard a number of people critique moderate Islamists for not speaking up loudly against Muslim extremists. Here is our chance to speak loudly against one who shows any inclination to suggest that Christianity should be associated with something like this. Please join me in making sure that people hear loud and clear that this is not what we are about.

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