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Christian terrorist?

Religion

There's some hot debate right now about whether Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Breivik is representative of Christianity, and of Christians. University of California, Santa Barbara, religion professor Mark Juergensmeyer believes we ought to call Breivik a "Christian terrorist," at least so long as we call people like Osama bin Laden "Islamic terrorists." Juergensmeyer writes of Breivik: "He would like to have a Christian army comparable to al-Qaeda's Muslim militia."

Meanwhile, Barry Lynn, a United Church of Christ minister and head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, believes it's fair to call Brievik a Christian, albeit one who lost sight of the essential role played by peace in our faith.

Sociologist Laurie Essig is far less charitable, blaming Breivik's murders on the "far right," which she defines in a rambling causal chain that links racists with people who believe journalists are left-wing: "Breivik's philosophy is a lot like what many (white and male) people seem to be thinking." While writer Sarah Posner claims Breivik's violence is a natural extension of a Christian worldview.

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Holy Cross religious studies professor Matthew Schmalz offers a voice of reason in response, rightly noting that it doesn't make sense to call Breivik a Christian when Breivik himself distinguishes between his own "cultural Christianity" and the personal relationship with Jesus he lacks and attributes to "religious Christians."

So we have a murderer who does not consider himself a Christian in any meaningful sense of that word, and who by his actions violates the central tenets of our faith, and yet enemies of conservatives or Christians or both want to call him a conservative Christian, because they cannot distinguish opposition to rampant immigration from, say, Nazi race theories.

But here's the interesting question: Do Christians have a double standard here? If a crazed author of an Islam-referencing screed, one who called himself a "cultural Muslim" and who wanted to see an Islamic crusade against Christians, did what Breivik has done, would we parse words about whether he's a Muslim terrorist?

I probably wouldn't. Is that because I have an unreasonable prejudice against Muslims, or because I've grown so accustomed to seeing exploders of school buses and butchers of innocents proclaim Allah that I'm simply letting the data speak for itself?

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