Shortly before the Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik exploded a bomb in Oslo and gunned down children on a nearby island, he posted a 1,500-page manifesto in which he cites the "Lord Jesus Christ" three times. Breivik explained meticulously the religious nature of his mission to defend the Christian West against "cultural Marxists" and the encroachment of Islam.
For years, critics who sought to pose a moral equivalence between Christian and Muslim fundamentalists would counter examples of Muslim terrorism with figures like Timothy McVeigh, Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph, or Holocaust Museum shooter James von Brunn. The only problem was that all of these figures expressly rejected Christianity.
This might explain the eagerness with which Breivik was labeled a Christian. The New York Times called him a "Christian extremist," the Oslo chief of police called him a "Christian fundamentalist," and political writer Andrew Sullivan called him a "Christianist," the same term he uses for leaders of the Religious Right.
The attempt to smear conservative Christians with the blood of Norwegian children was swift, unseemly, and, as it turns out, unjustified. Breivik clarifies that he is only a Christian in the "cultural" sense. He is not a "Religious Christian," he says, because he possesses no "personal relationship with Jesus Christ." The object of his devotion is not Christ or Christianity, but Christendom, the powerful monoculture that united Western Europe. "Christendom is essential," he writes, because it's "the only cultural platform that can unite all Europeans" against their enemies.
Breivik affirms the superior authority of science and logic, voices no belief in the deity of Christ, and openly doubts the existence of God. He speaks of "Christian-agnostics" and "Christian-atheists," or those who reject the beliefs but defend the "cultural legacy" of Christendom. Indeed, Breivik himself appears to be an agnostic who affirms belief in God and Christian symbols for pragmatic reasons.
Perhaps Breivik is simply beyond the categories that apply to sane people. But he is also a chilling example of the disintegration of European secularism, the way in which it leaves many straining for a more transcendent, unifying vision of life, and the hollowness of a "Christianity" that lacks the essential relationship with Christ that gives Christian faith its vitality, direction, and purpose.
In the weeks preceding the Budget Control Act (BCA), which raised the debt ceiling and mandated cuts in government spending, faith groups sought to influence the negotiations. Those same groups now seek to frame how the BCA is understood and applied.
A group called "The Circle of Protection" released a statement in late April opposing cuts to "programs for the poor." Leaders of the Circle, including Jim Wallis of Sojourners and Galen Carey of the National Association of Evangelicals, emerged from a meeting with President Obama on July 20 singing the praises of his administration. Eight days later, officials from mainline Protestant denominations and the National Council of Churches orchestrated their own arrest in the Capitol Rotunda for "faithful civil disobedience" in favor of tax increases instead of spending cuts.
After Congress passed the BCA, as Wallis again promoted the "non-partisan" Circle of Protection, he praised Democrats for their defense of anti-poverty programs and condemned Republicans. Then a new group entered the fray, called Christians for a Sustainable Economy (CASE), claiming the poor are best served not through welfare programs but through a streamlined government that reduces the debt, stewards resources, and promotes the growth of a free economy. CASE circulated a letter (which, in full disclosure, I co-wrote and Marvin Olasky and others signed) making the moral case for debt reduction and far-sighted stewardship, and requesting a meeting with the president.
The White House has not yet responded.