Before I went to bed on Friday night, I noticed the Oslo bombing in the headlines. But my heart sank as I pulled up the news on Saturday morning to discover the extent of the carnage and the events that followed. I felt a deep sense of sadness as I was brought face to face, again, with the brokenness of our world. It is events like this that cause us to grieve with people we don’t even know. Our hearts and prayers go out to so many who are facing personal loss through this tragedy.
But today, it was not sadness I felt as I looked at the headlines. It was alarm. Apparently the shooting suspect, Anders Behring Breivik, described himself on his facebook page as a “fundamentalist Christian” (see here and here and here). Since I am a fundamentalist Christian, I would like to make two key points.
First, Anders Behring Breivik is not a fundamentalist Christian. He may be a fundamentalist of sorts. And he may be a “Christian” of some sort, but he is not a fundamentalist Christian.
The term “fundamentalist” is necessarily a relative term. It is meaningless without reference to something. So there is no such thing as a fundamentalist per se. One can be a fundamentalist Christian, a fundamentalist Muslim, or even a fundamentalist Secularist, but without a point of reference, the term is meaningless. So a fundamentalist Secularist holds unflinchingly to certain secularist fundamentals as defined by some authority presumably. A fundamentalist Muslim holds firmly to the fundamental teachings of Islam as recorded in the Qur’an. A Christian fundamentalist, then, is one who holds tenaciously to the fundamental truths of Christianity as recorded in the Christian Scriptures.
Leaving aside the mainstream Fundamentalist movement of the early twentieth century that boasted most of the largest Christian churches in the world as recently as a few decades ago, the point is, Anders Behring Breivik is not a fundmentalist Christian.
Perhaps he used the term “fundamentalist” in the popular sense where it is often used to describe obscurantist bigotry. Or perhaps he liked the idea of radical Islamic fundamentalism, but sought to insert Christian fundamentals for Islamic ones as if the two religions were basically the same. Either way, his description of himself as a Christian fundamentalist seems to be mistaken.
And the second point explains why. Anders Behring Breivik is not a fundamentalist Christian. In order to be a fundamentalist Christian, one must actually believe the fundamental teachings of the Bible. And how much more fundamental does it get than this: “You shall not murder.” Or this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The slaughter of innocent civilians under the banner of Christianity is absurd and twisted. Jesus himself could not have been clearer when he said “whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”
I’m sure that over time a clearer picture of Anders Behring Breivik will emerge. So far, we know that he had neo-Nazi ties, that he liked to stockpile bomb materials, and that he carefully orchestrated the slaughter of multiplied dozens of precious people. But whatever he is, he is not a fundamentalist Christian.
Grace to you.