In last week’s blog I mentioned a book I read while on holiday recently: One of Us by journalist Asne Seierstad. In it the author brilliantly presents the story of Anders Behring Breivik, the man who killed 77 people (and wounded many more) in the bomb attack and mass shooting in Norway on 22 July 2011. Breivik was a far-right “Christian” who committed these atrocities because he was concerned that Norway was losing its Christian values due to the policies of the left. That’s why he targeted the seat of Norway’s Government as well as a camp for up and coming leftist leaders.
When I mentioned this last week someone very quickly corrected me by telling me that Breivik is not a Christian, but he called himself one and acted out of his view of Christian values. Consider some of his beliefs …
• He advocated for the deportation of all Muslims unless they converted to Christianity, were baptised and given new Christian names.
• He prayed to God. On one occasion he wrote in his diary, “I explained to God that unless he wanted the Marxist-Islamic alliance and the certain Islamic takeover of Europe to completely annihilate European Christendom within the next hundred years he must ensure that the warriors fighting for the preservation of European Christendom prevail. He must ensure that I succeed in my mission and as such; contribute to inspire thousands of other revolutionary conservative nationalist, anti-Communists and anti-Islamists throughout the European world.”
• He encouraged the Church to be more forthright, priests to be more like in the old days and the reintroduction of teaching Christianity in schools.
• He viewed the execution of 77 people as a way of preventing the loss of “our ethnic group, our Christianity, our culture.”
• He described himself as “a militant Christian and not particularly religious.” He said, “We want a Christian cultural heritage, Christian religious instruction in schools and a Christian framework for Europe.” He claimed, “I’m a Christian, I believe in God.”
Breivik called himself a Christian, and yet any reasonable person would realise that just because someone calls himself a Christian doesn’t mean he is one. We expect a person’s Christian faith to reflect in a certain way in their life and that certainly doesn’t include the murder of 77 people.
Consider the following words, “In this hour I would ask of the Lord God only this: that He would give His blessing to our work, and that He may ever give us the courage to do the right. I am convinced that men who are created by God should live in accordance with the will of the Almighty. No man can fashion world history unless upon his purpose and his powers there rests the blessings of this Providence.” It’s an excellent proclamation that no Christian would disagree with. But these words were part of a speech given by Adolf Hitler in 1937. History is littered with examples like this. Consider the Catholics and Protestants who were blowing each other up in the Northern Irish Troubles or Joseph Kony (a radical Christianist and leader of The Lord’s Resistance Army) who called for the establishment of a severe Christian fundamentalist government in Uganda and other parts of Africa.
Just because someone carries the title “Christian” doesn’t mean they are one – anymore than someone who calls himself or herself a Muslim or Buddhist or Hindu but don’t live according to the tenets of their faith especially the Golden Rule.
I have a number of Muslim friends and they often tell me how embarrassed they are over the actions of Islamist terrorists. “Please don’t think we’re all like that,” they say to me. “They are not real Muslims and they don’t represent our faith.” My friends are peace-loving people who reflect many of the values of my own faith – they love their family and friends, they help those in need and they love their God.
Being a Christian is not just about wearing a badge or bearing a title. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands” and He’d already taught His followers what those commands were – the love commandments: love the Lord your God, love one another, love your neighbour and love your enemy. The apostle Paul summarised it this way: “Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” A true Christian will live a life that does “no harm to a neighbor.” Anders Breivik did not live that way!