Norway atrocity born of ideology, not belief in Christ
AWFUL. HORRIBLE. WE SIMPLY CANNOT UNDERSTAND IT! Acts so unbelievably filled with cruelty and hatred. This is not something we do in Norway, is it?
These and other somber words have flooded Norway’s newspapers, TV, blogs and social media.
A country woke up to the news that at least 76 young men and women had been killed – no, massacred – at the governing Labor party’s youth camp Utøya. The island, turned killing field, had been known for more than 50 years as a summer paradise for young and politically radical youth in the Labor party movement eager to fight for their political convictions. Earlier in the day a huge explosion from a fertilizer-based car bomb had already killed at least 7 people at government offices in the center of Oslo.
Friday, July 22, will forever be a day of remembrance in Norway. A total of 76 killed in the two attacks: 68 at Utøya (police revised the initial death toll downward on Monday), and 8 downtown Oslo. Another 66 were injured at the island, and an additional 30 were wounded, many seriously, in downtown Oslo. And still at least 7 people are unaccounted for.
For many Norwegians, July 22 was the last day before vacation, but it was otherwise mundane. Meteorologists had predicted more than a month’s worth of rain during the day, and most Norwegians shrugged their shoulders in despair over far too much rain for the summer season. And they dressed that morning to brace for a couple of soggy days they might as well have spent in the sea.
Now that the day has become a profound and historic tragedy, the question people in Norway and around the globe have been asking is, of course, why? What has made a young, conservative person become a terrorist? What ideology or belief could ever justify such atrocities?
Christian and Fundamentalist?
The first explanation by Deputy Police Chief Roger Andresen in Oslo has been quoted by many media: “He confirmed that Mr. Breivik belongs to a Christian, fundamentalist, extreme-right environment in Norway.” (Source: Aftenposten, in Norwegian.)
However, this description might have been largely misunderstood and misinterpreted, if not simply mistaken and false.
We do know for certain that, unbelievably, 32-year-old Anders B. Breivik took several years to prepare for the massacre and bombing on 22 July, according to his own writings. Just a few minutes before heading to downtown Oslo to murder dozens of his countrymen, he finished a 1500+ page manifesto: “2083 – A European Declaration of Independence.”
In the massive compendium he (and maybe others?) writes in detail about his ideological theories as well as personal values and faith. On page 1309 he says:
“If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God then you are a religious Christian. Myself and many more like me do not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God. We do however believe in Christianity as a cultural, social, identity and moral platform. This makes us Christian…
European Christendom and the cross will be the symbol in which every cultural conservative can unite under in our common defense. It should serve as the uniting symbol for all Europeans whether they are agnostic or atheists.”
National-Conservative, Not Fundamentalist
One person from the radical left who for some time used to debate with Breivik and others with the same conviction online at http://www.document.no is post-doctor Lars Gule. In an interview with Norway’s largest newspaper Aftenposten he says he does not consider Breivik to be a neo-Nazi (what follows is my translation):
“He is national-conservative. One cannot say right wing extremism and the Nazi ideology are the same. He has a conservative, Christian ideology but I do not think it is right to call him a Christian fundamentalist. He has wanted the (Lutheran) Church of Norway to collectively convert to Catholicism and has supported the most conservative ((candidates) at church elections. But this Christian conservatism is only one element in his national conservatism,” says Gule.
Dr. Lars Gule is himself an interesting person. In 1977 Lars Gule was arrested in Beirut, Lebanon, for carrying explosives, intended for an armed attack in Israel. And Dr. Gule is, besides being an expert on terrorism and extremism of both right and left-wing radical/terrorist varieties (having been one himself on the left wing), also a former General Secretary of the secular Humanist Society in Norway. So it would be hard to find anyone more anti-Christian than him!
Still, he is very accurate and on point when it comes to describing his frequent debate opponent Mr. Breivik.
Breivik also distances himself from the Nazi ideology in his writings online. At http://www.document.no he writes he thinks it is very hypocritical to treat Muslims, Nazis and Marxists different.” They are all adherents of hate-ideologies.” [Source (in Norwegian).]
Mr. Breivik reveals a great deal in the compendium he assembled, most of which he wrote under the pseudonym “Andrew Berwick”. On page 1405 he writes: “Regarding my personal relationship with God, I guess I’m not an excessively religious man. I am first and foremost a man of logic. However, I am a supporter of a monocultural Christian Europe.”
On page 1562 he reiterates this position:
“As a cultural Christian, I believe Christendom is essential for cultural reasons. After all, Christianity is the ONLY cultural platform that can unite all Europeans, which will be needed in the coming period during the third expulsion of the Muslims.”
Typical Norwegian: Nominal Christian?
In a blog post on religion he states:
“Today’s Protestant church is a joke. Priests in jeans marching for Palestine and churches looking like small shopping centres. I am for an indirect collective conversion from the Protestant church to the Catholic Church. In the meantime, I vote for the most conservative candidates in church elections. The only thing that might save the Protestant church is to go back to basics.” (Posted 2009-12-09 17:14:41 on a fairly right wing conservative web site.)
Anders Behring Breivik says he is both baptized and confirmed in the Protestant church, which he has stated was of his own free will at the age of 15. But, he claims, the Protestant church will die. He throws his support behind one Catholic priest’s attack on modernity, as expressed here.
There has so far been no statement from any pastors/priests or other Christian leaders explaining or confirming any of Breivik’s Christian involvement. Rather, his old schoolmates characterize him as an “underdog” who became silent and kept mostly to himself. He grew up on the west end of Oslo. Friends say his father left the family when Anders was young.
He was “polite and service-minded,” say co-workers from a calling center for a mobile phone operator. “Always doing the duties he was assigned.” But something must have happened, though acquaintances could only describe the change in terms of his demeanor.
“As a small boy he was a typical child, but over the years he became more and more quiet and inwardly focused…I met him coincidentally a few months back and he did not even want to greet me,” an old friend told Nettavisen.no.
Christian by Choice
In his treatise, Breivik also writes about his upbringing among many non-ethnic Norwegian friends, his life as a tagger with relationships to gangs, as well as his religious training:
“My parents, being rather secular wanted to give me the choice in regards to religion. At the age of 15, I chose to be baptised and confirmed in the Norwegian State Church. I consider myself to be 100% Christian. However, I strongly object to the current suicidal path of the Catholic Church but especially the Protestant Church. I support a Church that believes in self defence and that is willing to fight for its principles and values, or at least resist the efforts put forth to gradually exterminate it.
The Catholic and Protestant churches are both cheering their own annihilation, considering the fact that they embrace ongoing inter-faith dialogue and the appeasement of Islam. The current church elite has shown its suicidal face, as vividly demonstrated last year by the archbishop of Canterbury’s speech contemplating the legitimacy of Shariah in parts of Britain.” (page 1405)
Lawyer: Breivik Harbors Hatred
In an interview with the Norwegian newspaper VG, Breivik’s lawyer Geir Lippestad says his client has the goal to radically change society.
“He harbors much hatred for the masses. He concluded he had no other alternative. He has tried the pen. His letters to the editor were refused, he has explained,” says Lippestad. The 32-year-old has also worked politically in the Progress Party but says no changes have happened and that “a violent revolution is cruel, but necessary.” Breivik’s attorney reported that the attacks were deliberately targeted against the Labor party.
“In his opinion, he has carried out a mission,” the lawyer said, according to VG.
His agony and hatred is particularly directed toward the Norwegian Labor party, which has been in power most of the time since the second World War. He hates the multi-culturalist policies accepting immigrants and refugees from different parts of the world with different religious beliefs, in particular Islam. Many would say he has a real fear of mixing a European, more-or-less Christian cultural heritage with the growing cultural influence of Muslim immigrants. In his mind he appears to believe he is on a crusade. In the months leading to the massacre he deliberately also used medication to build muscles and boost his courage.
“He seems to believe he is in some sort of war or revolution, and that his actions are a necessary evil to achieve his goals,” says lawyer Lippestad. (Source: Aftenposten, in Norwegian.)
The 1500+ page manifesto tells of a young man with fantasies of knights and crusades to defend what he considers the true European culture. Mr. Breivik also belongs to the Free Masons (first grade) and describes himself as a Justiciar Knight in his new movement, which he claims is international – and which borrows from old Norse religion:
“If you want to fight for the cross and die under the ‘cross of the martyrs’, it’s required that you are a practicing Christian, a Christian agnostic or a Christian atheist (cultural Christian). The cultural factors are more important than your personal relationship with God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit.
Even Odinists can fight with us or by our side as brothers in this fight as long as they accept the founding principles of PCCTS, Knights Templar and agree to fight under the cross of the martyrs. The essence of our struggle is to defeat the cultural Marxist/multiculturalist regimes of Western Europe before we are completely demographically overwhelmed by Muslims.
I have studied Norse mythology and have a lot of respect for the Odinist traditions. I consider myself to be a Christian, but Odinism is still and will always be an important part of my culture and identity…First of all, as a Norwegian, I am extremely proud of my Odinistic/Norse heritage, since it is an essential aspect of my culture and my identity. However, things aren’t black and white. Supporting the Christian cultural heritage does not automatically mean you hate Odinism or vice versa…” (page 1362).
No surprise Mr. Breivik reveals in his rather un-orthodox “CV” (page 1399) that the name of his primary weapon is Mjöllnir while the secondary weapon’s name is Gungnir, both of which are well-known names in Norse mythology. He describes his religion as, “Christian, Protestant, but I support a reformation of Protestantism leading to it being absorbed by Catholicism. The typical ‘Protestant Labor Church’ has to be deconstructed as its creation was an attempt to abolish the Church.”
Furthermore, he summarized his religious position saying, “I went from moderately to agnostic to moderately religious.” Breivik continues in this vein on page 1362f in the compendium where he poses this key question to himself: Do I have to believe in God or Jesus in order to become a Justiciar Knight?
He answers, at length:
A: As this is a cultural war, our definition of being a Christian does not necessarily suggest that you are required to have a personal relationship with God or Jesus. Being a Christian can mean many things, including that you believe in and want to protect Europe’s Christian cultural heritage.
The European cultural heritage, our norms (moral codes and social structures included), our traditions and our modern political systems are based on Christianity – Protestantism, Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity and the legacy of the European enlightenment (reason is the primary source and legitimacy for authority).
It is not required that you have a personal relationship with God or Jesus in order to fight for our Christian cultural heritage and the European way. In many ways, our modern societies and European secularism is a result of European Christendom and the enlightenment. It is therefore essential to understand the difference between a “Christian fundamentalist theocracy” (everything we do not want) and a secular European society based on our Christian cultural heritage (what we do want).
So, no, you don’t need to have a personal relationship with God or Jesus to fight for our Christian cultural heritage. It is enough that you are a Christian-agnostic or a Christian-atheist (an atheist who wants to preserve at least the basics of the European Christian cultural legacy (Christian holidays, Christmas and Easter).
“The PCCTS, Knights Templar is therefore not a religious organization but rather a Christian ‘culturalist’ military order,” writes Breivik.
What then might have been external reasons for his horrible acts of violence? In the compendium he asks precisely this question on page 1381f:
“What tipped the scales for you? What single event made you decide you wanted to continue planning and moving on with the assault?”
“For me, personally, it was my government’s involvement in the attacks on Serbia (NATO bombings in 1999) several years back. It was completely unacceptable how the U.S. and Western European regimes bombed our Serbian brothers. All they wanted was to drive Islam out by deporting the Albanian Muslims back to Albania. When the Albanians refused, they really didn’t have any choice but to use military force.
By disallowing the Serbians the right to self-determination over their sovereign territory, they indirectly dug a grave for Europe. A future where several mini-Pakistans would eventually be created in every Western European capital. This is unacceptable, completely unacceptable.
There have been several issues that have reaffirmed my beliefs since then. Among them are my governments cowardly handling of the Muhammad Cartoon issue, and their decision to award the Nobel peace prize to an Islamic terrorist (Arafat) and appeasers of Islam. There have been tens of other issues. My government and our media capitulated to Islam several years ago, after the Rushdie event. Since then, it has gone downhill. Thousands of Muslims pouring in annually through our Asylum institution, or by family reunification. The situation is just chaotic. These suicidal traitors must be stopped.”
A few days prior to the massacre, Anders B. Breivik wrote his only Twitter message: “One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100 000 who have only interests.” The tweet is written in English and roughly quotes from the philosopher John Stuart Mill.
Every Fallen a Brother and Friend
In conclusion, from what I have been able to read from Mr. Breivik’s posts, compendium and in Norwegian media (including the site he used to post on) his view is framed entirely by politics, with strong political and cultural opinions, which also include religious views.
Breivik’s religious position is rather distant from any Christian faith commitment or any “fundamentalist Christian” position.
As Norwegians, we still will have to cope with the unbelievable tragedies for each family affected by the horrible misdeeds. We also have a very different experience with Jesus who did not resort to violence when he was arrested but asked his friend to put down the sword and said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matt. 5:9)
A quote from the famous Norwegian poet Nordahl Grieg who lost his life in the Second World War has again become a slogan: “We are so few in this country – every fallen one is a brother and friend.”
That is Norway. And that is a Norway not comprehended or experienced by the Norwegian who wrote this compendium and committed the unbelievable, unspeakable atrocities on July 22, 2011.
This post first appeared on The Media Project. Used by permission of the author.
About the author: REV. DR. ARNE H. FJELDSTAD has been a newspaper journalist and editor in various Norwegian newspapers and the publisher of a large monthly magazine in the Middle East and North Africa.
His journalistic career covers more than 30 years in mainstream news media, a majority of them in various senior positions in the leading Norwegian daily newspaper Aftenposten. He has also been a part-time professor teaching journalism and communications. His doctoral dissertation on Lutheran churches and virtual churches on the Internet was completed at Fuller Theological Seminary in 1997.
Arne H. Fjeldstad is an ordained Lutheran minister having served in local parishes, and he has also served as an Anglican minister in the Middle East. Arne started as a student pastor and editor with the Norwegian Inter Varsity (NKSS) and was the International Coordinator and Editor for World Evangelization, the magazine of the Lausanne movement from 1993-1996.
He is the Chair of Gegrapha, a global network of Christians in mainstream media. Dr. Fjeldstad is currently the CEO of The Media Project.