Flemish right wing party member Tanguy Veys holds his hands over a copy of a manifesto written by Anders Behring Breivik at his office in the Belgian Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday, July 27 , 2011.
Then we heard that the suspect was a Christian fundamentalist motivated by far-right Islamophobia. Now, as a result of Anders Behring Breivik’s very own 1,500-page manifesto, we know that Breivik is not a Muslim, a fundamentalist Christian, or a faithful Christian in the any ordinary sense. Jesus is notably absent from Breivik’s Unabomberish diatribe (although I can’t swear to the absolute neglect of the man from Galilee, since I don’t have the stomach to read the document in full). But referencing the Christian savior would be a problem, given that he never said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me so I can kill them.”
Yet religion, not in a spiritual but a political and historical sense, did play an important role in the making of this Viking-manqué terrorist, who writes that he is especially proud of his last name, derived from the the ancient Germanic word for “protected by the bear.” He envisions a new Christian Europe in which all Protestants revert to Catholicism in a united Chuch headed by a “just and non-suicidal pope.” Whatever that means.
Only then will a reunited Christian Europe be able to mount a Crusade dedicated to restoring the hegemony of Christianity in the Balkans and creating three Christian states in the Middle East. The 1999 interevention by the United Nations to prevent Christian Serbia from continuing its massacre of Muslim Bosnians seems to have been a turning point in Breivik’s insistence that Europe must be returned to a form of Christianity that was rejected by his countrymen centuries ago. Protestantism has apparently had its day, and so it’s time to go back to the Church of Rome .
Of course, right-wing Christian fundamentalists are as bent on insisting that their religion has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with a terrorist act committed by a man dedicated to a new Crusade as many liberal multiculturalists (both religious and secular) are on insisting that terrorism has nothing to do with the “real” Islam. Give it up, apologists for irrationality. Non-evidence based ideology, whether religious or ostensibly secular, always has something to do with this kind of pathology.
One element of Breivik’s worldview that fits (though tortuously) with right-wing Christian fundamentalism and with the views of far-right anti-Muslim ideologues is his hatred of feminists. The writer Michelle Goldberg, a contributor to The Daily Beast, is one of the few journalists to note the contradiction in the writings of right-wing authors who simultaneously attack feminists for supporting abortion rights while claiming that radical Islam’s oppression of women is one of their main reasons for viewing Muslim immigration as the major threat to western civilization. In their view, western feminists are encouraging Muslim supremacy by refusing to “breed.”
The manifesto is filled with Breivik’s concerns about his own masculinity and about the “feminisation” of European men. His parents divorced when he was only a year old and his feminist mother married a Norwegian army captain. Breivik said he received a “super-liberal matriarchal upbringing” from his mother and her husband, which “contributed to feminise me to a certain degree.” He blames feminists for his social difficulties, which he attributes to his rejection of the “destructive and suicidal `Sex and the City’ lifestyle (modern feminism, sexual revolution)…In that setting, men are not men anymore, but metro sexual and emotional beings that are there to serve the purpose as a never-criticizing soul mate to the new age feminist woman goddess.”
Oddly–given the importance of Henrik Ibsen’s
A Doll’s House
(1879) in the international history of feminism-Breivik has almost nothing to say about Norwegian feminism. Instead, he concentrates on the late Betty Friedan, author of
The Feminine Mystique
(1962), one of the founders of the resurgent late twentieth century feminist movement in the United States but a “radical” by no one’s definition.
What is fair to say about Breivik is not that he is a “Christian terorist” but that he is a terrorist for whom Christianity, coupled with worship of the white European ubermensch, plays a vital symbolic and ideological role. He strikes me as an Aryan-Christo-fascist, and in this respect he seems to resemble Adolf Hitler in
as much as Ted Kaczynski or Timothy Mcveigh..
This manifesto, with its mixture of religion, racism, sexism and its revelations of personal inadequacy–Breivik is the son of an elite Norwegian family but has never managed to hold down a decent job-offers a revealing example of the ways in which ideology mingles with individual pathology in violent sociopathic personalities. I regret that terrorists like the 9/11 attackers or the Madrid and London bombers have not left such journals, because it is entirely possible that Islam plays the same role for them that Christianity did for Breivik–as a necessary but not sufficient force in the making of a terrorist who has no regard for human life. It would be interesting to find out.
The assumption, whether we are talking about a “Christian terrorist” or a “Muslim terrorist,” is that he is motivated by belief in the most literal, retrograde expressions of faith–women condemned to bring forth children in sorrow and pain, martyred men rewarded by being able to pounce on virgins in the afterlife. It just could be that for Islamic mass murderers, as for many mass murderers throughout history, religion serves more as a symbolic justification for unmet personal and political needs. I don’t know. Neither do the many mainstream journalists and bloggers, from the editorial writers for The Wall Street Journal to
Jennifer Rubin, author of “The Right Turn” blog at The Washington Post
, who initially bloviated about Islamist ideology as Breivik’s motivating force. Stephen Colbert, as usual, got it exactly right in his Monday night broadcast when he referred to the “Muslimesque” atrocities perpetrated by Breivik.
A lot of people jumped to a lot of unresearched conclusions in the 24 hours after the attack and a number of writers are still doing it. This time, however, they’re seizing on Christian fundamentalism and Islamophobia as the ideological villains.
It is undeniable that extreme religion-based ideology (most often Islam in the past decade) plays an integral role in the vast majority of terrorist acts. Recognizing that other emotional and cultural forces may also be involved could only aid us in identifying prime suspects before they turn their deadly, irrational fantasies into reality.