Posted by: stpowen | August 5, 2011

Christian Fundamentalist Terrorist?

No doubt all my readers will have been horrified by the ghastly massacre in Norway last month when Anders Behring Breivik set off a huge bomb in the centre of Oslo, and then gunned down scores of helpless teenagers on Utoya Island.  I suspect that most people, when they first heard of the atrocities, like me assumed automatically that this was some sort of Islamist outrage.  Not so.  On his recently-opened Facebook entry, we learn that Breivik describes himself as a Christian.  This has filled secularists with much glee;  the Independent on Sunday managed twice to work the phrase ‘Christian fundamentalist’ into its account of the outrage.

That someone who describes himself as a Christian can commit acts of great wickedness should surprise no one.  The Borgia Pope, Cardinal Richlieu and Rasputin, would all have claimed to be Christians.  Maybe Judas Iscariot would have adopted the title had it been current at the time.  Today’s paedophile priests would claim the same thing.  Moreover, it appears that Breivik is not alone among ultra-right wing people in using the term Christian about himself.   Various blogs written by ‘white supremacists’ speak of a coming war between Moslems and Christians, and, of course, include themselves among the latter. 

 What shall we say then?  Well, first of all, because someone claims to be something it does not mean that he actually is that thing.  There are people who describe themselves as intelligent or good-looking when the briefest acquaintance of them will show them to be nothing of the sort.  I would like to know what church Breivik attended.  What sermons did he hear?  Was he ‘radicalized’ at his church in the same way that Moslems were radicalized at the Finsbury Park Mosque and elsewhere?  Or, as I rather suspect, did he never darken the door of a church except, perhaps, for the proverbial weddings and funerals?

I have not trawled through all of Breivik’s internet output, but the only reference to Christianity that I am aware of is one in which he expresses his scorn of church ministers who ‘ride bicycles’ and ‘support Palestine.’  He goes on to recommend that the Norwegian Lutheran churches should join the Church of Rome, presumably to provide a united command for the ‘coming war.’  There is nothing that I have seen which suggests that he has any real knowledge of what Christianity is, far less that he has made any effort to model himself on the Lord Jesus Christ (1Peter 2:19-23).

Yet the Independent is pleased to call him a ‘Christian Fundamentalist.’  What does it mean to be a Fundamentalist?  Well, if words have any meaning, fundamentalist would signify someone who followed the fundamental doctrines of his religion or philosophy.  Moslem extremists make this very claim.  They are following the teachings of Mohammed in the Qu’ran and Hadiths (1).  So what are the fundamental doctrines of Christianity?  Back in the early years of the last century, a series of books was   written called The Fundamentals.  They were written by leading evangelical theologians of the day and covered such basic tenets of the faith as Creation, the Virgin Birth of Christ, the Resurrection  and Substitutionary Atonement (2).   But what was the fundamental teaching of the Lord Jesus Himself?

‘Then…..a lawyer asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, what is the great commandment in the law?”  Jesus said to him, “’You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it:  ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets”’ (Matt 22:35-40).

Is there anything in Breivik’s life that suggests that he ever followed these two commandments which are so fundamental to our Lord’s teaching?  I think not.  Perhaps Breivik would answer that he did love his neighbour; he only hated Moslems.  There is no escape for him here.    “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven (Matt 5:43-45).   Nor can Breivik take refuge in the Old Testament:  ‘And if a stranger dwells with you in the land, you shall not mistreat him.  The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt:  I am the LORD your God’ (Lev 19:33-34).  It may be possible for wicked people to pull other O.T. verses out of context and use them to justify hatred towards others, but properly understood they will not contradict the verses I have quoted above.

I say that love to God and to one’s neighbour constitute the fundamentals of Christianity.  I never mind being called a Fundamentalist, because I want to hold to the basic teachings of my faith.  The Christian Fundamentalist attitude to Moslems must therefore be one of love.  We should be praying for them; that God would pour out His Spirit upon the Moslem nations and turn them from their dark religion of works to the knowledge of the grace that is in Christ Jesus.   And we should be seeking to befriend them and help them.  ‘Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven’ (Matt 5:16).  I know that there are many parts of the world where Christians are suffering the most brutal persecution at the hands of Moslems and others, and even parts of Britain where it is becoming increasing uncomfortable to be a Christian.   I also know that it is easy to pontificate on such matters from the safety of south-west England, but we have read to the end of the Book, and we know who wins in the end.  The Fundamentalist Christian attitude should be that of our Saviour, who, ‘Also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow in His steps:  “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth;” who when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously’ (1Peter 2:23-24. cf. Isaiah 53:7).

If we can establish that Christian Fundamentalism, properly understood, is a very different thing from its Moslem counterpart, then we shall, at the very least, be able to stop secularists from claiming that all religions are alike.

Notes.

(1) For example:  ‘Fight those who do not believe in Allah nor the Last Day…..nor acknowledge the Religion of Truth [even if they are] of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya [tax] with willing submission and feel themselves subdued’ (Sura 9:29).  ‘O you who believe! Fight the unbelievers who gird you about, and let them find firmness in you’ (Sura 9:123).

(2) These books were the origin of the term Fundamentalist.  I have no objection to being called a fundamentalist on that basis, though there is a form of ‘Fundamentalism’ that comes out of America with which I would not wish to be associated.

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