Norway has experienced a nightmare—3 hours of abject terror. On Friday afternoon, right around 3:30, thirty-two year-old Anders Behring Breivik ignited a bomb outside government offices in Oslo, killing at least 7. As the bomb exploded, he was on his way to Utoya Island, about 20 miles from Oslo, the location of a youth camp run by a political party. Dressed in a police uniform, he asked to address the group (there were some 700 people at the camp) before opening fire on them. He killed at least 86, gunning them down in cold blood. By 6:30 PM Breivik was in police custody, having taken almost 100 lives in 3 short hours. In the meantime, the eyes of the whole world had shifted to Norway and millions were wondering just who would do something like this, and why.
Within hours of the event, news headlines were proclaiming that this was the work of a Christian fundamentalist or extremist. The Atlantic splashed this headline on their site: “The Christian Extremist Suspect in Norway’s Massacre.” The Washington Post said, “‘What we know is that he is right wing and he is Christian fundamentalist,’ deputy police chief Roger Andresen said Saturday morning at a televised news conference. ‘We have not been able to link him up to an anti-Islamic group.’ He said that the suspect had not been arrested before, and that police were unsure if he had acted alone.”
Was this the work of a Christian? Was this terror consistent with a man who claims to be a follower of Christ? Many believe that it is.
The declaration that Breivik is a Christian seems to have come largely from his Facebook profile where he assigned himself the labels “Christian” and “Conservative.” That was enough for many people, and especially for those with an anti-Christian agenda. Frank Schaeffer immediately jumped online and said, “I told you so!”, writing on his blog, “In my new book ‘Sex, Mom and God’ I predicted just such an action. I predicted that right wing Christians will unleash terror here in America too. I predict that they will copy Islamic extremists, and may eventually even make common cause with them.” Carl Trueman gets it right when he says:
If a man doesn’t hesitate to use his parents’ sex lives to get a cheap laugh and sell a few books, one should not be surprised if he sees yesterday’s events in Norway as a great opportunity for puffing his own prophetic insights, trying to flog a few more copies of his own recent book and demonstrating that the Left too can have as tenuous a grip on logic, evidence and argument as Glenn Beck (who would ever have thought there was link between Tim Keller, Bill Edgar and religious terrorism?). Yes, you guessed it, Frank Schaeffer has done it again. Just goes to show that every cloud has a silver lining — if you are sufficiently self-absorbed, that is.
How are we, as Christians, to understand this event? How are we to think about the media declaring that this is the work of a Christian?
Before we do anything, we ought to be in prayer for those who have been so deeply affected by Breivik’s acts of terror. A whole nation has been left reeling; tens of thousands are in mourning, having had a friend or family member gunned down. As Christians we know where hope lies and we know that only the Lord can bring true, lasting hope and healing. And so we weep with those who weep, praying for the people of Norway, asking that the Lord would bring comfort.
In what remains of this article I simply want to trace my own thinking on this man and on these events. Here is how I have thought it through.