Thursday, August 04, 2011

he said, she said

There has been more than a little discussion regarding whether or not Anders Breivik should be called a Christian. Fox news has complained that the mainstream media jumped to conclusions and called him a "Christian Terrorist," while others such as Jon Stewart have called them on their hypocrisy

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Regardless of what you think about Breivik, we're back at the question I've raised before... who get's to decide? Who gets to define the terms? Do Breivik's action, by definition exclude him from being a Christian? Did Bin Laden's actions define him as something other than a Muslim? Who decides and how?

My friend Bob Cornwall just put a piece up on his blog written by Margaret Mitchell that raises the same questions, specifically regarding Breivik. Here's a quote from the article that I think is important.

In the days since the attack and arrest, the media has been abuzz with reflections on whether or not Breivik can or should be called a “Christian.” Each argument depends upon some stated or implied criterion for what constitutes Christian identity: a form of “belief,” of personal piety or religious experience, of ethical comportment, of ritual practice, of theological commitments, of cultural identity, of ecclesial participation, of relationship to political orders. These arguments tell us as much or more about the commitments of the authors as they do about Breivik.

She points to Breivik's extensive use of materials written by conservative Christians, calling for armed resistance against Muslims and secularists as important for understanding him.

I still don't know who gets to define the terms... but I can clearly say that Breivik is not my brand of Christian... and neither are the folk he cited in his manifesto - Joseph Farah and Michael Bradley.


Ben Wright said...

A couple of more or less unconnected thoughts. I don't think that we can ignore self-identification as a criterion. Many early Christians were such because they identified that way. Their beliefs, practices, rituals, etc. would be as different from ours today as the Fox folks are claiming Breivik's are from what is being claimed as "normative" Christianity. Of course, those folks have not been so "nuanced" with respect to Muslims since 9/11. Moreover, the staking out of "normative" territory says a lot about how we construct social categories of us and them as it does about anything.

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

Roy, Thanks for noting the link.

I think we must be willing to say -- while this position doesn't reflect my theology or understanding of the Christian faith -- they have their own definitions. Those who look at the various versions will need to check these claims against the original and see if there's a match. Breivick, in my mind takes positions that at pretty much every point contradict my understanding of Christianity. Of course, I've been deemed ready for hell by other Christians, so what can I say?