Anders Breivik was described by the chief of police in Oslo as someone with ‘Christian fundamentalist’ views, and since then, the label has stuck, and he has been widely described in the media as such.
However, Breivik is not a Christian fundamentalist.
Fundamentalism has to do with how you interpret your holy scripture and understand God.
Usually, it doesn’t mean “a really fervent Christian”, but it is a specific term to refer to a religious movement in the USA. But we can still see if Breivik matches up to the definition of a fundamentalist, as a fervent believer.
Breivik wrote this:
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.
So, nothing to do with theological beliefs or knowing God.
There’s an obvious difference though, between Breivik’s concept of a cultural Christian, and most people’s. We are not talking about smells-and-bells church life, or singing Christmas carols. This guy thinks a “cultural Christian” is someone who fights the Muslims and the Marxists as a “Templar Knight”.
His Templar Knight ideology does not draw on any principles about belief in Christ, or any serious Christian theologian. He is not tapping into any stream of Christian thought, and is certainly a long way from Aquinas’ just war theory. His resolve is not to look into the theology or scriptures of Christianity, as a fundamentalist might.
Breivik seems to be the only person calling for a modern, “urban” Knights Templar, whose duty it is to kill Marxists and Muslims and die as a martyr. He justifies this by his own understanding of politics and society, but not by religious concepts. That is why we should caution against calling Breivik a “Christian fundamentalist”. It is inaccurate.
A Christian fundamentalist would not say this:
The cultural factors are more important than your personal relationship with God, Jesus or the holy spirit.
A fundamentalist would say the exact opposite.
These are hardly the words of a Christian fundamentalist either:
“I have reserved 2000 Euro from my operations budget which I intend to spend on a high quality model escort girl 1 week prior to execution of the mission. I will probably arrange that just before or after I attend my final martyrs mass in Frogner Church. It will contribute to ease my mind as I imagine I will get tense and very nervous. It is easier to face death if you know you are biologically, mentally and spiritually at ease.”
He also says this:
Religion is a crutch for many weak people and many embrace religion for self serving reasons as a source for drawing mental strength (to feed their weak emotional state f example during illness, death, poverty etc.). Since I am not a hypocrite, I’ll say directly that this is my agenda as well. However, I have not yet felt the need to ask God for strength, yet… But I’m pretty sure I will pray to God as I’m rushing through my city, guns blazing, with 100 armed system protectors pursuing me with the intention to stop and/or kill.
So the first time he would have prayed to God, would have been during his killing spree. I really think you would struggle to find a genuine Christian, who would pray for the first time when committing murder.
Does this “Christian fundamentalist” even believe in God?
It is likely that I will pray to God for strength at one point during that operation, as I think most people in that situation would….If praying will act as an additional mental boost/soothing it is the pragmatical thing to do. I guess I will find out… If there is a GodI will be allowed to enter heaven as all other martyrs for the Church in the past
So after all that, he is an agnostic. Nor does this seem to be a Christian wrestling with his doubts about God, or anything of the sort. I do not think that an agnostic of Breivik’s ilk can be aptly described as a Christian fundamentalist.
This is a point that even the leading new atheist thinker Sam Harris makes.
Breivik imagined that all Muslims should have to convert to Christianity by 2020, and change their name too. He said he was a Protestant, but he wanted the Protestant Church to merge with Rome. A Protestant fundamentalist would not say this!
His form of Christianity was only ever an identity marker, not a system of beliefs or a way to connect with God.
The other theory, if Breivik is not a Christian fundamentalist, is that he could be linked to the Christian Identity movement. The thing aboutChristian Identity, is that they believe they are descended from the 10 tribes of Israel.
So if Breivik held to Christian Identity beliefs, you would expect him to say something about how the Nordic tribe are the lost house of Israel, something like that. Nothing appears in his thinking, though, about Christian Identity politics.
You could make the argument, I suppose, that Breivik is a Christian because he said so on his Facebook status. But he is not a Christian fundamentalist.
Edmund Standing adds:
For more on Breivik’s ‘Crusader Christianity’ and its similarities to BNP ideology, see this post.