Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Andrew Sullivan on Anders Breivik as Living Definition of Christianism

For some inexplicable reason, American conservatives appear unhappy with the suggestion that Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik appeals to Christianist ideological notions in his published statements providing a rationale for his atrocious actions.  Even more astonishing, I find Catholic conservatives now raising Cain on various Catholic blog sites about any association of Breivik with anything Catholic at all, though he himself has indicated that his terrorism envisaged the reimplementation of a kind of cultural Catholic unity in Europe, to preserve the continent from Islam.

What's perhaps most interesting about the conservative reaction to Breivik is how it indicates the extent to which some of the most ardent defenders of Catholic values and Catholic orthodoxy and Catholic this and that are really as culturally Christian/Catholic as Breivik himself is.  And that's to say, not very Christian or Catholic at all--not in essence, that is.  

There has been a debased instrumentality in the way many American (and European) Catholic conservatives have defined Catholicism in recent years.  Their Catholicism serves their political and economic ideological ends, and not vice versa.  And yet, ironically, they have taken it on themselves to purify the church, using political and economic yardsticks that have little or nothing to do with Catholic teaching in its core sense, as their measure of orthodoxy.

And so we have the spectacle--and it's once again on full display in the vehement, heated Catholic reactions to the suggestion that Breivik appeals to a Catholic cultural understanding of Christendom--of Catholics far, far removed from any talk of love as the center of our religious tradition informing us that they have a privileged understanding of what Catholicism means.  And Breivik has nothing to do with Catholicism or Christianity.

Because, they say, he didn't practice Christianity.  He didn't practice it as bin Laden did Islam.  As if Christianity is a set of practices that are equivalent to those very same ideological litmus tests these conservative interpreters of Catholicism want to use in defining orthodoxy.

Love is never even in the picture.  Love is never even on the table to be talked about, as the most distinguishing characteristic at all of followers of Christ.  Love is certainly not anywhere in the picture as these conservative Catholics read their liberal brothers and sisters out of their flock, while they claim that they alone practice pure Catholicism and they alone have the right to define what Catholicism is all about.

And because Breivik seems to hold an uncomfortable mirror up to many Catholics who, despite their profession to be more purely Catholic than anyone else in the world, are ultimately as tenuously and as culturally Christian as Breivik himself is, they now want to break the mirror.

Andrew Sullivan has just published incisive analysis of the dynamics underlying this attempt of right-wing Christians to disavow any connection at all to Breivik and the violence he and others perpetrate in the name of Christ.  As he notes, Breivik is the living definition of what Sullivan calls "Christianism."  Christianism is the mirror image of what Sullivan calls Islamism.

He writes:

Both Islamism and Christianism, to my mind, do not spring from real religious faith; they spring from neurosis caused by lack of faith. They are the choices of those who are panicked by the complexity and choices of modernity into a fanatical embrace of a simplistic parody of religion in order to attack what they see as their cultural and social enemies. They are not about genuine faith; they are about the instrumentality of faith as a political bludgeon.

And so Sullivan explodes the attempt of conservative apologists to dismiss the Christianist roots of Breivik's actions, and to propose that he is merely an unhinged madman acting entirely on his own and without any comprehensible ideological motives.  As Sullivan notes, "My point is this: this was about as far from an act of meaningless violence as you can get. It is an explicitly articulated, carefully argued conclusion from a mishmash of every current far right platitude out there."

And his conclusion: "If you think that contains no lessons for the United States, you might want to open your eyes a little more widely."  

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