Monday, July 25, 2011

If Bin Laden Was an Islamic Terrorist, Is Breivik a Christian Terrorist? Mark Juergensmeyer at Religion Dispatches

Though Osama bin Laden was an entrepreneur and engineer, not a theologian or a cleric, he has been widely characterized in Western culture as an Islamic terrorist.  But the mainstream media and many folks in Western nations hesitate to call terrorists such as Timothy McVeigh or Anders Behring Breivik Christian terrorists.  The tendency, instead, is to treat them as unhinged ideologues, exceptions to the rule, whose ideology is in no way rooted in their understanding of Christianity.

But at Religion Dispatches today, Mark Juergensmeyer offers compelling reasons for us to conclude that, if bin Laden was an Islamic terrorist, then Breivik is a Christian terrorist--as was McVeigh.  Breivik deliberately chose to mount his attacks on 22 July, the day in 1099 that the Kingdom of Jerusalem was established during the First Crusades.  Like McVeigh, he sees himself as a self-enlisted soldier "in an imagined cosmic war to save Christendom."  Breivik's manifesto, 2083, envisaged that his act of terror would set off a Christian West-vs.-Islamic East war of 70 years that would result in the decisive defeat of Islam, mimicking the defeat of the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Vienna in 1683.

As Juergensmeyer notes, Breivik's 2083 contains eerie echoes of the novel that significantly influenced McVeigh in his Christianist crusade thinking, neo-Nazi William Luther Pierce's Turner Diaries (written by Pierce under the pseudonym Andrew McDonald).  Juergensmeyer writes, 

McVeigh’s beloved novel explains his motives in a matter eerily similar to the writings of Breivik in his 2083 manifesto: he thought that liberal politicians had given in to the forces of globalization and multiculturalism, and that the “mudpeople”—non-White, non-Christian, non-heterosexual, non-patriarchal males—were trying to take over the country. To save the country for Christendom the righteous White, straight, non-feminist Christian males had to be shocked into reality by the force of an explosion that would signal to them that the war had begun. These were McVeigh’s ideas from The Turner Diaries, but they were also Breivik’s. 

Juergensmeyer concludes, "If bin Laden is a Muslim terrorist, Breivik and McVeigh are surely Christian ones."  And he's right, in my view.

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