I don’t even know where to fucking begin with Anders Breivik. It’s nauseating and writing about the potential political – or literary – ramifications of these murders is also nauseating. Anytime something like this happens, it’s sickening in another way for me – Virginia Tech, Loughner, now Norway. I’ve written about people like this but turned it into a form of entertainment, perhaps even trivializing it – even if the fiction was borne out of a fear of what people are capable. And the Norway incident happens more or less in The American Book of the Dead – a right wing terrorist plot. In this case, he’s not a true fundamentalist Christian in the sense that he’s not trying to bring about the Second Coming. But in today’s age, that doesn’t matter – as religion and political ideology have become inseparable.
Andrew Sullivan puts it best: Breivik: A Living Definition Of Christianism.
Christianist? Breivik’s picture should accompany the term in any dictionary. Christianism is all about power over others, and it has been fueled in the last decade by its mirror image, Islamism, and motivated to fury by hatred of what it sees as is true enemy, liberalism. 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.
This is Breivik’s own words:
“As this is a cultural war, our definition of being a Christian does not necessarily constitute that you are required to have a personal relationship with God or Jesus … Being a Christian can mean many things; That you believe in and want to protect Europe’s Christian cultural heritage. The European cultural heritage, our norms (moral codes and social structures included), our traditions and our modern political systems are based on Christianity – Protestantism, Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity and the legacy of the European enlightenment (reason is the primary source and legitimacy for authority). It is not required that you have a personal relationship with God or Jesus in order to fight for our Christian cultural heritage and the European way.”
While he’s not a Christian in the sense of the madman who says, “I did this because God told me to,” that’s no longer the definition of religious extremism. The new Christian right is synonymous with fascism. There’s really no other way to put this. For this reason, Billy Bragg’s sentiment is not all that helpful:
On the one hand, Breivik shows the fallacy of blaming all Muslims for Osama bin Laden. But to suggest that for many people Christianity and politics are separate is misreading what’s happened to Christianity.
He did what he did, knowing it was evil, because of a passionate commitment to a political cause, which has become fused with a politicized parody of one religion, and with a passionate paranoid hatred of another one.
If you think that contains no lessons for the United States, you might want to open your eyes a little more widely.
When you define something as “evil,” even “demonic” (not Breivik’s words, so far as I know, but the language of the Christian right) then eradicating that influence is indeed “necessary” as Breivik is quoted as saying. What he did is not only unsurprising, but inevitable, given the rhetoric that pours out of the extremist right – an extremism that is coming closer to the mainstream. It’s significant that this comes at the same time as the debt ceiling debate, in which right wing ideologues are are trying to destroy the economy, and people’s lives, for political gain. Their supporters are willing to collapse the entire world economy based on a fiction. Murder isn’t the only expression of ideological insanity.
While the majority of the Tea Party would not take up arms in this way – Breivik is an expression of their rhetorical desire: to eradicate Marxism and Islam. Here’s Pat Buchanan (emphasis added): “As for a climactic conflict between a once-Christian West and an Islamic world that is growing in numbers and advancing inexorably into Europe for the third time in 14 centuries, on this one, Breivik may be right.” There’s nothing in Breivik’s manifesto that has not been said a thousand times on the right. Hopefully we’ll be able to look back on this time as the point when the extremist right lost its influence. But that’s doubtful – given that the right encourages the economic climate that spurs poverty and more extremism.
The irony is that I believe too that the right’s ideology needs to be “eradicated” – if I’m going to be honest. Not in a violent way, but minds need to change. Just as some on the right might desire a Christian revolution, I too believe in stopping that revolution – which means if we keep this course, some kind of new civil war could actually happen. Christianists vs. everyone else. My hope is that the Tea Party finally sees the obvious about who’s been fucking them – it’s not the poor, it’s the rich. Given that it’s so demonstrably obvious, it might not be a total fantasy that people finally band together and vote for their own interests. Unfortunately, it might take a total economic collapse – orchestrated by their side – for them to finally come to their senses. At that point, it won’t matter anymore. Welcome to the new Christian America.