The culprit in Norway

Whatever psychological conditions or ideological drives may have spawned the murderous intent–and feat–of Anders Behring Breivik, being a Christian was not one of them. Even so, western media appear (see here, or here, or here, for example) to delight in using the term, along with what has become its alter ego: fundamentalist.

No justification whatsoever for murder adheres to being a Christian, including one who might be reckoned fundamentalist. After all, what is a fundamentalist? He or she is a Christian, commonly evangelical, who tends to read the scriptures literally not doubting the authorship of God. Doctrinally, the Fundamentals are clear.

It is worth recalling that in the opening weeks of the Great War, the Australian Christian Commonwealth (extravagant title of the South Australian Methodist as it became later) reprinted the Fundamentals, yet the editor and indeed the bulk of his denomination were of a more liberal character. The defining moment of the twentieth century for fundamentalists was the educational and political argument over teaching evolution in Tennessee. The term fundamentalist has, most unfortunately, travelled far, indeed much farther than its origins could possibly justify. Evangelical Protestantism has likewise endeavoured, if not universally, to surmount and transcend the intellectual slough into which it had fallen in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.*

Describing Mr. Breivik then in these terms is to abuse the language, even if the precedents for such laziness are many. To suggest, as did Julian Marshall of the BBC’s Newshour last night, that it along with an attitude of anti-immigration was a means to slander countless thousands of quite ordinary, decent people who under no circumstances would contemplate murder in furtherance of their political views or in revenge for various change already in train, nor for any other consideration.

Over time we may take receipt of evidence providing the ground for this dreadful event. One certainly hopes so. Mystification and insult and slur we don’t need.

 

*See, most especially, Mark A. Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.  Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 1994.

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