The fact is that even mass murderers agree with sensible people sometimes: you can’t keep quiet, just in case

The Norwegian mass murderer, Anders Breivik, is being described, I see, as a “Christian fundamentalist” by the Norwegian police. But what does that mean? He has, apparently, been reading “fundamentalist” extremists in the blogosphere: but what kind of sites are we talking about? And what does the Norwegian police mean by “fundamentalist?” Some light may have been thrown on this question by a brief but disturbing post on “Standing on my head”, the website of an old friend of mine, Fr Dwight Longenecker:

Creepy and Disturbing

I learned over the weekend that the Norwegian assassin/terrorist actually read my blog.

Here’s how it happened: On Saturday I noticed a surge in my hits. When I checked the referral I saw that they were coming from a Norwegian website that Anders Breivik had been contributing to, and that in November 2009 he linked to one of my posts.

The post was one of my usual rants about modernist Christianity, and when I later saw a translation of Breivik’s comments about my post it was nothing extreme or weird in itself.

Nevertheless, to think that my blog is out there as part of this new global publishing phenomenon and that anybody at all can read it is always amazing. To think that this madman read at least one post on my blog was disturbing at first. Naturally I wondered if I had written anything to prompt such hatred and violence.

I don’t think I have. Still, I was creeped out by it. Breivik is clearly both mad and bad, and I guess all we can do in the face of such horror is be silent and pray.

What, I wondered, did Breivik approve of in a post from someone I have always thought eminently moderate, sensible and well-informed (in other words, someone just like me)? So I did some smart Googling, and managed to track down the actual quote from Breivik, commenting on a post from Fr Longenecker (you can still find the full text of Fr Longenecker’s post, not on his own site but here) in November 2009. Thus, Anders Breivik:

Evident in Longenecker’s writing is his radical Christianity, in “10 points why modernist Christianity will die” argues “… For them religion is a matter of fighting for equal rights, making the world a better place, being kind to everyone and ‘spirituality’. It doesn’t take very long for people to realize that you don’t have to go to church for all that…” Dwight goes on to say “Modernists are dull. They’ve so little imagination and are so literal about everything. …they’re a joyless lot, always on some sort of serious, smug and self-righteous campaign,” and “So, what will happen to modernist Christianity? It will die out or cease to be Christian.”

But he sees it becoming more prevalent before dying out: “These horrors are already with us on the fringe of modernist religion. Expect them to become even more mainstream.”

That’s it: all, in my opinion, not only perfectly sensible, but I would say almost irrefutable (read the whole argument, in full you get Fr Dwight’s point better). And this brings to our attention a simple but very important fact. It’s not what Breivik actually believed that is, necessarily, all that utterly horrendous. There are people (like me) who believe what Breivik quoted Fr Dwight as saying: they may even also believe other American posts that Breivik also quoted, which neither Fr Dwight nor I would support for a moment, hate-filled and deliberately inflammatory articles. The point is that even these don’t remotely begin to explain the slaughter on a holiday island of 68 unsuspecting young people, or of the eight people who died in the Oslo bomb. Hitler believed monstrous things, from which he constructed a murderous ideology: the point is that he acted on it. And he also believed some perfectly sensible things. The fact that as well as being a racist madman and evil genius he was also a non-smoker and a vegetarian is not generally held to discredit these harmless propensities.

I apologise if all this seems unduly obvious. The trouble is, however, that it needs saying: for otherwise we may hesitate to say something that needs saying, in case it might be taken as the kind of thing Breivik, or some other evil nutter, would agree with. There are certainly people around prepared to exploit, in my view disreputably, what one might call the “Breivik factor”. On Wednesday, I posted an article on the continuing persecution of Christians in Turkey, in which I argued that “the Turkish government’s anti-Christian policies have a good deal of popular support: this is, quite simply, an anti-Christian culture (and therefore incompatible, I would argue, with the European culture it claims to want to be part of).”

The fanatically anti-Muslim Breivik would probably have agreed with that. Most of those who commented on my article took my point: but one of them came very close to saying indirectly that in the context of recent events I was stirring up the kind of hatred which came to its horrible climax on Utøya island: “…this sort of blog is just inflammatory”, wrote this commentator. “And lest anyone think that western Europe is immune from eruptions of hatred on the basis of religion or ethnicity open your eyes”: was that a reference to events in Norway? Probably.

Others defended me, one saying that it wasn’t what I’d said, but “the Turkish flouting of human rights that is inflammatory”; undeniable, but the accusation had been made: I was writing the kind of thing that had brought about the Norwegian horror.

Well, I’m not going to be bullied by that kind of fanatical liberal authoritarianism. If there is ever to be a sane and truly tolerant society it has to be based on telling the truth and not on that kind of mealy-mouthed evasiveness. If that’s what you want, don’t read my column.