Disclaimer for Christian readers: In spite of the way this post starts, it is not about bashing Christianity. 🙂
I really liked Stephen Prothero’s article on CNN, Christians Should Denounce Norway’s Christian Terrorist. Read the whole thing for yourself, but the gist is that Anders Brievik’s murder spree in Norway was motivated in part by a twisted take on the Christian faith. He describes himself as “100% Christian” and his manifesto cites a number of Bible passages to justify his violence.
Prothero’s article concludes,
Yes, [Anders Breivik] twisted the Christian tradition in directions most Christians would not countenance. But he rooted his hate and his terrorism in Christian thought and Christian history, particularly the history of the medieval Crusades against Muslims, and current efforts to renew that clash.
So Christians have a responsibility to speak out forcefully against him, and to look hard at the resources in the Christian tradition that can be used to such murderous ends.
Most if not all Christians I know would strongly protest that Breivik is not a Christian at all, but that is not the point. My point is this: The Christian religion as practiced today is largely peaceful. If Anders Breivik was able to find justification for murder even in Christian text and tradition, then all of us must pause and ask, “What seeds of evil are buried in the soil of my tradition or world-view? And what am I doing about them?”
For those of us whose world-view is secular: is our live-and-let-live philosophy up to the task of shaping society? Are we willing to face — and face down — the evils that our secular outlook allows? I’m not talking about the evils inherent in other people’s world-views; I’m talking about the evils that could be “logically” justified from our own world-view. Religious people think of us as living by “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Is there a seed of truth in that accusation?
If your world-view is based on a holy text, what should you do if the seeds are in the text itself, as some were for Anders Breivik? Do you renounce those passages as not God-given after all? Do you reinterpret them to mean something else? Do you ignore them? Do you claim that they are beyond your understanding? Which is the path of greatest integrity?
Prothero exhorted us to “look hard” at our tradition. Nobody is better positioned to confront your tradition than you.