If you are a Christian, then how do you respond to the name Anders Breivik?
This question has haunted many a believer since the tragic events that have befallen Norway this past Friday. Breivik, a self-professed believer and cultural conservative, has brought to light many of the brimming tensions between the left and right; the religious and nonreligious. A reader comment on a Washingon Post article regarding the tragedy notes, “And if you read Breivik’s manifesto, you’ll find that he was very upset about the ‘war on Christmas.’ Breivik watched FOX.”
What’s the difference between a Christian and Anders Breivik?
Obviously, the easiest route here is to dismiss Breivik as a madman. In many ways he is. More alarming, however, are the many ways in which he isn’t one. A document pulled from Breivik’s personal writings outline his convictions, many of which offer a glimpse into the mind of the man responsible for Norway’s greatest tragedy in recent memory.
Perhaps most troubling is this: forget for five minutes that Anders Breivik is responsible for anything. For the sake of argument, let’s describe an ordinary right-leaning American. Let’s say that this American spends times on conservative news blogs. That this American laments the bashing that the political right has received from the political left in the media. That this American believes Marxist (i.e., socialist) ideologies are responsible for the country’s current economic woes. That this American argues that multiculturalism skews results at the ballot box. That this American is wary of a growing Islamic populace. And finally, that this American is “driven by [his] love for [country].”
What bothers me the most about these things is that not only have I just described Anders Breivik, I have also described a sizable chunk of right-leaning Americans. Not only that, I have also described a sizable chunk of right-leaning Christians. When a 2010 poll revealed that 81 percent of the Tea Party identified themselves with the Christian faith, and when a 2011 tragedy stains the philosophies of those groups with the blood of at least 91 people, including children, Christian is a hard place to be.
Naturally, liberal bloggers and columnists went into a wild fervor last week when it was discovered that Breivik had described himself as being a follower of the Christian faith. Which brings us to this: Is Breivik insane? Or is he merely a Christian conservative who is armed, and who is willing to go where few others of the religious political right would dare to go? While I’m sure that many liberal bloggers and columnists would like to think Breivik is ultimately a Tea Party member with a gun, I would argue he is something infinitely more dangerous: a man without patience.
Patience is what separates Breivik and the Christ-follower.
If you think about it, the Christian story is grounded in waiting. The very life of Christ was marked by waiting. And what is the Bible if not a story about, well, waiting? Scripture begins with the creation of the universe, the fall of the world through sin, and concludes with its imminent restoration. In some way or another, no matter your conviction, every human being has been marked by this idea of waiting for something better. Some call it Eden; others call it Utopia. But whatever your name for it, the world isn’t where many of us would like it to be. And no matter how malevolent or benevolent we might be, we strive for change.
The Rush Toward Eden
“Forty years of dialogue with the cultural Marxists/multiculturalists had ended up as a disaster,” Breivik argues. “So I decided to explore alternative forms of opposition.” In this remark, Breivik is onto something: no act of retribution is quite so swift as that of violence. Often seen as a last resort, violence is the very antithesis of patience. It is an immediate response to offenses directed toward the subject in question. In this instance, the left-leaning politics and globalization of Norway. Violence is a destructive force. And though it is an agent of change, it is not necessarily a constructive one.
We must not hesitate,” Breivik writes. “We must risk everything for the chance to get our freedom and secure freedom for our relatives again.” His comments, a ploy to justify his heinous crimes, suggest desperation. Though violence and desperation fail to always find one another hand in hand, the two are rarely far from one another. In his manifesto, Breivik presents a timetable to the reader, saying that it would “…only take 50 to 70 years before we, Europeans, were the minority.”
In violence, there is no patience or dialogue. Communication merely spurs in one direction, and a destructive one at that. In violence, there is a rush toward Eden. And with Breivik, the issue is not so much with politics or religion as it is a matter of impatience. Where Jesus asks His followers to get on their knees, pray and wait for justice, Breivik asks his followers to take up their arms right now and spread the word via Facebook.
Where Do We Go from Here?
Before we are able to see Eden with our own eyes, and rebuild it in this life with our own hands, we must first experience it from within. And the Eden within begins with patience. The Eden within begins with prayer.
If we are to agree that prayer is real, and that prayer truly is a means of communication with God Himself, then we must also admit prayer is a collaborative effort, and is just as reliant upon a response from God as it is dependent upon our responding to Him. The difficulty with this is that God doesn’t always communicate with His followers in the same way people talk with one another. If I recall correctly, God once spoke to one of His followers by setting a bush on fire.
Dialogue does not work in the same way violence does. Violence is forceful; a cruel one-way street that often invites retaliation and escalation. Dialogue, however, requires patience, and a collaborative effort on the part of all parties involved. As a result of the medium, dialogue takes longer. When we ask God to help shed light upon the mystery of tragedy, or to provide an explanation for grief, we often don’t find what we seek. And that’s frustrating.
Which is why prayer requires patience. It is through prayer that we learn patience. I wish I had answers, or even comfort to provide for those wronged in Norway. I have neither; rather, only the patience to know those who have been wronged in Norway will one day find the solace they seek. That they will find Eden.
It is because of this patience that Anders Breivik and I are very different people. It is in this patience that I find strength, and it is in this patience that I find the hope that you, too, may have the courage to wait just a little bit longer with me. To wait for Eden.
John Taylor is a freelance writer living in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter @johntaylortweet