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The Greater Threat: Christian Extremism From Timothy McVeigh to Anders Breivik

| July 24, 2011

Christian jihadists: Timothy McVeigh and Anders Behring Breivik.

Timothy McVeigh, meet Anders Behring Breivik.

Those two jihadists—two right-wing reactionaries, two terrorists, two anti-government white supremacists, two Christians—have a lot in common, down to the way the massacres they carried out were first mistaken for the work of Islamists by an American press rich in zealotry of its own. And they have a lot more in common with the fundamentalist politicians and ideologues among us who pretend to have nothing to do with the demons they inspire.


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After the Oklahoma City bombing in April 1995, speculation flew on television news stations about Arab terrorists seen in the vicinity of the federal building. The thought that a home-grown, Midwestern Army veteran of the first Gulf war could possibly murder 168 people, including 19 children at a day care center, seemed as foreign as those Islamic lands that were then inspiring so much of bigotry’s latest American mutant. McVeigh turned out to be as all-American as he could possibly be, with extras. His paradoxical worship of the Second Amendment was the faith that fueled his hatred of a government he felt had betrayed American ideals by enabling what he called “Socialist wannabe slaves.” His idealism of a golden-age white America was the Christian translation of al-Qaeda’s idealized caliphate.

It became quickly evident that the bombing in Oslo and the massacre on Utoya Island on Friday had been carried out by Anders Breivik, who surrendered to police 40 minutes after beginning his killing spree on the island. Yet the Wall Street Journal ran an editorial on Saturday putting the blame for the attack on Islamist extremists, because “in jihadist eyes,” the paper said, “it will forever remain guilty of being what it is: a liberal nation committed to freedom of speech and conscience, equality between the sexes, representative democracy and every other freedom that still defines the West.”


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The paper subsequently amended its editorial to concede that Breivik “was an ethnic Norwegian with no previously known ties to Islamist groups.” But the rest of the piece still framed the attack in the context of Islamist terrorism. It’s a common tactic at the Journal and Fox News—co-owned by Rupert Murdoch’s scandal-riddled News Corp.—where facts are incidental to ideology. It is enough for the Journal to insinuate a connection for its Foxified audience to catch the drift and run with it. Breivik may be Norwegian. But he wouldn’t be doing what he did if it weren’t for the pollution of white, Christian European blood by Muslims and multiculturalists, by leftists, by Socialist wannabe slaves.

McVeigh and Breivik are bloody reminders that Western culture’s original sin—the presumption of supremacy—is alive and well and clenching many a trigger. It’ll be easy in coming days, as it was in 1995, to categorize the demons as exceptions unrepresentative of their societies. Easy, but false. Norway, like much of Europe, like the United States, is in the grips of a disturbing resurgence of right-wing fanaticism.  “The success of populist parties appealing to a sense of lost national identity,” The Times reports, “has brought criticism of minorities, immigrants and in particular Muslims out of the beer halls and Internet chat rooms and into mainstream politics. While the parties themselves generally do not condone violence, some experts say a climate of hatred in the political discourse has encouraged violent individuals.”


It’s convenient duplicity. The parties don’t explicitly condone violence. But they would have no appeal without explicitly endorsing beliefs of supremacy and projecting the sort of scorn and hatred for those who fall outside the tribe that cannot but lead to violence or the sort of fractured society we’ve become so familiar with. Those “Take Back America” bumper stickers share most of their DNA with the same strain of rejectionist white Europeans who think their culture is being bankrupted by Socialism and immigrants. Those idiotic anti-Sharia laws creeping up in Oklahoma, Arizona and Florida take their cues from the likes of Geert Wilder, the Dutch People’s Party leader who compares the Koran to Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Florida’s own Koran-burning Terry Jones or the Rev. Franklin Graham’s velvety crusade against Islam are Wilder’s American clones.

Timothy McVeigh’s rhetoric may have been more extreme, but it was indistinguishable from the more college-polished and aged rhetoric of anti-government reactionaries now pretending to speak for American ideals under the banner of patriots, tea parties, Fox News’s hacking of the “fair and balanced” parody, or more establishment oriented zealots in Congress. The common denominator is exclusion and heresy: those who supposedly belong to “true” American values, and those who don’t. Al-Qaeda’s loyalty oath is identical: those who belong to “true” Islamic values and those who don’t. Either way, the inclusive, tolerant, broad-minded, and yes, multicultural outlook is under siege by fundamentalism in virtually every part of society as we know it: cultural, political, economic, religious. Timothy McVeigh and Anders Breivik used bombs and rifles. More seasoned zealots use rhetoric and policies. The ongoing march of folly over the national debt is merely one example among many.

“We tend to think of national security narrowly as the risk of a military or terrorist attack,” the columnist Nicholas Kristof writes today. “But national security is about protecting our people and our national strength — and the blunt truth is that the biggest threat to America’s national security this summer doesn’t come from China, Iran or any other foreign power. It comes from budget machinations, and budget maniacs, at home.”

Islamists who may want us harm need only sit back and enjoy the view. They might as well have outsourced the job to their Christian brethren, with plenty of assists from mainstream conservatives. There’s no segregating these demons and maniacs. They’re an integral part of western culture. They’re us.

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52 Responses for “The Greater Threat: Christian Extremism From Timothy McVeigh to Anders Breivik”

  1. Edward says:

    It’s about TIME someone said something about the “other-side of the coin” when it comes to religion. It’s less about “religion” than it is about bigotry. We will always accept the mindset of the “majority” and as sheep, we will follow status-quo to our detriment. We are simply too willing to blame those who don’t look like us, think like us or act like us.
    Tragedies in the name of Christianity have been happening since the biblical times, the crusades, the lynching of Blacks to the bombing of buildings and slaughtering kids. Of course the bigotry that we are so proud of will prevent us from realizing this.

       1 likes

    • Janet says:

      Lynching had nothing to do with Chrisitianity. When people say things like that I know they know nothing about history or Christianity. The atheist governments with rulers like Pol Pot, Hitler, Stalin caused more death and destruction than all the Crusades put together. By the way the Crusades were defensive, not offensive. Muslems were killing people then as they do now that do not believe in their religions. They will force it on people and kill them if they don’t profess Allah. To hold up two crazed individuals as Christians because they may have attended a church at some point is ludicrous and shows very poor journalism.

         8 likes

      • Anonymous says:

        Hitler was a Christian, not an atheist.

           3 likes

        • The Facts says:

          Incorrect, there is a great deal of debate about Hitler’s personal believes. You are just as incorrect to declare him a “Christian” as the previous commenter was in declaring him “Athiest”

          As a whole, he has made many contradicting statements regarding Christianity. If one follows a timeline of his quotes, he seemed to lean more and more anti-Christian in later years. He went from openly declaring himself a Christian during his early rise to power to later declaring Christianity the root of all evil in the world and there can be no God but Germany. I would assume he used Christianity to win over the people, only to later view it as a threat once he was in power. Its safe to say Power was his true religion.

             4 likes

  2. lawabidingcitizen says:

    Neither McVeigh nor Breivik are Christians.

       7 likes

  3. Edward says:

    Nor are Islamic extremist “Muslims”. Yet they both use their religion as crutches for despicable actions. When a Brown terrorist quotes the Quran, he is deemed an “Islamic Extremist”. When a White terrorist quotes the Bible, he is deemed a “random nut job”. My point WAS and still IS that EXTREME beliefs leads to EXTREME results. …and we like to justify our bigotry.

       3 likes

  4. Sam says:

    First , my condolences to the families of all those killed in Norway. Now let me comment on this article.There has always been, and always will be “extremist” on all sides of the planet. If you actually believe your going to change the world and everyone is going to live together in one big happy Utopia, your wrong. That will never happen. The best we can do is have the ability to protect ourselves from “extremist” when their near. If one or two Camp Counselors on that island with those young people would have been armed it would have given them a chance to defend themselves, and would have saved many lives.You can keep blaming religions and political parties all you want, its not going to change these extreme cases of violence .

       3 likes

  5. Kendall says:

    You have summed up my fears about the future of our country, Pierre.

    The things I see happening, the hate I see being condoned and excused in the name of “preserving America” are disgusting and in my mind are the roots of what we call racism and terrorism. God help us if this negative rhetoric continues. We will implode.

    Thank you.

       0 likes

  6. lawabidingcitizen says:

    Ed, my point is neither McVeigh nor Breivik are Christians. so they’re not using their religion as a crutch. What the media say about McVeigh is at odds with his own writings, but since what he’s said and written doesn’t advance the left’s narrative that he’s a rightwinger, you would have to go a website like the American Thinker to find that out.

    We know little of Breivik and what the media will tell us is what they want the story to be, not necessarily the truth

    Islamic terrorists commit terror in the name of Islam. So far as I can tell, there are been no instances of killing where the terrorists have called upon the name of Jesus or the Trinity, nor have any called upon Yahweh, Buddha or any of the many Hindu gods or deities of American Indians, Incas, but I think you get the idea.

       5 likes

  7. Lambie says:

    Pierre Tristam refers to a setting where, he says, “facts are incidental to ideology.” It’s reassuring to know that Pierre can look in the mirror and identify his way of thinking.

       3 likes

  8. tonyesperanza says:

    Timothy McVeigh was a nihilist, not a Christian. He never quoted the bible, he never yelled out “Jesus is great” before he detonated the bomb. He was not a “Christian terrorist” because there is no such thing. No mainstream Christian church condones, trains, and arms terrorists. Unlike the Muslims that practically make it part of daily sermons.
    From McVeigh in 1995 to yesterday you have 2 white guys who committed brutal acts of terrorism. How many acts of terror and murder were comitted in islam’s name? I lost count.

       5 likes

  9. Edward says:

    White guys have committed “terrorist acts” under the guise of doing God’s work since the beginning of religion, to the KKK, to the Koreshes of the world. Lately the rhetoric has changed to a more “political agenda. Don’t tell me that NO acts of terrorism isn’t based upon someone’s warped interpretation of the Bible. People like you strengthens my argument that we pay attention to what we want and ignore what goes against our core beliefs. I have read the Quran AND the Bible. Basically, they’re BOTH the same. In America, we have had the luxury of living “fat and lazy” thus have no reason to be neither religious nor extreme. As times get tougher, you will see the crazies scurry from under the rocks and we will go from plain ole’ bigots to full blown extremist.
    My opinion. Whatever.

       1 likes

  10. Kendall says:

    How about violence surrounding abortion clinics and providers? Those actions are often in the name of something related to christianity.

    Just as decent christian persons of the cloth don’t condone violence, neither do decent muslim leaders.

    It is unfair to paint all people of a creed, race, etc with a broad stroke. There is good and bad in every corner of humanity.

       2 likes

  11. tonyesperanza says:

    Which church arms and trains their congregation to kill abortion providers?
    Anders Behring Breivik calls himself a “cultural Christian”. That isn’t a phrase used by ANY church.
    The KKK is a racist, political, terrorist organization. Not a religious organization. White supremacy comes first everything else is second. In fact many white supremacists now describe themselves as Pagans. They see Christianity as weak and an extension of judaism that was created to make non-Jews passive.
    David Koresh was a weirdo who thought he was god.
    There is no church based organized Christian terrorist group.
    Unlike in Islam, where there are many(not all) mosques that will indoctrinate, arm, and train future terrorists.

       4 likes

  12. Kendall says:

    Westboro Baptist is a terrorist group in my opinion. Any group that finds it acceptable to picket the funerals of our armed service personnel killed in action is no better than radical islamists.

       0 likes

  13. Amerkican Sheeple says:

    Why don’t people do more research outside of the mainstream media who are told what to say for the most part? If you believe these guys acted alone then I feel sorry for you. Some people claim to be free-thinkers but will not do any research for truth. Instead the “media” tells us anyone who thinks outside of what they tell them are nut jobs or conspiracy theorist. The real conspiracy is the bull crap they are spouting and most of us believe it.

    Baaaaaaa Move along little sheep.

       1 likes

    • The Facts says:

      That is correct, McVeigh was a self described Agnostic who was quoted as saying “science is my religion.”

      Why he is refered to as a Christian Terrorist so frequently is anyone’s guess?

         0 likes

  14. elaygee says:

    Facism is coming to America, wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross

       0 likes

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