Bill O’Reilly’s Christianism – And Breivik’s

Sometimes it's just too rich. Bill O'Reilly wants to banish the entire ideological background of the mass murderer in Norway:

Breivik is not a Christian. That's impossible. No one believing in Jesus commits mass murder. The man might have called himself a Christian on the net, but he is certainly not of that faith.

Now let's concede one point here, a point I made myself yesterday:

The notion that Breivik is a "Christian fundamentalist" seems unfair to those genuine Christian fundamentalists who seek no power over others (except proselytizing), but merely seek to live their own lives in accord with a literal belief in the words of the Bible.

I think that's by far a better formulation of the argument. Why? Because it is obvious that Christians can commit murder, assault, etc. They do so every day. Because, as Christian orthodoxy tells us, we are all sinners. To say that no Christian can ever commit murder is a sophist's piffle. Did Scott Roeder stop being a Christian when he assassinated a man repeatedly demonized by Bill O'Reilly, George Tiller? Do the countless criminals who have gone to church or believe in Jesus immediately not count as Christians the minute they commit the crime? Of course not. What O'Reilly is saying is complete heresy in terms of the most basic Christian orthodoxy.

Mass murder? Of course, deluded Christians, infused with a sense of holy righteousness, can do such things. History is proof of that, from the Crusades to the Inquisition. We know also, for example, that countless Catholic priests raped and abused countless children in past decades and today. When they did so, did they instantly become non-Christians? O'Reilly's formulation is entirely that of a propagandist: circular, self-justifying nonsense.

And, of course, if you used this formulation for Muslim mass murder, you would have to argue that Osama bin Laden was not a Muslim at all, because Islam clearly abhors the murder of innocents. But somehow, one senses that O'Reilly, in that case, would want to look a little further (as he should). Then this lie:

The Christian angle came from a Norwegian policeman not from any fact finding. Once again, we can find no evidence, none, that this killer practiced Christianity in any way.

This is very carefully worded, the way clever propagandists – i.e. people uninterested in the truth – tend to write. What does "practice" Christianity mean? Are the only Christians church-goers? Do you have to go once? Or weekly? Is O'Reilly himself a Christian by his own definition? And, of course, the "Christian angle" did not just come from a cop. It came from the manifesto of the mass murderer himself. And here is the mass murderer's own definition of Christianity, also from yesterday's Dish:

"As this is a cultural war, our definition of being a Christian does not necessarily constitute that you are required to have a personal relationship with God or Jesus … Being a Christian can mean many things; That you believe in and want to protect Europe's Christian cultural heritage. The European cultural heritage, our norms (moral codes and social structures included), our traditions and our modern political systems are based on Christianity – Protestantism, Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity and the legacy of the European enlightenment (reason is the primary source and legitimacy for authority). It is not required that you have a personal relationship with God or Jesus in order to fight for our Christian cultural heritage and the European way."

This, to point out the obvious, this is straight out of the Fox News playbook. It is orthodoxy in the current GOP. It is in no way more extreme than what Hannity and O'Reilly and Beck argue day after day after day. Indeed, the killer's obsession with the "war on Christmas" is less intense than Bill O'Reilly's. And here is O'Reilly's definition of Christianity in the same segment, a definition so close to Breivik's it could almost be the same person writing:

The second reason the liberal media is pushing the Christian angle is they don't like Christians very much because we are too judgmental. Many Christians oppose abortion. Gay marriage and legalized narcotics, secular left causes. The media understands the opposition is often based on religion. So they want to diminish Christianity and highlighting so-called Christian-based terror is a way to do that.

Notice that O'Reilly defines Christianity in entirely political terms related to the control of other people's lives and bodies. i.e. being judgmental in passing laws to restrict the freedoms of others for the greater good. It is straight out of the school of thought I described at length in "The Conservative Soul." In other words, O'Reilly's definition of Christianity is very close to Breivik's. Both are best understood as Christianists, who see Christianity primarily as a way to change or mold civil society and the lives of others for what they see as the greater good, but O'Reilly is a non-violent one who deplores violence, while Breivik takes his own rhetoric so seriously he felt obliged to destroy Norway's civil order in order to save it. 

The difference is not in ideology, but in the move to violence. That move is, of course, a central, profound and vital one, and O'Reilly's views of the world are in no way responsible for what just happened in Norway. But it is hard to see where O'Reilly would disagree with vast tracts of Breivik's ideology – except the resort to violence. Ideologically, there is scarcely any difference at all.