The New York Times wasted no time in jumping to conclusions about Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian who staged two deadly attacks in Oslo last weekend, claiming in the first two paragraphs of one story that he was a "gun-loving," "right-wing," "fundamentalist Christian," opposed to "multiculturalism."
It may as well have thrown in "Fox News-watching" and "global warming skeptic."
This was a big departure from the Times' conclusion-resisting coverage of the Fort Hood shooting suspect, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan. Despite reports that Hasan shouted "Allahu Akbar!" as he gunned down his fellow soldiers at a military medical facility in 2009, only one of seven Times articles on Hasan so much as mentioned that he was a Muslim.
Of course, that story ran one year after Hasan's arrest, so by then, I suppose, the cat was out of the bag.
In fact, however, Americans who jumped to conclusions about Hasan were right and New York Times reporters who jumped to conclusions about Breivik were wrong.
True, in one lone entry on Breivik's gaseous 1,500-page manifesto, "2083: A European Declaration of Independence," he calls himself "Christian." But unfortunately he also uses a great number of other words to describe himself, and these other words make clear that he does not mean "Christian" as most Americans understand the term. (Incidentally, he also cites The New York Times more than a half-dozen times.)
Had anyone at the Times actually read Breivik's manifesto, they would have seen that he uses the word "Christian" as a handy moniker to mean "European, non-Islamic" -- not a religious Christian or even a vague monotheist. In fact, at several points in his manifesto, Breivik stresses that he has a beef with Christians for their soft-heartedness. (I suppose that's why the Times is never worried about a "Christian backlash.")
A casual perusal of Breivik's manifesto clearly shows that he uses the word "Christian" similarly to the way some Jewish New Yorkers use it to mean "non-Jewish." In this usage, Christopher Hitchens and Madalyn Murray O'Hair are "Christians."
I told a Jewish gal trying to set me up with one of her friends once that he had to be Christian, and she exclaimed that she had the perfect guy: a secular Muslim atheist. (This was the least-popular option on the '60s board game Dream Date, by the way).
Breivik is very clear that you don't even have to believe in God to join his movement, saying in a self-interview:
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