On the heels of the tragic massacre in Norway, the internet and media have been abuzz with warnings about the potential threat of “Christian extremists.” Typical is an article from domestic terrorism expert Daryl Johnson entitled, “Christian Extremism from Timothy McVeigh to Anders Breivik.” (Yes, you read that title correctly.) He begins by stating, “Those two jihadists—two right-wing reactionaries, two terrorists, two anti-government white supremacists, two Christians—have a lot in common. . . .” Two Christians?
Johnson alleges that, “[McVeigh’s] idealism of a golden-age white America was the Christian translation of al-Qaeda’s idealized caliphate.” He further claims that, “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.” And this is meant to be taken seriously. Indeed, it is meant to serve as a warning.
Of course, we have known for years that Christianity played no role at all in Timothy McVeigh’s demented, murderous mind (he was, in fact, a self-professed agnostic), while it is becoming increasingly clear that a living, Christian faith (as opposed to a European, cultural Christianity, completely unrelated to faith) was something of no real importance to Anders Breivik. And Christian thinking or ideology certainly did not fuel his savagery.
But falsely branding McVeigh and Breivik as “Christians” is not the real problem. The problem is when people of genuine Christian faith are labeled “Christianists,” the semantic equivalent of “Islamists,” the current way of describing Islamic terrorists who allegedly distort and pervert Islam. We are now the perverters of the Christian faith, not Christians but “Christianists.” Apparently, if you take your faith seriously enough to allow it to influence your worldview, and if you seek to live in accordance with that worldview, you are a Christianist.
In keeping with this, the JoeMyGod, gay activist website posted a link to my recent Townhall article about Anders Breivik with the heading, “Michael Brown: American Christianists Will Suffer Because Of The Norway Killer.” Similarly, my article drew the attention of RightWingWatch.com, a website which also warns of dangerous “Christianists” like me.
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.