Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ratbag Liberal Theologian Blames Christianity and Conservatism for Breivik without even reading what he himself said about his beliefs

Some chapter headings in Breivik's manifesto she seems to have missed. Some of the chapters were not written by Breivik himself but he included them approvingly:

Globalised capitalism – another reason for the Fall of Europe

Is Capitalism Always a Force for Freedom?

Big Business, a Driving Force behind Immigration

Thou Shalt Hate Christianity and Judaism

Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, a senior fellow at the left-wing Center for American Progress and a board member for Faith in Public Life (a progressive, religious organization), believes that Christianity — and right-leaning political beliefs — are responsible for the tragic Oslo rampage. In a Washington Post opinion piece entitled, "When Christianity Becomes Lethal," Thistlethwaite lectures readers about the perils of "extreme Christianity" and the failure of believers to see the connections between their beliefs and associated violence.

Before continuing, it would probably be worth noting that Thistlethwaite is the former president of Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS) and a preacher ordained through the United Church of Christ (UCC). The infamous Rev. Jeremiah Wright has also taught at CTS and is, of course, ordained by UCC as well.

You can read a piece in which Thistlethwaite defends Rev. Wright’s preaching style here, but providing even more of a backdrop to frame her views beyond this probably isn’t needed. Let’s get back to her controversial take on Christianity‘s involvement in the world’s latest terroristic tragedy.

In her lede, Thistlethwaite plays up the notion that the Norwegian terorist Anders Behring Breivik is a Christian. In fact, her entire piece hinges on this notion. She writes, "He has been described by police there as a ‘Christian fundamentalist.’" After attempting to firmly convince readers that Breivik was, indeed, a follow of Jesus, she explains:
Christians should not turn away from this information, but try to come to terms with the temptations to violence in the theologies of right-wing Christianity.

Breivik’s chosen targets were political in nature, emblematic of his hatred of "multiculturalism" and "left-wing political ideology." This does not mean that the Christian element in his ultra-nationalist views is irrelevant. The religious and political views in right-wing ideologies are mutually reinforcing, and ignoring or dismissing the role played by certain kinds of Christian theology in such extremism is distorting.

She goes on to explain that Christians are all-too-reluctant to see the connections between their faith and extreme violence. Rather than delving into these issues, Thistlethwaite says that Christians often dismiss horrific violence that is perpetuated by other believers as "madness." Christians should be more willing, in her opinion, to accept the inherent violence and then deal with its impact and roots.

It doesn‘t take long for Thistlethwaite’s true intentions to emerge. She isn’t simply saying that Christianity is to blame. She is taking the opportunity to attach conservative values to this particular maniac’s actions, blaming both his faith and political affiliation for his violent behavior:
…I believe that certain theological constructions of Christianity "tempt" individuals and groups to violence; combined with right-wing political ideologies, these views can give a divine justification to the use of lethal force…

When I consider the theological perspectives that "tempt" some Christians to justify hatred and even violence against others, such as, in this case in Norway, the following perspectives seem especially prevalent: 1) making supremacist claims that Christianity is the "only" truth; 2) holding the related view that other religions are not merely wrong, but "evil" and "of the devil"; 3) being highly selective in the use of biblical literalism, for example ignoring the justice claims of the prophets and using biblical texts that seem to justify violence…

Thistlethwaite goes on even further to list her reasoning. Yet, if these elements are universal, one wonders why it is virtually impossible for individuals to list a multitude of radical Christian murderers who have acted similarly? If these values are so widespread in Christianity, where are all of the other Breiviks? This is not to say that people who call themselves Christian are blameless and have never committed violence. Rather, it is intended to disprove the author‘s use of an anecdotal example to apply universalities that simply don’t exist.

The way in which this article is written appears to indicate that this is a widespread problem — and that those who embrace conservative values, while espousing Christianity, are at a high risk of either exploding or imploding. This, based on both anecdotal and concrete evidence simply doesn’t stand as meritorious. Thistlethwaite choses to conclude her piece with the following:
It is absolutely critical that Christians not turn away from the Christian theological elements in such religiously inspired terrorism. We must acknowledge these elements in Christianity and forthrightly reject these extremist interpretations of our religion. How can we ask Muslims to do the same with Islam, if we won’t confront extremists distorting Christianity?

Denny Burk, a Bible professor at Boyce College and a blogger, differentiates between "cultural" and "religious" Christianity, debunking the notion that Breivik is the latter (Thistlethwaite’s theories are built on the premise that he is, indeed, a religious Christian):
Contrary to early reports, Anders Behring Breivik is not a Christian. In fact in his 1,518 page manifesto, the perpetrator of the atrocities in Norway has specifically disavowed any real commitment to Christ. In his own words:
A majority of so called agnostics and atheists in Europe are cultural conservative Christians without even knowing it. So what is the difference between cultural Christians and religious Christians?

If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God then you are a religious Christian. Myself and many more like me do not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God. We do however believe in Christianity as a cultural, social, identity and moral platform. This makes us Christian (p. 1307).

Fox News‘ Bill O’Reilly also took issue with the Christian label that has been applied to the mass murder. Below, watch him discuss the controversy on his show on Monday night

It’s surprising that Thistlethwaite, a professor who is purportedly an expert in religious matters, would distort information so freely. Perhaps she failed to read Breivik’s own words, which seem to disprove her perplex theories on Christianity’s ability, when applied through political lenses she dislikes, to incite violence.



Breivik's charge of deadly provocation is false

By Keith Windschuttle -- who is the editor of Quadrant, an Australian conservative magazine -- one of the many publications quoted by Breivik

It took just two days after Australians awoke on Saturday morning to the terrible news of the mass murder in Norway for the left-wing commentariat to start exploiting the event for political capital.

On Monday, July 25, Aron Paul in New Matilda said the massacre was not only a manifestation of one man's troubled psyche but of "an increasingly toxic political culture plagued by incivility and extremist rhetoric". Anders Breivik should not be dismissed as a lone madman, Paul wrote. Breivik's statement that he killed because "we must do our duty by decimating cultural Marxism" revealed the alleged source of his motivation. These words did not originate in the terrorist's own mind, Paul argued, "but were planted there with the help of poisonous political discourses which have enthusiastic proponents here in Australia".

Among the ideological culprits Paul listed was Herald Sun journalist Andrew Bolt. Pundits such as Bolt were "masters of sowing fear and indignation among their followers -- and then threatening to unleash that anger". Our greatest living historian was also implicated: "It is the old Geoffrey Blainey argument: if you dare to dismantle White Australia, then White Australians will riot in the streets." The magazine I edit, Quadrant, was more culpable than most because of "the deliberately provocative language with which Quadrant and other right-wing forums are awash".

The next day the Crikey website joined the fray. According to Guy Rundle, Breivik was not alone but represented "the armed wing of hysterical Right commentary". Rundle advised conservative writers to reflect on "the role that a decade-long discourse of hysterical commentary on immigration and culture in Europe played in forming the thinking of killer Breivik".

The first thing to note is that most of this commentary is completely false. I read Bolt regularly and, while he spends a lot of time and provides much amusement exposing the hypocrisy and sloppy thinking of left-wing politicians and intellectuals, I have yet to see him conjuring up fear and indignation. The charge against Blainey is pure invention. In his critique of the continuation of high immigration during the recession of the early 1980s he never discussed the long-defunct White Australia policy, let alone predicted race riots in its defence.

However, yesterday morning an ABC journalist informed me some of my own writings had been quoted in Breivik's 1500-page manifesto, "2083: A European Declaration of Independence". Since then, this fact has apparently been repeated on several online sites and innumerable times over Twitter, accompanied in many cases by quite gleeful comments celebrating some kind of victory over the forces of conservative darkness.

Since learning of this, I have certainly been reflecting on whether I or my magazine can really be held responsible for the events of last Friday. Have I ever used "deliberately provocative language" that might have caused Breivik to take up a rifle and shoot more than 80 unarmed teenagers in cold blood? It is a very disturbing accusation.

Breivik quotes several statements I made in a paper to a conference in New Zealand in February 2006, titled The Adversary Culture: The Perverse Anti-Westernism of the Cultural Elite. This is his version of what I said:
"For the past three decades and more, many of the leading opinion makers in our universities, the media and the arts have regarded Western culture as, at best, something to be ashamed of, or at worst, something to be opposed. The scientific knowledge that the West has produced is simply one of many 'ways of knowing' . . . Cultural relativism claims there are no absolute standards for assessing human culture. Hence all cultures should be regarded as equal, though different . . .

The plea for acceptance and open-mindedness does not extend to Western culture itself, whose history is regarded as little more than a crime against the rest of humanity. The West cannot judge other cultures but must condemn its own . . .

The concepts of free [inquiry] and free expression and the right to criticise entrenched beliefs are things we take so much for granted they are almost part of the air we breathe. We need to recognise them as distinctly Western phenomena. They were never produced by Confucian or Hindu culture . . . But without this concept, the world would not be as it is today. There would have been no Copernicus, Galileo, Newton or Darwin."

This is a truncated version that leaves out a great deal of context but it is not inaccurate or misleading. I made every one of these statements and I still stand by them. In this and similar papers I have provided numerous examples to establish the case.

Having read them several times again, I am still at a complete loss to find any connection between them and the disgusting and cowardly actions of Breivik. The charge that any of this is a provocation to murder is unsustainable.

Anyone who goes through the rest of the killer's manifesto will find him quoting several other Australians approvingly, including John Howard, Peter Costello and George Pell.

Nothing they say in defence of Christianity or about the problems of integrating Muslims into Australian society could be read by anyone as a provocation to murder.

Perhaps I should qualify that last statement since several left-wing intellectuals, including journalists David Marr and Marian Wilkinson in their book Dark Victory and playwright Hannie Rayson in Two Brothers, actually accused members of the Howard government of having the blood of boatpeople on their hands.

In contrast, the quality that stands out in the work of most conservative writers today is restraint. Even though the stakes in the present conflict over multiculturalism in the West are very high -- with the concepts of free speech, the rule of law, equality of women and freedom of religion all open to debate -- most conservatives have respected the rules of evidence and the avoidance of ad hominem abuse.

Their left-wing opponents, however, as the Norwegian tragedy has demonstrated yet again, will resort to the lowest tactics to shut down debate they do not like and to kill off arguments they cannot refute by any other means.




Free market anti-corporatism: "To favour a genuine free market is to be directly opposed to the interests of big businesses. As a libertarian, I want a system where any firm, however big it is, can go bust, and where market entry is easy and cheap so new players can compete with the old ones. Businesses that already exist don't want this free system -- they want protection from new entrants, to avoid being competed out of business. Businesses don’t want free markets, because in a free market, they’re vulnerable to competition."

Wikileaks revisited: "The political establishment decided to dislike, discredit and destroy Julian Assange not because he is a bad journalist — but precisely because he is a good journalist who exposes bad leaders. The campaign to destroy Wikileaks last year was never about logic, but creating a bulletproof narrative to protect establishment interests. Wikileaks has said it takes great care to not release any information that might actually harm innocent parties, as any decent journalist outfit would. Today, it continues to do much of the work the mainstream media won’t — even as those same outlets now cite Wikileaks as a respectable source."

Tim Pawlenty’s illusion of dullness: "He recites his achievements: In Minnesota, he 'took spending from historic highs to historic lows.' During his time, it was one of the first states to implement merit pay for public school teachers. He curbed public employee compensation 'before it was cool.' He got reforms in state workers' health care coverage that empowered patients and reduced costs. The list goes on, but the point has been made. 'I'm not just up here flapping my jaws,' Pawlenty informs the crowd. 'I did it.' Believe it or not, his claims largely check out."

Health exchange regulation and state implementation: "The massive and complex package of proposed health exchange rules released recently by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services illustrates once again why states should think twice before implementing the exchanges mandated by President Barack Obama’s health care law. The announced requirements offer more questions than answers – and HHS says further regulations are yet to come."

Plugged-in poverty: "The Census Bureau reported last fall that 43 million Americans — one in seven of us — were poor. But what is poverty in America today? ... The typical poor family has at least two color TVs, a VCR, and a DVD player. One-third have a wide-screen, plasma, or LCD TV. And the typical poor family with children has a video-game system such as Xbox or PlayStation."


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


1 comment:

President Not Sure said...

I think regular "right-wing" conservatives will take responsibility for this one act of Christian terrorism when the "left-wing" liberals take responsibility for the 17,000 acts of terrorism in the last decade committed by Islamic terrorists..