A more comprehensive view of the mutually-reinforcing role of extremist Christianity and extremist political views is essential, given the spread of right-wing extremism and its lethal capacity “not just in Norway but across Europe, where opposition to Muslim immigrants, globalization, the power of the European Union and the drive toward multiculturalism has proven a potent political force and, in a few cases, a spur to violence.”
The rise of this type of right-wing extremism is not confined to Europe but is also a growing threat in the U.S. It is therefore even more alarming that the Southern Poverty Law Center is calling attention to the fact that the Department of Homeland Security has apparently scaled back its department “responsible for analyzing security threats from non-Islamic domestic extremists.” According to Daryl Johnson, the principal author of the April 7, 2009, report “Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” the focus on domestic, non-Islamic terror threats, was cut back after his report was leaked. The leaked report precipitated a “firestorm” of protest from conservatives who “wrongly claimed it equated conservatives with terrorists.”
Especially in light of events in Norway, it is clear Mr. Johnson was just doing what Homeland Security is supposed to do, namely track dangerous domestic extremism, regardless of the source, in order to prevent violent extremism.
The religious element in terrorist extremism cannot either be ignored or overblown. It is an important part of the whole equation. In this Norwegian case, conservative Christianity and right-wing, nationalist political ideologies mutually reinforced and tempted each other, and the acts of a person like Anders Behring Breivik were apparently the result. Looking closely at theological interpretations can illuminate how the mass killing of people to accomplish a political end can be justified as right and even a moral imperative in the eyes of individuals and groups wanting to impose their political views through violence.
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?