Much has been made this week of the claims by the mass murderer in Norway to be a Christian. The references to him in many news reports as a “fundamentalist Christian” would seem to place him among what is in America a clearly defined group of religious people.
Words mean things in their contexts, and I’m pretty sure the writers and editors of our major media outlets know what “fundamentalist Christian” means in American English. The serious question then becomes, are they ignorant of Anders Breivik’s clear denial of being a fundamentalist Christian, or are they willfully ignoring it and allowing the defamation of a group for whom they feel antipathy?
I’m grateful to Timothy Dalrymple for the explicit citation from Breivik’s statement on this point. He quotes Breivik, “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.” It’s worth noting that Breivik himself doesn’t use the fundamentalist modifier. I guess that’s been added for American news consumers. Dalrymple is right; Christians across the theological continuum would deny that Breivik should be identified as a “Christian” at all.
I know Bo Pelini is the football coach at UNL, I could pick Tom Osbourne out of a crowd, and I’m no longer surprised when I see half the population wearing red on Saturday in September. (When I first moved here I thought Christmas sales started early in Omaha.) No Nebraska Cornhusker fan would identify me as one, and rightly so. Words mean things, and things must be rightly named to be understood. It’s not hard to understand why the credibility of our major news outlets is on the decline when they patently obscure rather than inform.