So what motivated Breivik?
When a friend told me about the Oslo murders, my reaction was to ask if Muslim terrorists were responsible.
On being told the perpetrator was a "fundamentalist Christian", I thought this didn't seem likely. While some Christians have attacked abortion workers, Christians have not gone in for indiscriminate massacres.
What's the basis for this report? It comes from the Norwegian police, who noted that the murderer, Anders Breivik, had described himself as a "fundamentalist Christian".
As this description fits liberal sentiments, it's been widely disseminated. But, unsurprisingly, the story is more complex.
First, while Breivik identified culturally with Europe's Christian past, particularly with the crusaders, there is no evidence that he had a deeper faith.
In particular, there's no mention of him having attended a church, whether regularly or not.
Also, Breivik was apparently a mason. This is not to propose deep conspiracies, but simply to indicate that there's room for characterizing him in other ways.
In sum, like many people on the fringes, he had a jumble of ideas. And they did not include the Gospel message of redemption.
So how should we react?
Let's pray for the victims, for the repose of their souls or for their recovery.
Let's also pray for familes and others traumatized by these events.
But let's also pray for Anders himself. May he move beyond the cultural trappings of western Christianity and find salvation in Christ.
Something else to bear in mind
I used to occasionally speculate on how bad things would need to become, in order to justify taking violent action.
I discontinued this in 1996, after watching the movie, The Rock.
In the film, a group captures a nuclear weapon, to force the US Government into recognizing their concerns. The Government calls their bluff, but some of the activists reject the group's leadership and try to launch the weapons. (Only to be foiled by an ageing Sean Connery ...)
It got me thinking. Suppose someone with more enthusiasm than judgement (and I knew people like that) told me that he had just assassinated an objectionable politician, media person, or bishop? Might I be partly responsible?
In short, academic discussions about civil disobedience can have consequences. May I suggest an appropriate circumspection on this point.