Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian mass-killer

Ja, vi elsker dette landet. "Yes, we love this land!", so goes the Nowegian national anthem. But nationalism can turn sour. Anders Behring Breivik, the young man who has just killed nearly a hundred of his countrymen, was a disturbing example of something we have associated recently with young Asian males from Bradford; but not so much with young white males from Oslo.  They all have the same problem: the feeling of alienation and a desperate need to belong to something, to fight for a cause. Of course, it seems obvious that Breivik must have serious psycholgical problems, but it is still interesting to think about what a man like this says to justify himself.

Today on Facebook a 1500 page manifesto was published giving a day by day account of Breivik's preparations for his killing spree. And on youtube, there was a film (now removed) where Breivik poses as a Knight Templar, in some kind of got-up dress uniform. I have been reading the Oslo evening papers today. It seems that Breivik was into just about everything exclusive: freemasonry, born-again evangelicalism, far-right politics, bogus knights templar ...

His 12-minute youtube film is divided into 4 sections: "The rise of Marxist multiculturalism", "Islamic colonisation", "Hope" and then "A new beginning".

We get the picture ... half-baked, deranged, murderous, no doubt. But do we have the answers the questions he was asking any more than we have answers for the deracinated Islamic youths of Europe?

There are no easy answers. This week France is tearing itself apart over whether or not it is a good idea to have public military parades on the French national day, whether soldiers who die in combat should be given public honours. Public displays of religious belief have become controversial in the USA and England as well as in anti-clerical France. Children are given easy access to abortion and contraception at school, and now (in France, in Year 12) are taught that our gender has nothing to do with our biological make-up .. It would seem that Anders Breivik and the Islamic extremists he considered his enemies  have a point about something. Western culture is in free-fall and needs a miracle to save it.

But that miracle is not coming by the sword. It is interesting that Breivik looks to the middle ages for inspiration. What the west needs is not medieval-style war, but medieval-style conversion. We need saints. And we need to start asking God to send them quickly; there is the rather unsettling, but quite possible issue that we might be the first candidates He has in mind  ... Now there's a passionate cause for young men in search of meaning. And it's harder than making bombs out of fertiliser.

We could make a start by acting on Benedict XV's message to the Norwegians today: pray for the dead, comfort the dying and stand united against hatred and violence.

I am reminded of a little song that inspired me when I was at primary school; it inspires me still:

When a knight won his spurs, in the stories of old,
He was gentle and brave, he was gallant and bold;
With a shield on his arm and a lance in his hand,
For God and for valour he rode through the land.

No charger have I, and no sword by my side,
Yet still to adventure and battle I ride,
Though back into storyland giants have fled,
And the knights are no more and the dragons are dead.

Let faith be my shield and let joy be my steed
'Gainst the dragons of anger, the ogres of greed;
And let me set free with the sword of my youth,
From the castle of darkness, the power of the truth.

Jan Struther

An afterthought: what are the Norwegians doing in Oslo now? Praying outside their medieval Cathedral. That's a way forward.


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