For the past two nights on his Fox News show, Bill O'Reilly has been expressing his offense at the idea that Anders Behring Breivik, the suspect in last Friday's terror attacks in Norway, is being described by the media as a Christian.
On Monday night's show, O'Reilly was outraged that The New York Times described Breivik as a "Christian extremist" in a page-one headline, declaring that being an "anti-Muslim bigot" is what drove him, "not Jesus, not being baptized." O'Reilly went on to assert that this was part of "a movement in the American media to diminish and marginalize the Christian philosophy." Later in the show, O'Reilly said the Times' headline was done to "give jihadists quarter or something like that, diminish the threat of them," asserting that "the liberal media is so protective of extreme Islam, when it hates the left. ... At The New York Times, they would all be hung."
O'Reilly continued his obsession on Tuesday's show during a segment with The Washington Post's Sally Quinn. As Quinn pointed out that Breivik called himself a Christian, invoked the name of Jesus and discussed the nature of his faith, O'Reilly insisted that "there's no evidence that ties this guy to Christianity," dismissing Breivik's self-description by claiming that "Mussolini called himself a Christian."
Unfortunately for O'Reilly, while Breivik may not be a Christian in an orthodox American way, he clearly identifies as one. As Salon's Alex Pareene details:
Breivik chose to be baptized at age 15. He self-identified as "Christian" on his Facebook page. He thought "Christianity should recombine under the banner of a reconstituted and traditionalist Catholic Church" or, later, under a new (traditionalist) European Church.
Breivik is not an American-style evangelical Christian. He is not a "fundamentalist" in that sense. Though he does identify with American cultural Christian conservatives. And he considers himself to be fighting in the name of "our Christian cultural heritage." He supports a reconstituted Knights Templar devoted to winning a war against Islam in the name of Christianity.
All of this says "Christian terrorist." His goals -- the restoration of a pure Christian world in its "traditional" home -- were analogous to the stated of goals of al-Qaida.
Does he go to church? Does he believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ? Is he a biblical literalist? I have no idea. There's plenty about him that would lead a devout Christian to consider Breivik "not a 'real' Christian." Here's the thing about that: The same is true of all self-proclaimed Muslims who commit acts of terrorism.
He's a sick perversion of Christianity, sure. But if he "doesn't count" as a Christian solely because no one this evil should "count" as a Christian (which is O'Reilly's other argument -- "no one believing in Jesus commits mass murder," he said) then no terrorist should "count" as a representative of his faith.
But O'Reilly wasn't done. He went on to invoke the "No True Scotsman" fallacy (as others have), essentially claiming that Breivik couldn't be a Christian because "they're nonviolent." When Quinn noted that most Muslims would not consider accused Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan a Muslim, O'Reilly objected: "I'm not saying he was a good Muslim. I'm saying that he was a Muslim terrorist because he carried a business card that said 'Soldier of Allah,' and he committed his crimes in the name of Allah." He added, "The guy in Fort Hood, he was acting in the name of his religion. He killed because he believed that Allah told him to kill. The guy in Norway didn't kill because he thinks Jesus wanted him to kill those people. Jesus had nothing to do with it. He wasn't even cited. And using the word 'Christian' to label this guy is dishonest."
O'Reilly is trying to have it both ways here. He presumes that Hasan and other Islamic extremists are Muslim because they claim to be committing their terrorist acts in the name of Allah, but he insists that Breivik -- who considers himself a Christian and has clearly stated that he committed his terrorist acts in the name of restoring a Christian Europe -- couldn't possibly be a Christian because he didn't behave like an orthodox Christian. It's a clear double standard.
O'Reilly got in one final, surprisingly mean dig at the end of the segment. When Quinn reiterated her argument that you should take someone at their word on what religion they identify with, O'Reilly retorted, "Benito Mussolini would have liked you, Miss Quinn, that's for sure, because that's what he was doing."