Monday, July 25, 2011


It is hard to think of other things. It hovered over my journey home--which, because of flight delays upon flight delays, took two exhausting days. As I started to become irate after the fourth gate change in as many hours of delays (this after missing my connection in Detroit and spending a night in a hotel), I thought about my cousin's niece, bleeding from a bullet wound in the leg, surrounded by the corpses of her friends, and listening to the killer stalking around the island, letting out whoops of glee between the crack of firing bullets.

On the phone with my mother, listening to her sympathizing about my travel troubles, I found myself thinking about the profiles I'd been reading of Norway's homegrown terrorist. I felt strangely claustrophobic as I imagined myself into his head, into the ideology and rage and paranoia that defines the violent extremist.

It is hard to feel sorry for yourself, or to feel indignant at flight delays, when there are things so much more terrible pressing in with such vividness.

It is hard to think of other things. And so I think about this, about shattered windows, about a peaceful country's shattered innocence, and the shattered innocence of kids attending summer camp. But to know what to say, how to organize one's thoughts about something so terrible--it almost feels like a kind of exploitation to reflect on the significance of Anders Breivik's crimes. And yet there are things I want to say, things which I think are important--about xenophobia, about mislabeling motivations, misdiagnosing the causes of terrorist violence, about the difference between a spirituality that years for the transcendent and an ideology of division that use religion as the basis for hate.

Thankfully, many of the things I want to say have already been said beautifully by others. Arni Zachariassen offers a powerful reflection on the connections between the recent terrorist act and issues in theology, especially as they relate to Christian-Muslim relations.  Øyvind Strømmen offers an excellent portrait of what motivated Anders Breivik.  Over at Religion Dispatches, while Mark Juergensmeyer offers a striking comparison between Breivik and Timothy McVeigh, his desire to call both "Christian terrorists" is helpfully qualified by Julie Ingersoll, who offers insight into the character of Breivik's idenitity as a Christian--without in any way undermining the force of Juergensmeyer's point that Breivik has as much of a claim on the "Christian terrorist" label as Osama bin Laden has on the "Muslim terrorist" one. James McGrath makes a similar point.

And yet there are still things to be said. Some of these are things I need to say. But not right now.

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