Last night I had a horrible nightmare – the kind where your cries for help have no voice, and you finally wake with your heart racing. I dreamed that I was walking down an empty alley and heard foot-steps behind me. I turned around, and the face of Anders Behring Breivik was on my shoulder, staring me square in the eye.
The face of the Norwegian killer, responsible for the deaths of 77 souls last July, haunts me. Online photos and videos show an almost meticulously clean-cut young man. But his expression is one of slimy smugness, a leering evilness in his eyes. Would I think this if I hadn’t read the details of his horrific killings? Do I judge his looks because of his admission of guilt, while arrogantly professing that it was a righteous act?
It’s hard to look deep into the face of evil. Our history, past and present, has too many faces of tyrants, dictators and mass-murderers. We wish we could erase their images from our mind. We wish we could somehow erase the evil that was done. That continues to be done.
These lines are from today’s gospel reading,
For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God. John 3: 20-21.
Breivik seems to be relishing the light of notoriety, greeting the court daily with a right-wing clenched-fist salute. The court and media are aware that the due process of the law will give him a world-wide platform from which to spew his venomous philosophy. Yet, the law must be respected. Every defendant must be given the freedom to speak. Hopefully, the media will rein in the publicity he seeks. This isn’t likely in our day of 24 hour news coverage and tabloid sensationalism.
Breivik has said he carried out the attacks to defend “ethnic Norwegians” from rising multiculturalism. When asked about his religious beliefs, he replied, “Well, I am a militant Christian; to prevent the de-Christianisation of Europe is very important”.
This is disturbing. Today, too many zealous Christians are throwing around military language, railing about a war against Christianity. They believe this is a time to call all Christians to spiritual arms, to ensure that our western society remains faithful to its Christian foundation. Perhaps they need to stop and look carefully at the language they are using. Breivik is but one example of what can happen when zealousness is allowed to go unchecked. Pride in one’s own nation or religion must never lead to racism, intolerance or hatred.
As this sad story unfolds in the courts of Norway, I can only think of the nightmares experienced by the family and friends of the 77 who lost their lives at the hands of this mad man. It is for their peace, and for eternal rest of their loved ones that I pray.