M. pointed us in the direction of this Stewart clip, posted below. If you don’t feel like watching, I’ll summarize. Basically, a gaggle of right-wing rabble-rousers has taken to the fainting couch because The Norway Psychopath has been accurately described as a Christian. A Right-Wing Christian, to be precise.
Just watch the video:
I could quibble with Stewart a bit and point out that people who proclaim faith in Jesus Christ ought to, in fact, be considered Christians, regardless of their affiliation with a church or the horror caused by their actions in the name of their faith — all that being a Christian really involves, after all, is sincere belief that Jesus Christ was the son of God and is the path to heaven. Faith is the supreme command; the other 10 are predicated on it. Good deeds are certainly part of it, and sinning is still frowned upon, but even Catholics pretty much believe this now, thanks to Luther.
[Some Catholics (thinking here, my Irish-Catholic grandmother, R.I.P.) are a bit stringent on the whole going-through-the-sacraments thing, blah blah blah, but a large percentage of the ones I grew up around didn't put too much stock in it. Maybe it was the whole Vatican II thing. (I know, I know. Anecdotal evidence is anecdotal. So sue me.)]
Anyway, obviously my criticism of Stewart in that case would be simply that he let O’Reilly get away with a lie, a distortion of what most people think Christianity constitutes, and that he parroted O’Reilly’s lie while also rather deftly skewering him.
The real beef is with O’Reilly.
O’Reilly is a Catholic. Surely he knows, from reading the comments at his website, that a goodly portion of his commentariat doesn’t believe he’s a true Christian. In fact, there’s a fairly rich tradition of people who believe that the Pope is the anti-Christ. O’Reilly would surely call himself a Christian. I would call him one, too. But those people wouldn’t.
In this instance, O’Reilly would likely agree with me. The irony is that the people we’d both be disagreeing with are his intellectual allies.
Let’s take a little stroll down I’m-going-to-try-to-remember-this-from-my-undergraduate-days, if you would.
Part of what was radical about Christianity when it came about was the degree of its inclusivity. Unlike the Judaic religion from which it was derived (no offense, Jews: you know I love ya!), all one had to do to be a Christian was accept Jesus as Lord and Savior and so forth. All of the ritualistic brouhaha, the basilicas, the hierarchies, the backdoor meetings, the piddling of schoolboys — that came later. Originally it was a horribly oppressed group of little hippies talking about peace and love and Jesus and rainbows. People dug that message and it grew. It grew, in fact, to such an extent that one crazy Roman emperor thought that it would be to his political gain to embrace it as the imperial religion, rather than continue the polytheistic tradition that had been dominant throughout antiquity.
Bam! Just like that.
Then a thousand+ years passed, during which time, you know, Christianity flourished, and, oh sure, the Dark Ages were a bit of a rough patch, and gosh, let’s try to forget about those Crusades; but you get the point because you’re an intelligent and erudite reader of Brutish&Short.com LLC, and you’re vaguely familiar with the history from this period, and you’re hip to the fact that ideologies can often be co-opted by parties whose only aim is the attainment of power, no matter what stands in the way (even — egads! — intellectual consistency).
So then, Martin Luther comes and hammers some damn scroll to a wall, and well, you’ll recall how swimmingly that turned out.
Etc, etc. To the present day.
My point is that if O’Reilly wants to be consistent in his definition of what a true Christian is, he has to either 1) accept the Protestant version, or 2) assert that only Catholics are true Christians. I would maintain that he wouldn’t go for (2), that his audience wouldn’t go for (2), and that even if he privately goes for (2), he’s not stupid enough to say it out loud. Since we’re judging people based on what they say and not what we believe them to think, we should operate on the assumption that Bill O’Reilly believes Protestants to be Christians, and that the broad Protestant definition of Christianity is what we’re working with here. He did, remember, say “No one believing in Jesus commits mass murder,” not, “No Catholic commits mass murder.”
That’s a problem for Bill O’Reilly.
You see, contra O’Reilly, a person either believes or doesn’t believe, in his or her heart of hearts, that Jesus is the Lord and Savior. You can’t explain that. It’s a belief, and since we generally take people at their word when they profess religious beliefs, it’s apt to point out, as Stewart and the press do, that Norway Psycho Killer professed to be a Christian.
It is, indeed, central to my point!
Bill O’Reilly is a laughingstock. No doubt, his ratings are terrific. He and the corporation he does the bidding of make their living by playing off the internalized sexism, racism, and homophobia of a large swath of the American body politic, which has been a winning formula from time immemorial. But on top of all the other hypocrisies that are his various hobbyhorses lies the most salient one of all — that Bill O’Reilly, guardian of the Christian faith and protector of the Lord Jesus Himself, can’t even get his own religion straight. By Bill O’Reilly’s definition, espoused on national television and shared by millions around the world, Anders Breivik is a true Christian. By Bill O’Reilly’s bloviating, he is no such thing.
But, of course, both Anders Breivik and Bill O’Reilly are making claims about a state of affairs that’s unverifiable by me. I choose to believe them, because most people are hypocrites, and generally their encroachment upon their principles in practice doesn’t have any effect on them in theory. With faith, it’s the theoretical that matters above all. I mean, in theory no true Christian would set off a car bomb and go on a shooting rampage, and in theory no true Christian would go on national television and advocate for policies that are actively detrimental to the interests of the poor.
But we’re not dealing with theory, we’re dealing with the way it manifests itself in reality. And in reality, people can make theory do whatever they want it to do if no one’s willing to call them on it.
The Times ran a good editorial today, which is somewhat related and deserving of quotation:
The global Islamophobic blogosphere consists of loosely connected networks of people — including students, civil servants, capitalists, and neo-Nazis. Many do not even see themselves as “right-wing,” but as defenders of enlightened values, including feminism.
The Islamophobes of Norway have no manifesto, but they share three fundamental views: that Norway is in the hands of a treacherous, spineless, politically correct elite that has betrayed the pure spirit of Norwegian culture by permitting demographic contamination; that Muslims will never be truly integrated (even if they pretend to be); and that there is a Muslim conspiracy to gain political dominance across Europe.
Replace the European references with American ones and you see the problems with the rightwing in this country today. It’s a hell of a shame. I hope that no one gets hurt.