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Self-confessed Norweigan mass-murder suspect Anders Behring Breivik calls himself a “cultural Christian,” writes Mathew N. Schmalz in the Washington Post‘s “On Faith” section.

Religious Christians, Breivik observes, have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, which Breivik does not claim to have, notes Schmalz, who is a professor of religious studies at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts:

For Breivik, “Christendom” is a vehicle for preserving European self-identity and is not necessarily opposed to elements of “paganism” such as Breivik’s own “Odnistic/Norse” heritage, even though the cross, he argues, has a greater symbolic power than Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir. In spite of this, the initiation ceremony Breivik envisages for “Knights Templar” has no cross, only a candle, sword, skull.

The Christian history that Breivik seeks to reenact is not the passion of Jesus Christ, but the narrative of the Crusades. Breivik rhapsodizes about battles and lists the indulgences promises to Crusaders by Popes Urban II and Innocent III. Although he wishes that Benedict XVI would call Christendom to crusade, Breivik argues that the Roman Pontiff has been too accommodating to Islam and has thus betrayed the Church and Europe as a whole. The new Crusade will thus have to be initiated outside the authority of decadent institutional churches. Breivik’s description of how this Crusade will transpire has exaggerated contours of a computer game-it’s Valhalla via Warcraft.

Schmalz goes on to note that labeling Breivik a “Christian terrorist” is vague. “Breivik’s vision,” the professor writes, “is a Christianity without Christ.”

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