In the end, the killer, Anders Behring Breivik, was revealed to be a native blond, blue-eyed Norwegian, a strange and disturbed loner, whose motivation was partly political, and whose ideology seemed in some confused, confusing way to be based on an objection to Islam, multiculturalism, and Marxism.
Yet within hours of Breivik's attack, there were countless accusations in newspapers and on radio and television that the gunman was a Christian fundamentalist, motivated by his evangelical Christian religion to hate progress, change, and, in particular, Muslims. Why, therefore, he should attack a group of young people who were themselves mostly Christians was not fully explored, especially when there were myriad Islamic targets in Norway. But the sudden, new, self-evident "fact" that he was a "Christian fundamentalist" was repeated over and over again in media reports, until it was considered virtually treasonous to question the statement.
How radically different all of this is from when attacks are committed by Muslims, in the name of Islam, with the vocal support not only of millions of Muslims, but of numerous Islamic leaders, including leading and senior theologians and clerics.
It is estimated that more than 17,000 jihadist attacks have been successfully carried out or attempted since the Sept. 11, 2001, atrocity, most of them on fellow Muslims in the Islamic heartland of the Middle East and Asia. Almost every time such an attack occurs, we hear the same arguments: that all of this is more about poverty and injustice than it is about Islam and the Koran, and that the "Christian" world is rushing to judgment.
We even hear that this massive number is vastly exaggerated, which exposes an ironic racism within so many allegedly liberal and progressive people who write and broadcast in the Western world: What they mean is that there have not been 17,000 attacks in Europe and North America. Quite so. Most of the murders have been committed, as already explained, in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and other parts of the developing world, and most of the victims are other Muslims. It is the nature, theology, and ideology of the perpetrator, not of the victim, that should concern us.
These same self-appointed experts and guardians of the moral conscience within mainstream, supposedly responsible, media also make every effort to qualify or disguise the words "Muslim" or "Islamic." The killers are jihadist, Islamist, militant, or extremist. Indeed, to directly call them Muslim or Islamic is seen as being so politically incorrect as to provoke waves of angry letters and complaints to various editors and control boards, and even reprimands, suspensions, or dismissals. Large media corporations such as the BBC steadfastly forbid their reporters to refer to "Islamic" or "Muslim" terrorism, in spite of what the terrorists themselves would rather we said and believed.
On the one hand, we have a passionate, perennial explanation that evil is committed by Christians, juxtaposed with an aching refusal to ever link Islam with violence and terror. And these journalists tend to be the same people who accuse more conservative reporters of being extreme and unfair.
In the field of comedy, surely a little extremism and unfairness can be forgiven — as long as you're funny. But there are many contemporary comics who are not only unfunny, but consider themselves important shapers of political opinion through what they falsely assume to be their satire: a satire that makes of Christianity a constant whipping boy.
On the one hand, we have a passionate, perennial explanation that evil is committed by Christians, juxtaposed with an aching refusal to ever link Islam with violence and terror.
Why? That's easy. It provokes easy and cheap laughs from people who cannot or dare not think outside of their own padded box. Comedian Bill Maher's grotesque hatred of religion has made him a lot of money, and a hero of the mindless classes. In 2008, he discussed a polygamous Mormon cult in Texas, and compared it to Roman Catholicism, concluding: "How does the Catholic Church get away with all of their buggery? Volume, volume, volume!"
Imagine for a moment if something like this had been said about Jewish people, homosexuals, or people of colour. Remember, more than 85% of the victims of the tiny number of Catholics priests who were abusive were teenage boys, and their abusers were homosexual men, many of whom were also having sex with other adult men. But no Christian comic, and no comic in general, would or should make wild, cruel, inaccurate generalizations about gay people because of this, and certainly not for a cheap laugh.
Actually, they wouldn't receive a laugh at all, and would doubtless lose their careers. Indeed, many journalists and performers in North America and Europe have lost their jobs for making even marginally critical comments about minority groups — some of them deservedly so because they have been ugly and wrong, but others merely because they were correct and irksome.
Maher, of course, is far from atypical, and much of his and others' anti-christian material is merely crude and scatological. These comics run in fear from mocking other faiths, ideologies, and political and sexual causes for a whole variety of reasons, but have no trouble attacking Christianity and the Catholic Church. "I make fun of Christianity, therefore I am": the credo of the liberal, the atheist, the agnostic, the trendy, the dinner party poseur, the journalist, the activist, the student, the fool who merely follows the times.
There are lies told and propagated, and myths accepted and encouraged about all sorts of ideologies, religions, people, and philosophies. Some of them are largely harmless, but others are aggressively damaging. Sometimes, the strength or security of the victims makes the dishonesty innocuous or even irrelevant: While, for example, it might be historically irritating to believe something untrue about Napoleon III or the Treaty of Blois, or plain dumb to misunderstand the genuine teachings of Buddhism or syndicalism, it doesn't really change the way we treat others and influence the manner in which people are obliged to conduct their lives. This is not the case with some of the various ideas, individuals, and beliefs that have enormous contemporary resonance. Words have consequences. It is one of the reasons we have laws of libel and slander, so as to protect the reputations and by extension the well-being and integrity of various men and women who might otherwise suffer.
Ideologies and religions come into a different category. Things are said, for example, about capitalism, neo-conservatism, socialism, or liberalism that are absurd and hurtful. It can lead to shouting and arguing, or to anti-intellectualism and a closing of the mind. Sometimes it can be far worse, as for leftists and leftwing sympathizers who lost their jobs in the United States in the 1950s — although this phenomenon has been massively exaggerated, and some of those who did indeed lose their jobs supported an authoritarian regime in Moscow that murdered and incarcerated far more people than even that moral gargoyle Hitler. Forty and fifty years later, we have conservatives being denied work in education, entertainment, and elsewhere.
by Michael Coren
Attacks on an ideology also can be quite sinister: terms such as "Zionist" being used as a euphemism for "Jew," and as a consequence disguising gutter anti-semitism and enabling it to morph into an allegedly progressive political creed. The list goes on, and there are any number of people, and all sorts of religious people, who could claim to have been repeatedly caricatured.
Yet I would argue, and I believe that the evidence is overwhelmingly on my side, that Christianity is the main, central, most common, and most thoroughly and purposefully marginalized, obscured, and publicly and privately misrepresented belief system in the final decades of the 20th century and the opening years of the 21st.
Islam was hardly known about beyond the obvious in general circles in the West until the mass terror attacks of 9/11, but since then there has been a distinctly divided approach. While some have tried to paint the Muslim faith as being universally violent and intolerant, these are relatively few and generally powerless. Far more common is what we are told is the considered, balanced analysis, where commentators are at pains to point out the nuances of Islam, and how it is misunderstood and treated unfairly.
Much of this is the product of the Western guilt industry, and an obsession with supporting anything that seems critical of Christianity, and Western and especially American interests. It is always stunning how some people will work so hard to justify or explain one of a plethora of grotesque episodes of violence committed by Muslims specifically and explicitly in the name of Islam, but will blithely blame Christianity for some horror performed by someone with only the most tenuous link to the Christian religion, and sometimes by people who are actually anti-christian but happen to have been born in a vaguely Christian country.
If anyone doubts that such concerted attacks on Christianity occur, the chances are that they are not Christian, have various biases, or simply don't get out very often. It's rather like the white person from the suburbs who argues that anti-black racism is long dead. No, it's not, it's just that they have never experienced it, and lack the empathy to realize that it's out there.
As for the anti-christian attitudes, for many of us, we can take it, even though we shouldn't have to.
Michael Coren. "Whipping Boy." excerpt from Heresy: Ten Lies They Spread About Christianity (Toronto, ON: Signal, 2012).
Published by Signal, a division of Random House of Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the author. All rights reserved.
Michael Coren (born January 1959 in Essex, England) is a Canadian columnist, author, public speaker, radio host and television talk show host. He is the host of the television series The Michael Coren Show. His articles and speeches often include stories of his own personal spiritual journey. Coren is half Jewish through his father.
He converted to Evangelical Christianity after a conversion experience as an adult, greatly influenced by Canadian televangelist Terry Winter. In early 2004, he embraced Catholicism. He cites St. Thomas More, C.S. Lewis, Ronald Knox and his God-father Lord Longford as spiritual influences, but remains connected to the ecumenical scene in Canada and beyond. He is the author of fourteen books, including Heresy: Ten Lies They Spread About Christianity, Why Catholics Are Right, Mere Christian: Stories from the Light, Gilbert: The Man Who Was G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis: The Man Who Created Narnia, J.R.R Tolkien: the Man Who Created 'the Lord of the Rings'. He is published in many countries and in more than a dozen languages. Michael Coren is available as a public speaker. Visit his web site here.
Copyright © 2012 Michael Coren