Andrew Sullivan chronicles one Christian’s attempt to come to grips with the fallout from the past month’s shooting in Norway, where a self-styled Christian, right-wing extremist killed nearly 100 innocents as part of a quest to purge Europe of Islamic influences and culture.
Here, the subject of Sullivan’s story “had truly believed that Muslims were really bad and Christians were good, with some aberrations,” but took from the Breivik murders the lesson that extremism and radicalization are adequate explanations of evil. We don’t have to try to blame the underlying, abstracted, and usually blameless ideology. Islam, like Christianity, may generate extremists, but Islam, like Christianity, isn’t to blame for it.
And yet somehow, this conclusion continues to evade the larger conservative movement, which remains secure in its conviction that Muslims cannot be good, and Christians cannot be evil. Until the right can accept that conflict needn’t occur at the civilizational level, each tragedy will generate anew the useless debate about what abstracted “ideology” is to blame, and avoid the more productive conversation about the dangers of extremism and intolerance.