Utoya and Me: The Atmosphere I Create

The images and the terror of the Utoya killing in Norway, continue to haunt.

The suspect, Anders Behring Breivik, apparently portrayed himself as a “modern knight, charged with driving out Islam and immigrants and the political correctness that he said had been wrongly invited into Norway and was thriving there.”  New York Times

One of the survivors of the island massacre was Khamshajiny Gunaratnam (23), a leader among the campers.  She was born in Sri Lanka and moved to Norway when she was three.  She is dark-skinned and speaks both Norwegian and English fluentlyAccording to the New York Times “She described a Norway that was increasingly divided along class and ethnic lines, and said there was a growing hostility toward people who were not ethnically Norwegian, even those born in the country.”  Sounds rather like South Africa, doesn’t it?

Do we encourage such hostility?  Oh, I’m not trying to lay blame for the horror of Utoya, or suggesting that our prejudices cause such atrocities.  But perhaps we help create the atmosphere in which a monster like Anders Breivik is nurtured or at least from which such a monster takes encouragement.  An outrage like Utoya perhaps presents an opportunity to take stock.

There is a huge amount of negativity and even bare-faced hatred that swirls around the Internet and in emails, often in the name of Christianity.  If we pass it on, where does it go?  What effect does it have?  Does our gossip and joke-telling encourage the hardening of divisions rather than the breaking down of barriers?

Many Christians are angry with the way Muslims seem to have the edge in so many things.  Muslims seem to be taken far more seriously than their numbers (in South Africa certainly) would warrant.  And, of course, the aggressive actions of Islam’s fundamentalist adherents are in our faces on an almost daily basis.  We think we should take back the ground we have lost.

Some Christians take this further and seem to be saying, “It’s all very well for the meek to inherit the earth, but we’ve first got to get rid of these arrogant, aggressive types that are stopping the meek inheriting the earth.”

We certainly do have a message to preach and a gift to give the world, including the Muslim world.  But the message is not, “We are superior to you”, or “You have no rights in ‘our’ country.”  And, most important, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ has been specifically forbidden by Jesus.  So the Muslim attitude towards Christians in Islamic countries has no bearing on what we do in ‘our’ country, according to Jesus. 

Our message is not one of hate, destruction or revenge.  Our message is that God loves the world so much that he gave his only Son so that whoever believes in him will not die but will have eternal life (John 3:16).  And Jesus made it clear that this is not a message that can simply be preached; it must be demonstrated in the way we live and interact and, yes, even in the way we die.  Our weapon is a book and our method is a cross—not, it should be noted, something on which to hang our enemies, but for us.  Are we truly willing to follow Jesus?

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