How Breivik’s “Cultural Analysis” is Drawn from the “Christian Worldview”

I reported this week that two American conservatives with significant platforms, Pat Buchanan, the former presidential candidate and now-pundit whose writings appear in numerous conservative outlets and who is a frequent talking head on MSNBC, and Bryan Fischer, the American Family Association’s radio host and Director of Issue Analysis, have declared their sympathy with the overriding cultural claims that undergird 2083: A European Declaration of Independence. They condemn Anders Behring Breivik’s brutal violence and question his Christian bona fides, but accept his frame of a cultural clash that threatens Western civilization.

One way that Fischer, at least, critiques Breivik’s Christianity is by pointing to his statement, “We are a conservative organisation propagating cultural isolationism,” which Fischer says is “hardly consistent with the Christian ideal Christ left us to ‘make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:19).” Fischer concludes, “there’s not a lot of ‘cultural isolationism’ in biblical Christianity.” In other words, in Fischer’s view, Breivik isn’t an evangelist.

While Fischer condemns the place to which Breivik takes his critique of “multiculturalism,” Fischer himself is an ardent critic of what he has called “mindless political correctness and multiculturalism which controls the thinking of the elites,” a framing that is familiar both to readers of Breivik and observers of the American Christian right. 

As Chip Berlet has documented, Breivik plagiarized and/or borrowed heavily from the writings of William S. Lind, a former staffer at the Free Congress Foundation, who Berlet says began writing essays in the late 1990s maintaining that “political correctness” was a conspiracy by “cultural Marxists” to destroy “Judeo-Christian” values and nations. Lind worked at the Paul Weyrich-founded Free Congress Foundation as its Director of its Center for Cultural Conservatism, a position he left in 2009. Berlet dates Lind’s first significant writing on “cultural Marxism” to 1997. Berlet:

Most significant is a collection of essays published by the Free Congress Foundation in 2004 on cultural Marxism, political correctness, and multiculturalism. The editor of that collection was William S. Lind.

Some form of the term “Cultural Marxism” in English appears over 600 times in the Breivik manifesto and is a major focus of the Lind collection of essays with 29 mentions in a 51-page pamphlet. Lind and [Paul] Weyrich, however, began writing about their concerns as early as 1997.

After dozens of hours and thousands of pages of reading I am confident that the work of William S. Lind of the Free Congress Foundation is a major conceptual influence on the core thesis of Breivik and his Manifesto.

Reading sections of Breivik’s 2083, as well as the analyses of others, including Berlet, Mark Juergensmeyer, and Julie Ingersoll, Breivik’s extended screeds against the “cultural Marxists,” and “political correctness” ring of being, as Jeff Sharlet also has noted in his Twitter analysis, standard Christian right talking points. But it’s more than just talking points: it rings of a cohesive ideology known as the “Christian worldview,” which in turn is the product of Christian anti-communist activism from the Cold War era. After the Cold War ended, “Christian worldview” ideologues kept it alive by claiming that Marxism has gone underground as an insidious fifth column that has infiltrated the American government. This is seen now in Tea Party and religious right rhetoric about President Obama and other Democrats being crypto-socialists, as just one example.

David Noebel, the Cold War-era Christian anti-communist crusader whose Summit Ministries has been influential to thousands of evangelicals, teaches this cohesive ideology known as the “Christian worldview.” As I wrote last year:

Noebel, or “Doc” as his devotees call him, is the doyen of Summit Ministries, the Manitou Springs, Colorado-based institution founded in 1962 to teach evangelical teens about anti-God, anti-Christian threats to the “Christian worldview” and the American way of life. In his seminal textbook, Understanding the Times, Noebel lays out six “worldviews”—Christianity, Islam, secular humanism, Marxism-Leninism, cosmic humanism, and post-modernism—vying for domination in the world. By his own estimate he has educated 30,000 teenagers at his one and two-week conferences at Summit in Colorado and its outposts around the world (including at Oxford) about the evils of atheism, communism, socialism, and other anti-God “statist” worldviews that threaten to destroy America—unless Christians step in to save every soul.

Noebel’s conferences, lauded by religious right figures like James Dobson as a life-saving antidote to the fallen world that tempts our wayward teens, represent just a fraction of his reach. His teaching materials are widely used in homeschool curricula, and Summit is developing more materials to start children as early as first grade on a diet of his collision-of-worldviews thesis. That framework forms the basis for his conspiracy-minded theories about American progressives, the Democratic Party, and what Noebel depicts as a fifth column right inside the US Congress led by “hardcore socialist” Nancy Pelosi.

Noebel has also looked to Lind, writing in Understanding the Times that Lind “is not bashful in identifying the Marxist influence in the United States.” He cites a 1994 essay by Lind, “Fourth Generation Warfare,” published in the Marine Corps Gazette:

Lind explains how this planned attack hit American shores: “Starting in the mid-1960s, we have thrown away the values, morals, and standards that define traditional Western culture. In part, this has been driven by cultural radicals, people who hate our Judeo-Christian culture. Dominant in the elite, especially in the universities, the media, and the entertainment industry (now the most powerful force in our culture and a source of endless degradation), the cultural radicals have successfully pushed an agenda of moral relativism, militant secularism, and sexual and social ‘liberation.’ This agenda has slowly codified into a new ideology, usually known as ‘multiculturalism’ or ‘political correctness,’ that is in essence Marxism translated from economic into social and cultural terms.”

Lind’s thesis in “Fourth Generation Warfare” was that America was headed into an “idea-based,” rather than “technology-based” war. “Three central ideas shape what we see as the emerging fourth generation,” he wrote, “the nation-state’s loss of its monopoly on war, the return to a world of cultures in conflict, and ‘multiculturalism’ in the United States, which is to say the abandonment of Judeo-Christian, Western culture and values here at home.”

In 1994, Lind framed the conflict as the decline of the West at the hands of the multiculturalists, and added dubious claims about Islamic incursions as well:

Now we, the West, find ourselves increasingly under siege, no longer the world’s master, merely one contender among many—one sinking down as others rise. . . The most immediate challenger is Islam, and here the challenge is not likely to be peaceful. Islam is today expanding outward in every direction from its traditional heartland: south into black Africa, east into Southeast Asia and the Philippines, north into Europe. And also West: the fastest-growing religion in the United States is Islam.

Islam’s thrust northward into Europe, the heartland of Western culture, is worth a closer look. Islamic immigration into France has been so massive as to reverse the verdict of the battle of Tours; southern France now has more mosques than churches.

Noebel lauds Lind’s tracing of “the Marxist influence of Antonio Gramsci” and George Lukacs “and their planned assault on Western culture.” He condemns the Frankfurt School (all demons in Breivik’s manifesto also) and praises “one voice in the wilderness seeking to expose the Marxist influence in America, but especially on her campuses,” David Horowitz—another pundit Breivik cites approvingly and borrows from in 2083. In a “Leader’s Guide” for “Arming Yourself to Confront Non-Biblical Worldviews,” available on the Summit Ministries website, leaders are urged to teach students to read the following quote from Lind’s 1994 essay: “In the United States of America, our traditional, Western, Judeo-Christian culture is collapsing. It is not collapsing because it failed. On the contrary it has given us the freest and most prosperous society in human history. Rather, it is collapsing because we are abandoning it.” And then:

b. ASK: What could cause such a dramatic and widespread shift in perspective? (Cultural radicals, people who hate our Judeo-Christian culture, are driving this change.)

c. TRANSITION: To fully understand the current culture war, we need to recognize each of the diverging worldviews and apprehend their influence throughout our society—even in many of our seminaries and churches.

In other words: the culture war isn’t just about gay marriage or abortion. It is more comprehensive and all-encompassing, based on an overriding ideology that paints “cultural Marxists” or “multiculturalists” or “politically correct elites” as enemies of America, “Judeo-Christian values,” and Western civilization. That overriding claim, that enemies of the pure or real Christian nation must be stopped before they utterly destroy it, resonated with Breivik. 

One of Noebel’s protégés, Curtis Bowers, has devoted an entire film to such a conspiratorial denunciation of the left, Agenda: Grinding America Down, released on DVD in 2010. The film won the Jubilee Prize at the San Antonio Christian Film Festival, run by the Christian Reconstructionist group Vision Forum. While serving in the Idaho state legislature in 2008, Bowers gained national attention after he wrote a column, “Communist agenda makes its way to our mainstream.” In it, he argued that feminists want to have the government raise their children, environmentalists are out to destroy business, and that “the homosexual movement” would “extinguish” our “heritage of religion and morality.”

His film includes interviews with conservative luminaries like Phyllis Schlafly, Edwin Meese, American Family Association president Tim Wildmon, and Rep. Steve King (R-IA). It claims to link ACORN, Obama, George Soros, Saul Alinsky, anti-poverty scholars Richard Andrew Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, Bill Ayers and others in a complex diabolical plot to subvert American capitalism. Bowers’ film shows handwritten charts, which endeavor to demonstrate that Gramsci, who died in 1937, has played a crucial role in the trajectory of the American left, leading to the election of Barack Obama.

As Fischer, who nonetheless relies on the same demonizing, scapegoating ideology, protests, Breivik doesn’t share his view of Christianity or his strategy of “solving problems” through “public policy rather than mass murder.” But while conservatives object that Breivik isn’t a real Christian, he certainly seems to have been motivated by the same cosmic battle that animates the “Christian worldview,” which poses Marxism, multiculturalism, Islam, and other diabolical “worldviews” as mortal enemies of “truth.”

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email