Posted by: serrels | July 27, 2011

A Hostile Brand of Ignorance: Why Bill O’Reilly Is Not A Christian

“Just because he calls himself a Christian,” begins Bill O’Reilly, Fox News Political ‘commentator’, flustered with a typical rage, before stuttering…

Mussolini called himself a Christian!”

Sally Quinn, of the Washington Post, spends most of her time with a patient smile on her face – it’s hard to tell if she’s flustered or grinning in disbelief at the complete absence of logic in O’Reilly’s rhetoric.

“There is no evidence this man followed the teachings of Christ! No evidence he had anything to do with the Christian faith.”

O’Reilly is referring, of course, to Anders Breivik, the perpetrator of the Oslo attacks in which over 70 people were slaughtered.

Quinn repeatedly attempts to correct O’Reilly, but he blusters on, constantly and consistently, interrupting her attempts to provide the evidence that O’Reilly (a Christian himself) claims doesn’t exist.

All this from a man who claimed, after the attacks on the World Trade Center, that “Muslims killed us on 9/11”.

Sally Quinn meekly attempts to raise a similar point – that O’Reilly, when referring to Fort Hood terrorist attack, was insistent on referring to Nidal Malik Hasan as a Muslim terrorist.

Incredibly, it gets worse.

“I’m saying he was a Muslim,” he shouts, interrupting Quinn, “because he carried a business card that said ‘soldier of Allah’!

“The guy in Fort Hood he was acting in the name of religion,” he continues. “He killed because he believed that Allah told him to kill. The guy in Norway – Jesus had nothing to do with it. He wasn’t even cited! Using the word Christian to label him is dishonest.”

It almost goes without saying: the hypocrisy is nauseating. The baffling, insidious endgame of the ‘No True Scotsman’ fallacy incarnate, with a touch of disingenuity chucked in for good measure.

If O’Reilly had taken the time to listen, Sally Quinn might have presented this, taken from Breivik’s ‘manifesto:

“At the age of 15, I chose to be baptised and confirmed in the Norwegian State Church,” wrote Breivik. “I consider myself to be 100 percent Christian.”

Or maybe she would have quoted Stephen Prothero, a religion scholar from Boston University, who stated that “[i]f he did what he has alleged to have done, Anders Breivik is a Christian terrorist”.

Yet, despite the fact that the mainstream media was terrifyingly quick to claim that the Oslo attacks were perpetrated by Muslim terrorists, no-one in their right minds is attempting to blame Christianity for this vile act of terrorism. Not for a second. It’s the hypocrisy that stings, the veiled xenophobia of the Christian right.

As Editor of the gaming website Kotaku Australia, I had the misfortune of being caught up in this maelstrom of hypocrisy when Jim Wallace of the Australian Christian Lobby – yes, the same Jim Wallace who tweeted that Anzac soldiers didn’t die for homosexuals and muslims – had the gall to claim that it wasn’t Christianity, or a twisted sense of justice that was to blame for the attacks. No – of course not…

The culprit? Those dastardly video games.


“If there are even a few deranged minds that can be taken over the edge by an obsession with violent games, claimed Wallace, in a statement published on the Australian Christain Lobby’s website, “it is in every Australian’s interest that we ban them.

“The studied indifference of this killer to the suffering he was inflicting, his obvious dehumanising of his victims and the evil methodical nature of the killings have all the marks of games scenarios.”

Again, assumptions that fly in the face of peer reviewed studies – a vast, vast majority of which state that games have no stronger an impact on our behaviour than any other type of media you wish to name.

Some perspective: there were roughly 50 references to video games in Breivik’s 700,000 word manifesto – mostly references to games he enjoyed playing in his spare time – one reference where he stated that Modern Warfare 2 was like a training simulator (a statement that any trained soldier would, and has, openly laughed at). This was enough for Jim Wallace of the ACL to openly call for the banning of any and all violent video games.

Despite the fact that Christianity was referenced over 2000 times in the same manifesto.

Despite the fact Breivik openly referred to himself as a modern day crusader, protecting Europe against “Islamization”.

Again – just to clarify – no-one is blaming Christianity. It’s the hypocrisy that stings.

And the ignorance; a hostile brand of ignorance that has become increasingly infused in the rhetoric of these middle-aged men who claim to represent the Christian faith across the media and in government – on television, in newspapers, in cabinet meetings across Australia.

Right now? When I think ‘Christian’ I think Jim Wallace. I think Bill O’Reilly. And that’s a real problem.

As someone married to a Christian – a reasonable person who gasped in disgust when I showed her the video featuring O’Reilly – I worry for the way that Christians are being represented in Australian and across the world. Mainly I worry about the people who are representing them.

It’s a narrative that has become increasingly dominated by an extreme right agenda, where the vocal minority scream and the rest cower in abject fear and embarrassment. People like Jim Wallace and Bill O’Reilly make it embarrassing to be a Christian.

For the life of my I cannot understand why moderate Christians – reasonable, rational Christans – allow themselves to be represented by people like Jim Wallace and the Australian Christian Lobby. Why they allow themselves to get caught up in this culture – this practiced ignorance, this hostile ignorance.

Jim Wallace should not be representing Christianity.

And Bill O’Reilly is not a Christian.

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Responses

  1. Good post. I’ve been thinking about a lot of this too…

    I think it’s worth having the discussion about what makes Breivik a Christian, and why people say he isn’t. Not for the purposes of self-justification – not of me, not of Bill O’Reilly, not Jim Wallace, or Christianity itself, for that matter – but simply because it helps get into the head of this guy who goes and kills scores of people under the Christian banner.

    Breivik himself wrote:

    “If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God then you are a religious Christian. Myself and many more like me do not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God. We do however believe in Christianity as a cultural, social, identity and moral platform. This makes us Christian.” (2083 Manifesto, Breivik, p. 1307)

    So, importantly, he thinks of himself as a Christian in terms of moralism, in terms of culture (if you read about what he thinks is wrong with the church, it has a lot to do with losing what he sees as ‘traditional’ teachings and practices, including militarism/self-defence), and in terms of the social fabric. In so far as the label applies to him, he is not necessarily a ‘religious’ Christian (however you take that to mean), but to him, it doesn’t matter – the latter label is as important, if not more so, than the former. It’s not even clear if he feels like he’s representing God, at least as far as I can see. More so that God and Christianity lends moral, historo-cultural, and possibly altruistic weight to his thoughts and actions.

    But to the point of your article, I agree O’Reilly and Wallace are largely acting hypocritically on this. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel some resonance with at least parts of their motive or argument (again, while I’m not worried by people running with the ‘Christian terrorist’ label, I think we should still think critically about that label’s application), but I feel the way they are arguing the issue is unnecessary, illogical, sometimes arrogant, and not reflective of Christ. There’s not a dollop of wit, for a start 😛

    As for why they represent us, I think in many of our minds, they don’t. From my perspective, I stand apart from them on a lot of issues, and I’ve never had someone have a go at me on something they’ve said.

    My thoughts as to the reasons moderate/left-leaning/conservative-but-not-angry/evangelisticaly-minded Christians don’t shout back in response to these guys are threefold:

    1. Many are probably like Jon Stewart’s ‘average American’ – we have jobs, families, churches, etc, and we haven’t got the time or inclination to be yelly.

    2. I’ve often wondered whether, in some ways, the political machine is what produces organisations like the ACL. Especially in our domestic scene, it’s all about the soundbite, and if you don’t make waves, you don’t get heard, especially when you’re representing a certain demographic. I’ve never met Jim Wallace in person, so I can’t really comment on his non-professional demeanor. Need to think about this one more…

    3. It’s kinda loud enough already.

  2. since there’s tens of thousands of sects of christianity, there’s no one way to be a christian

    so pretty much, anyone who claims to be one, is one.

    and anyone familiar with the content of the bible knows that violence is as christian as it gets

  3. There’s lots of interesting stuff in this area. One, I think, is the positioning of the far right Christian as the arbiter of Christianity. Like its a members-only country club where those in the club get to decide who is and isn’t ‘one of them.’ It extends beyond that too because they also get to decide who is Muslim, apparently. I am no theologian, but if I’m not mistaken there are various interpretations of Christian scripture, various flavours of the faith that emphasise the importance of the “church” as a place and organisation to very different degrees. The Mormon faith is very strongly tied to the Temple etc, but more moderate Christians I’ve known talk much more about personal relationships. Its the difference between being able to pray for yourself and being required to pray alongside the congregation, led by a priest/preacher/pastor whoever. Its exclusive vs. inclusive.

    Perhaps the above is merely a symptom of how you define Christianity in general. Is it something that comes only and always from words on the pages of a Bible and out of the mouth of an ordained clergy – or is it a wordless, nameless kind of spiritual feeling? To me, the first is utterly human. The words of the Bible were written by human hands. The clergy are men. I can’t ever personally get around that fact. They could be lying to you – how do you know they aren’t? But if you look inside yourself, to whatever lives inside you, that is truth, for you at least, and you can be sure of it. So do you believe you are a Christian because someone in a white collar or robe tells you so, or do you believe it because it feels right? Hard to build opulent palaces for the privileged few clergymen if everyone believes that divinity is found within, though.

    Its staggering to think that O’Reilly or Wallace or any other loud-mouth kind of Christian leader can so casually decree someone not Christian, just because they say so. I would think that is a terrifying prospect for any Christian out there. What would your wife do if her (insert religious leader here) suddenly banished her from the church, saying she wasn’t a real Christian? I don’t know how people function if they really believe that what they need is approval from some guy that they are good, right, and not going to hell. Its not as if its hard to find examples of this kind of thing in history either… I mean, witch trials, various Inquisitions… even the concept of heresy paves the way for this kind of arbitration from upon high.

    Hmm this is RAMBLING. Moral of my story: You are Christian if you think you are, and anyone who tries to say otherwise is manipulating you for their own political gain. But at the same time, you’re responsible for your actions and can’t blame God or the church for making you do things. Something like that.


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