Thursday, 26 April 2012

His sword is aimed at his own naked heart: Anders Breivik

I've been thinking a lot lately about Anders Breivik and his so-called crusade against multi-ethnic society and the supposed de-Christianization of Norway. It would be so much easier to say that he is mad, but if there is any madness in him, it seems to me that it is the madness of society writ large.

70 years ago this year, Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi leader of German-occupied Bohemia and Moravia, was assassinated by Czech partisans supported by our secret services here in Britain. The Nazi response was immediate and violent in the extreme. Notably, the village of Lidice - thought to have harboured the partisans - was razed to the ground and its inhabitants murdered or transported to concentration camps. After the war, only 153 women and 17 children returned.

The poet Cecil Day-Lewis wrote a memorial to the village which has brought Breivik to mind again. It's a short poem, and the second and final verse says:

Must the innocent bleed for ever to remedy
These fanatic fits that tear mankind apart?
The pangs we felt from your atrocious hurt
Promise a time when even the killer shall see
His sword is aimed at his own naked heart.

I'm not sure that I have Day-Lewis' confidence that the pangs we felt... promise a time. Redemption is always possible, but it is not a necessary outcome. But I was struck by the absolute truth of the last line: His sword is aimed at his own naked heart. Breivik is not a loser, but his is the greatest loss; he is indeed the greatest victim of his own sin.

I give thanks for the bravery and dignity of the families, police, prosecutors and the people of Norway. At the same time, I pray that Breivik may see past his vain and pompous posturing - as if he were Norway's redeemer - and feel the sword penetrate his own heart. May he be broken by an awareness of the evil, and redeemed by the contrition that God demands of all.

As I continue to think about this sombre subject, I am reminded of the Apostle Paul's willingness to face deep evil. In an entirely different context, but equally passionate for redemption, he called on the Corinthian church to hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

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