What is Fundamentalism?

Written: 15 June, 2000

This post was inspired by Kilroy the Watcher's reply to my "Sin is all around us" post below, and his link to an article titled "Why Fundamentalism is Wrong." Why Kilroy posted it in reply to my "Sin is all around us" post, I know not. Maybe he thinks I'm a fundamentalist. (I'm not. Honest.) I'm posting this up here so I can hopefully get a new religion thread started and because I'm tired of scrolling down. And because if I posted this way down in the original thread, fewer people would see it.

What is fundamentalism?

My Webster's Dictionary defines it as "An extreme Protestant position characterized by the belief that the Bible is a verbally accurate recording of the word of God. It holds that the writers were divinely inspired to the smallest detail of revealed truth."

My reading of this description is not that fundamentalists are those who believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, since presumably most Christians do believe that, but the difference is that fundamentalists believe that the Bible we have today is 100% accurate down to the smallest detail.

Let's look at a specific example. 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 reads: "As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church."

My guess is that a "fundamentalist" is one who would read the above verses and say that women should be prohibited from speaking in church, and especially shouldn't be allowed to be ordained as ministers to speak from the pulpit. The verses couldn't be any clearer about the matter. Which leads to...

Southern Baptists Say 'No' to Women
Wednesday June 14 8:16 PM ET

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Risking a wider split in the nation's largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention declared Wednesday that women should no longer serve as pastors.

"I'm very sad. Women ministers are not going to have a place in Southern Baptist life anymore," said the Rev. Martha Phillips, interim pastor at Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Arlington, Va., where Vice President Al Gore is a member. "I think more churches will leave."

The revised Faith and Message statement was approved in a show of hands by the thousands of delegates at the denomination's annual meeting.

It includes a passage that reads: "While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture."

"Southern Baptists, by practice as well as conviction, believe leadership is male," said the Rev. Adrian Rogers, chairman of the drafting committee.

The new statement does not address whether women should be ordained, something the Southern Baptists have done since at least 1964; it addresses only their role as pastors, who lead congregations.

Other changes in the revised statement underscore that the Bible is "totally true" and insist that "there is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord."

OK, so the Southern Baptists are saying that the verses in 1 Corinthians about women speaking in church being "disgraceful" applies to them, and they are following it, since it is the word of God.

I also believe that the verses are divinely inspired, but I happen to think that they have to be interpreted and put into context, not just blindly followed. Paul was writing to specific churches (this one was in Corinth, right?) and trying to keep them on the right track. In that particular chapter, he was referring to orderly worship in the church: "Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way....For God is not a God of disorder but of peace." (1 Corinthians 14: 33, 40) He tells people not to all speak at once, and if someone starts talking for the other person to stop and listen. To me, Paul is telling us to be humble and not try to think that we are better than other people in the church.

I think that while Paul's letter to the Corinthians is for all of us as well, some of the particular details may not apply to us in our particular time and place. We are the Cornithians, too, in a symbolic sense. But in a literal sense, we are NOT the Corinthians -- we are living 1950 years later! If Paul were alive today and wrote a divinely-inspired Epistle called "Canadians," it wouldn't necessarily apply in every detail to a colony in Mars in the year 3050 either.

That's the difference between a fundamentalist and me. If something in the Bible doesn't sound consistent with the idea of being a loving Christian, I figure that it's either something that doesn't apply to moderns, a mistranslation, a sign of the times in which it was written, or something like that. Or maybe there's a point in it that is meant to follow the spirit of, not taken literally. For example, I don't think Jesus was in favor of self-mutilation, despite his comments about ("If the eye offends..." etc.).

I think fundamentalists are pretty hard to take, especially when it comes to the topic of evolution. I have to admit that I don't know for certain whether evolution occured, but to me it sounds like the most believable explanation. I think a person can be a Christian and believe that God used evolution. Some people who believe every single line of Genesis has to be taken absolutely literally would say that one can't believe both. I think those people are being fundamentalists about it.

Humans have been wondering about where we came from for thousands of years. I think it's presumptous for we moderns today to say that we know exactly how it all went down, whether one says that the Creation story in Genesis is literal truth or whether one is positive that evolution is the answer.

Does that mean that I think the stories in Genesis never happened? No, I think that even some of the fantastic stuff did likely happen. Many cultures have their own "flood stories," so I think it likely that there was a "Great Flood" as described in the Bible.

Anyway, here's the link to the article "Why Fundamentalism is Wrong", which Killroy posted a link to earlier. It starts out with a quote by Randall Terry, head of the extreme pro-life group Operation Rescue (whatever happened to abortion protests anyway?), saying "I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good..." Assuming the quote is accurate, to me that doesn't sound like fundamentalism. If it was fundamentalist, it should follow Scripture, which says to love one another.

The author of the article defines fundamentalism as "a religion, any religion, that when confronted with a conflict between love, compassion and caring, and conformity to doctrine, will almost invariably choose the latter regardless of the effect it has on its followers or on the society of which it is a part."

OK, two comments here. As I heard a rabbi comment on Larry King Live recently, loving thy neighbor is not universally good if for example we refer to a CEO having an extramarital affair with his secretary. So, in that case where love and doctrine are in conflict, the "doctrine" (do not commit adultery) interferes with being "compassionate" with one's secretary. In that case, the doctrine should be adhered to and the "love" suppressed. We need the doctrine to help guide us in proper behavior. "Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law." (Romans 7:7)

But I agree that the doctrine shouldn't be an obstacle to doing good. This is what Jesus himself preached against, when he criticized the Pharisees who didn't want him doing good works on the Sabbath.

The article goes on to warn of the danger of fundamentalists: "It is this overwhelming seriousness about religion that seems to be one of the hallmarks of the fundamentalist. He is concerned not only with his own conformity to doctrine, but the conformity of the rest of society to it, too. Many fundamentalists will not hesitate to intervene in the political process to ensure that society is forced to conform to the behaviors their world view requires, if not accept that world view. The belief that they are right, without any question, justifies, in their own minds, taking upon themselves the right to impose their point of view, by force if neccessary. An example is the attempt, by some Christian fundamentalist groups to shut down, by force, abortion clinics that are operating in accordance with the law. Some have gone so far as to threaten and intimidate employees, and even murder doctors working there."

OK, let's be fair here. Lots of people, religious or otherwise, try to influence society through politics and legislation. A right-winger could take the above paragraph and turn it into an anti-Hillary Clinton rant by switching the word "fundamentalist" with "liberals." Let's see what that looks like:

"It is this overwhelming seriousness about political correctness that seems to be one of the hallmarks of the liberals like Hillary. She is concerned not only with her own conformity to PC values, but the conformity of the rest of society to it, too. Many liberals will not hesitate to intervene in the political process to ensure that society is forced to conform to the behaviors their world view requires, if not accept that world view. The belief that they are right, without any question, justifies, in their own minds, taking upon themselves the right to impose their point of view, by force if neccessary. An example is the attempt, by some liberal groups to shut down, by force, gun dealers that are operating in accordance with the law."

I don't know of any liberals murdering gun dealers, though...

Anyway, my point is that one doesn't have to be religious to be arrogant, think one is right, and try to make everyone else conform to one's view.

I want to wrap this up (it's taking forever to write) so let me get to Killroy's original reply to my "Sin is all around us" post. Killroy wrote:

: : 1) CONDITIONAL love and acceptance: be like this or you'll
: : burn in hell. human love can be more advanced.

My reply: No, God loves us no matter what, Killroy. I believe that God loves us despite what we do -- and our engaging in sin is a worse sight to God than it is to any human who can't know another person's heart and mind as God does. And despite that, He still loves us.

By the way, let's remember who and what God is. God by definition is the "Supreme Being." There is nothing or no one higher, simply be definition. Therefore, there is no greater love than God's.

: : 2) hipocricy: you say one thing and do
: : another i.e. preach love and peace, but commit
: slavery, genocide,
: : raping of the Earth, foolish acts of hatred.

Yes, humans say one thing and do another! So, Killroy, what does that tell you? Connect the dots. Man wants to do what is holy, but he keeps doing that which is not.

"For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do -- this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God -- through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:19, 20, 24, 25)

: : 3) religion teaches hatred: you preach that
: : there is only one true belife. this justifies
: demonizing
: : everyone who doesn't believe the same way. "i am the
: lord thy god. thou
: : shalt not have any gods before me"; you teach people to
: hate gays,
: : lesbians, other 'races,; you teach narrow
: mindedness, you can
: : justify anything using religion

Nope, hatred of other people is not consistent with Christianity. In fact, Jesus warned us not to criticize another for having a plank in their eye when we have a plank in our own eye. Take a look at the Gospel of John 8:3-11. A woman is accused of adultery. The Pharasees tells Jesus, "In the Law Moses commanded of us to stone such women. Now what do you say?"

"But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, 'If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.' Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground." (John 8:6-8)

: : 4) antithesis of intelligence: with
: : faith, you could be believing a lie and never know it,
: not being able
: : to question anything; with thought, you know with a
: degree of
: : certanty what to believe in

You seem to think that being religious means never having doubts or questions. Not true. All humans have doubts and questions, religious and non-religious alike. I know that I think more deeply about these spiritual matters more now than I did before I became a Christian.

: : 5) guilt: you force people to feel guilt over every
: : little thing they do, not letting them live once in a
: while. sin is
: : anything less than gods perfection, but since
: perfection is a lie,
: : you make people fell bad for no good reason.

Christians recognize that we can't achieve perfection. God died for our sins, so doing good works is a way of recognizing and appreciating that sacrifice. If you repent of your sin before God, the sin is forgiven and the slate wiped clean!

: : 6) you created most of the right-winged
: : conservitive fools you don't care for earth or her condition
: :
: : 7) you preach that birth control is evil at
: : a time when we need less people

Not all of Christianity is right-wing. Sounds like you have my beliefs mixed up with somebody else's. Did my "Sin is all around us" post make me sound like a right-winger?