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post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

This is a word I have heard a lot in the last few months, usually in a disparaging sense. In its popular usage it connotes closed-mindedness and ignorance, violence and bigotry. I read many editorials post 9-11 comparing fundamentalist Christians to the Taliban.

This irks me.

Why has "fundamentalism" been equated with "ferocious legalism"?

Doesn't "fundamentalism" mean having to do with the "fundamentals," or "basics," or "essentials," or "rudiments"? If you're a fundamentalist, doesn't that just mean you adhere to the original axes of the faith?

Anyone who recites the Apostle's Creed or the Nicene Creed and believes it would then be a fundamentalist Christian.

If we're going to be accurate in our speech, then the word Fundamentalists should not refer to those people who can't release their iron grip on the extraneous issues, like dress code or alcohol consumption or other legalistic issues. Rather. it should be reserved for those who emphasize the basics, the common ground that all factions, denominations, and sects share.
post #2 of 16
Perhaps the term is supposed to describe those who would advocate a societal return to fundamentals. Don't those described as "fundamentalists" usually want to convert/coerce others to their way of life? Which is why the negative connotation adheres.

- Amy
post #3 of 16
Interesting, Super Pickle. I have never defined fundamentalism as you have here. To me, as applied to Christianity, it has always meant absolute literal interpretation of the Bible as the law of God. I have always believed fundamentalism allowed no room for symbolic interpretations or recognition of historical contexts (at least, as long as it's convenient- there is a lot in the Old Testament that is not adhered to literally by modern day Christians). This pick and choose mentality seems to me an inherent flaw in fundamentalism and smacks of hypocrisy. Thus, I tend to view fundamentalism in a negative light. In contrast, your defintion of fundamentalism seems to speak more to what is at the heart of a faith, not the texts and laws surrounding it, "the original axes of the faith." Wouldn't it be nice if this were true! I don't think it usually functions this way though- too often, here and abroad, hatred, bigotry and prejudice ARE carried out due to a concrete, literal interpretation of a piece of a text that is picked out of a faith's larger context. The legalism you refered to comes into play because of this.
I hope this is not offensive to you, but I tend to equate fundamentalism (as I define it) with small-mindedness. To me, those who practice their faith this way are unable to conceptually grasp the larger parameters of their faith, the real heart of their religion, the axes I think you are referring to, and instead are only able to dwell within in the context of literal, and in small bits. I equate fundamentalism with an unwillingness or an inability to see the whole picture, "the common ground," as you called it, although I would hope that this commom ground can be extended beyond any one faith's "factions, denominations and sects" to include ALL humanity.
post #4 of 16
Sorry, Nursing Mother, I was afraid that I might offend by saying that. I in no way meant to imply that you are small-minded. after reading many of your thoughtful and thought provoking posts I know that just the opposite is true.
Let me attempt to clarify my small minded comment, although I fear I may just muddle things further. It's my feeling that there are many (and this applies to ALL faiths, definetely not just Christianity) who blindly adhere to their religion without doing allowing for any "broadening of perspective." Seems to me as though a lot of Fundamentalists want their faith to explain and justify their perspective and their perspective only. I know that my feelings are inextricable from and stem from my direct and fairly extensive experience with a number of Fundamentalist, born-again, full gospel Christians in my life. Of course my feelings and opinions on this are HIGHLY subjective, but then again when it comes to spirituality, what isn't? My original post was an attempt to define Fundamentalism in a specific manner, as I have often seen it fleshed out, and in no way was it meant to imply that all Fundies are small minded folk who have "commited intellectual suicide" for Christ. I know there are many for whom this is not true. Am I making any sense?
post #5 of 16
Strictly remaining within the confines of your faith is not directly corralative with intellectual weakness; here lies Fundamentalism at its potential best. However, gleaning pieces of scripture to justify abhorrent acts is far too common amongst many in the human family and, obviously, fundamentalism at its worst. It's the kind of militant, fanatical legalism Super Pickle refered to. One must acknowledge that an unwillingness to accept other faiths as truth has been the justification behind many of humanity's atrocities ( I am thinking of the Crusades, the Inquistion, the witch hunts, 9-11). I know that there were political motivations behind all of these events, but in each case, a fundamentalist motivation was at the fore.
In no way whatsoever do I mean to parallel your spiritual beliefs with the Spanish Inquisition or anything. Please please please do not read anything like that. More than anything else, I just want to clarify this issue for myself. I must wonder, where do you believe refusal to embrace other paths as truth ends and blind, destructive fanaticism in the name of one's faith begins?
post #6 of 16
I think the association between fundamentalism and narrow-mindedness has more to do with a casual association between the *behavior* of many fundies with narrow-mindedness than an actual association between theology and narrowmindedness.

In another forum we have been discussing Gary Ezzo and his popularity within fundie circles.

Almost every Fundie Christian I know advocates and practices, well, draconian parenting methods such as spanking. Ezzo's dangerous beliefs plays right into the hands of these Fundies (along with others such as Fugate and the Pearls).

Funny thing....if you look at the *Bible* there is nothing to justify these practices. I would more trace the practice of Ezzoesque Fundie parenting with *cultural* influences in Northern Europe two centuries ago rather than *anything* in the Bible.

The weak arguement promoting hitting a child with a stick comes from the Proverbs. Orthodox Jews do not take these verses literally they interperate the verses proverbally (excuse the pun) If anyone is going to take verses literally it would be observant Jews. If anyone knows these verses (especially in the accurate original language) it is the observant Jew.

Fundie Christians are actually diminishing the Gospel by their adherence to these culturally based beliefs.

Criticism of Fundie quirks doesn't threaten my faith rather a good reformation of Fundamentalism to rid it of excess cultural baggage would do nothing but good.

Debra Baker
post #7 of 16
I attend a fundamental christian church and the majority of them do not by any means use the Bible as an endorsement of these methods.

I consider the ezzo and pearl users as more of a cult myself
post #8 of 16
As I was reading this thread, I've been thinking about a book I read some time ago by Bruce Bawer called "Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity." Has anyone here read it? I'd be interested to hear what a conservative or fundamentalist Christian's response to it might be, since I'm neither and don't have that perspective.

The book is both a history of the fundamentalist movement (with a lot of interesting things to say about the founders and the movers and shakers!) and a study of fundamentalism today. Bawer makes many, many points, and I wouldn't want anyone to take my tiny synopsis of his book as the final word - but as I recall, his main point was that anyone calling him/herself a Christian (he is one) ought to look to what Jesus actually did and said as their guide to life (what Nursing Mother said). He talks extensively about the Good Samaritan parable, and maintains that the pov of Fundamentalists, for the most part, is often directly contrary to what Jesus actually preached.

I hope this isn't a hijack of this thread, but I've been wanting to discuss this book with others for some time, and this seemed
like a good place to bring it up.
post #9 of 16
Thread Starter 
"Bawer is a homosexual and of course he believes the Bible does not condone homosexuality"

You mean condemn, right, NM?
post #10 of 16
I own the Bruce Bawer book and actually liked it when I read it, which was years ago.

And I agree with him that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality.

A moment addressing that:

It DOES, I believe, condemn any sexual conduct that is not men having intercourse with women for the purpose of procreation. Jewish men were warned about having sex with other men 1) because that is how conquering tribes treated captives and slaves (anal rape), 2) male-male sex and other different, varied sexual norms were associated with Goddess worship and that wasn't tolerated, and 3) they weren't having sex with their good Jewish wives and re-populating the tribe if they were having sex with other men.

THAT is why the Bible has absolutely NOTHING to say about gay relationships today in the negative. The relationships gay men have today have nothing to do with tribal warfare, Goddess worship or procreation of the Jewish race. It does have alot to say (in the NT) about how to treat other people (treat others as you'd like to be treated etc) which goes for any relationship - gay, straight, parents to kids etc.

Back to the main point:

I think Bruce's point in the book, though, is that many who would define themselves as "Christian Fundamentalists" have left Jesus and his teachings behind in favor of legalism and sensationalism.

They are more interested in being the "in-group" and having their prayer circles and Bible studies and good Christian friends, than in feeding the poor, clothing the naked and visiting those in prison in His name.... actually ACTING as if the teachings of Jesus meant something other than exhibiting an "I've got mine, you're going to hell" mentality.

In making the name of Jesus synonymous with hatred, bigotry, violence and small-mindedness, Jesus appears to be a violent bigot himself - and that is NOT who he was! By allowing so-called "Christians" to sully the name of Jesus by being those unsavory sorts, it belittles both Jesus himself AND those who are truly trying to practice the Golden Rule and live spiritual and good lives.

I believe THAT is what he was trying to say about so-called "Christian Fundies" stealing the name of Jesus for themselves while leaving true believers (of whatever gender and orientation) in the shadows.
post #11 of 16
Thread Starter 
"It DOES, I believe, condemn any sexual conduct that is not men having intercourse with women for the purpose of procreation."

I don't understand your interpretation. Are you saying that God outlined one purpose for sex (baby-making) in the old days but since propagating the Jewish race is no longer a priority (or since we're not Jewish), then His ideas regarding sex have changed?

"I think Bruce's point in the book, though, is that many who would define themselves as "Christian Fundamentalists" have left Jesus and his teachings behind in favor of legalism and sensationalism. "

Sadly, I would have to agree. Although I would replace "many" with "a visible and boisterous few in North America," but that's just my personal experience (or lack thereof)
post #12 of 16
Thread Starter 
Nursing Mother, I don't mean to appear like I'm copying you every time you post!!!!!!!! This is the 2nd time I have posted in Spirituality only to find you have beat me to the punch
post #13 of 16
Madison, I was glad to hear from someone else who had read "Stealing Jesus" and I think your synopsis was much more on-target than mine!

It's been at least a year or two since I read the book, so I'm a bit hazy on it, but that criticism that you quoted, NM, seemed slightly on the harsh side. I don't recall him saying that all Fundamentalists are "willing to be deceived." But as I said, it's been a while since I read the book. I'm sure you are a busy woman, but I'd really like to know your take on this one if you ever felt like reading it!

For me, one of the most interesting parts of the book was its history of the fundamentalist movement, which, before I read the book, I considered to be something that had somehow developed over time in an organic fashion, but which Bawer portrays as the deliberate creation of a few men with quite their own agendas. Not that this sort of thing is limited to Fundamentalism!
post #14 of 16
Super Pickle, I think we're getting off topic a bit, but I'm game

I think my point re: the OT and NT teachings regarding sex was that it imposed a strict standard on who can have sex with whom and why and anything that fell outside of that strict definition was off-limits for Jews (and later on, Christians).

I think that the people who wrote the Bible wrote it for themselves, and for their own times to unify their peoples (whether Jews or later on, Christians) - what is written down has little relevance to todays cultures, societies and lives. I don't think they had any idea something they were writing would be kept and studied and literally interpreted by people in OUR time who have little idea of the cultures, societies and lives of THEIR times.

Personally, I don't think God's views on sex have ever changed BUT I don't think his views are written in the Bible either - his (hers/theirs/it's - whatever) is written in our lives and our passions and in the wide diversity of life and love - if sex/relationships are healthy and brings joy, peace and safety, then it is good. I think the wisdom of God is written in our hearts, not a centuries old book written by men trying to mold & control their various societies in the ways they thought they should go.

I draw a distinction between what God's views are (imo of course) and what the Bible's views are in regards to sex and sexual expression and relationships.
post #15 of 16
You said just what I wanted to say, Madison.

But I don't think that a Fundamentalist is going to be able to even meet you in the middle on this one. For isn't the whole point of Fundamentalist Christianity really that Fundies believe that the Bible is something God wrote and not man? This has always been my understanding. Reading the Bible this way seems limiting, IMO, if one is unable or unwilling to recognize that it as an historical contruct.
post #16 of 16
While searching for the particular passage I was looking for abby pulled off her diaper and peed on the floor!! AAHH!!

But anyways, from what I ahve been taught about sex and the Bible is that married people should not deny their spouses sex as it helps prevent adultry.

I cannot find the quote right now as pee pee baby is trying to climb on my lap...NM help!!
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