I mean, “fundamentalist” is pretty much the go-to pejorative for anyone with any kind of extreme views. And it pairs so nicely with terms like “right-wing” or “cult member” or “outright crazy.”
That’s what you think when you hear the word “fundamentalist,” right? Crazy. Extreme. Dangerous. Hateful. Small-minded. Misogynist. Fearful.
Yes, a lot of fundies live up to their image. Stereotypes exist for a reason, right. Incidentally, whenever people talk about demolishing “hurtful stereotypes,” I never hear anyone standing up for the fundamentalists and all the stereotypes that are heaped on them. Just saying.
But I have a confession to make.
I am a fundamentalist.
I’m going to shoot you straight. Most of the fundamentalists out there aren’t real fundamentalists. Most of them are frauds. The word “fundamentalist” has become so loaded with meaning, that it’s hardly any use anymore.
Well, I think it’s time we cleared the air and restored the meaning of “fundamentalist.” Who knows? At the end of this blog post, you may just decide you are a fundamentalist, like me!
Where Do Fundies Come From?
My guess is most people don’t know where fundamentalists come from, so here’s a short history lesson.
The first “fundamentalists” were Presbyterians (not Baptists) in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They were Christians who desired to affirm the key beliefs of Christianity in light of new Modernist philosophy and Bible criticism.
They decided there were five fundamental Christian beliefs:
The Bible is the true word of God.
Mary was a virgin when Jesus was born.
Jesus died to atone for human sin.
Jesus was physically resurrected.
Jesus really did perform some sweet miracles. (My words, not theirs.)
That’s pretty basic, isn’t it? Probably not what you were expecting. Nothing about homosexuality or alcohol or public schools. No free will or pre-destination. No dispensationalism. No legalism that I can see. No young Earth or literal six day creation. No mention of ignoring Biblical genres in favor of blind literalism. Just the fundamentals.
Why do I like fundamentalism so much? That is, real fundamentalism.
I guess another word I would use to describe real fundamentalism is minimalism.
When it comes to most theological debates, I just don’t care. They don’t seem to matter much to me in the grandness of God himself. Jesus didn’t seem to care too much either. He wasn’t wasting his time in pointless arguments. If that guy can sum up the entire six-hundred and some odd Jewish laws into “love God and love your neighbor,” it makes most of our arguments seem pretty pointless. Jesus concentrated on the fundamentals of faith.
Doctrine Does Not Make Unity
It’s also clear to me that having a long list of beliefs does not help Christians…at all.
Why would the original fundamentalists only come up with five fundamentals? Why wouldn’t they make a bunch of statements about what was important to them a hundred years ago?
Because doctrine does not produce Christian unity.
Just because Christians believe a bunch of things together does not mean they will love each other, work together, or be like Jesus.
Having an excessively lengthy statement of faith may mean you get a group of people who believe a lot of the same things. But that’s not what Jesus told us to do.
Are You a Fundie or a Phony?
I don’t think fundamentalists would even recognize modern day fundies. Modern day fundamentalism isn’t about the fundamentals at all anymore. If I am a theology minimalist, I think of modern day fundies as theology hoarders.
You know the cable shows about people being buried in their junk, right? All that filth and useless trash, which has no value, and isn’t doing anything good, but they can’t let go of it?
That’s a modern day fundamentalist. (And really, that’s a lot of modern day non-fundie Christians too.) We are being buried alive in tired, junky, useless beliefs that have no real-world value. Our houses are filled with beliefs, beliefs which isolate us from the world, make people want to avoid us because we stink of filth. But we can’t let go because we think we need all these things. That’s what turns a Christian into a fraud. If your beliefs prevent you from loving God and loving others, you are a phony, not a fundie.
Most of us need to clean house. There just isn’t much value in many of the beliefs we hold dear. If you could only take five beliefs with you to a desert island, what would you take?
If you can pare everything down to that, congratulations, my friend. You are a fundamentalist!
What do you think? Can we rehab the word “fundamentalist?” Or is it too far gone?