My Stance Against Fundamentalism
Having stated that I’m anti-fundamentalist, I better add a short disclaimer. First of all, realize that I am not trying to deprive fundamentalists of their right to practice religion as they see fit. ….. A popular quote, attributed to Voltaire, puts it this way: “I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it.” For me, that sums it up. Of course, you must also keep in mind that I also have a right to criticize the concepts, ideals, practices, and very nature of fundamentalist Christianity (and other fundamentalist religions as well).
And now that that’s taken care of, let me explain why I am anti-fundamentalist. There three basic reasons I take this stance against Christian fundamentalism: the damaging “theology of fear” of fundamentalism; the self-righteousness of fundamentalism; and the hypocrisy of fundamentalism. Of course, there are dozens of other “small things” that I take issue with, but these are the main ones.
First of all, fundamentalism uses a theology of fear to exert control over its followers. It works like this: an initial, fearful threat of some sort is made – in Christian fundamentalism, it is the threat of eternal torture in Hell. Then, a “bait” is laid out; here, it is salvation through the atoning sacrifice of Christ Jesus. Of course, there is a catch: to take the bait requires submission to the one offering the bait: fundamentalism itself (or in specific cases, perhaps a certain fundamentalist individual or church congregation offers the bait. The result, though, is the same.). In other words, one must become a fundamentalist, stay a fundamentalist, help make others into fundamentalists, live up to fundamentalist standards, etc. From this point on, fundamentalism uses the individuals’ fear of the threat (hence “theology of fear”) to maintain their submission to fundamentalism.
Now, because of this theology of fear, fundamentalism begins to fosters an “us/them” mentality; a division between the “saved” and the “unsaved” or the “godly” and the “satanic” – there are dozens of names for the distinction. This causes a feeling of superiority in the fundamentalist; superiority over everything and everyone outside of the sphere of fundamentalism. Thus, the theology of fear creates the self-righteousness of fundamentalism. Fundamentalists tend to look down upon – or even worse, pity – people who are not also fundamentalists.
Finally, fundamentalism becomes hypocritical. Fundamentalism sets ridiculously high “standards” for its followers, who are expected to follow them *OR ELSE* (theology of fear yet again). The problem is, these so-called standards are nearly impossible to follow perfectly, and are in most cases contrary to human nature and pretty damaging in and of themselves. Because of the self-righteous aspect of fundamentalism, the fundamentalist expects that everyone else ought to follow these fundamentalist standards as well. But since these standards are so difficult to maintain, followers are made hypocrites by their religion – they cannot even follow the standards they expect others to follow. Blinded by fundamentalism’s self-righteousness, though, most fundamentalists fail to see their own shortcomings. They are “the saved” and thus it becomes impossible, they believe, for them to fail to live up to their standards. Only “the unsaved” fall short, in the fundamentalist’s mind.
That, in a nutshell, explains the reason I stand opposed to fundamentalist Christianity. As I mentioned, there are a few other reasons that are also important, such as the issue of Bible translation and interpretation, or issues involving science, but the “vicious cycle” I described above lies at the heart of matter. My belief is that all the hurt and pain caused to people involved in fundamentalism can be traced to those three basic aspects. And that is why I take a stance against fundamentalism.
By Michael Barnett