The Case for Fundamentalism
Over the past few years, religious fundamentalism has gained a bad reputation. Especially since 9/11. Mention Islamic fundamentalists and people get angry. But is fundamentalism really so bad?
During my years as a Worldwider, I often wondered what the big deal was -- if you were a Christian, and if the Bible was the basis for Christian belief...fundamentalism was the only way to go.
Think about it. In the world of sports, when a team starts performing poorly, the coach generally takes them back through the fundamentals.
Get the fundamentals down, they say, and things will begin to improve. If you can't perform the fundamentals, no amount of showboating is going to win. It's true in every sport.
Why should Christianity be any different? Or any other religion?
So, what exactly is fundamentalism?
NOUN: 1. A usually religious movement or point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism.
(Yahoo online dictionary)
And what are fundamentals?
ADJECTIVE: 1a. Of or relating to the foundation or base; elementary: the fundamental laws of the universe. b. Forming or serving as an essential component of a system or structure; central: an example that was fundamental to the argument.
(Yahoo online dictionary)
Fundamentals, then, are the core components of a system or belief. Without them, the system or belief have no meaning and cannot exist.
Christianity today is so broad, so varied, that millions who claim to be Christians are barely recognizable in terms of the biblical definition. One thing Herbert Armstrong got right (and he was very good at it) was deconstructing modern Christianity. That deconstruction was so thorough and so on-target that it was probably one of the major selling points to his own theology. Many, if not most, of those who gravitated to Armstrong's belief system were disaffected members of mainstream Christian churches. They were totally disillusioned by what they saw around them, and were eager for something better.
Unfortunately, they jumped from the fire into the frying pan.
Armstrong's church was definitely a fundamentalist movement.
But is that so bad? After all, pretty much everything he taught came straight out of the Bible, or could be justified by the Bible. The fact that he used Bible verses to prove his doctrines is what kept so many people hooked for so long -- and some are still hooked. The Bible was the fundamental source of all doctrine -- the Sabbath, the holy days, clean/unclean meats, isolation from unbelievers, healing, tithing, the annual foot-washing...everything, except for a few "administrative decisions", which were also justified when Jesus told Peter "whatever you bind on earth shall also be bound in heaven".
If you're going to be a Christian, and you don't believe in fundamentalism -- you have no business being a Christian.
So what's the big deal about fundamentalism?
Well...good question, that.
The problem with fundamentalism is that it has to be all or nothing. Most Americans have little patience with Islam because of its teachings about killing unbelievers. Muslim clerics argue back that those passages do not relate to the modern world, or are taken out of context by the radical Muslims who "pick and choose" what they are going to believe.
Picking and choosing? Hm. Sounds distantly familiar, doesn't it?
Muslim fundamentalism...Christian fundamentalism...
Does anyone remember anything in the Bible about murdering unbelievers? Does the name Joshua ring a bell? The land of Canaan? The invasion and slaughter of whole nations? The admonition -- from God -- to "utterly slay" every man, woman, and child?
If one is going to be a Christian...and if the Bible is the source and authority of Christianity...then it stands to reason that one must consider all of the Bible when deciding how to live a Christian life. That was what Armstrong taught, and apparently what his spin-offs are still teaching today. In that context, then, one would think that to be a good Christian, one must stand ready to cast stones at those who disobey or disbelieve Christian doctrine.
The Bible strictly commands certain people to be put to death:
Raped women who didn't cry out.
Idolaters (including those who worship nothing at all).
The list goes on and on.
That's fundamentalism. We decry it in Islam, but overlook it in Christianity. We view the Crusades and the Inquisition as historical excesses, carried out by some who were overzealous in their faith. Yet those who carried out the tortures, burnings, and beheadings were acting in the highest tradition of the Old Testament; the only real difference was that they added to the list of infractions that merited death, and ignored some of those in the Bible.
So there is a case for religious fundamentalism. It's in the Bible. It's ordained of God -- not only for Muslims, but Christians as well.
Are you ready? Got those stones piled up? Have you sharpened your sword? Think you can handle dashing a baby's brains against a stone wall?
Is that not what you signed up for?
Is that a little too harsh for your taste?
Then you arenít a fundamentalist.
And you have no business being a Christian.
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