Junior Ganymede
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Are Christian Fundamentalists Boogeymen?

January 26th, 2010 by Bruce Nielson

I remember when John Dehlin put up a post with a video (no longer available) about the difference between “fundamentalists” and “curious people.” John originally just entered it as a link that said “The curious, my kind of people.” Then later he put up this post which changed the tone to by tacking on “or does Mormonism Inspire Curiosity?”

The idea of the video was that there are two kinds of people, those that fit the facts to their worldview and those that accept the facts and enjoy what life brings.

I came down hard on the whole video and John Dehlin’s point because I had just finished reading The Black Swan, which convincingly made the case that “the curious” don’t exist in any meaningful sense and we’re all just “fundamentalists” the way the video defined them.

I later added another comment:

One more thought: Find me someone that claims to not be curious and claims to be a “funadmentalist” in the sense that he uses the term here.

Is there anyone who claims to not be curious? Is there anyone that claims to filter the facts by their belief system and ignore the facts when not convenient? Even Christian fundamentalists would not claim the label “fundamentalists” as it’s used here.

We speak so openly of “Christian Fundamentalists” as if there is some well understood and accepted group of people out there that fit the label and accept it willingly. We scare people with them, point to them as the source of evil in the world, and make sure people know we aren’t one of them.

But take someone that is a self professed “Christian Fundamentalist” and see if they believe they “aren’t curious” or if they “fit the facts to their worldview.” See if they feel V for Vendetta was really about them. (I even made fun of these “Christian Fundamentalists” myself here.)

It not entirely clear if “Christian Fundamentalists,” as the word often gets used, even exist at all in any meaningful sense.

Further, John’s post, far from showing a difference between these Christian Fundamentalists and himself, actually showed a similarity, albeit one that we all seem to share.

It might be time to recongize that the word “fundamentalist” is well on it’s way to being a boogeyman — that which lives under our bed to scare us. As such, I’m no longer sure it has a clear meaning any more and soon may have no meaning at all.

It also might be time to admit that the fact that we use the term makes us, in a limited sense, fundamentalists ourselves by demonizing those we’ve decided fit the label. But aren’t they also real people with real needs?

Comments (3)
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January 26th, 2010 11:33:21

January 26, 2010

“Fundamentalist” used to have a fairly well-defined meaning. It meant a person whose observance of his faith (whatever faith it is) is based on the founding scriptures of that faith (interpreted according to a conscious or unconscious system of hermeneutics) to the exclusion of any subsequent authoritative interpretation. Thus, a Christian fundamentalist claims to base his faith on readings of the Bible uncolored by later Catholic or Protestant tradition. A Muslim fundamentalist claims to base his faith on Q’uran, uncolored by any later Muslim traditions. A Mormon fundamentalist claims to base his faith on the four standard works, uncolored by any later prophetic revelations or interpretations.

Meaning, that there have been few if any real fundamentalists in the history of any religion. Though Muslim fundamentalists come close, and Christian fundamentalists come closer than Mormon fundamentalists.

The fact that no written work has any meaning at all, of itself, but has to be read, means that no written work can ever be a self-contained statement of truth.

Bruce Nielson
January 26, 2010

Excellent definition, Vader. You always were a Jedi / Sith fundamentalist.

Adam G.
January 26, 2010

Actually, “fundamentalist” used to have an even more well-defined meaning. It meant someone who agreed that the following were *fundamental* to Christianity:

# Inerrancy of the Scriptures
# The virgin birth and deity of Jesus
# The doctrine of substitutionary atonement
# The bodily resurrection of Jesus
# The bodily second coming of Jesus Christ

The modern-day equivalent might be TMatt’s 3 questions over at GetReligion.org:

(1) Are the biblical accounts of the resurrection of Jesus accurate? Did this event really happen?

(2) Is salvation found through Jesus Christ, alone? Was Jesus being literal when he said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6)?

(3) Is sex outside of the Sacrament of Marriage a sin?

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