Fundamentalism

Branch and Douglas Avenue, Providence
Branch and Douglas Avenue, Providence

Some time back, Don Roach asked in a comment what’s meant by the term ‘fundamentalism’. A good question, and it got me searching for the definition, only to find that it’s kind of like the word, ‘cult’. A cult is whatever religion you don’t like.

Wikipedia has a good overview, but in the Christian religion there are as many degrees of fundamentalism as there are denominations. A good thing, too. We would not want people plucking out their eye, (Mark 9:47), which would be both disgusting and destructive. And think of the social chaos if people took literally the scriptures against usury, or declared a year of Jubilee.

I’ve heard Christians say that God appoints our leaders, which makes you wonder if it’s worth voting. We are a secular democracy that in principle treats all citizens equally under the law and respects religious freedom. For some, this system is a means for establishing a theocracy. Using the power of the majority, Christians can claim public spaces and institutions. We are not a JudeoChristian nation. But if I ever meet a JudeoChristian I’ll ask them how their faith got so much prominence.

When I was a kid, there were only two religions, Catholic and non-Catholic. Why did things have to get so complicated? I can’t say I miss the sense of certainty, and insular grievance– it was oppressive and the Knights of Columbus guys scared me. But Bill Donohue, of the Catholic League, took time out from arming for the War on Christmas, to write an op-ed for the Washington Post. It’s hardly worth having all those Knights of Columbus swords if you can’t create an enemy…

The only way secular saboteurs can be stopped is by an alliance of religious conservatives across faith lines. The good news is that this is already happening. In the fight over gay marriage, the scorecard is 30-0: traditional Catholics, evangelical Protestants, Orthodox Jews, Orthodox Christians, Muslims, and Mormons, along with a big contribution from the Latino and African American communities, have succeeded in throwing a roadblock at this crazy idea.

The culture war is up for grabs. The good news is that religious conservatives continue to breed like rabbits, while secular saboteurs have shut down: they’re too busy walking their dogs, going to bathhouses and aborting their kids. Time, it seems, is on the side of the angels.

I doubt it. For one thing, you can get in trouble disparaging multiculturalism while asking for contributions from the Latino and African American communities. They might not want to write the checks. And as for the children…

Scratch a Unitarian and you’ll find an ex-Baptist, or an ex-Catholic. You can’t keep them locked up forever. Growing up in a rabbit hutch might make them want something different, when they have the choice.

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