Fundamentalism (From August 2021 Newsletter Article)

Often seen from a Protestant Christian perspective Fundamentalism (capitalized) refers to a movement in the church focusing on a literal interpretation of the Bible and strict adherence to the beliefs and rules derived therefrom.  

In a more general sense fundamentalism can be defined as: 

“a movement or attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles.” (From the online Merriam-Webster dictionary).  

This definition of fundamentalism can be seen throughout the world and all the ages.  Examples of this in history can be found in the Medieval Roman Catholic Church especially in areas like the Spanish Inquisition, and some legalistic Judaic movements of Jesus’ day.  Some commitments to musical styles, to particular forms of worship, or even the color of the carpet can become this fundamentalist!

Today we are seeing many serious forms of fundamentalism.  There are Christian fundamentalists, Islamic fundamentalists, Hindu and even Buddhist ones as well.  Pretty much every religion/denomination has this in some degree or another and the sects/cults of the world tend to fit into this category completely.  

A fundamentalist perspective elevates the status of the believer/ follower while demeaning everyone else outside of the particular group.  Those who are a part of the in-group become superior to all others who are inferior.  This can have disastrous consequences in society for the “inferior” group because they are easily targeted. 

We do not always associate this term with politics or other ideologies but this has also become a growing problem in our country and world.  Fundamentalism in religion and politics can lead to extremism.  

There is a link between fundamentalism and authoritarianism.  Authoritarian political leaders often are themselves fundamentalists or they exploit it for their own gain to power.  They are able to use fundamentalist ideas to claim absolute power.  

All this is to say that we must be vigilant.  We must keep our eyes and ears open so as not to fall into this trap of exclusion and superiority.  And we must do so in the interconnected religious, cultural, and political realms of our society.  

This does not mean that there are no core values that can or should unite us without necessitating complete conformity.  Love of God and love of neighbor are two.  Another is the commitment to the dignity of each human being created in the image of God leading to liberty for each person.  

As we learned in our VBS week this year we are to: Arise! and shine with love, faith, joy, and hope.  Certainly, these attributes and actions we teach to our children can unite us together and lead to a better society for all people.  

May these blessings of God be upon us as we lean into the second half of 2021! 

And may we move forward with humility in our walk with Jesus Christ.  

“12remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 

14For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.”  

                                                                                  -Ephesians 2:12-14 

-Pastor Nathaniel D. Allen