Saturday, August 27, 2005

Defining Fundamentalism

Let me begin by once again reminding folks that Jake's place is not intended to primarily be a place for church folk to debate. There are thousands of people who have left the Church because of the hurtful examples of Christianity they have encountered in their lives. In my own inadequate way, I've attempted to offer an example of an alternative type of Christianity, with a specific Anglican flavor. The form of Chritianity that is based on legalism and judgementalism is not welcome here. I don't care what you think about what I have to say, and have no interest in giving you a soapbox for your Pharisaic pronouncements. You are not the intended audience.

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, let me say just a word about a term that some folks, including some of the regular visitors to Jake's place, believe to be too strong when used to describe the extreme conservatives who have allied themselves with foreign bishops in an attempt to destroy the Episcopal Church. When I use the term "fundamentalist," the definition I have in mind is the one offered by Karen Armstrong in her book The Battle for God;

At the outset of their monumental six-volume Fudamentalist Project, Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby argue that the "fundamentalisms" all follow a certain pattern. They are embattled forms of spirituality, which have emerged as a response to a perceived crisis. They are engaged in a conflict with enemies whose secular policies and beliefs seem inimical to religion itself. Fundamentalists do not regard this battle as a conventional political struggle, but experience it as a cosmic war between the forces of good and evil. They fear annihilation, and try to fortify their beleaguered identity by means of selective retrieval of certain doctrines and practices from the past. To avoid contamination, they often withdraw from mainstream society to create a counterculture; yet fundamentalists are not impractical dreamers. They have absorbed the pragmatic rationalism of modernity, and, under the guidance of charismatic leaders, they have refined these "fundamentals" so as to create an ideology that provides the faithful with a plan of action. Eventually they fight back and attempt to resacrilize an increasing skeptical world.
(The Battle for God, p. xiii)
Using that as a definition of the term, I think that Fundamentalism correctly identifies extremists within Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. I think it is also appropriate as a term to identify the angry minority within the Episcopal Church whose intent is to "punish" those with whom they disagree. I also believe that this mutated form of Christianity has very little to do with the Good News offered by Jesus Christ.

J.

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