Monday, April 18, 2011

Christian Fundamentalism isn't

In this video Sam Harris makes a very compelling argument that religious fundamentalism/extremism isn't in and of itself a bad thing.  How a fundamentalist behaves depends entirely on the fundamentals of his or her faith after all.  He uses the Jain faith as an example here - since pacifism and not doing harm to any living thing is a core component of their faith, being a radical fundamentalist in Jainism means to literally not hurt a fly!

Now you certainly cannot blame Mr Harris for using Jain fundamentalism as an example.  After all, how many religions can you name where you wouldn't feel at least a little nervous around one of their radical fundamentalists?  Take Christian Fundamentalists for instance.  When you hear that term, you almost instinctively know you are talking about a person who is:
  • Politically right wing, conservative
  • Anti-Abortion
  • Anti-Sex Ed (Pro-Abstinence only of course)
  • Against welfare
  • Anti-science (especially the teaching of evolution)
  • Opposed to environmentalism
  • Waiting to be Raptured
  • For the death penalty
  • Intolerant
  • In constant opposition to the "gay agenda"
  • Constantly offended
  • Feels persecuted when they don't get their way
  • Constantly trying to make their beliefs into law so they can always get their way

The problem is that while these things have become synonymous with Christian Fundamentalism, they have nothing to do with the fundamentals of Christianity.  I challenge anyone to find anything resembling modern Christian Fundamentalism in the pages of the New Testament - you know, the thing that chronicles the lives of the actual Christian Fundamentalists! Small wonder then that modern Fundamentalists usually have to ignore everything Jesus and the Apostles said and turn to the Old Testament to find justification for their actions.  The original Christians didn't really fit into the modern "culture warrior" mode at all.  I'm sure they disagreed with lot of the morals and laws of the Greco-Roman world yet you never seem to find the Apostle Paul picketing anything!  I could be wrong but in reading the New Testament it really doesn't seem like the Christians in it tried to enforce their faith on people outside it.  Really then, Christian Fundamentalists really aren't Christian Fundamentalists at all!

A real Christian fundamentalist (someone who follows the actual fundamentals of Christianity) would therefore be someone who:
  • Constantly feeds the hungry and clothes the poor
  • Is obedient and submissive to their government no matter how adversarial their government may be to them
  • Always turns the other cheek
  • Blesses those who curse them
  • Does good to those who harm them
  • Doesn't lie
  • Doesn't gossip
  • Does everything they do as if they are doing it for God Himself
  • Loves others unconditionally

When you start looking at the actual fundamentals of Christianity it quickly becomes clear that an actual Christian fundamentalist would never dream of shooting an abortion doctor.  In fact the more radical a truly fundamentalist Christian becomes the less violent he or she would be and the more of their stuff they would give to the poor!

Is it just me or did something go seriously wrong with Christianity at some point?  How did we get from there to here?


digapigmy said...

Not only are your observations accurate, this kind of focus on being right and forcing your "rightness" on others is a reason for chastisement of religious leaders by Jesus, and even several times in the Old Testament (Isaiah 58 comes to mind - only because I just read it yesterday). Today's American Christianity is almost like a contest to see who knows more about Christianity and who can yell the loudest about it.

Eugene said...

Thanks Brent! Just after writing this blog I actually ran into a perfect example of this phenomenon: This blog by a minister to the homeless who finds that a lot of Christians care about only one thing - that he has the right dogma.