In every era, some group must be especially singled out for hatred and ridicule. Some group must serve as the butt of our jokes. Some group must be blamed for our troubles. Some group must be identified as the enemy of the state. In this era, that group is Christian Fundamentalists.
A Personal Story
I came of age during the sixties. Then “Jesus freak” was the the favored expression for Christian evangelists, and the mass media taught everyone to dread being nagged by such a creep. Unfortunately, it was not until latter I realized the nature of the lesson I had learned.
When I was a college student, I once participated in a small group discussion on the merits of the Christian belief. How the group came together I no longer remember. Exactly what I said I have forgotten. I just remember saying that Christians believe in the Bible because that is what they wanted to believe; nothing exists that proves Jesus was God. As I understood it then, wishful thinking is all there is to faith.
The next day, when I was sitting alone in the dining hall, a young lady, a participant in the discussion, offered to join me at my table. Reflexively, I gave her a frosty reception. She left, obviously hurt, and I was shocked and mystified by my own behavior. What possessed me to turn down the offer of an attractive young woman to sit at my table? What was I afraid of? I was sitting alone; I would have enjoyed her company.
Why do we revile the Christian Fundamentalists?
Why do we revile Christian Fundamentalists? What do Christian Fundamentalists believe that we should find so repugnant? What is Christian Fundamentalism? Encyclopedia Britannica (here) briefly describes Christian Fundamentalism this way.
In keeping with traditional Christian doctrines concerning biblical interpretation, the mission of Jesus Christ, and the role of the church in society, fundamentalists affirmed a core of Christian beliefs that included the historical accuracy of the Bible, the imminent and physical Second Coming of Jesus Christ, and Christ’s Virgin Birth, Resurrection, and Atonement. Fundamentalism became a significant phenomenon in the early 20th century and remained an influential movement in American society into the 21st century.
The Encyclopedia Britannica article describes the history of conflict between the millennialists (Christian Fundamentalists) and the modernists over church doctrine. At the end of the article, Jerry Falwell (now deceased) is credited for creating Moral Majority and initiating a crusade against negative cultural trends by Fundamentalists.
An uncompromising doctrinal statement, based upon an inerrant Bible, a Christian worldview beginning with belief in biblical Creationism, an eschatological belief in the pre-millennial, pre-tribulational coming of Christ for all of His Church, dedication to world evangelization, an absolute repudiation of “political correctness,” a strong commitment to political conservatism, total rejection of socialism, and firm support for America’s economic system of free enterprise.
Falwell apparently had no compunctions about extrapolating his religious beliefs to his political beliefs, but some view that by itself as a hideous, unforgivable sin. Further, Falwell believed in biblical Creationism. How unscientific! Yet any Christian must take what the Bible says quite seriously. For example, the United Methodist Church, hardly a political action group says this (here) about “God’s Word”.
God speaking to us about salvation
We say that God speaks to us through the Bible and that it contains all things necessary for salvation. This authority derives from three sources:
- We hold that the writers of the Bible were inspired by God, that they were filled with God’s Spirit as they wrote the truth to the best of their knowledge.
- We hold that God was at work in the process of canonization, during which only the most faithful and useful books were adopted as Scripture.
- We hold that the Holy Spirit works today in our thoughtful study of the Scriptures, especially as we study them together, seeking to relate the old words to life’s present realities.
The Bible’s authority is, therefore, nothing magical. For example, we do not open the text at random to discover God’s will. The authority of Scripture derives from the movement of God’s Spirit in times past and in our reading of it today.
All Christians believe God speaks through the Bible. In his book, Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis shows us how much Christians share in common about their beliefs. Lewis’s work systematically covers such topics as divinity of Jesus and His resurrection, virtue, sexual morality, marriage, forgiveness, sin, and faith, hope, and charity.
Do not almost all Christian recite similar versions of the Apostle’s Creed? Do not all Christians pray as Jesus taught (Matthew 6:5-15)? Then why are Christian Fundamentalists singled out for revilement? Well, I do not believe Christian Fundamentalists are singled out for revilement. Instead, I think Christian Fundamentalists serve as straw men for battering the Christian faith itself.
For those who would be their own god and set their own standards of behavior, Christianity offers a resounding repudiation. The Christian example proclaims that God has set standards for us to live by. Whether a Fundamentalist or not, the example set by a believing Christian shames those who do not practice Christianity. The Christian need not offer any judgment; the conscience God gave each of us judges us, and we find ourselves found wanting. Pride demands retribution.
The Culture War
The art of war comes instinctively to us. When we war we isolate and attack in force what we perceive as weakness. Which Christians set themselves apart? Which Christians are most easily attacked? The uncompromising stance of Christian Fundamentalists set them apart. Their dogmatic adherence to biblical Creationism leaves them open to mixing religion with science.
Nonetheless, all Christians must remember our foes attack Christian Fundamentalists first because they are Christians and second because they are Fundamentalists. Therefore, we must stand up for the right of Christian Fundamentalists to choose and practice their own religious beliefs.
We must not forget the obvious; our foes do not share our values. We cannot assume our foes believe in religious freedom. We must look at their deeds as well as their words.
For too many, the hatred of Christianity is visceral and intense. Because what Christianity teaches about right and wrong differs from their own beliefs, many find Christianity deeply offensive. Because it is a Christian value, Christians invented freedom of religion, and these people do not respect Christianity. These people would eradicate Christianity. They would teach our children Jesus is a myth, and they would replace Christian values with their own.
Why post this old article again? Because the news media has destroyed the value of the term “fundamentalist”, many of the Conservative Christians who use to refer to themselves as Fundamentalists, now call themselves Evangelical Christians (see What is an Evangelical Christian? (gotquestions.org)). As this post indicates, THE INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL ON BIBLICAL INERRANCY, Evangelical Christians interpret the Bible quite thoughtfully, but the news media is in the process of destroying the label “Evangelical Christian” and all it stands for. Instead of relabeling ourselves, we need to calmly shame our detractors into silence by standing with each other, doing our best to behave as our Lord would have us behave. We need to protect each other, and we also need to defend our right to believe in the truth of His Word.