Post Author: Bill Pratt
There are fewer words that are more loaded with a negative connotation than fundamentalism. Generally when we hear that word, we have been trained by the media to react with either fear or disdain, or both. After all, fundamentalists are supposed to be ignorant and violent.
To be a fundamentalist used to mean that a person believed in the fundamentals of their religious system or worldview. They were people who stuck to the core beliefs, that did not stray away from them. At some point, this meaning morphed into something else more sinister.
Can we save this word and return it to mean what it used to mean? Maybe not, but I would like to challenge the idea that fundamentalists of all worldviews or religious systems are all ignorant and/or prone to violence. There are fundamentalists who are ignorant and violent, but there are many fundamentalists who are not ignorant and not violent (me being one of them).
Whenever we approach a person who claims to believe in the fundamentals of their religious system, we should first ask, “What are the fundamentals you believe in?” Their specific beliefs are far more relevant than the fact that they hold core beliefs at all. We shouldn’t fear people who have fundamental beliefs, but we possibly should fear the fundamental beliefs that some people have.
Tim Keller addresses the issue of fundamentalism with the following:
It is common to say that “fundamentalism” leads to violence, yet as we have seen, all of us have fundamental, unprovable faith-commitments that we think are superior to those of others. The real question, then, is which fundamentals will lead their believers to be the most loving and receptive to those with whom they differ? Which set of unavoidably exclusive beliefs will lead us to humble, peace-loving behavior?
Of course, the prime example in the history of the world of humility and love was Jesus Christ. Here is a man whose last act as he died on a Roman cross was to ask God to forgive his enemies. Here is a man who sacrificed his own body for the rest of mankind.
When you see what the fundamentals of Christianity are, you realize that the true Christian fundamentalist is not someone to be feared at all. In fact, imagine what the world would be like if everyone totally embraced Jesus as their model to live by. If you’ve dedicated your life to Christ, one day in the future you won’t have to imagine, because it will become a reality.