Fundamentalism is the vampire of the religions of the world.
At some level, I realize that, just as I want others to tolerate my opinion, I need to be tolerant of my brothers and sisters.
But on another level I feel like fundamentalism is a vampire that sucks the life and blood out of Christianity. How many people have run away from it in horror never to return? How many people have had the soul sucked out of them and leave their church a miserable wretched husk never wanting having to do anything with it?
Of course, part of the reason I say this is I’ve spent the greater part of my life participating and contributing to it.
Fundamentalism is destructive. It is destructive to God’s message, it is destructive to the Kingdom of God, it is destructive to people’s lives.
Fundamentalism is the tendency to require a following of a specific interpretation of scripture. In the Christian faith, it is a strict compliance with one person’s or one group’s interpretation of what the Bible says. Appropriate that the analogy I’ve heard of how a single interpretation of the scripture can be the only one is, “If one person says there is one moon, and another person says there are two moons, one of them must be wrong, and one must be right.”
But, in addition to it being destructive, this is an illogical and arrogant way to approach God and His Bible
Arrogant because fundamentalism states “I am smarter than you and closer to God than you and that’s why the conclusion I have arrived at of the meaning of scripture is accurate, while everyone else’s is insufficient”.
Illogical because we’re not talking about statements of facts that we can prove or disprove. We’re talking about interpretation of translations of copies of copies of ancient writings – written under completely different ways of thinking than our modernist frame of mind.
Peter Rollins describes this (a little) better than I can in How to Speak of God:
…it was believed that, by employing pure reason (reason untouched by prejudice) one could decipher the singular meaning of what was being studied (whether it be the natural world or supernatural revelation).
…when we make absolute claims concerning what we believe about the world or God, acting as if our opinions were the result of some painstaking, objective and rational reflection, we end up deceiving ourselves, for our understanding is always an interpretation of the information before us (whether the raw material of the world or revelation) and thus is always affected by what we bring to the table.
… In the aftermath of these deconstructive thinkers, it was virtually impossible to think critically about the world without acknowledging that our views have been influenced by such factors as our cultural tradition, biological traits, unconscious libidinal desires and economic position. The overall result of this genealogical critique was a radical undermining of any system that declared absolute authority by claiming to somehow reveal God or expose Ultimate Meaning to the clear light of day.
In this post-modern world, it just doesn’t make sense to attempt to assign one meaning to a particular Bible passage and state that there is no other way to interpret it.
Fundamentalism forces a cult-like devotion, that – even if not spoken, implied – if you leave this specific fundamentalist group, there is something wrong with you, and bad things will happen to you. This is evidenced when you are shunned for leaving the group, are treated as an outcast because you have left, and are told, in no uncertain terms, (often in a language of “love and concern”) that you no longer have the gift of the grace of God – even if you find another community of people that believe in Jesus. (Because that community does not practice and preach “our” interpretation, they don’t have the love of God, either.)
Fundamentalism tries to turn us into Renfield-like zombies making us feel like we’re not good enough for who we are. While God tells us He loves us, and says “come as you are, I will make you whole”, fundamentalism tells us that only by conforming to their pattern can we see God.
I have a hard enough time living my life with the myriad mistakes I make – I need the support and encouragement of other people. I don’t need to be reminded of what a screw-up I am. “If you don’t conform to our perfect image, there is something wrong with you. If you don’t follow us, there is something wrong with you. If you’re not perfect in all ways as we are you are bad. Bad, bad, bad.”
Fundamentalism feeds on your insecurity, telling you that you can be perfect only if you conform. Lulling you, hypnotizing you into becoming one if the legions of its minions.
And once it has you, it supplants God as the object of your worship. It fills your head with lies making you believe that it is all powerful and that you are acting as its agent. In effect you are speaking with the voice of God. Everything you do is beyond reproach, nothing you do can be suspected of being wrong. I’ve seen people hurt others, nearly destroying other people’s lives all the while believing they are not only sanctioned by God, but that they are actually doing the work of God, having been lied to by the Dark One.
For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.
Only by exposing this sort of fundamentalism to the sunlight of truth can it forever be destroyed in fire and ash.