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Welcome to the Street Prophets Coffee Hour. This is an open thread where we can share our thoughts and comments about the day. For today’s discussion, I thought it might be interesting to bring up the subject of religious fundamentalism.

The concept of religious fundamentalism first came into common use in the 1920s when it began to be used to describe Protestant Christians who interpreted their version of the Bible literally and were intolerant of any criticism of what they considered the Absolute Truth. Paul Kurtz, writing in Free Inquiry published by the Council for Secular Humanism, writes:

“A fundamentalist is a person who is committed to a set of basic beliefs or doctrines with dogmatic and inflexible loyalty.”
Fundamentalism is generally associated with universalizing religions, that is, those religions that seek converts. Fundamentalists feel that they have the Absolute Truth and that their particular version of religion has a monopoly on this Truth. All other religions are, therefore, false religions and perhaps even evil religions.

This is an open thread. Feel free to talk about fundamentalism, or whatever else is on your mind. Discussions of dinner are welcomed.

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Comment Preferences

  •  For information on Christian Nationalism (8+ / 0-)

    you can link to:

    It's a large article so I recommend that you click on the title (page 1) which will take you straight to the table of contents and then click any chapter you want to take you directly to the content.

    A million Arcosantis.

    by Villabolo on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 01:30:07 PM PST

  •  Pope Frances calls religious fundamentalism (10+ / 0-)

    a sickness.  Nuff said.

    •  Well, the Holy Father understands a distinction (4+ / 0-)

      between something called "Biblical inerrancy" which is that while the Bible may contain historical errors and allegory, it's message is "inerrant" (which forms the basis of the Catholic, and other denominations' official understanding of Scripture) and "Biblical literalism", which forms the basis of evangelical Fundamentalist understanding of the Bible.

      It is possible to be a Roman Catholic and not believe that the world was created in six days (and don't forget, there are TWO very different creation stories in Genesis) but nearly impossible to be a Southern Baptist and believe that.

      •  That doesn't quite explain scriptures such as: (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ojibwa, commonmass

        "If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts,  you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity."

        Deuteronomy 25:11-12 New International Version

        What relevancy would "inerrancy" have considering such asinine scriptures?

        A million Arcosantis.

        by Villabolo on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 01:56:14 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  First of all, I don't subscribe to that doctrine (5+ / 0-)

          myself in any strict way, but what my answer would be to you is that it represents a cultural norm of the day in which it was written--actually, truth be told, I suspect a very conservative interpretation of a perceived norm--and frankly, I find it pretty irrelevant. I certainly would never preach on it, but I don't preach much. I'm a lay associate of a religious order and not a Priest, most of my preaching is done from the organ. ;)

          The problem we have here is that people who dislike religion tend to see things like the fundies do and insist that a person is insincere if they don't think like Rick Warren. The other thing that is often forgotten is that for Christians, Jesus specifically exempted them from most of the Mosaic law, lots of the stuff you find in books like Deuteronomy. For many liberal Christians, it's more cultural and historical (or quasi-historical) than anything we must strictly follow. Which is why I wish that especially misogynists and homophobes who profess to be Christians stop using that stuff in the oppressive ways they do.

          •  That sidesteps the issue of "divine inspiration" (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            commonmass, Ojibwa

            The cultural norms of the day where certainly different however these scriptures were phrased as if God had spoken them directly.

            Since the Old Testament writers were basically putting their words into God's mouth that pretty much explains the error of those who claim that the basic message of the Bible - mistakes not withstanding - was inerrant.

            The Bible is more than errant it is fictitious.

            A million Arcosantis.

            by Villabolo on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 02:18:07 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I don't think it does. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Ojibwa, writeofwinter

              The Bible is what you make of it. You can find anything in the Bible, pretty much. Including all sorts of "good" things.

              Don't forget, that pretty much the reason for the "Old Testament" being included in the Christian Bible is to prove that Jesus was the Messiah. Isiah is more important in that context than Deuteronomy.

              Biblical scholarship, when done properly, includes a great deal of outside research and understanding of the times in which it was written. And if if makes you feel better, I don't have a whole lot of use for St. Paul, either.

              •  I'm not a huge fan of the St. Paul represented by (4+ / 0-)

                a lot of Christian Testament writings forged in his name.
                And I can't accept his apocalypticism either.

                But, as I recall, he did seem to have said "the law kills," when he was contrasting following the letter of Mosaic law with the message of love and compassion.

                I think Bart Ehrman (perhaps John Spong?)suggested that Paul's joy at being saved through God's grace might have been because Paul was a homosexual.
                After all, he wasn't married and didn't have children, which was considered a serious violation of religious law at the time.

                There's no proof he was, of course, but Paul was certainly no promoter of the absolutes of religious law.
                That was one of the disagreements he apparently had with James on the direction early Christianity ought to take.

                •  My friend Jack Spong said a lot of things, (4+ / 0-)

                  including intimating that the belief in the historical Jesus is immaterial to the practice of Christianity.

                  People who take theology and Biblical scholarship seriously tend to make a lot of arguments, for a lot of different things. To me, it's what makes the study of theology attractive to me. It's a lot richer than your populist evangelicals would like to have you think.

                  Bishop Spong is an interesting and highly polarizing figure in Anglicanism and in Christianity in general. What is interesting--especially about Anglicanism (which isn't perfect: both Spong and Robinson and Barbara Harris as well nearly caused schisms in the Communion over the course of the last several decades) is that an Anglo-Catholic like me and a Low/Broad Churchman like Jack Spong have something to discuss, and occasionally agree upon. That is in part because what really binds Anglicans is not necessarily the Bible: it's the Prayerbook.

                •  I will also add that Jack ordained the (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  first openly gay male Priest in Anglicanism (and it was a PR disaster, by the way, but he did it anyway. He is a great friend of LGBT Christians.)

                  •  Spong's writings are what kept me a Christian (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    commonmass, Ojibwa

                    When I first started to read his work it was such a relief to realize that my doubts were not just limited to me.
                    My apologies if I have misrepresented him here.
                    I do not agree with everything of his, but I will always appreciate his willingness to explore difficult paths.

                    •  His Grace is a great man, (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      and a great theologian. I am happy to know him.

                    •  You may find this amusing: (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      given your user name, which I suppose refers to Franklin or Eleanor, but my family rented a house in Cambridge, MA for many years from the Roosevelt family. THAT Roosevelt family.

                      •  TR & Eleanor are distant cousins (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:

                        through the daughters of one of the original settlers of New Amsterdam. His daughter by his first marriage entered my family tree, while his daughter from his second marriage entered the Roosevelt family tree. So we share a many-times-great grandfather and I'm very fond of both cousins (although perhaps not of the Panama shenanigins or of San Juan Hill).
                        My family has no relation to FDR, however.
                        The world is more entwined than we often realize.

                •  I'm one of Paul converts, (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  a gentile  slacker hanging around the Shrine to the unknown god when Paul showed up. A small, kosher, Jewish cult wouldn't have interested me for  more than ten minutes.

                  Fundamentalists don't believe in poetic truths. The Bible is filled with these truths starting with the creation story.

                  "There ain't no sanity clause." Chico Marx

                  by DJ Rix on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 09:29:06 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

      •  *cough* Here's one Southern Baptist who does. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ojibwa, Cassandra Waites, marykk, DJ Rix

        Before anyone jumps to either the "no true Southern Baptist" fallacy or the "why are you still a Southern Baptist" line of attack, allow me to offer a few examples. Consider this quote:

        "Well, Christianity and being a true believer, you know, I think there's the body of Christ which comes from all the Christian groups around the world, or outside the Christian groups. I think that everybody that loves Christ or knows Christ, whether they're conscious of it or not, they're members of the body of Christ. And I don't think that we're going to see a great sweeping revival that will turn the whole world to Christ at any time. What God is doing today is calling people out of the world for His name. Whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world, or the non-believing world, they are members of the body of Christ because they've been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus, but they know in their hearts they need something that they don't have and they turn to the only light they have and I think they're saved and they're going to be with us in heaven."
        The speaker was one of the most famous Southern Baptists in history - Billy Graham. Now, do we argue whether Graham "stopped being" a Southern Baptist at this point?  After all, inclusion of this sort is anathema to most fundamentalists, right?

        Interesed parties could also consider Paul Simmons and Frank Tupper, both of whom rose to leading positions at the SBC's flagship seminary before being pressured into (respectively) early retirement and departure.

        There is no direct parallel to excommunication or defrocking in Baptist denominations, since there is usually very little authority granted to the denominational organizations, so who is to say that Graham, Simmons and Tupper aren't Southern Baptists?

        Just because the current leadership of the denomination doesn't like them doesn't mean they stopped being Southern Baptists...did it?

        The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

        by wesmorgan1 on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 04:44:02 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  The problem with the word "Fundamentalism" (6+ / 0-)

    is that it describes a particular movement, which you allude to in the diary, but also fails to explain some contemporaneous (or nearly so) movements outside of evangelical Christianity like the reaction in the Roman Catholic and to some extent, Anglican church against something called Modernism. Essentially, this was a kind of second Counter-reformation, (a most apt term as it's biggest target was the 19th Century "Tuebingen School" of Lutheran/Protestant theology) and with the evangelical idea of "Fundamentalism", sought to extinguish the best of the Enlightenment as refers to (more progressive) Christian theological constructs, most importantly, Modernism's more questioning view on everything from Biblical miracles--especially the miracles of Jesus--to the historical accuracy of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures.

    In short, Fundamentalism and the Roman Catholic "war" on Modernism (as well as the defection from Anglicanism by the Tractarian/Oxford Movement of the future Cardinal Newman decades before) has been a reaction against liberal religion and theology which seeks to find deeper meaning in religious texts and dogmas more along the lines of the Enlightenment than the Counter-Reformation. These reactionaries have become the face of public Christianity in this country today: sadly, because there are many, many liberal Christians (and Jews and Muslims) in this country even in places like the South and Western Mid-West (like Kansas).

    It is my sincere belief as a serious student of Church History and Anglicanism in particular that the rise of mass public media has intensified the attention that reactionary Christians receive partly because of the potential to broadcast through radio and later television and partly because the evangelicals are a lot more "sexy" when it comes to journalistic  reportage.

    It is no accident that the homophobic evangelical Rick Warren's speech at the 09 Presidential Inauguration was broadcast on news coverage, and the invocation given by the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, a man who it can be argued is in Apostolic Succession (though Rome would disagree with this), was not.

    I often wonder what our public view towards religion would be in this country if its public face were Congregationalists, Episcopalians, Lutherans and Presbyterians instead of often irregularly-ordained evangelical Mega-Church pastors.

  •  The blockquote is interesting (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    anodnhajo, commonmass, Ojibwa, marykk

    and I'm curious as to how many here agree with it.

    To me it seems as though it could describe anyone who adheres to any particular faith, and that's not really my understanding of fundamentalism.

    •  Long time, no see! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Indexer, Ojibwa, Cassandra Waites

      The problem I see with the blockquoted statement is this: it is possible, I think, to have an unquestioning loyalty while also using your brain and engaging in serious debate.

      I took a Torah course at a Conservadox Synagogue in Boston at the invitation of the Rabbi there, whom I knew from ecumenical work in social justice in the area. I have no doubt that he, and everyone else in that class had a loyal and unquestioning belief in YHWH, and I can tell you, without a doubt, everyone in that class engaged in spirited debate about exactly what it means to have that belief.

      That, I think, is healthy if you're going to engage in religion.

    •  I think the adjectives dogmatic and inflexible are (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Indexer, Ojibwa, commonmass

      key to defining fundamentalism rather than faith in general.
      The quieter and non-sexy (my adjectives) denominations mentioned above by commonmass encourage their members to think and question.
      Fundamentalists, as defined by this discussion, base so much of the structure of their lives on inflexible beliefs and rules that they will fight tooth and nail against anything that appears to contradict them. The fear seems to be that any change will render their lives/faith worthless. I remember a pastor from my childhood who used to thunder "The whole Bible--or the Bible full of holes!"
      For example, consider the attack some fundie pastors made on the discovery of dinosaur feathers and pigmentation, lest these features be used to support the idea of the evolution of birds from dinosaur ancestors.
      Fundamentalists are definitely encouraged to park their brains at the door of the church.

  •  Intolerant of any criticism of the Absolute Truth (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    commonmass, Ojibwa

    Walking zombies.  Lot's of these sorts specially in the South;

    They used religion to justify slavery.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 01:44:53 PM PST

    •  You know, I often will be channel-surfing (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ojibwa, Shockwave, Cassandra Waites

      on radio or television and stop to hear a sermon by some evangelical pastor. Often, these sermons are excellent and display a very good knowledge of Scripture. Very often, I find that some of these pastor's public statements on everything from gays to women to social welfare are in direct confrontation with their preaching in the context of public worship.

      Then, I listen to the sermons I hear from Episcopal clergy, my particular brand of Christianity. The biggest differences I here between the many Anglican Priests and Bishops and Deacons I have heard and their evangelical counterparts is that how our clergy behaves outside of Mass* when it comes to a sense of social justice and general intellectual curiosity outside of the study of Scripture and dogma.

      *"Mass" is a word used for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist by many Episcopalians, including myself, but not all, but it bears noting that it's not just a "Roman Catholic" word.

    •  Trust me, it's a mistake to think fundamentalist (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ojibwa, commonmass, Shockwave

      Christians are a Southern specialty.
      I knew a lot of them in New York State.
      And slavery existed in the North as well--I just recently learned that the founder of Harvard Law School came from a family that owned almost 30 slaves. Presumably these people justified slavery the same way.

  •  denial of overlap between religion & culture (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ojibwa, Cassandra Waites, marykk

    Fundamentalism is what happens when more often than not highly educated people decide that mainstream practice of their religion has been corrupted by worldly values and customs, survivals from before the religion was imposed upon people to whom it is not native, secular imports from that originating culture riding in on the religion's coattails, and/or secular imports from the regional or global hegemon.  They then set out to purge "orthodox" faith and practice of these corrupting influences.

    The problem is that it's not actually possible to separate religion from culture, ironically especially for people who take the position that religion must not only touch every aspect of life but that people must turn everything they think, say, and do into an act of devotion.

    At best you get the Christian rock types who just need to have their own special branded version of everything.  At worst you get people who don't care about anyone or anything other than their own souls.  Most often you get people who simply can't distinguish the religious baby from the secular bathwater, so the "fundamentals" end up including a lot of cultural baggage and the newly-minted fundamentalists set off on their sacred mission to universalize the particular.  Muslim fundamentalists want to turn everyone into 8th Century Gulf Arabs; Christian fundamentalists wants to turn everyone into 1950s Middle Americans or 17th Century Europeans; and so on.

    Domestic politics is the continuation of civil war by other means.

    by Visceral on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 03:31:43 PM PST

  •  Dominic Crossan (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassandra Waites, Ojibwa

    had a very interesting take on the topic. and one worth considering:  

    If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

    by marykk on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 05:18:18 PM PST

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