Fundamentalist: we’re all at risk of becoming one

Fundamentalist: we’re all at risk of becoming one October 17, 2013

It’s easy to take a stand against Christian fundamentalism. Many of us have had previous experiences within the toxicity of such a worldview, and by the grace of God, have found our way out of it. Recently however, I’ve been reflecting on the concept of fundamentalism in general, and feel like we all need to have a hard discussion.

None of us are out of the woods yet.

You see, fundamentalism comes in all shapes and sizes and is an easy position/attitude to gravitate towards. When we focus exclusively on forms of conservative Christian fundamentalism, and don’t take a critical look at our current selves, I think we deceive ourselves into thinking that fundamentalism is either something that is behind us or something that we are immune to.

It’s not.

Gravitating towards a fundamentalist mindset is an easy thing to do; it is a miserable lake you can find yourself swimming in without even knowing you had even put on your bathing suit. It’s something that too easily, “just happens”.

I remember when I was first getting used to my new worldview, and was wrestling with a lot of the anger I had towards conservative Christianity for all the years I felt like I had wasted without ever experiencing the true, counter-cultural Jesus. As part of my journey, I swung far in the other direction– veering quickly towards a new kind of fundamentalism. I could have easily arrived, and stayed there, if it weren’t for a friend who lovingly (and publicly) pointed out that I was in danger of simply becoming a progressive fundamentalist instead of a conservative one. Once he pointed it out, I realized he was right– and quite honestly, it scared the crap out of me to such a degree that I began working hard on developing a bit more self awareness to prevent swimming in that lake again.

It doesn’t matter which side of the lake you’re swimming in– it’s the same damn lake. Just different sides.

I recently saw this danger in my own “tribe” when a fellow progressive blogger sparked a discussion that many seemed to wish he hadn’t sparked. Having a strong radar for fundamentalist tendencies, I had a difficult time watching some of the online discussions in response to the dialogue. While some engaged with his content and ideas, others attributed dishonorable motive to his original post, and still others criticized him for even asking the question– as if the question was somehow “off limits”.

It’s the same stuff we used to do in a different kind of fundamentalism. This example, and other recent examples like it, reminds me that we’re all at risk of becoming fundamentalists of a different kind if we don’t develop and maintain vigilance around the issue of self-awareness as to how we carry our beliefs, and how we treat the “other”.

While this whole blog is dedicated to wrestling with the toxicity of Christian fundamentalism, we’d do well to realize that fundamentalism isn’t about religion, it’s about attitude.

Fundamentalism isn’t about the presence or absence of black and white beliefs (we ALL have some, even if it’s just the belief that nothing is black and white), but is about the attitude with which we hold those black and white beliefs.

If we’re not careful, we’re all at risk– Evangelicals, Progressives, Atheists, Hindus…

All of us.

We all have the potential to hold our beliefs not with confidence, but arrogance.

We all have the potential to attack the person asking a question instead of wrestling with a potential answer.

We all have the potential to see those who find their black-and-whiteness in other areas as being “out” while we are “in” because we have the correct white vs black belief ratio.

Without some self awareness, and some people who love us enough to warn us, we could easily get distracted and unintentionally find ourselves swimming in the same lake we criticize. Whatever your faith tradition, even if it’s no faith at all, the one thing that can make your journey worse and a little more lonely, is finding yourself swimming in that lake.

To avoid it, get some people in your life who love you enough to point it out when they see it. Work on holding your beliefs in confidence, while rejecting the slightest hint of arrogance. When someone asks a question or sparks a dialogue, make the conscious decision to believe what is good and right about them, and nothing more. Most importantly, work on seeing the “other” as someone just like you, but who simply has a different black-to-white ratio.

Because none of us want to become a fundamentalist.

Especially me.


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