When mainstream society uses the term “Fundamentalism,” they aren’t referring to a specific Protestant movement or a defined set of theological beliefs, instead they’re describing a stubborn attitude of strictness and close-mindedness that’s affiliated with hate, bigotry, fear, and ignorance.
It’s a term meant to be demeaning and negative.
Contrarily, the term “Progressive” is usually spun in a favorable light, and is associated with groundbreaking ideas, positive reform, and moving forward—not backwards.
If we take these definitions and apply them to Jesus, we can see that Christ was hatefully targeted by “Fundamentalists” for being a revolutionary “Progressive.”
But imagine if God had been fundamental instead of progressive.
A Fundamentalist God would’ve craved absolute control. So instead of giving us minds, hearts, and souls, we would’ve been lifeless beings devoid of any free will.
But God created us with the ability to think, feel and choose—to love, even if it meant chaos, rejection, heartbreak, and sin.
A Fundamentalist God tasked with selecting disciples would’ve created an arduous application process, where distinguished candidates would be tested, quizzed, and rigorously vetted for the sake of weeding out unqualified candidates. Only after a lifetime of preparation and an endless list of accomplishments could you even dream of applying. Eventually, after exhaustive observations, interviews, and examinations, only a lucky handful of the very best professional theologians, spiritual leaders, experts in the law, and religious elite would be chosen.
Instead, Jesus invited ordinary, unqualified, and unknown everyday people to be his disciples.
A Fundamentalist God would’ve required his Son to attend top religious academic institutions, formally learn the law, and successfully navigate through the most elite echelons of rabbinic society.
Instead, Jesus was a carpenter born into a lowly family with no wealth, fame, or fortune.
A Fundamentalist God would’ve gone to a wedding ceremony and sternly warned people about the moral dangers of dancing, frivolity, and intoxication.
Instead, Jesus turned water into wine—very good wine—so that the party could continue.
A Fundamentalist God would’ve used a powerful network of kingdoms, mighty armies, and severe laws to enforce a mandatory ideology.
Contrarily, Jesus uses a ragtag band of followers to create a grassroots movement of meekness, forgiveness, and sacrificial love to form divine relationships.
A Fundamentalist God, upon seeing moneychangers in the temple, would’ve demanded a cut of the profits to build a chain of temples capable of monopolizing communities, creating popularity, building political clout, and establishing power and control.
Instead, Jesus stormed in and overturned the tables, driving out the moneychangers with a whip—confronting corrupt institutionalism.
A Fundamentalist God would’ve followed strict religious customs and enforced “traditional” behavioral guidelines and expectations.
Instead, Jesus committed almost every social faux pas imaginable.
A Fundamentalist God wouldn’t have talked or socialized with women.
But Jesus goes out of his way to talk to women, dine with women, is bankrolled by women, and publicly recognizes the ministry of women.
A Fundamentalist God would’ve avoided the appearance of sin and avoided impropriety at all costs.
But Jesus lets a woman wash his feet with perfume—using her hair!
A Fundamentalist God would’ve treated an adulteress by saying, “Pick up some rocks and stone her to death!”
But Jesus tells the woman she isn’t condemned and asks her to go and sin no more—the mob disperses.
A Fundamentalist God would’ve relied on the most severe adherence to the law when settling legal matters—even corporal punishment.
But Jesus bestows mercy and forgiveness, and instructs us not to judge others.
But Jesus performed miracles and healings on the Sabbath.
A Fundamentalist God would’ve opportunistically eliminated all enemies.
But Jesus commands people to forgive their enemies and even talks about the traditional archenemies of the Jews—the Samaritans and Romans—in positive terms.
A Fundamentalist God would’ve respected and enforced religious authority.
But Jesus routinely condemns, confronts, and provokes the spiritual leaders of his day, even having the gall to call them hypocrites and a brood of vipers.
A Fundamentalist God would’ve ruthlessly imposed social hierarchies.
But Jesus broke all societal norms by teaching that the first will be last, the poor will be rich, the meek will be powerful, enemies will be forgiven, foreigners will be cared for, the rejected will be loved, and there will be neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female—but all will be one in Christ!
A Fundamentalist God would’ve survived at all costs and avoided the appearance of weakness—even if it meant killing others.
But Jesus condemns violence and sacrificed his own life for the sake of humanity.
Eventually, the religious leaders of Jesus’s time couldn’t take it anymore. For them, Jesus’s love for others was too extreme, too absurd, and too offensive.
In almost every way Jesus was radically progressive, and it was because of this that he was targeted as a heretic, troublemaker, and criminal. People wanted him dead.
Throughout His entire ministry Jesus was slandered, abused, hated, and persecuted for many things, but not once was he ever accused of being too conservative, or too careful, or too legalistic, or too safe, or too restrained, or too orthodox.
Jesus was killed because he never would, did, or want to conform to religious and cultural expectations. Jesus was a progressive maverick.
For the Fundamentalists of Jesus’s day it was inconceivable that he would dare question the strict rules, regulations, and expectations of their religion. They were incapable of seeing any other way beyond their own predetermined and narrow-minded path.
When we idolize tradition, crave power, judge, hate, and are fearful of change we can similarly become anti-Jesus.
It wasn’t long ago that Christians were fearful—some still are—of changing their practices of baptism, communion, and liturgy, and resisted the use of music in services, stubbornly fought against ending slavery, persistently endorsed segregation, spoke out against interracial marriage, refused to empower women, denied them the right to preach from a pulpit, and didn’t defend the human rights of anyone who was an outcast or social minority.
We didn’t want to forsake our religion for the sake of God’s love.
Some of today’s Christians continue to reject Christ by refusing to acknowledge racism, oppression, injustice, hate, and inequality. Instead of loving others they want to reject refugees, deport immigrants, and legally discriminate against people they view as “immoral.” They refuse aid to the poor, succumb to xenophobic rhetoric, selfishly hoard wealth, crave power, perpetuate fear, and yearn to kill their enemies.
These modern Christians are guilty of being like the Pharisees that Jesus condemned—having a fundamentalist mindset.
Thankfully, God isn’t a fundamentalist. God is love.
But imagine if God’s love for us was divinely described as being conservative, restrained, wary, oppressive, judgmental, and limited. What if God’s love could be taken away on a whim?
Imagine how horrible God’s love would be if it were regressive instead of progressive.
It’s unthinkable that God would be stingy with love, that there would be increased stipulations to who could get it, how it could be taken, and when it could be received.
The notion that God’s love is prohibitive goes against the entire gospel message.
Ironically, one of the only things Jesus tells us to be conservative about is judging others.
Unfortunately, a restricted love that is accusatory and riddled with guilt is often what Christians communicate to the world around them. They assume God’s love is only for particular people who believe particular things and act in particular ways. Instead of God’s love being generously given to everyone, it’s rarely given to anyone.
The reality is that God’s love is boundless—infinite.
This doesn’t mean that our world has succumbed to moral relativism or that there’s no such thing as sin or any differentiation between right and wrong, it simply means that God loves everyone—and so should we.
God’s love is for you.
So let’s pray that we can love others to the extent that Jesus did, beyond all practical sense and logical reason—beyond our own cultural and religious norms. God help us.