I am thinking of the awful fruits of the massacre of innocents in Norway by a Christian fundamentalist gunman. How is this evil different from that of the Muslim extremists in the 9-11 atrocities? How is it different from the attacks of the Christian fundamentalist and political right against the GLBT community?
At least in my lifetime, “Christian fundamentalism” has been used in reference to Christians who believe the Bible to be dictated by God to humans who wrote it into books that, by Divine guidance, came to compose the present Bible. Being God-dictated, they believe the Bible to be literally true, both historically and scientifically. Catholic fundamentalists may expand that dictation to include the Appocrapha and Mormon fundamentalists may expand it further to include the Book of Mormon. Likewise, fundamentalist Muslims and Jews consider their scripture sacred and literally true as they read it.
“Fundamental” is perhaps an unfortunate choice of words. I would consider that the word, fundamental, would describe my own view of the Bible, the “word of God,” and the “will of God.” I seek to get to the core of the messages of the Bible, some of which might be a mix of history, reflection of the writer or editors’ observations, inspiration, ignorance or even prejudice.
To my mind, the core of Jesus’ teaching that is fundamental to my Christian belief and practice is expressed in these statements which provide: 1) a simple command: “Love God and your neighbor as yourself;” 2) A measure by which you can recognize the validity of actions on the claim of faith: “By their fruits you will know them.” 3) how we show our love of Jesus: “Inasmuch as you did it to the least of these, you did it to me;” and lastly, 4) the present and eternal reward: “The kingdom of Heaven is at hand . . . enter into your reward.”
I will accept the current use of “fundamentalism.” Jimmy Carter addressed it and its consequences across various religions when asked by Trista Tippet on National Public Radio’s Speaking of Faith why so much violence in the post Cold War era has a religious dimension. He responded:
I think it’s because of fundamentalists. Fundamentalism is a characteristic of dominant males who, first of all, subjugate women and derogate women’s rights. Secondly, an aspect of their fundamentalism is that they assume that they have a rare or unique relationship with God Almighty, whatever god they define, and their beliefs, therefore, are ordained by God. And since their beliefs are God’s beliefs, they are infallible. They cannot make a mistake or acknowledge a mistake. Anyone who disagrees with them, by definition, is wrong because ‘the disagreement is with me and with God.’ And being wrong, you are inferior and, in extreme cases, you are considered to be subhuman. And so that’s where violence erupts and condemnation erupts and value of a human life within a person who disagrees with you has little or no value. And that’s where the violence comes out, and that’s where the unnecessary war comes out, and that’s where what we define as terrorism comes out.
I think of the fear and hateful language and acts by American “Fundamentalist Christians” against the GLBT community. That isn’t so different, other than in lethal scope, than the horror and pain inflicted by that Christian fundamentalist in Norway.