Saturday, March 29, 2008
The Texas Baptist Standard, billed as "The Newsmagazine of Texas Baptists" has a surprisingly (to me, at least) perceptive and reasonable article about fundamentalism entitled "Fundamentalists of all stripes want to turn back the clock" by Marv Knox. Some highlights:
[F]undamentalists of every faith share at least one common characteristic -- resistance to modernity. ...It goes on to list other common denominators of fundamentalists. The list includes dogmatic faith; faith serving as a defining identity; fear -- of the different, of change, of ambiguity and of uncertainty; and a will to political power.
"Fundamentalism worldwide is religious anti-modernism," noted Roger Olson, professor of theology at Baylor University's Truett Theological Seminary in Waco. ...
"Ironically, the faith that should elicit a higher form of morality easily descends into giving one permission for the ends to justify the means, because one is fighting for God."Oh, hey! That just described Dr. Michael Egnor and the rest of the Discovery Institute, didn't it?
The distinction between healthy faith and militant religion is narrow, [Dan] Stiver acknowledged.
"A healthy crusader is focused and aggressive but is not so willing to let the end justify the means, keeps loving the enemy at the forefront -- like Martin Luther King Jr. -- and more quickly can identify with and have compassion even for the opponent." ...
People of faith often gravitate to extreme positions because of what they seek in and for themselves, the scholars stressed.
An external focus on "being against something" provides longed-for identity, Stiver noted. "It's a defensive posture in the sense of often 'circling the wagons.'
"It's usually defined by a pretty tight system of labeling what's right and wrong -- black-and-white thinking. There's good, and there's evil.
"Out of that comes a great deal of energy that motivates one to fight. The sense is you get a lot of fulfillment, identity, purpose and meaning in one's faith from fighting this good fight."
While such behavior manifests itself as theological, "it's more psychological or sociological," Stiver asserted. ...
[F]ear causes some other typical characteristics -- a glorification of the past or of orthodoxy, a certainty about one's own faith or interpretation of one's own faith; an entrenchment mentality, a feeling that 'truth' must be guarded against encroaching heresy and difference, an unwillingness to fellowship with/cooperate with/tolerate those who see faith issues in another way."
I don't know if these "Texas Baptists" are the same people, but it sounds like they might be.
However it happened, it's a good article that, refreshingly, doesn't try to play the Christian exceptionalism card.