The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks resulted in an American crash course on Islam that quickly led into a comparison with Christianity. Islamic militants were suddenly compared to Christian extremists.
The popular TV show “West Wing” cautiously explored the relationship between Islamic and Christian fundamentalism.
One of the show’s leading characters asked high school students to name an American group that compared to Islamic fundamentalists. His example: “Islamic extremists is to Islam as KKK is to Christianity.”
New Testament scholar Marcus Borg wrote, “Islamic fundamentalism, like Christian fundamentalism, is relatively new–each arising in the past 150 years. But Islamic fundamentalism is quite different from the Christian form.”
But Tom Enrich of Religion News Services noted, “Islamic fundamentalism sounds disturbingly like Christian fundamentalism.”
“They show the same instincts: damn the infidel, reverse modernity and scour the holy book for justification,” wrote Enrich of Muslim and Christian fundamentalists.
Author of the extensive 442-page book that explores fundamentalism in Judaism, Islam and Christianity, Karen Armstrong framed the issue in terms of a “battle for God,” the title of her book.
“Fundamentalists are determined to drag God and religion from the sidelines, where they’ve been relegated in secular culture, back to center stage,” Armstrong told Beliefnet.com.
She noted that Christian fundamentalists in America commit fewer acts of violence for two reasons. First, they live in a more peaceful society. Second, they believe divine action will collapse American society.
The communications director for a fundamentalist breakaway group from the Baptist General Convention of Texas defended fundamentalism.
Gary Ledbetter wrote, “In our current setting, fundamentalism–ill understood, carelessly defined and broadly described–is the bogeyman in all religions.”
Robert Parham is BCE’s executive director.