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The True Nature of Fundamentalism

I want to thank Pat Robertson for helping people understand the true nature of fundamentalism. For many years it’s been a little confusing to some. Even the word “Christian” is confusing these days.

Not everyone defines “Christian” in the same way. Therefore, when one is trying to qualify what type of Christian one is, the terms become more confusing.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
Take the world “fundamentalist” as an example. I am a fundamentalist if you define that word as someone who adheres to the fundamentals of the Christian faith: that Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died a death of atonement, was raised from the dead by the power of God, ascended into heaven, and left the gift of the Holy Spirit to those who place their trust in Him as Lord and Savior.
 
I am not a Fundamentalist with a capital “F.” These are people who have strong fundamental beliefs regarding their faith, but their belief system narrows to the point that they draw a small circle around themselves.
 
All who disagree with them–not just on fundamental faith issues, but also on issues related to scriptural interpretation, polity, policy, politics and even non-moral issues–are considered enemies and are not to be trusted.
 
Fundamentalists attempt little or no cooperation with these people. Fellowship is broken and good will is discouraged.
 
As opposed to the idea that one is to love enemies, a radical teaching of Jesus, fundamentalism teaches that enemies are to be eliminated, a long-standing practice of our sinful humanity.
 
I’ll be the first to admit that loving my enemies is not possible apart from God’s power. It’s not within my nature to love my enemies. Yet, with God’s help, I can act lovingly toward those who have wronged me.
 
But I also know that revenge is ungodly. Paul wrote to the Romans: “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.'”
 
Recently, Robertson advocated the killing of President Hugo Chavez of <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Venezuela, a man with whom our country has some philosophical and political differences.
 
We are not at war with his country. In fact we are trade partners. We have differences, of course.
 
Robertson’s logic is basically this: since he’s not on our side on every issue, and since he’s even working against us in some cases, let’s get rid of him before he gets any worse.
 
It stands to reason that diplomacy and building good will with those leaders in other countries with whom we have differences is the route of choice over assassination. What kind of nation would we become if we went around assassinating every leader with whom we had had differences?
 
Fundamentalism is evil–whether it comes from a Christian or from a Muslim. Don’t think for one minute that a Muslim cannot recognize these words as fighting words–even words that are terroristic in nature.
 
This is Christian Jihad! These words are no different than a radical Muslim like Osama bin Laden calling for the assassination of our president.
 
When Muslims, or people of other faiths for that matter, hear words like these coming from a noted Christian who will get press throughout the world, the Christian faith is damaged.
 
And since the Republican Party has become so identified with some aspects of fundamentalist Christianity, our government’s credibility is damaged as well.
 
Instead of hearing a Christian leader teach the words of Jesus who said, “Love your enemies,” the world hears a Christian leader say: “Eliminate your enemies. It’s the American way. It’s the Christian way.”
 
It’s not the Christian way, but it is the way of the fundamentalist, who sometimes is a Christian.
 
Christian fundamentalists have only one way to get things done, and it’s their way. You must agree with their theology, agree with their church polity, agree with their denominational politics, agree with their political agenda, or you are not welcome to be a part of their group.
 
If you stick around, a fundamentalist will weed you out, marginalize you, and if necessary eliminate you. If you are wounded in the process they do not care, because they believe their actions have been blessed of God.
 
I have deep admiration for people who live a committed, sincere, life of faith, seeking to model their life after Jesus, living the fundamentals of the faith. I am very leery of those who draw small circles and spend most of their time booting others out.
 
Fundamentalists don’t just put the cross-hairs on people of marginal or poor character; sometimes they even crucify good people. Jesus is evidence of that.
 
Michael Helms is pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Moultrie, Ga. His column appears in The Moultrie Observer.