As recently as six years ago I was a self proclaimed phundamentalist (spelt with a ‘ph’ because there is no fun in fundamentalism). It was my way of trying to set myself apart from the wishy washy Christianity portrayed on TV and in all the bestselling books. I saw myself as someone who was more serious about his faith and did not endorse their self centered messages. I later came to loath the fundamentalist tag as well though as it boxed me in with the loveless and proud folk who were labeled under the same banner (although to be honest a fair bit of that had rubbed off on me as well). Nowadays; I no longer believe that there is such a thing as a Christian fundamentalist. According to the Oxford Dictionary, a fundamentalist is “A form of religion, especially Islam or Protestant Christianity, which upholds belief in the strict, literal interpretation of scripture”.
I think what we have in certain Christian circles today would be more accurately described as “Modern Pharisaism”. They have a certain set of beliefs and practices that one must adhere to in order to be accepted; but these beliefs and practices are highly selective and do not seem to apply to all of scripture. To provide you with some examples, let me share a few things that, should they not be taken literally, would hardly raise an eyebrow amongst the fundamentalist groups I know of.
Two things I require of you…Remove falsehood and lies from me; give me neither poverty nor riches-Feed me with the food allotted to me; lest I be full and deny you and say, “who is the Lord?”. Or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of the Lord. – Proverbs 30:7-9
The one who has two garments should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same. – Luke 3:11
In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. – Luke 14:33
If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is more profitable for you for one part of your body to perish than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.- Matthew 5:29
The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated? - 1 Corinthians 6:7
These are all powerful verses. But those signs of love, sacrifice and character do not seem to be as important to fundamentalism as say ones intellectual position on the age of the earth, or what translation of the bible one uses or what one believes about the end times (To be nice to fundies they do emphasize self discipline and holiness a lot as well). Here is another one from Matthew worth mentioning too as I don’t feel it holds much weight in fundamentalist circles.
“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you”. – Matthew 5:44
Most fundamentalists cannot even love or speak well of other believers when they are in disagreement let alone bless their enemies.
In the end; I think that fundamentalism (and I am talking about those people under the label and not the mythical creatures that actually do interpret all of scripture literally) is about trying to preserve a certain view of scripture because their faith is built on a specific interpretation of the bible rather than on the person of Christ. Obviously creeds, doctrines, intelligent reasoning and preserving the truth are important and I am in no way suggesting here that they are not vital to ones faith and walk.We should all pursue truth and wisdom but build those things on Christ who is the foundation in whom those things are found. Otherwise, if we take the fundamentalist position, we find ourselves forced to defend and hold onto our preconceived ideas regardless of how nonsensical they are because when they are challenged it feels as though Christ himself is being attacked.
I think Paul nailed it in Galatians 6 when Eugene Peterson paraphrased his words regarding ‘Christian Pharisees’ as “They want an easy way to look good before others, lacking the courage to live by a faith that shares Christ’s sufferings and death. All their talk about the law is gas. They themselves do not keep the law! And they are highly selective in the laws that they do observe. They only want you to be circumcised so they can boast of their success in recruiting you to their side. That is contemptible!
Don't be a fundie. Be a Christ follower.