fundamentalism as ecumenical challenge

March 20, 2008

I owe the title of the post to a book by Jürgen Moltmann and Hans Küng, but necessarily the content. Sometimes I’m really sorry for my fundamentalist friends… well, not that I really have any of those in all honesty. I guess I’m not that good at the ecumenical challenge thing. But I had many, many of them don’t really want to be my friends anymore. But this is my thoughts nevertheless.

OK, let me again start out by saying some words on what fundamentalism is. Part of the reason why I don’t have any fundamentalism friends, is because I don’t consider my conservative friends to be fundamentalists. So let this be clear: charismatics or evangelicals ain’t neccesarily fundamentalists, neither are those without theological education, and fundamentalists ain’t those who think Paul wouldn’t have approved even of monogamous homosexual relationships, or that drinking beer is bad. Yes, fundamentalists isn’t even those who think the earth is 6000 years old, that the great flood covered mount Everest, or that Moses wrote down the whole Pentateuch (including the part describing his own death). Granted, some of these characteristics and groups or characteristics do largely overlap with fundamentalists, but when writing this I do not equate them.

I like Dominic Crossan’s destinction between literalism and fundamentlism in the second half of this video. In summary: literalism is taking everything in the Bible that could be taken literally literally. Fundamentlism adds that if you don’t take it literally, your not a Christian, and suggesting that maybe it shouldn’t be taken literally, makes you an anti-Christian. So, I have friends who are literalists, but who can still say: “we are open for conversation, although we warm you that chances are really slim that you’ll change our minds”. Even within this more narrow definition of fundamentalism I also had some friends who I have to label fundamentalists.

Now, I’m sorry for these people, and for many of the literalists as well, because they really have a hard time in theological conversations, especially when talking to university trained theologians. Not necessarily a hard time defending their statements, but a hard time being liked, a hard time being taken seriously, and sometimes also a hard time being considered as part of the conversation… even the church. It’s really funny, how people would want to get rid of the fundamentalists by throwing them out… this act would kind of ring a bell… this act would be reacting against something by doing things in a very similar fashion to that which you are reacting against, not true?

It was this website (yougoingtohell) which again got me thinking about this. The easy thing would be to throw these kind of people out of the church. The easy thing would be to tell the Muslims in the middle-East that George Bush is a fundamentalist, and therefore not a Christain. The reality is that if ever I get to a Muslim community where the kids were killed in the war, I’ll have to say: “I’m sorry for what other Christians have done”. In Heart of Christianity Marcus Borg (one of the people fundamentalists would like to see in hell) say that at the heart of faith you’ll find “God, Bible and Jesus”. And at the heart of fundamentalist faith you find basically the same things, although interpreted differently.

Now this is the difficult part. Your fundamentalist neighbour who might considered you non-Christian because of whichever reason (and trust me, many of them have a loooong list of reasons they could possibly use), is a Christian. You cannot rid yourself of John 17, and maybe we should stop throwing John 17 at the fundamentalists (although it would be nice if they read it) and start living John 17. Yes, I know it’s difficult, and many times when we try we are thrown out, but I think you catch my drift.


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