INTRODUCTION TO FUNDAMENTALISM
Religious fundamentalism is a 20th-21st century phenomenon, with roots
reaching back to 19th century religious reactions against modern
science. Fundamentalism today is primarily expressed in a
militant (and sometimes bloody) opposition to "liberalism" (as found
in both secular culture and religious circles). Religious
fundamentalisms, whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu or
otherwise, share essentially the same primary characteristics as
expressed in the concept of "enclave" (separation from the sinful
world, demands for personal and social purity, adherence to a strict
literal interpretation of a holy text, and loyalty to authoritarian
religious leaders; see The Fundamentalism Project below).
America, the Religious Right (comprised of a variety of religio-political
organizations and leaders of religious groups, both Christian and
other faiths) is the primary expression of Fundamentalism. The
Religious Right claims that America was once a Christian nation, and
that the concept of separation of church and state is a myth.
Although both of these claims are wrong (unless one counts the
theocratic state governments of colonial America, under which
Baptists were harshly persecuted), the ultimate goal of American Fundamentalism (the Religious Right) is the dissolution of
democratic government in favor of a theocracy (although not all
followers of the Religious Right are in agreement with this agenda).
In the Middle East, Islamic Fundamentalism (of
which the Taliban are the most well-known) finds expression in many
countries, sometimes evidencing itself in terrorist activity. The
ultimate goal of Islamic fundamentalism is the reinforcement of
current Middle East theocracies, and the spread of Islamic theocracies
to other nations. Although theocracy is viewed favorably by many
Muslims (fundamentalist or otherwise), most Muslims do not condone
In short, Fundamentalism is about total control
... strict control of those within the conclave, and seeking to
forcefully extend that control to those outside the enclave as a way
of enlarging the "faith" community.
A FEW QUOTES FROM CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALISTS that speak to the
theme of "control"
"We were here first. You don't take our shared common values and
say they are biased and bigoted ... We are the keepers of what is
right and what is wrong." (San Francisco Chronicle, September 13,
1993) Lou Sheldon, Founder and President of the
Traditional Values Coalition
"... we will have a major [Bible] translation we can control."
Press) Al Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological
Seminary, on the eve of the release of the new Holman Christian
I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we
won't have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over
again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will
be!" (Jerry Falwell, America Can Be Saved, 1979 pp. 52-53).
Continue to Part 2