Christianity Gone Political

Here’s another definition:

fundamentalism [fəndəmentəlɪzəm, fəndəmenəlɪzəm]
A noun

1 fundamentalism

the interpretation of every word in the sacred texts as literal truth


Category Tree:

I mentioned in my previous post how the word ‘evangelical’ gets thrown around by the general populace as something of a curse word (and again, here, based on the definition above, I would consider myself a fundamentalist). I was reminded today that the word ‘fundamentalist’ gets the same treatment. (See this thread and this quote — “ Yeah, the parallels between recent fundamentalist Christian pushes for legislation on private matters on behalf of society and hisba are reasonable to draw…” — for examples.)

There are two reasons, I think, why this is the case. The first is that we, as Christians, continually face the scorn of the world for our “close-minded” and unbending beliefs. Christ told us that we would be hated and persecuted by the world for our beliefs, and I think that, to some extent, we are seeing that in daily life. However, I don’t want to focus on this reason, primarily because there is nothing we can do about it except face it with grace, patience, and
compassion, sharing our beliefs with all who will listen. Rather, I want to focus on a second reason why the word ‘fundamental’ has become such a bitter taste in the mouths of our peers.

It seems to me that both the words ‘evangelical’ and ‘fundamental’ carry as much political significance as they do religious. To a point I think there is a place for this, but by the same token, I think we also have to ask ourselves how political we should be. What I mean is this — I have watched Christians and politicians alike push for legislation that essentially forces our religious beliefs on the nation at large, and I have come to believe that maybe that’s not such
a good thing. For example, take the Terry Schiavo case. I’m all for the preservation of and the right to life. What troubles me is this recent move by the Congress to subvert the judicial system by making a law that is specific to Terry alone (at least as I understand it). As much as I would love to see Terry’s family win this case, I’m not convinced that this kind of special treatment is helpful, especially when other significant issues are being ignored. And what I’m hearing from certain corners is that this is yet another move by ‘fundamentalist Christians’ to exert their will upon the public, and the tone is one of anger, hatred, and bitterness. This does not help us to share the Gospel.

I’m not saying, though, that Christians should not be involved in politics. Quite the contrary, actually. I believe that Christians should be very active in politics, but that we should choose
our involvements wisely. One place that I personally refuse to back down is on the subject of abortion. I truly believe that abortion of all forms should be illegal because of the number of human lives lost each and every year. I know that in taking this stance, I am labelled cynically as ‘evangelical’ and ‘fundamentalist’, but it’s a ‘burden’ I’m willing to bear and carry because I believe it is truly right and good. (Frankly, I see it as more of an ethical issue than religious one.) There are some places, though, that I must part ways with others of like faith because I believe theirs is an abuse of the system.

There is a statement that I have heard come up in many political/religious discussions regarding personal and civil rights. The statement goes something like this: “Your rights end where mine begin.” Now, just because this statement orginated from an unbeliever does not necessarily mean that it is incorrect. It’s something that I have taken with a grain of salt, but the more I think about it, the more I’m inclined to agree with it. (At the very least, I’ve yet to think of a single exception to that rule.) Here’s my rationale: The United States was founded upon the rights of every man to worship God as he sees fit (even if it means not worshipping God at all). To that end, our laws have been established in such a way as to give every man free reign within reasonable limits) to do so. When one religious movement or another attempts to insert legislation to force certain religious beliefs on everyone else, that threatens those rights inherent to the foundation of this great nation. This is why I think sometimes churches and Christians are wrong to push for particular bills and laws. It seems to me that fundamental
Christianity should be involved in politics only to the point of preserving the basic civil rights upon which this country was founded. Leave the role of winning souls to Christ to the church,
to evangelism, to individual encounters with real, live people. We aren’t going to win the Kingdom through politics. We can only do that by showing personal compassion and love to those around us.

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I realize that post these posts may seem a little bit radical, and I welcome discussion on them. Please feel free to post comments here, but I have also posted them at Open Dialogue, so I would definitely welcome further, in depth discussion there.

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Update: Based on Joel’s comment, I opted to do a little further research, and here’s what I found:

fun·da·men·tal·ism (fŭn’də-mĕntl-ĭz’əm) pronunciation
n.


  1. A usually religious movement or point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism.
    1. often Fundamentalism
      An organized, militant Evangelical movement originating in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century in opposition to Protestant Liberalism and secularism, insisting on the inerrancy of Scripture.
    2. Adherence to the theology of this movement.

fun’da·mental·ist adj. & n.
fun’da·men’tal·istic adj.

And further:

A group protesting “modernist” tendencies in the churches circulated a 12-volume publication called The Fundamentals (1909–12), in which five points of doctrine were set forth as
fundamental: the Virgin birth, the physical resurrection of Jesus, the infallibility of the Scriptures, the substitutional atonement, and the physical second coming of Christ.

And from here (backing up what Joel stated):

“Fundamentalist” is a term that is frequently bandied about in the news media these days. Unfortunately, this term has been used so casually in describing anyone who seems to hold some sort of traditional religious belief-be they a Bible Baptist TV preacher, a Hasidic rabbi, a Mormon housewife, or a soldier of the Islamic Jihad-that the word has become nearly useless.

And you can read more here.

I think I prefer the ‘five points’ definition over the original one cited above. There’s a whole lot more interesting stuff to read at each of those sites.

7 thoughts on “Christianity Gone Political”

  1. fundamentalism means different things to different people.  according to this definition, I am not a fundamentalist, and I don’t think you are either.  This is not my definition of fundamentalism.  When talking to most people, I am an “evangelical fundamentalist” (said with great caution) but talking to someone from BJU or Pensacola, I’m not a fundamentalist.
    I would replace “literal” with “inerrant.”

  2. Your comment goes back to a recent post about defining our terms. Seems like we need to do that before we can even have intelligent, productive discussion.Care to share your take on the difference between ‘literal’ and ‘inerrant’?

  3. 3 words for you: PREACH IT PREACHA!
    Yeah, agreed. Though, I’ve seen a few people recently that are very against abortion that aren’t fundamentalist at all or Christians.  Cool, huh?  Yeah… and I do have beefs with churchs that try to be too politically active.  I think there is a very fine line…right?
    Okie dokie! Have a good one.

  4. a literal interp says that God actually has ears, eyes and wings, that exactly 5000 people were at that feeding, the devil is really a lion, and so is God.  a literal interp is incompatible to an anthropomorphic (man’s image so that man can understand) and analogical (with different degrees of accuracy; God is love, but to an infinite degree greater than what we can understand) interp.  Literal is a hermeneutic.
    Inerrant is a statement about accuracy of truth.  The Bible is inerrant because God says it and God is authoritative (interesting thought there eh? The Bible isn’t authoritative because it is inerrant! it is inerrant because it is authoritative! but that’s off the subject…).  The Bible is never wrong about anything it says.  It is the ultimate source of truth (but not the only source!).  If anything disagrees with what the Bible says, then that thing is wrong.
    I hope that helps, I’m thinking about posting a xanga about this… maybe soon.

  5. The church definately has some things backwards. On issues like abortion which involve mass genocide, something needs to be done, but when it comes to certain other issues, like the ones Jim mentioned here, I agree that the church definately has the cart before the horse. Especially in today’s postmodern culture, the way to change someone’s belief is not to legislate it to them. The only way they’ll change is if the Holy Spirit calls them to himself. Once they are saved and growing in Christ, THEN and only then will they adopt what Christians believe would be the right beliefs.
    Also. I think the word Baptist should be thrown into the mix with Fundamentalist and Evangelical. I know my parent’s church does not have Baptist in the name, and part of that is the negative stereotypes that automatically surface when people (even believers) hear that word!

Have anything to add to the conversation?