Fundamentalists don’t compromise. That is their strength. But it’s also their weakness. I went over a book the other day written by a theologically stout Evangelical (which is not the same thing as a fundamentalist). The book was about approaching culture. I found it hard to take, even though I found myself agreeing with the author on most general points. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was that irritated me so much about the book. What finally became clear to me was that it wasn’t so much the opinions the author held as it was the iron grip with which the author held them. It was as if nuance, irony, and complexity were the enemies of clear thought and pure faith. The worldview expressed in this book was pretty conservative, and as I said, I agree with much of it. But it was airless and highly ideological.
I have been critical of the fact that I didn’t have any doctrinal rigor in my religious education as a young person, and I am allergic to Andrew’s idea that just about any attempt to draw or hold to doctrinal lines makes one into a quasi-fundamentalist (“Christianist”). But I tell you, if I had been raised as a fundamentalist or an Evangelical who was taught to see the world through a narrow and severe idea of truth, I wonder if I would be a Christian today. It’s impossible to say. These things always are. Raise a kid with tap-watery religion, and don’t be surprised if he leaves it. Raise a kid with a religion as hard and cold as ice, and don’t be surprised if he leaves it. This is hard!
What is the difference between a religious fundamentalist and a religious conservative? Is it what they believe, or is it more about the fierceness and rigidity with which they hold those beliefs?
The bolded part, especially. It is disconcerting to see an attitude like that in one’s opponents (and perhaps less than that, since it allows me to pat myself on the back and be all, “see? they’re the the real closed-minded anti-intellectuals here”), but more so when it is from someone who it seems like you should be agreeing with – or who is peddling the fun house mirror reflection version of my own views.
Perhaps, with religion at least, a part of it comes from a desire to make faith like any other sort of knowledge. Of course, faith is a kind of knowledge, but it involves an element of trust, which in turn involves an element of humility. I think that Christianity is reasonable, that it’s theological and moral doctrines have a stronger backing to them than a lot of people think. But the danger likely starts to come in when I stop viewing what I’ve got as a gift, and more as just some basic given, and that people who disagree with me just can’t Get With The Program.