Religious Fundamentalism: Do the Math (Actual Title: Division and Conceptual Rigidity)

   Division is the school of mathematics dedicated to telling us how to share. Division becomes divisive when it runs head on into conceptual rigidity.

    Let me try to explain. I am not a math whiz.

   Simple numbers work wonderfully when all we need to do is add. One plus one comes out two and we are all happy to double, unless we are adding to our golf score or our waist line. However, if all the simple numbers somehow combine in actuality to take away everything, we must have a new non-number to express the desolation-zero. Then, should we keep digging the hole deeper after zero, we need negative numbers, which any budget director will tell you are not simple.

   Then, God help us, we may have to decide how to apportion shares, of the wealth or the blame; of the credit or the debt. For this, God gave us fractions, portions of the whole apportioned according to need or greed or might or right. Take the simple number one (1) and the simple number two (2) and put a slash in between them 1/2; you no longer have (complete) one or (complete) two but, rather, you have the one (1) whole you started with and someone else has part of the one (1) whole.

   You have shared.

   Division is about sharing.

   Sharing works fine and is more important than ever in a world where the pie is suddenly shrinking.

   Sharing works fine, as well, until it runs smack on into conceptual rigidity.

   There is a real whole, of one entire, but there is not actually a true one-half. Someone always gets a crumb less than the other guy. This is even more notable when one tries to divide one-half by one-half or one-third. If you take these fractions into decimals (the fancier expression of fractions), you immediately see the problem. Some decimals are not rational. They are irrational in that they cannot be resolved to one by adding, well, anything. The decimal, the fraction, the sharing can neither be terminated or repeated effectively (so that the integers finally recur consistently).

   So, the problem with sharing (division; fractions; decimals) gets to be about who gets what is missing, which we cannot find because that what makes it missing, rather than how we share the whole. Conceptual rigidity is that curse of humanity, wherein we insist we can resolve the missing crumb.

   We enter into a Realm of Platonic Reality, a level above the reality in which we live, move and have our daily being. The light on the cave wall hints at total illumination, somewhere, some time and it is that reality we demand.

   We take this approach in apologetics, don't we? Stay with Christian apologetics, please. We behave as though reams of information will keep our children Christian, when we are actually aware that the main elements for continued faith-living from one generation to the next are parental warmth, parental consistency and personal/peer connections.

   What is our attachment to massive transfers of dogma to the next generation? We are looking for that last crumb. If we can find it, insist on it, demand it, then our children will be safe, our country will be Christian, our schools will be superior and the flowers will bloom in the spring.

   This is Religious Fundamentalism. In Saudi Arabia, it is the hatred in the mullah. In baptist Christian life, it was firing liberal professors. We could not find any (living or still in baptist life), so we had to change the definition of liberal and keep moving it to the right until it became meaningless. The offended parties on the left wept, held hands and moved their tents so far away from the other group no one actually wanted much to do with either one. 

   A vast steppe yawns in the middle of the divide. There is our hope.

   We are still looking for that crumb. In fact, we insist on resolving this crumby issue. What is necessary, instead, is the simple movement of learning to share; division as sharing, not divisiveness.

Opinions expressed here are my own, not those of the church I serve or any  other person.

6 thoughts on “Religious Fundamentalism: Do the Math (Actual Title: Division and Conceptual Rigidity)”

  1. I like the idea of seeking Platonic reality. I’ve compared the modern fundamentalist to Thomas when he declared, no demanded, “unless I put my hands in the holes in His hands, feet and side, I’ll not believe.” Of course, seeing the risen Lord cured him of any need to touch.
    Unfortunately, there have been no such manifestations for those who insist that unless the age of the earth corresponds exactly to the biblical calculations, or that the ‘sign’ gifts ended with the death of the last apostle, or whatever ‘hill’ they have chosen, there can be no belief. We all must pray that God will be far more generous with us than we have been with each other.

  2. Something about ‘God is Love’ as a slogan might start to work here, along with the parable of the man who was forgiven his debts but was quick to punish those who owed him.

  3. I remember hearing from my fundamentalist teachers at Criswell, “if the first 3 chapters of Genesis are not literally true, how can we trust John 3:16?”. It was then I began to understand that they they put their reasoning above a relationship with Jesus. I do not believe in Jesus because of the Bible, I believe in Jesus because I know Him and he knows me. My salvation is in Him (relationship) not in words about him (rationality).
    When you worship at the idol of certainty, anything that questions your certainty must be eliminated. If your God needs defending then you God is no God indeed.

  4. Good one David. I have always felt there is way too much Bible worship and not enough Jesus worship. To Criswell et al, the teaching is that you gotta believe the Bible first before you can accept Christ as Lord and Savior. Gee, I guess the followers of Christ who didn’t have our New Testament just weren’t real believers, if you use that logic.

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