Religious Fundamentalism: How “They” Tell “Your” Story Better Than “You”

   The Fundamentalist Story-Teller enjoys this advantage, he has a story with deep cultural roots. He is able to move in us to create deep longings for things to return to the Way-They-Never-Were. 

    For instance, the preferred method for sustaining oneself in the United States of America is work. This is our culture. People should work and there is something wrong wit them if they will not work. Our cultural sentiment presupposes there will be work for people to do, though there have been deep, long, recurrent historical cycles when there were simply not abundant jobs.

   If we hear of some fellow who is a loser in the capitalist struggle, we feel some kind of anger at him. He should go get a job, any job, and make something of himself.

   All other cultural divides exacerbates our work-fare feelings. We hear that unemployment is at 9.7% nationally, but unemployment among Latinos is at 15% and young African-American males are unemployed at the rate of more than 1 in 5. There is no outraged cry for special attention to be paid to these problems in the stimulus package. We are not properly outraged that the larger part of the stimulus is a bail-out for the super-rich, who are just too large to fail. 

   The whole problem is too big for the common man (that is always us; we are common and ordinary, and do not take these terms as pejorative), so the common man goes back to his cultural roots. He goes back to the Way-Things-Never-Were. 

   The forces arrayed against the Fundamentalist Story-Teller are elitist. If the forces arrayed against Fundamentalism are not elitist enough, the Story-Teller will turn out and find some way to make the elitists seem more elitist. The Fundamentalist Story-Teller will concede his elitist opponent has some points to make. He will even attach himself to the elitists of yesteryear, if their movement proved successful and if it is far enough removed to be part of the cultural-historical milieu.

   The American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's appealed to the intent of the Founding Fathers, themselves elitists and revolutionaries. This was safe; the Founding Fathers were all long dead and their movement had succeeded far beyond their own wild dreams. The theology of the Fundamentalist Civil Rights communicator was an argument for a return to fairness, though that fairness clearly never existed, not really, and would have to be created out of the whole cloth.

   It is interesting today to hear the TEA party movement compare itself to the American Revolutionaries and the American Civil Rights Movement. Both the aforementioned groups are safely dead and historically successful. The TEA Party Movement appeals, then, to the deep cultural roots that reverence the revolution and rights movements. 

    We should hold off for some time before we accept this Fundamentalist revisionism as historically accurate. The things most lacking in the TEA party movement are the common threads connecting the revolution and the civil rights movement; liberality and danger. The American Revolution was a revolution; its end could only be a liberalizing correction to history (from monarchy to democracy) and its action brought serious immediate danger to the revolutionaries. The American Civil Rights movement was liberalizing, extending opportunities to the under-class and it certainly brought danger to its participants.

   So far, the TEA party has yet to articulate how its message would empower the powerless. There is no danger for its participants, unless one counts overpaying for a bad book or looking silly in a powdered wig. A Fundamentalist Story-Teller only wins when he makes his hearers feel they are part of something deeply ingrained in their culture (their roots) and offers the opportunity to sacrifice for something worth the effort.

   The Islamic Fundamentalist, on the other hand, tells his story well, though there is ample evidence to show he is swimming against the tide of historical fact even in his own religion. He succeeds because he tells the Islamic story better than the Westernized story-teller. Jihad as holy war is an easier sale than jihad as inner religious purification because conflict with the infidel is part of the cultural lore of Islam and because the jihadist is that purest of persons; the one willing to die for the cause.

   By inference, if we can start to tell our story better, with appeal to our cultural roots and a clear call to meaningful sacrifice, Centrist Story-Tellers might yet be able to make a case for our views. There should be a choice for people that does not involve going Far Left or Farther Life, Far Right or Farther Right. 

    Yes, I know this is already too long but one last thing before tomorrow; we have to find the balance between effort and achievement. Effort is exertion and sacrifice. Achievement is the satisfaction of reaching clearly stated goals, with a liberalizing intent. 

   "How does what you are doing relate to your heritage?" is a cultural-root question, and so related to effort.

   "How does what you are doing make the world better for people of all kinds?" is an achievement question and, so, liberalizing.

Tomorrow: How the RF tells your story better than you-continued

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

1 thought on “Religious Fundamentalism: How “They” Tell “Your” Story Better Than “You””

  1. It seems the national story is for all to work, not necessarily be hired by someone. Early on, people made their own work, not relying upon others. This may be a part of the national myth known as rugged independence, I’m almost sure of it. Perhaps we need more entrepreneurs.

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