We all hate religious fundamentalism.
Well, no, not really, not so much. We hate extremism in the name of religion in the same way we hate the unintended consequences of unfettered capitalism, where winners win big and forever and losers lose the same way. Fundamentalism, however, is not automatic extremism and perhaps should not be approached in that way.
There may be a way to fight with Fundamentalism rather than against it. An alliance between the religious center and fundamentalists of the left or right is probably impossible; it is certainly unlikely. The end result of our schism may be more serious than in past ages. In the past a few heretics burned at the stake. Today, religion itself may become untenable in a world increasingly impoverished and so unable to bear the burden of hate.
If one takes religious fundamentalism as obedience to the basic tenets of our religious faith, religious persons are all fundamentalists. Religious persons do not wish to be cold or even luke-warm. Cold is dead and luke-warm is unacceptable. We want to be warm, if not so hot as to be unpalatable. Our argument is not with Fundamentalism, then, for the fundamental observance of our religious dicta is essential.
So, what are we mad about when we look at the religious extremists?
We are mad at the lunatics.
Churchill said the definition of a lunatic (he said "madman") is this: the lunatic is someone who can't change his mind and won't change the subject.
Our great fault in the war against Religious Fundamentalism, as religious persons, is allowing the extremist to occupy the moral high ground, as though his extremism is the only acceptable form of religious practice in the eyes of God. The extremist describes God as myopic. The Sacred-Seeker believes God has broader vision and sharper eye-sight. We could help the world with our religion, we believe, if the extremists would just stop blowing up things and killing people to purify religion.
This is what we hate about extremism, of whatever school, secular or sacred. The extremist, if followed, takes us where we would not go. The extremist, if not followed out to the edge, damns those who will not follow him to suffer the same fate as the infidel.
The fellow who murdered the abortion provider in his church,for instance. Why kill the man in a worship service? The case against the professed killer is still pending, so we cannot know the full implications of his anger or just why he chose the sacred site for his self-immolation. Still, we might easily say he held nothing sacred that did not fit his concept of religion. This is what we hate (and fear) in the extremist.
If we intend to defuse the IEDs at the roadside, or disarm the gunman in the church house, or steer back to the center the denomination hi-jacked to the far, far right/left, we might have to change the terminology; extremist for fundamentalist. We might better make our case for religion but against extremism if we define how far is too far in the name of religion.
For this discussion, let us adopt the reasonable arabic word "jihad." The etymology of the word "jihad" is "to struggle." More than a few extremists in the Arab speaking world extrapolate a more dangerous definition; "holy war." They jihadist is as dangerous as the tele-evangelist in America who depends on class/race/religious hatred to stimulate his financial empire and no less mistaken.
Every religious person struggles. That is, we struggle with our religion. Ancient religions based on divine revelation are particularly fraught with elements suggestive of struggle. Let us face it, certain aspects of our ancient, revelation based religions have seen their better days. I cannot walk on water. I doubt that you can walk on water. Miracles are less ostentatiously displayed these days, don't you think?
We struggle, accordingly, with the faith once delivered to the fathers. If we cannot deliver the immediate-miracle-on-demand, just how does our belief-system fit into this rapidly evolving, slowly deteriorating world?
( Is it Miracle Envy that pushes the extremist? His predecessors could heal the sick, after all. If he cannot heal the sick, he can at least make the healthy sick, or dead. That will show his powerful faith.)
I suggest we admit our struggle to be religious. Religion is more important in our world, not less, and is not going away, not soon, not ever. We have to get it right, or closer to right, for governments, armies and economic systems are no closer to right than ever.
So, it is Monday morning, and I here propose we join the Fundamentalists in jihad. I do this in hopes I may ask us to defuse Religious Extremism for the sake of mankind.
And I ask you to read, understand, share with your friends and take up this cause as well.
Tuesday: The Deep Cultural Roots of Fundamentalism-How "They" Tell "Your" Story Better Than "You" Tell "Your" Story
Opinions expressed here are my own, not those of the church I serve or any other person.