Saturday, December 11, 2004

The Fundamentals
That ol' debil killer Farmer has a few serious words to say about Fundamentalism and Christ-hating liberals. It's a good post, with good background on the origins of Fundamentalism in American Protestantism. I started to write a comment to the post containing my two cents worth, but it grew into about seventeen cents worth before I even had a word on screen, so I'm over here having my say.

You really should go read the Farmer's post and the post that led to that post. I'll wait here while you go.

Muzakized bosa nova tunes

Back already?

I'm not sure you all really went away, so I'm going to summarize the Farmer. The name Fundamentalist is based on a group of conservative Protestants who didn't like the liberalizing trends in progressive era Protestantism at the beginning of the last century. This being the era of manifestos (or manifesti), they wrote a manifesto called "The Fundamentals."

Religion, in general, draws its authenticity from the authority of the godhead and from its antiquity. It has always been such, therefore it is correct. Protestantism claimed to be a return to the authentic earlier religion from which Catholicism had diverged. When a subsection of Protestantism no longer agreed with the orthodox practice they claimed their form was a return to the fundamentals.

In the quarter century leading up to World War One, the trends that they objected to were modern secular intellectual movements as embodied in "higher criticism" of biblical texts (that is, treating the Bible as a normal historical document subject to contextualization) and secular science, especially old earth geology and evolutionary biology.

At this point, I need to add something to the Farmer's narrative. During the Progressive era, the dissidents in American Protestantism also objected to the social gospel of secular good works. Mainstream Protestantism, in those days, was involved in actively promoting secular liberal social programs. The dissident faction though the church should focus its attention on purifying the saved, not on helping the impure. The Fundamentalists continue to hold this exclusive view of religion to this day.

The faction that adhered to the Fundamentalist manifesto withdrew from secular politics from World War One 'til the end of the 1960's. At that point they suddenly re-entered politics to oppose the cultural revolution of the day. They were absorbed into the rightward swing of the Republican Party and have remained there 'til this day.

At this point, I need to depart from the Farmer's historical narrative again. Since the anti-liberal fundamentalists re-entered politics in the 1960s, they have tried to appropriate the word "Christian" as their exclusive property. I've said this many times. In owning the word, they not only are able to claim that any criticism of them is an assault on American Christianity in general, they are able to divide non-fundamentalist Christianity into helpless factions. This is the reason the Farmer must defend his or her self from our natural allies when the Farmer is only criticizing that small minority of American Protestant Christianity that is the radical religious right. (Although I'm tempted to call them the RRR for convenience sake, I'm sure they would claim I'm comparing them to the KKK and by extension calling all American Christians vile racists. I have no intention of doing that; I only think the radical right are vile racists. So there.)

I think this is the problem the liberal/Democratic/blogger left has with religion. It's not that we are anti-religious or anti-Christian; it's that the right has succeeded in portraying everything we say as such. The Farmer made an honest comment about fundamentalist loonies and good liberal Protestants think he is attacking Christianity in general.

This is a painful indicator of how successful the right has been in fragmenting the left over the last 30 years. We should not have to apologize to our allies for criticizing our enemies. The religious right does not own Christianity. They do not own religion. They do not own values. They are an extremist minority that wants to delegitimize anyone who does not endorse their radical agenda. As far as they are able to divide us, they have succeeded.

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