Fundamentalism is a dirty word in this generations lexicon. Utter the term and, unless you have an understanding of the historical context of the word, youll probably conjure up images of abortion clinic bombers, head dress wearing anti-American militants, burkha-clad women being beaten by bearded-Muslim clerics or some late-night tele-evangelist who has a penchant for smacking people on the head in order to heal them.
Theologically, Im not ashamed to identify with historic Christian fundamentalism which was defined by a belief in certain basic Bible doctrines and includes believing that the Bible is the infallible and immutable Word of God. But the word has gained so much connotative baggage due to the conduct of people ranging from Eric Rudolph to Oral Roberts and the inclusion of other forms of fundamentalism as in extremist Muslims, I find it almost too cumbersome to explain what I mean when I use the term in reference to my own theological positions.
Today, fundamentalism has been re-defined in such a way that it connotes a militant, sometimes violent, unreasonably rigid, often frightening adherence to a set of values or principles. Just as more common words such as gay or cool or righteous have taken on different definitions, so has the term fundamentalism and to ignore it is to run the risk of miscommunicating what one really does believe.
That said, I think conservative Christian thinkers should be warily examining and challenging the rising tide of secular fundamentalism. If the new characteristics of fundamentalism described above are to be applied uniformly, consider the actions and attitudes of those who are daily waging war on the liberal left.
Freedom of religion for the secular fundamentalist has gone to the extreme of freedom from religion. The radical secularists would particularly hold conservative Christianity in disdain and have proactively attempted to intimidate religious right activists from speaking out on issues of moral importance. How can one explain the unending dedication and perseverance of those who would give enemy combatants in Guatanamo Bay their own (government-issued) copy of the Koran while spending millions trying to prevent our children from hearing a Bible verse in a public school or seeing the Ten Commandments on a courtroom wall? Is there not an utter contempt and loathing that is palpable from the ardent secular fundamentalist who holds a position as a network newscaster, Hollywood producer or star, newspaper editorial writer, public university department chair or the head of Move-On.org? The lip-curling diatribes from the likes of people like Michael Moore, Barry Lynn and Ted Turner are not all that dissimilar from those spouted by the Muslim clerics in Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
Im not accusing all liberals of being proponents of some sort of secular jihad anymore than I believe conservative Christians are trying to resurrect the Crusades. I am saying that there is an extremism embedded in secularism that is every bit as dogmatic and dangerous as those who use their religion to persecute those they consider infidels.
The hostility of the radical left and the growing desperation they obviously feel with each election that leaves them in the minority and every federal judgeship that comes open is very much obvious to those who observe and recognize the worst characteristics of the newly-defined fundamentalism. We ought not condone their outrageous excesses any longer or with any more patience than we would those who put on white-robed clan uniforms or who would beat a woman for exposing her elbow.
One of the great pillars of evangelical Christianity in general, and among Baptists in particular, is the fundamental belief that religious identification and commitment cannot be forced. Those who are not or will not be persuaded by the Spirit of God are not reachable by the threat of coercion or the manipulation of men.
We must resist accepting a mentality that would force its values on our culture, our nation or our families. Its not American, its not Christian and its not right. Extremism of any flavor or wearing any moniker is a dangerous thing.