Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bridges II

In an earlier post this month I said:
"These [interfaith] dialogues are an antidote to fundamentalism and fearmongering, I think.
Neither of those things is of the Spirit."

Last night a reader left this question in the comments:

What do you mean when you say that Fundamentalism is contrary to the Spirit? What, in your mind constitutes (Christian) Fundamentalism, and what characteristics does it bring to the table that don't sit well?

I appreciate the question and the spirit of dialogue in which it is offered. Here's my response:

Fundamentalism is a word that describes a specific historical movement within Christianity, but it has also come to mean a certain type of (to my mind, problematic) religious expression that can take place within any faith, I think. In its historical context within Protestant Christianity, it includes believing, among other specific things, in the inerrancy of the Bible.

What I meant by fundamentalism in my posting was a way of being religious, in any faith, that is characterized by reaction, rigidity, exclusion, rejection of reason and/or science, and use of fear, distortion or coercion to achieve desired outcomes. I don't think God is about any of those things. Their presence in any system of belief or way of living (or in myself) is a sign to me that the group or person (including me) has wandered off the Way, the Way which is instead characterized by patience, kindness, protection, trust, hope, perseverence, and a certain mindfulness of our limitations which serves to check impulses toward condemnation of that which is outside our experience or understanding. We don't know everything because we aren't God, in other words, but what we can know is that the Way we are to live is guided by love, which is patient, kind, etc. (see above list) and always seeks the flourishing of all of creation. Fundamentalism is a tiny, narrow, little fearful world view, and I believe we are called to something much more expansive, much more hospitable: the Love that never fails.

Photo: the Wabasha Street Bridge over the Mississippi River into downtown St. Paul.

1 comment:

David said...

Beautifully said. Perhaps a person without doubt is committing "self idolatry"- thinking that she/he is infallible and omniscient? "Doubt is often the beginning of wisdom ... and the greatest wisdom is kindness."