Claiming Others Are the Crazy Fundamentalists

No matter how far to the right a group of fundamentalists may be, they will invariably be able to find a group even further off the map than they are to point to as the ‘real crazy’ fundamentalists. Whether it be dress codes, music standards, or theological vagaries, there’s always someone else who’s so much nuttier that by comparison even strict fundies look downright moderate.

Question a fundy about their rantings against Harry Potter books and they’ll point you to folks who don’t read anything but Christian fiction. They in turn will point you to a group who only allow their children to read approved biographies of missionaries. And even they will no doubt be able to dredge up some remaining Abecedarians to prove that by comparison allowing reading at all proves that one is reasonable and normal.

Compared to all that, just cutting out Harry Potter seems downright ecumenical. In the land of the full-bore crazies the only slightly unusual man is king.

24 thoughts on “Claiming Others Are the Crazy Fundamentalists”

  1. To all the above groups I’m a downright liberal (not that I’ve ever read all 7 Harry Potter book multiple times or seen all the movies or anything *cough cough*). Granted this wasn’t the point of your post, but it has been my experience that Harry Potter is one of those things (like going to the movies) that no good fundy will ever admit to liking, though it’s common knowledge that many do. Back on topic: that’s pretty much the sum of it. A legalist or Pharisee is anyone with more rules than you and a liberal is anyone with less.

  2. Hypocrisy really is an ugly thing. Take Hyle-Anderson College for example. They claim they are not legalists, then proclaim their strict rules regarding dress, hair, dating, movies, smoking, drinking, driving, soul-winning, “volunteering” etc.

    I wonder what its like living in a prison masquerading as a college?

  3. …because everyone knows true legalism is simply believing you can lose your salvation, right? Which disqualifies all IFB’s as legalists. Same old game, control the definitions and you can deny what you don’t want to admit.

  4. “Same old game, control the definitions and you can deny what you don’t want to admit.”

    Which goes back to a point I’ve been making about fundamentalism (and some other branches of Christianity, actually) for a long time, that they’re basically in bed with postmodernism and have a deep-seated relativist outlook. The mental and linguistic gymnastics they go through to reach some of their positions are really astonishing.

  5. I agree, Jordan. The unacknowledged father of the philosophy behind fundamentalism and some other branches of Christianity is the Englightenment. The enlightenment stressed individuality, and private interpretation of the Bible – that is the Bible means whatever I say it means – is a direct result of that mindset.

    1. AAAAAH!…but you see, fundies really don’t think critically or study for themselves…they simply parrot what their parents, church leaders or fundy school authorities taught them and continue to teach them…and the cycle continues

  6. And of course “Christianity’s dangerous idea,” as Alister McGrath calls it, goes all the way back to the Reformation. The problem isnt necessarily individualism, though. There’s always been a strong Western and Christian idea of individual importance–and individual responsibility. The Enlightenment divorced the individual from God and made the individual answerable to no one, especially not outside standards. Combine this with legalism and a martyrdom complex and you get intentionally transgressive protesters, the Green Peace crazies engaging in “concerned” piracy… and fundamentalists.

  7. Those at Liberty will say the BJUers are nuts, The BJUers will say the PCCers are nuts, the PCCers will say HACers are nuts, The HACers will say Texas Baptist or Oklahoma Baptist are nuts.

    1. Hopefully that chain ends somewhere soon, but based on what one can find on the Web, it probably will continue on for a considerably long time…

    2. But I think we have to all agree that at the furthest end of “crazy,” Westboro Baptist is putting in noseplugs, ready to dive off the edge.

  8. Wow Charles, sad that I actually know all of the acronyms listed…

    Funny thing about this post is I grew up with my pastor – my grandpa – ranting against those “rootin’ tootin’ fundamentalists.” Little did I know…

  9. Private interpretations of Scripture go all the way back to the Garden of Eden. It’s a sin problem, a matter of human psychology and how we deal with opposition. This abstract speculation really misses the point. If anything, the Enlilghtenment springs from human behavoir and not vice-versa.

  10. Darrel- you have just been looking for a chance to use the term “Abecedarians”. I’m proud you worked it in!

    OK- Back to reading Harry Potter….

  11. Jordan, Lisa,

    There is a dissonance between modernism and postmodernism. Simply put, the Enlightenment upheld reason as the means to absolute truth. Postmodernists reject both rationalism and are agnostic about absolute truth. I would situate the fundamentalist mind more in the Enlightenment camp than in postmodernism. As George Marsden pointed out in “Fundamentalism and American Culture,” the fundamentalist takes a set of suppositions (the Bible) and reasons his/her way to rational, universal conclusions. Postmodernism in Christianity is best represented by the emergent church types.

  12. Excellent points, and I mostly agree, but I have had experience with some fundamentalists who show a definitely postmodern–or perhaps Foucauldian–disregard for language, word meaning, and objective truth. And honestly, some fundy exegesis offers masterpieces of deconstruction. These may be particularly fringe fundies sometimes bordering on a kind of pentecostalism, but they’re fundies nonetheless.

    Has there ever been such fertile topic of discussion? :)

  13. Please. Fundies do not read Foucault. They are tribal, not postmodern. It is a matter of psychology rather than something so intellectual as chosing an epistemology.

    Narcissistc leaders deliberately misuse the language to mislead and confuse people so as to maintain control. Fundamentalists have an unusual need for certainty and are drawn to anyone who states a position with bravado. It does not matter that it makes no sense, what matters is that the leader projects an image of power and the follower feels safe and secure within a group of like-minded people who will not rock the boat.

  14. I beg to differ…I’ve got Foucault’s “History of Sexuality” on my shelf. (-:

    I do think that you’ve described a “sin common to man” as it were. Hyles worship, Obamamania, etc… are all examples of folks gravitating to compelling personalities. I suspect that integral to the human condition is our desperate need for certainty.

    Also, just as everyone has a theology whether they consciously explicate their choice or not, everyone has an epistemology. The fundamentalist epistemology has been well-described by Marsden (see above comment) as Baconian rationalism.

    Anywho, the whole “fundamentalist” psychosis thing breaks down. Richard Hofstadter, Daniel Bell, et al, proposed the idea after WWII but it just doesn’t do justice to the theological complexity and cultural vitality of broader fundamentalism in the early 20th century.

  15. This sounds like the college I went to. They considered themselves so moderate and middle of the road but in reality they were really good at putting a veneer of video screens, glossy tracks and nice buildings over the same tired old extra-biblical separation and mechanical moralistic deism.

  16. “…are all examples of folks gravitating to compelling personalities.”

    This is the history of the whole world. In the Garden of Eden, man enjoyed constant, submissive, liberating, safe, secure fellowship with the most awesome and “compelling” Personality, Who was his life.

    Once they rejected the Author of Life, they are stuck looking for another source, since it is NOT given to man “to have life in himself”.

    So where do you go when you reject the Ultimate? We’ve been searching for Him ever since, but in all the wrong places.

    In his heart, man knows that he needs that KIND of Relationship. But he has systemically and categorically rejected that PARTICULAR Relationship in which he was originally created.

    So he’s stuck trying to enter into that KIND of relationship with…well, with himself, really. But he does not have life in himself, and is therefore insufficient, “living” in (and eventually manifesting) death. Only too late (except by the grace of God) does he discover his insufficiency and it’s Solution.

    But — praise the Lord — in His love for mankind, God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him.”

    To this end, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.”

    The solution to fundamentalism (and to the world!) is not opposition per se (although I do enjoy this website :P ), but introduction — (re)introduction to the “compelling Personality” of the Lord and Giver of Life.

    For our Life is found in communion with the Father in the Son by the Holy Spirit. And we ourselves must first continue in community with Him, if we, as the Body of Christ by the Spirit, are to continue His ministry of reconciliation.

    To be honest, this is something I NEVER saw in fundamentalism (at least, the IFBx branch). There, it was all about how many “souls saved,” how much Bible reading, how loud the singing, how much “sacrifice for God.”

    In Holy Orthodoxy, on the other hand:

    “We have seen the True Light!
    We have received the Heavenly Spirit!
    We have found the True Faith, worshiping the undivided Trinity, Who has saved us.

    Let our mouths be filled with Thy praise, O Lord, that we may sing of Thy glory;
    For Thou hast made us worthy to partake of Thy holy, divine, immortal, and life-creating Mysteries.
    Keep us in Thy holiness, that all the day we may meditate upon Thy righteousness. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!”

    HUGE difference!

    Now to Him Who sits on the throne, the Existing One, our Life, be honor, and glory, and dominion, and power, both now and ever, unto the ages of ages. Amen. +

  17. The book Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse was being very quietly passed around my fundy church several years ago. Leadership got wind of it. So the MOG actually preached a Wednesday night message using the book’s topics as his points in an effort to diffuse potential damage.

    His entire premise: I have seen crazy stuff like this…So glad we aren’t like this at all! He got to frame every subject using off-the-wall examples from other churches.

    He was too scared to actually name the book for fear people would actually buy it and read it for themselves and see the obvious.

    Having already read the book, I knew the truth. My fundy church WAS ABUSIVE and was described very well in that book.

    1. I know this post is years old, but the nutjob fundy Bible college I attended used this book in some classes. Funny enough, the teachers at that school were models of spiritual abuse!

  18. I almost became physically sick when a prestigious BJU Faculty person tried to show how “middle ground” BJU actually was… The type of people he had to conjure up as “legalistic” were so far out they must have been clinically insane. And while all the students laughed at how “outrageously conservative” they were, I could only stare in disbelief – knowing that these students would probably never see how insane and laughable they themselves were as they held ever so tightly to their comb-overs and body tents (err… I mean “dresses”). :???:

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