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14032RE: [CF] OT: religious fundamentalists

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  • Fitzsimmons, Diane
    Aug 1, 2005
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      I see the term "religious fundamentalists" thrown around a lot in the
      media and on the Web recently, often used interchangeably with
      "conservative Christian," "the religious right," "born-again Christian,"
      "evangelical Christian" and "pentacostal Christian."

      I myself always preferred the term "Christian," assuming everyone else
      knew that the term encompasses as much diversity as there is in the
      world. But since sub-sets of that group have come to be stereotyped as
      ignorant, theocratic or other derogatory terms, I get a little
      defensive, which is why I offer these comments.

      A "fundamentalist" Christian is not the same as an "evangelical
      Christian." As for the other terms, they often overlap but are not
      synonymous.

      An evangelical Christian according to the Institute for the Study of
      Evangelicalism (http://www.wheaton.edu/isae/defining_evangelicalism.html
      )displays these four specific hallmarks: conversionism, the belief that
      lives need to be changed; activism, the expression of the gospel in
      effort; biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible; and crucicentrism,
      a stress on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

      The same organization goes on to say:

      "Fundamentalist" is a term that is frequently bandied about in the news
      media these days. Unfortunately, this term has been used so casually in
      describing anyone who seems to hold some sort of traditional religious
      belief -- be they a Bible Baptist TV preacher, a Hasidic rabbi, a Mormon
      housewife, or a soldier of the Islamic Jihad -- that the word has become
      nearly useless. When used within the North American historical context,
      however, there are precedents for the use of this term which restores a
      sense of descriptive cohesion. Fundamentalism was a movement that arose
      in the late 19th and early 20th centuries within American Protestantism
      reacting against "modernist" theology and biblical criticism as well as
      changes in the nation's cultural and social scene. Taking its name from
      The Fundamentals (1910-1915), a twelve-volume set of essays designed to
      combat Liberal theology, the movement grew by leaps and bounds after
      World War I. ...

      "Since the 1940s, the term fundamentalist has come to denote a
      particularly aggressive style related to the conviction that the
      separation from cultural decadence and apostate (read liberal) churches
      are telling marks of faithfulness to Christ."

      So, in the world of Christianity, one unusual mark of a "fundamentalist"
      is that this group tends to want to live apart from the world, while an
      evangelical would tend to want to live "in" the world with the notion of
      changing it.

      Obviously, this is not the proper forum to go into great details on all
      the other types of Christians, but I feel it is important that -- just
      as we should understand the differences between the types of Muslims --
      that we should understand the differences between the types of
      Christians and not allow such labels to become a short cut to
      demonization.

      Regardless of what label we give a person or the label given by that
      person to him/herself, I think we can best judge the person by his/her
      actions and reserve our comments and responses for those actions, and
      not the label. Even more importantly, I think we cannot always judge a
      group by the actions of a few.

      Now climbing down from her soapbox,
      Diane Fitzsimmons
      Norman, Okla., USA
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