I was paging through a book recently. The author’s intent was to extract all the “fairy tales” from the Bible and then see what was left. His method was simple; whenever he came across something he wanted to erase, he would say, “Only fundamentalist Christians believe in x.”
Example: “We all know there was no Adam and Eve. Only fundamentalist Christians believe they really existed.”
If it’s not immediately obvious to you what he’s doing, then substitute the N word for “fundamentalist Christians,” and then reread the sentence to yourself.
Just as the N word is a racial slur, so also “fundamentalist Christian” is a religious slur. It’s used to demean, devalue, and marginalize a group of people.
The intent is clear. Fundamentalist Christians are thought to be ignorant, uneducated, unsophisticated, homophobic, bigoted, racist, unenlighted, bull headed, sign wielding fanatics.
Most people don’t want to be thought of in those terms. By creating the impression that normal people don’t believe in, say, Adam and Eve, the author bullies people into silence, without actually supporting his assertions with any kind of logic.
“Fundamentalist” is also sometimes used to create guilt by association. If Islamic fundamentalists are terrorists, then fundamentalist Christians are domestic terrorists. Don’t laugh; something like this belief was reflected in an internal memo at high levels in our US government in the not-too-distant past.
100 years ago, “fundamentalist” was a term that some Christians applied to themselves to distinguish themselves from “modernists” who rejected, in their view, the “fundamentals” of the Christian faith. But this history is mostly forgotten in our modern culture. And, yes, I have a few friends who would probably still call themselves fundamentalists, but what they mean by the term and what our culture means by the term are vastly different things.
I bring this up for two reasons:
(1) There’s a Russian proverb: All that glitters is not gold. In the same way, all that sounds sophisticated is not truth. Don’t let yourself be bullied or deceived by slick spin doctors.
(2) I don’t want to marginalize anybody—even the people I disagree with. I’m willing to explain why I disagree if anyone cares to listen, but I’m not going to do it by putting someone down. I hope you’re with me on that.