“F Word” Needs Clearer Definition

Published on The Tennessee Journalist May 27, 2009

..no, not THAT “f-word.” Rather, the f-word I refer to sometimes draws an even more negative reaction. That word is “Fundamentalism.”

“Fundamentalist” is a specifically Christian term. Consequentially, much modern usage in the media (i.e. referring to ISIS as “Islamic Fundamentalists”) is a severe misrepresentation of both faiths. In its purist form, Fundamentalism does not directly refer to any specific church, sect or political organization. Rather, it simply describes an inner-denominational movement tracing back to the early 20th century in which Christians responded to the challenges of modernity by codifying their most foundational beliefs.

Eventually, these were cataloged in a four-volume set known as The Fundamentals: A Testimony of the Truth. Published in 1917, The Fundamentals provide a fascinating, if not somewhat paradoxical, look at the fledgling movement. While some aspects (such as the rather strident anti-Catholic overtones) may be offensive to some, other parts are quite enlightening. In fact, ain a number of areas, the Fundamentalists are actually proving to be ahead of their time.

For example, given the advances of prenatal medical technology, it has become increasingly difficult to deny that an unborn child is truly a person. Why then is it considered so “extreme” to say that the child deserves legal protection? When we look at the horrendous impact of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, is the Christian sexual ethic (abstinence until marriage) really that unreasonable? Is it wise to cast science and faith as enemies when some of the greatest scientists in history (including Galileo, Copernicus, Keplar and many others) were Bible believers?

These issues are not going away, and if our goal is to be a tolerant, understanding people, we must look past our stereotypes and see the real substance that is all too often overlooked. Failure to do so is a “fundamental” mistake.

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