"The nature of Christian Fundamentalism"
An essay donated by Michael Gryboski
I respect Jimmy Carter as a person. Although I was not alive when he went
through his term in office, I have nevertheless heard good things about him. He
is a modern day Cincinnatus. When the Ancient Roman Republic was in crisis, it
called upon an old farmer to be ruler for a temporary amount of time until the
turmoil was over. After which, he went back to what he was best at doing. Like
Cincinnatus, in whom Cincinnati owes it name to, when the DNC needed a decent
man to run for President they turned to a Georgian peanut farmer. I have heard
it was his kindness that did him in, as few nice guys survive long in politics.
Carter himself acknowledges that he has done more good after his presidency than
during it. His extensive lines of charity work and books make him justifiably
That does not make him accurate. At a Baptist World Alliance conference in
Birmingham, England, he attacked the Fundamentalist Christian Movement and
Fundamentalism in general.
"I would describe fundamentalism as, first of all, a
movement led almost invariably by authoritarian males who consider themselves to
be superior to others and who have an overwhelming commitment to subjugate women
and to dominate their fellow believers." 1
He would state many things derogating
to the Fundamentalist Movement, many of which were very one-sided. Case in point
was when he said Fundamentalists:
"...are militant in fighting against any challenge
to their beliefs, are often angry and sometimes resort to verbal or even
physical abuse against those who oppose the implementation of their agenda."
One would think that Carter, even as a Democrat and American, would be
ignorant of non-fundamentalists who "resort to verbal or even physical abuse"
against opponents and "are militant in fighting against any challenge to their
beliefs", such as Michael Moore, Ann Coulter, Al Franken, Edward Kennedy, Rush
Limbaugh, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, and countless others. This meant he was
generalizing, and indeed for a man who admits to having many long-time friends
who, in his words, believe that the earth is only 6000 years old, it is a
surprising series of statements. Now Carter is not a heathen by any stretch of
imagination, and has stressed the importance of spreading the Gospel on many an
occasion. Yet for all of this, he does not understand Fundamentalist
Christianity as much as he thinks he does.
Having surfed the web in my spare time, I have found many people who make
blanket statements about "fundies", which tends to be a favorite nickname. They
range from the pseudo-civil rights groups, who declare with certainty that the
way to destroy Fundamentalism is through education, to the militant Secularist
websites who have no problem lumping decent tax-paying American citizens with
Moslem terrorists who want to establish a Global Islamic State. At least one
website had on it a long essay in which it declared that the nature of
Fundamentalism is "freedom-threatening" and wrote on the matter accordingly.
Yet that is NOT the nature of Fundamentalism. These are the words of people
who either decided ahead of time what the movement was about or willfully
misrepresented the movement in question. Fundamentalist Christianity is not only
compatible with a decent modern society, but is the foundation for a civilized
world as seen through the areas of government, education, science, social mores
and contemporary life. Before this thesis can be proven, first there must be a
proper definition of what Fundamentalist Christianity is. Mass media and liberal
politicians have never helped in defining terms; just consider how well they
have butchered or misused terms like Quagmire, Jihad, Lifestyle, and Insurgent.
All of those words have been taken from their original and proper meaning a long
Fundamentalist Christianity developed out of a series of essays written
between 1910 and 1915 that were put into a 12-volume set titled The
Fundamentals. When a preacher asked his congregation the question "Will the
Fundamentalists win?" he created the term and the name stuck. This Movement was
started in response to the rise of various theologies and ideologies that were
reasonably considered outside of Christianity. These included but were not
exclusive to Evolutionism, Liberalism, Socialism, High Criticism of the Bible,
and New Age. An intellectual movement, in the year of the Scopes Monkey Trial
(1925) 75% of Fundamentalist ministers held college degrees, which is impressive
for the time period.
It must be noted that the term Fundamentalism when applied to
violent, radical Islamic terrorist
factions is far different. Christian Fundamentalists state as their primary
beliefs the inerrancy of the Bible, the Divinity of Jesus Christ, His Virgin
Birth, Bodily Resurrection, and eventual Second Coming. Terrorist Islamic
'fundamentalists' believe in the Lesser Jihad, establishing a global Moslem
state, the widespread use of war and violence to advance this state, and take
the Shari'ah as infallible. There is little if any justified comparability
between the two, as neither Jerry Falwell nor Gary DeMar nor Ken Ham nor James
Dobson have called for a massive violent war against a non-believing population
and none of them condone terrorism. To classify terrorist Islamic Fundamentalism and
Christian Fundamentalism as being the same is like saying the Republic of
Ireland and the Republic of Cuba have the same government system.
Having established that Christian Fundamentalism is worlds apart from
fundamentalism, it is only proper to go on and further explain what makes the
statements of Jimmy Carter and many others absolutely fallacious. For
simplicity's sake, Christian Fundamentalism shall be known by the word
Fundamentalism. The notion of a movement like this was declared malevolent by
many; even as they do not realize that the essence of this religious movement
has been paramount to both the founding of the United States of America and
numerous other benefits throughout history and overall contemporary society.
"Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord" --Psalm 33:12a
The nature of Fundamentalism includes a demand to strictly adhere to the
written word, in its case the Bible. When creating a civilized nation, one must
established a body politick, which would provide protection and security to
those underneath it, as well as order. Also, though, there is a demand for
liberty and in the case of modern nation-states, law that holds the state
accountable. An example can be found of this with the United States of America,
and its famous governing document, the Constitution. In many ways the
Constitution operates in US government the same way the Bible operates in the
church. As demanded by the experts, "we need to know as much about the
Constitution as possible, including the purpose it was designed to achieve and
the evils it was intended to avert."
This sounds much like what the Bible is
supposed to be for the believer: a moral compass.
Fundamentalists stressed the need for the Bible to be the guide for the
church, and indeed if it is not then they say that immorality and doctrinal
chaos shall ensue. These warnings from Fundamentalists sound remarkably like the
warning James Madison gave in the Federalist Papers: "If the sense in which the
Constitution was accepted and ratified by the Nation...be not the guide in
expounding it, there can be no security for a consistent and stable
One can easily put the word 'Bible' in place of 'Constitution'
and refer to a 'stable and consistent' church establishment, and one would have
exactly what Fundamentalism demands in the faith. This means that the founders
and leaders of the American Republic and the movement that supposedly despises
democracy intend for similar goals.
Further showing this similarity are the words of former Justice Joseph Story,
in his work Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States: "Where its
words are plain, clear, and determinate, they require no interpretation."
If this were spoken about the Bible today rather than the Constitution back in the
19th century, many liberal churches would denounce it as un-American and against
the rights the USA was founded on. Indeed, Liberal Theology sounds strikingly
like the very type of governing system the Founding Fathers opposed. Religious
liberalism promotes the belief that modern man-made reasoning be superior to
Scripture, which is comparable to totalitarian states that had the dictator's
man-made reasoning put over the law. The whole of written law is to make certain
inflexible laws that a group of people, comprising a modern State, adheres to
under punishment. Having a written code as a final authority is essential to
Fundamentalism, and so social compacts, as they are often dubbed, are compatible
with the movement. But there is more to note.
The very political thought that went into the writing of the Constitution
derives from a Christian worldview. The Puritans are essentially the
fundamentalists before the Fundamentalist Movement began. They serve as an
accurate measuring stick for what a thoroughly Fundamentalist society would look
like even as modern myths continue to assail their image. Their beliefs were
critical to the forming of limited government in the New World:
"And they were absolute realists about the dark nature of man, when the
Spirit of Christ was not operative within him. Therefore, they anticipated the
possibility of the very worst happening in their church and civil governments,
and planned contingencies accordingly, so that when the worst occasionally did
occur, the blockage, rather than the system, would be eliminated."
The Bible itself touches base on many of the attributes of constitutional
government in the Pentateuch. Regarding the king's relation to the law, the
Bible says this:
"When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a
scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites.
It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that
he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words
of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his
brothers and turn from the law to the right or to the left."
-- Deuteronomy 17: 18-20
This states that not even the king is above the law and it was written 2500
years before the Magna Carta, 2900 years before the Mayflower Compact, and 3100
years before the US Constitution. Further, Exodus 23:1-9 gives rules for fair
justice, and Leviticus 19:15 says "Do not pervert justice; do not show
partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor
fairly." It is amazing that there are many people in North America who do not
want the Bible in government. It is as though they were ignorant of verses like
these. Not to mention the outlawing of two institutions largely opposed by them:
polygamy and slavery.
Although many in the Old Testament, including kings and patriarchs, had
multiple wives there is never a direct endorsement of polygamy mentioned in
Genesis through Revelation. Generally, in both Testaments the standard put forth
is that of marriage being between one man and one woman. Adam and Eve were
considered a sufficient pair according to Genesis, and when Paul writes about
marriage in his 1st Epistle to the Church in Corinth, he uses singular words, as
in one husband and one wife, as no one else was meant to be involved. So it
makes perfect sense as to why it was law in a Christian nation like the United
States that marriage would be organized according to what the Bible said. This
remained so even with the landmark case brought to the Supreme Court in the 19th
A fringe Mormon was in a polygamous relationship and the law forbade it.
Rather than claim some legality due to the consent and privacy involved, much
less an argument of freedom of religion, the court ruled against him. Why? Like
Fundamentalism, the court held the man to Biblical standards of morality.
Justice William O. Douglas said of polygamy that it was "contrary to the spirit
of Christianity and of the civilization which Christianity has produced in the
western world." 8
The Bible more directly condemns another institution that took
until the 19th century to be fully eliminated from western society: slavery.
Since its inception, many had opposed the institution, including the founder of
the American colony of Georgia, James Oglethorpe. Making a speech about the law
in Georgia that banned slavery, which was repealed later, he said, "Slavery is
against the gospel as well as the fundamental law of England. We refused, as
trustees, to make a law permitting such a horrid crime."
The matter of slavery in the Bible is put forth in a simple formula. First,
there is the declaration that it is immoral. Verses in both Testaments affirm
this, as shown below:
"Anyone who kidnaps another and either sells him or still has him when he
is caught must be put to death." (Exodus 21: 16)
"Were you a slave when you were called? Don't let it trouble you-although if
you can gain freedom, do so." (1st Corinthians 7:21)
In 1st Timothy 1:9-11 the slave trading is seen as tantamount to being
ungodly, committing perjury, adultery, and matricide. As with polygamy, no verse
condones or endorses slavery, but some verses do seem to demand docility:
"Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with
sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ." (Ephesians 6:5)
These verses do not contradict each other, but as with ones similar to the
Ephesians verse they make up the second declaration regarding slavery, which is
an opposition to violent resistance. This is not a bad idea, as just about every
slave revolt in history ended in failure and those that succeeded, like Haiti,
gave no benefit to their people. But as with the verse mentioned in 1st
Corinthians chapter 7, the final declaration on the matter is for peaceful
abolition. This was done in Brazil:
"Slavery collapsed in Brazil after being abolished in the Brazilian state
of Ceará in 1884. Slaves escaped to Ceará, and a fugitive slave law that was
hastily passed was largely ignored. The value of slaves fell dramatically,
and within four years the Brazilian government had acknowledged the reality
of the situation by enacting immediate and uncompensated emancipation."
"To fear the Lord is the
beginning of knowledge." --Proverbs 1:7
The nature of Fundamentalism is first and foremost an intellectual religious
movement. It revolves around writing and literacy, knowledge of ancient
languages, cultures, and histories. The men who wrote The Fundamentals were well
educated, and their experience came from a variety of fields. When continuing in
this creation of a civilized nation, after the government is made and perfected,
then comes education, the major component in continuing a culture. It is through
education that people are filled with knowledge and learn of their best
abilities so that in due time they can use these to advance the community.
Throughout Christianity's impact in the West, education has benefited from being
Contrary to popular belief,
the Middle Ages were hardly dark. Indeed, many major revolutions in agriculture,
science, and education were made. One of these was the Carolingian Renaissance,
which took place in West-Central Europe in the 9th century. Regarding this
expressed the hope that schools for children (perhaps they were thinking
also of girls) would be established even in small villages and hamlets.
Although this dream was never realized, it shows that even before the
Islamic world was organizing the madrasa system of schools, the Carolingians
were thinking about the importance of religious education for more than a
small elite." 11
Regarding the rise of the
Liberal Arts, which would eventually begat the Renaissance that everyone knows
about, Christendom again had everything to do with it:
"Now the mastery of
grammar and rhetoric involved the study not only of grammatical and
rhetorical treatises, but acquaintance with the works of the great classical
men of letters. And rhetoric likewise required at least imitation, if not
original skill. Therefore during the twelfth century, both in and out of the
schools...there appeared a genuine Christian humanism. By Christian humanism
is meant a love of literature and life which gives emphasis to both the
natural and the supernatural." 12
This growth of education
continued under pious eyes into the 13th century. Also at this time, religious
life and its disciplines, once found predominately to exclusively in the clergy
sector became common amongst laity. These two events were not distant from each
"There was a clear
connection between this development and the rise of universities, for the
ethical teachings of 'scholastics' (scholars of medieval universities) were
preached to the people...The city schools of the twelfth century became real
institutions-universities-in the thirteenth." 13
Religious zealotry and
education, far from the notions of modern day "Progressive" politicians,
continued to be a benevolent mixture as western civilization continued to grow.
Protestant churches set up schools as well, especially in the New World.
American colleges like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton all were established with
the purpose of educating Christian men. 14 In order for Fundamentalism to
operate, there must be education in various fields, so to claim that it is
anti-education as many have is purely erred thinking. The contributions to
modern mainstream education by strict sects of Christianity are well accepted
and used by those very people who believe religion harms everything it touches.
"The heavens declare the
glory of God" -Psalm 19:1a
The nature of
Fundamentalism includes a close relationship with the collective fields of
science. By far the harshest words aimed at Fundamentalism are by supposed
defenders of science. The labels of 'yokel', 'anti-intellectual', and
'pseudo-scientist' are often used in the Creation-Evolution debate and directed
on a grand scale at Fundamentalists. Evolutionary supporters often bash their
opposition through an unfair advantage of mass acceptance. Although surprisingly
few English citizens accept evolution as true, for example, every institute in
that country, from television to church establishment, accepts the scientific
theory. This is no different in other western nations, where Creationists are
grossly and disproportionately underrepresented, even when they actually
comprise a majority in the nation. 15
Since making a point on the scientific errors and numerous blatant hoaxes that comprise the modern
evolutionary movement would make a whole essay unto itself, focus shall be put
instead on the value of science in Fundamentalism and Christianity overall. As
with the key element of a scientific theory, the Bible contains many testable
and potentially falsifiable passages. As a result, while other religions and
religious movements are unable to reconcile their beliefs to the surrounding
world, the Bible is able to dominate even under strict skeptical inquiry. Many
of the verses of the Bible have been found not only to be truthful, but
uncannily scientifically accurate, even to the point of wonderment for any that
Examples abound: science
has shown that the snake originally had limbs, but that today only a small
vestigial trace remains. This is completely compatible with Genesis 3:14 and
God's curse that removed his limbs. Job 26:7 states that God "suspends the earth
over nothing", meaning that the concept of the vacuum of space is identified in
the Bible. Ecclesiastes 1:7, "All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is
never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again." This
is a perfect description of the water cycle, which wasn't discovered until the
18th century. And contrary to popular belief, no verse in the Bible condones an
earth-centered universe or a flat earth. Those are examples of anti-Christian
Science itself owes most of
its foundation to the work of devout Christians. Sir Isaac Newton, the famous
mathematician and astronomer, was a devoted Christian. Isaac Newton "accepted
the Christian revelation as useful and necessary to supplement what man could
find out about the universe for himself." 16 Many avid Evolutionists slam
Creationists for their large number of young-earth adherents, and yet on their
side is a man of genius: "In Newton's youth an Irish archbishop named Ussher had
used the Bible to set the date of the Creation at 4004 B.C. and Newton found
little reason to disagree." 17
There is also the "Father
of Genetics", who was an Augustinian Monk, Gregor Mendel. Further to note is
Louis Pasteur, famous microbiologist who declared, "Science brings man nearer to
Indeed, the theology of Fundamentalism is fully compatible with the
Scientific Method. It starts with an
axiom: The God of the Bible is the true God. It continues with set intellectual
equation: God is perfect and therefore the Bible should be perfect, that is
from error. This theology has falsifiability, as chapters and chapters of the
Bible can be proven or debunked base off of archeology, historical record,
biology, geology, geography, and astronomy. Given the written word, the
experiments can be repeated and theses are laid out. Results can be made from
the data collected and finally at the inevitable death of an individual all is
revealed as being true or not, verifying completely whether the validity of the
IV. Social Mores and
"A new command I give you:
Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." --John
The nature of
Fundamentalism involves a strong sense of community involvement when practiced.
There is more to a society than law, government, education, and scientific
advancement. All of these aid in advancing a society and propelling it forward,
but unless there is a strong sense of community, whatever advances are made go
unnoticed. A major reason for the fall of the Roman Republic was because the
sense of community fell to the self-interest of generals and politicians. This
pattern once again paints a bad picture of religious liberalism, as it is based
off of using individual interpretation and typically involves the favoring of
purely infinite individual rights over communal rights. Individual rights are a
must, but there still has to be group rights, and therefore finite liberties.
There must be socializing and social gatherings lest a society become one
introverted mesh of solitude, creating both a fear and hatred of others and
possibly population decline.
The law serves to protect
people, the state to enforce the law and protect rights, education to build a
proper fully functioning society through the application of learned talents, and
science to create new ways to make a functioning society and better technology.
All of this is so when groups of people are cooperating and communicating, which
is not surprisingly also compatible with the movement of Fundamentalism. In the
Bible, there is a constant demand for community and for care to be given to the
most vulnerable of society. Many examples are found, typically eclipsing
references to many other matters:
"When an alien lives
with you in your land, do not mistreat him." -Leviticus 19:33
"Do not take advantage of a widow or orphan." --Exodus 22:22
"When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of
your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor
and the alien. I am the Lord your God." --Leviticus 23:22
Key qualities of mercy are
found repeated o'er and o'er in the Bible, from looking after the fatherless and
the widow to proper treatment of the poor and immigrants. A great sense of
community is found in the Bible and therefore encouraged in Fundamentalism.
Indeed, in the modern day it must be noted that one-sixth of American
Fundamentalists are Latin American, which means that obviously far from being
exclusionary, an allegation usually thrown at them, Fundamentalists have been
very accepting of people of different races and national origins. Many
Fundamentalists are African-American as well, including the father of Dr. Martin
Luther King, Jr. It must be noted that he too supported the civil rights
movement. It is a common attribute of decent societies to have a strict
religious point of unity.
And then one has to
consider everyday activities. Reading instructions to put together a computer or
toy involve taking the written word as final authority on the matter and all
topics it touches base on. Contracts made between employers are abided by to the
letter, agreed upon by profession, and can be quoted for reproof or in matters
of violation which result in decisions made based off of what happened and what
the text states. The cooking instructions for a purchased frozen meal are abided
by to the letter and if not there tends to be a starving result. Indeed, even
traffic signs are taken literally, for it is not in the best interest to pick
and choose which signs to abide by and which to use egocentric reasoning on.
In every sector of society,
it is to the benefit of people to take a written word made for reproof and
direction literally and as a final authority. So why not matters of religion and
theology? Why not Fundamentalism, which has the basis of every benevolent aspect
of a proper society and civilization infused in its reasoning. Why not the
ideology that can be corrected by good science and good theology, using a
clearly written guideline? It is the ideology that in its purest form guarantees
science, objectivity, spirituality, written law, and limited government. It is
Fundamentalism, criticized but never debunked, defamed but never destroyed, that
enforces the basic decent essence of a modern 1st world developed nation in the
fields of government, law, education, science, and social mores and contemporary
In my culture I have come
across many belief systems, and I have found no purer an ideology than this,
which makes it as hard as possible for human reasoning to corrupt as it usually
does. I feel sorry for people like Jimmy Carter, and those whose hatred of such
a perfect and empirical worldview blinds them to the reality. If there was ever
an ideology consistently upheld in even secular parts of life, it would be
Fundamentalism. The case has been made and the points supported. Fundamentalist
Christianity is a spiral into marvelous light, and through this luminescent
belief system God works amazing wonders and telling proofs. Now it is up to the
rest of the world to figure out what these attributes of civilization already
testify to and acknowledge without dispute and without dissent. Hopefully this
is a start.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Jimmy Carter, "Back
to Fundamentals," The Christian Century, 2005-SEP-30, Pages 32 to 35.
- "Will the
Fundamentalists Win? A Question Revisited", at:
- All biblical quotations are taken from the New International Version
- Ralph A. Rossum and G. Alan Tarr, "American Constitutional Law (2nd Ed.)," New York: St. Martin's Press, 1987,
- Ibid, p.8.
- Ibid, p.10
- Peter Marshall and David Manuel,
"The Light and the Glory," (Grand Rapids,
Michigan: Fleming H. Revel) 1977, p.344.
- Paul J. Weithman (Editor), Robert Andi et al.,
"Religion and Contemporary
Liberalism," (University of Notre Dame Press) 1997, Page 89.
- DeMar, Gary, "America's Christianity History: The Untold Story," (Powder
Springs, GA: American Vision, Inc.) 1993, Page 67.
- Woods, Jr., Ph.D., Thomas E.,
"The Politically Incorrect Guide to American
History," (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing) 2004, Pages 73-74.
- Hunt et al., "The Making of the West," (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's) 2003,
- Hayes et al., "History of Europe (Rev. Ed.)," The MacMillan Company, New
York, 1956, Page 317.
- Hunt et al., Page 413.
- DeMar, Page 101.
- In both England and the United States, more people accept some type of
creation story over evolution. In the US, 55% and in England, 52%.
- Hayes et al, Page 653.
- Ipsen, D. C., "Isaac Newton: Reluctant Genius," Enslow Publishers, Inc.,
USA, 1985, Page 76.
- Tiner, John Hudson, "Louis Pasteur-Founder of Modern Medicine," Milford, MH,
Mott Media, Inc., 1990, Page 90.
Originally posted: 2006-JUN-23
Latest update: 2006-JUN-23
Author: Michael Gryboski