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Who are the Real Christian Fundamentalists?

CNN is broadcasting a mini-series on "fundamentalism": Jewish, Muslim and Christian. While these forms of fundamentalism have a few things in common, the dissimilarities are so stark that carelessly juxtaposing them tends to create a false sense of similarity.

Both academics and journalists sometimes depict Christian fundamentalists in the U.S. as particularly dangerous people, but these accounts seldom report what sorts of people tend to be fundamentalists in the U.S.

The group that most disproportionately belongs to fundamentalist Protestant sects is African-American females. In the 2000-2006 General Social Surveys, 62% of African-American females (and 54% of African American males) report that they belong to Protestant denominations that the GSS classifies as fundamentalist.

When one thinks of dangerous groups in the United States, religious African-American females would not be on many people's lists. Yet of the people that I see on the streets every day, members of that demographic group are the ones most likely to be fundamentalist.

What about political party affiliation?

In the 2000-2006 General Social Surveys, 34% of Republicans are fundamentalists, compared to 30% of Democrats, not a large difference. But since there are more Democrats than Republicans, a slightly larger percentage of fundamentalists are Democrats (34%), compared to 32% of fundamentalists who are Republicans.

As to gender, in 2000-2006, 30% of women and 26% of men were fundamentalists.

So when one thinks of a typical fundamentalist in the United States in the 2000-2006 period, the image that should come to mind is that of a woman or of a Democrat. And if one thinks of which group is disproportionately fundamentalist, the exemplar is African-American females, not Republicans.

If one instead uses as a measure of fundamentalism the quintessential fundamentalist belief that the Bible is the literal word of God, the general pattern of the 2000-2006 GSS data is very similar to that based on fundamentalist religious denomination.

I'll wait to see how CNN handles Christian fundamentalism before judging the series, but I hope that this scene as described by David Bauder of the AP is not characteristic of the larger work:

The segment on Christians explores BattleCry in some depth, digging at the roots of an organization that fights against some of the cruder elements of popular culture and urges teenagers to be chaste. In noting how girls at some BattleCry events are encouraged to wear long dresses, Amanpour asks the group's leader how it is different from the Taliban.

To be a success, at a minimum the mini-series should dispel more stereotypes than it perpetuates.

CNN's broadcast is discussed by Bauder (AP), Fifth Column, BF2S, Newsbusters, Mr. C, and Reenee.

UPDATE: More at Powerline (John), Variety, Melissa Rogers, and In From the Cold.

Adrian (mail):
You allude to "dissimilarities" between fundamentalists of various religions, but then you talk only about Christian fundamentalists. Presumably the contrast is supposed to be just obvious, but surely we should be equally wary of stereotypes of Jewish and Islamic fundamentalists: perhaps, once you look beyond the politically noisy right wing, they too are mostly female economic progressives of colour.

And then, when Amanpour actually asks a comparative question, you find it offensive. Unless you have reason to think the question was rhetorical or assertoric, or that Amanpour was inferring similarities with Islamicist policies besides the covering of women, I guess it strikes me as the sort of question a taxonomy of fundamentalisms needs to ask.
8.21.2007 5:13am
Nels Nelson (mail):

"And if one thinks of which group is disproportionately fundamentalist, the exemplar is African-American..."


Why would one think of this instead of "what sorts of people tend to be [Christian] fundamentalists"? When it came to Republicans, you argued that total numbers were what mattered, but for African-Americans it was disproportionality. You brought up the issue of race but then didn't even tell us the race of the typical fundamentalist.
8.21.2007 6:05am
Tek Jansen:
This is a delicious post. You discuss how, according to some definition, that fundamentalists in the US are a diverse, evenly-divided group. And that's a fine point if true, except then you say that we really should stereotype, so let's use a female Democrat. Or even better, a black female democrat.

I also question either the polls methodology or your interpretation of the poll. A link to the poll or numbers or something would probably help. Those Gallup creationism polls that come out every few years show that the best indicator of a belief in creationism is either a lack of high school education or evangelical beliefs (Link is from 1991 and a website called religioustolerance, but the numbers look correct). We also know that evangelicals tend to be creationists and politically conservative.

A NY Times poll from 2004 showed that 67% of Bush voters were creationists, while only 47% of Kerry voters were creationists.

Barring a better effort on your part, I don't know why the program should dispel the stereotype of creationists (under-educated and conservative). The stereotype seems correct. Perhaps you could soften your stance to just wanting them to discuss that there is some diversity amongst the fundamentalist Christian population, although the stereotype is based on reality.
8.21.2007 6:21am
rjh:
I suggest reading the results of the Fundamentalism research project. They are available in detail, or summarized in Strong Religion. There are a great many common characteristics among the various forms of fundamentalism.

I have not seen the CNN show, and do not know whether they mentioned any of these common characteristics.
8.21.2007 7:47am
Joe Bingham (mail):
Excellent post.
8.21.2007 8:55am
GTT (mail):
Mr. Lindgren,

From what I recall recently, Americans of African descent make up about 12% of the U.S. population. (please correct me if my memory is shot) If we say that (because I don't know) 50% of these folks are female, that's 6% of the population. Now, you say that 62% of these females are nominally Christian Fundamentalist. That yields between 3-4% of the population. So if we take the roughly 1/3 of the US population you've stated is Christian fundamentalist (30%, let's say), slightly more than one out of every ten is a female American of African descent.

Are you singling them out to say, in effect, "look, these female African-Americans don't seem too dangerous, so all the rest of these Christian Fundamentalists mustn't be too dangerous, and it must just be Liberal Bias if portrayed any other way..."?

Your post exhibits a little too much "bash-the-messenger" for me. (Note: I haven't seen the series as I don't have Cable TV.) The Yahoo article for which you gave a link describes how the reporter appeared to work pretty hard to bring some more analysis and information to the series than might be typically expected on TV.

I think you're overreacting to the "Taliban" comment. Often the sort of question you describe is a straw-man that allows the questioned party to explain themselves and dispatch a silly prejudice. Without seeing the show, we can't know for sure.

G
8.21.2007 9:02am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
It will be interesting to see how fundamentalist Muslims are defined.

Islam, though being a religion, is considerably different from Christianity and Judaism, obviously. But the primary difference is in the separation of church and state. Islam, famously, does not accept that.

One requirement of fundamentalism, informally, is that it must be a minority. What if the beliefs used to define fundamentalism happen to be a majority view in Islam?

Fundamentalists are suppposed to be dangerous--if Christian--and so the more of them, the worse. Coming to the discovery that most Muslims are fundamentalist--which would be true, depending on the definition--could raise the kind of questions a good many would prefer to avoid.
8.21.2007 9:04am
mariner (mail):
In noting how girls at some BattleCry events are encouraged to wear long dresses, Amanpour asks the group's leader how it is different from the Taliban.


Well, I haven't heard of any women being executed by BattleCry members.

Other than that I suppose they're exactly the same.
8.21.2007 9:31am
ipsedixiter:
This is a great post. What I find curious is how people react to the label of creationist. If you believe God created the universe, then you are a creationist. Of course, you can also believe that humans evolved and that the literal interpretation of the Bible is misplaced, but still believe that God created the universe. The creationist v. evolutionist debate is a misnomer: It really is Believers v. atheists with a bit of Orthodoxy v. Modernity.

Comparing fundamental Christians with the Taliban is ridiculous and offensive (not that I expect the PC police to defend religious folks -- they've clearly picked their side and it ain't the Christian side).
8.21.2007 9:44am
Ella:
Ah, yes, the search for the elusive ONE TRUE CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALIST (tm). Because, as everyone knows, there are no flavors of Christian fundamentalism. Every self-identified black fundamentalist must be like every self-identified white fundamentalist must be like every self-proclaimed leader of fundamentalists. It couldn't be that the label covers a wide range of different beliefs and practices, some of which are remarkably similar to some Muslim fundamentalists.
8.21.2007 9:57am
Baxter (mail) (www):
I

Noting how girls at some BattleCry events are encouraged to wear long dresses, Amanpour asks the group's leader how it is different from the Taliban.



No difference, I'm sure, in the eyes of CNN. The occasional beheading is just another polite means of encouraging desirable behavior, isn't it?
8.21.2007 10:02am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I think that, at least for me, the message is that Christian fundamentalism is very present on both sides of the political divide, and is not just a factor on the right.

I don't know how many of my liberal friends seem to try to make the point that Republicans must be stupid because they have so many Christian fundamentalists who don't believe in evolution, etc.

This also points to a potential problem at some point for the Democrats (the Republicans also face it, but possibly less so) and that involves the tension between the secular, esp. feminist, side and the religiously conservative ethnic communities. As long as African-Americans automatically vote Democratic, and any who stray are portrayed as race traitors, the strong support for abortion, gay marriage, etc. can continue in the party. But the reality is that African-Americans, likely because of the high number of fundamentalists in their midsts, have one of the higher levels of opposition to both of these divisive issues. Hispanics are likely almost as strong here, with their general strong Roman Catholicism.
8.21.2007 10:31am
The Divagator (mail) (www):
Comparative religion requires training, unless, of course, you're a journalist. I must say, if I saw the CNN logo with the words "Report on Religious Fundamentalism," I wouldn't be able to click the remote fast enough. That is, if I had a television.
8.21.2007 10:39am
plunge (mail):
"If you believe God created the universe, then you are a creationist. Of course, you can also believe that humans evolved and that the literal interpretation of the Bible is misplaced, but still believe that God created the universe."

Yes, and this is in fact what most evolutionists believe. Though most generally do not call them creationists, they get called theistic evolutionists. "Creationist" has the connotation of someone who does NOT except science in regards to biology or perhaps even geology, astronomy, and so on.

"The creationist v. evolutionist debate is a misnomer: It really is Believers v. atheists with a bit of Orthodoxy v. Modernity."

Not at all: the debate is not over belief vs. non-belief (as much as creationists would love it to be): it's a debate about evolution. It's evolutionary science vs. creationist beliefs.
8.21.2007 11:22am
Adeez (mail):
As ipsedixiter's and ella's wise posts suggest, these broad one-word labels are below the level of discussion worthy of this site. That's why I constantly make fun of those who throw around the term "liberal" w/no connection to reality, and that's why the above post is dumb.

Take Kucinich. His genuine concern for the poor and his genuine push for peace probably make him closest to Jesus's teachings than any other candidate, D or R. Yet most would probably place Bush, all R candidates, and several D candidates ahead of him on the list of "who practices the most fundamental form of Christianity."

Silly labels are for silly people.
8.21.2007 11:26am
rarango (mail):
Foolish me--I thought the typical fundamentalist was a member of a survivalist sect in the West, toothless, although armed to the teeth, who had married three of his first cousins...... No? who knew. And the idea that "crreationism" = fundamentalism is a bit of a stretch. Lets say I believe that God (however defined) created the Universe but then let it do its own thing. Am I a creationist? and therefore a fundamentalist? IMO christian fundamentalists are simply a bogeyman created by some who feel the need to create enemies where none exist. ymmv
8.21.2007 11:28am
Houston Lawyer:
Ignorance and bias in a CNN report, how could that happen? Ignorance and bias appear to be job requirements in the press these days, particularly if you are ignorant of Christianity and think it must be as dangerous as Islam.
8.21.2007 11:30am
Randy R. (mail):
I saw Larry King last night, and they had reps from the three major religions with Christine Amanpour. The point of the show wast to show that there are Christians out there, many ver observant and even fundamentalist, who dont' agree with the loud mouthed political actiivism of Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell. What they tried to say was that the Bible and religion talk more about poverty than abortion or gay rights, and so that should be their focus.

They even said that they should be stewards of the land, which means that they support enviromental policies that will insure we have a livable planet for the next generation! They complained that Jerry and Pat tried to shut them up, but they really believe that all this stuff about judging people on earth is nonsense (leave it to God in any case), and focus on the things that the Bible shows is important -- which is helping out your fellow man, and insuring good things for the next generation.

Focusing on the length of a woman's dress? To these people, it's a nonsense question -- we should be focused on bigger issues, lihe whether people have clean drinking water in China, or the elimination of AIDS in Africa.

To some people who areo obsessed with top button issues, this will upset them. To most others, like me, that seems quite rational and reasonable.
8.21.2007 11:51am
Brian K (mail):
But since there are more Democrats than Republicans, a slightly larger percentage of fundamentalists are Democrats (34%), compared to 32% of fundamentalists who are Republicans....And if one thinks of which group is disproportionately fundamentalist, the exemplar is African-American females, not Republicans.

Perhaps fundamentalism is correlated with republicans then because republicans are much more likely to cater and support fundamentalists than democrats are. The african american female is more likely to vote for the party that does not support her fundamentalists beliefs. (That of course assumes your numbers are correct and not misleading...a rather big assumption given previous posts)
8.21.2007 12:27pm
ipsedixiter:
"Not at all: the debate is not over belief vs. non-belief (as much as creationists would love it to be): it's a debate about evolution. It's evolutionary science vs. creationist beliefs."

As someone who works in academic science I can tell you that it is indeed a battle between believers and non-believers. And while I subscribe to the basic tenets of evolution, as a scientists I know that the "science" behind many of the claims of evolution is not as solid as we've all been told. Just as the debate on climate change (the debate is not over despite those who question the science being called "deniers") has revealed that climate is more complex than previously thought, evolution is not as simple as the non-believing scientists purport it to be. Science is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination.
8.21.2007 12:33pm
Orangutan (mail):
The program is six hours long. If it's a one-sided hit job, they sure pulled out the stops.

Instead of speculating about the program's content based on an AP article, it might be better to go to the source. CNN has a lot of details and clips on their website:

8.21.2007 12:38pm
Orangutan (mail):
http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2007/gods.warriors/
8.21.2007 12:38pm
James Lindgren (mail):
1. I gave the data source and the years for my analyses.

The General Social Surveys, are among the most widely used databases in the social sciences because they are generally viewed as the very best conducted of the regular omnibus surveys. For example, they get about a 70% response rate, compared to the 10-30% in regular opinion polls. They do not release "findings" like a typical opinion poll. In short, I didn't just report someone's poll results mentioned on the web. I analyzed the data myself, after proper weighting (and recoding to include those not asked their religious denomination because they indicated that they weren't religious).

If one wants to analyze the data oneself, most academics may download the data I referred to from the ICPSR at the University of Michigan. Among the variables I used were FUND (recoded), PARTYID (recoded), RACE, SEX, YEAR, and WTSALL.

2. I didn't think I could have been clearer that looking at fundamentalists and figuring out what demographic groups make up a larger share of them is different from looking at a group and figuring out what percentage of that group are fundamentalists. I noted the most interesting -- and surprising -- results of my analysis, not all the results.

Obviously, because African-American women make up such a small percentage of the US population, they will not be a majority (or even a plurality) of fundamentalists.

3. By the way, my personal background -- to the extent anyone cares -- is that I am an atheist. Further, I am aware that there has been a very small amount of Christian terrorist activity in the United States. Indeed, I did a little work for NOW on its RICO suit trying to discourage the bombing of abortion clinics, which three times went before the US Supreme Court.

4. I did not reject the idea that there are some relevant similarities between fundamentalists in different religions ("these forms of fundamentalism have a few things in common"), but I expressed my concern that such comparisons have to be done carefully if they do not mislead as much as they illuminate. Because my post was about some demographic groups that tend to be fundamentalists and about some demographic groups that make up large shares of fundamentalist Protestants, I did not examine ways in which these three types of fundamentalism are indeed similar. I would expect, for example, that both fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist Muslims would tend to believe that their own holy book is literally true and that there should be a greater role for religion in public life. Yet even on these matters, fundamentalists in the two religions might differ quite dramatically on what should be done about these issues.

I hope these comments might help some commenters deal with information that may not fit their possible preconceptions.

Jim Lindgren
8.21.2007 12:39pm
James Lindgren (mail):

Ella wrote:

Ah, yes, the search for the elusive ONE TRUE CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALIST (tm). Because, as everyone knows, there are no flavors of Christian fundamentalism. Every self-identified black fundamentalist must be like every self-identified white fundamentalist must be like every self-proclaimed leader of fundamentalists.



I don't see how you could torture my post into a claim that there is only one kind of fundamentalist.

Pointing out how racially and politically diverse fundamentalists are would seem to point in precisely the opposite direction from the straw man you attack.

Jim Lindgren
8.21.2007 12:47pm
James Lindgren (mail):
Randy R.:

Thanks for the report.

I caught only the last 5-10 minutes of Larry King.
8.21.2007 12:49pm
plunge (mail):
I think is basically dead on in his fears, though his discussion of African American women was a little convoluted and misleading. Christian and Islamic and Jewish fundamentalists really ARE not all like each other, nor coherent within themselves. In fact, one of the real ironies of fundamentalism is how fractious and diverse it is: no one can agree on what the fundamentals are.

When the news covers fundamentalism in this way, particularly when it groups completely different religions together, it does a real disservice to the issue. You can address the issue of irrational beliefs, but then you have to cover more than just fundamentalists. Or you can cover fundamentalism, but if so, you have to cover the specific movements and their histories, and not pretend that they all lump neatly into three religious groups.
8.21.2007 1:20pm
James Lindgren (mail):
For those of you who might want to see the GSS crosstabs results, I uploaded some SPSS output to VC. You can download it here.

Jim Lindgren
8.21.2007 1:28pm
Hattio (mail):
Anybody have a link to which denominations are considered fundamentalist? I must admit the 30% strikes me as amazingly high, and I'm betting the difference has to do with two things. First, GSS considering groups "fundamentalist" that would not meet my personal definition. Second, certain words that are associated with fundamentalist theology generally are used very broadly (I'm thinking particularly Pentecostal, Apostolic and Evangelical) and I'm curious whether small independant churches which use these words in their names are automatically considered fundamentalist.
8.21.2007 1:56pm
Yankev (mail):

Take Kucinich. His genuine concern for the poor and his genuine push for peace probably make him closest to Jesus's teachings than any other candidate

Not to mention his advocating that Israel and America both facilitate that peace by resisting not evil, and turning the the other cheek towards people who want to behead, stab, shoot or blow them up. I guess that's one way to accomplish peace.
8.21.2007 2:20pm
Andy Freeman (mail):
In the post above, we find "Bailey seems to make a living by claiming that the things people hold most deeply true are not true."

How dare Lindgren look at the supporting evidence for certain beliefs.
8.21.2007 2:21pm
ChrisL:
I preface my remarks with the point that differences between systems and ideologies are always a matter of proportion, and only cranks ignore the matter of proportion. In other words, the NSDAP (Nazi party), Sharia in Iran, and amendments to FISA law all involve some infringement of civil liberties, but only cranks and Islamic fundamentalsts use that minor overlap to imply the state of American liberty no different from that in Iran or in Nazi Germany.

By the same token, there are similarities between Christian, Jewish, and Islamic fundamentalists, but massive differences of proportion; the minor infringements of my rights (as a confirmed atheist) due to Christian fundamentalism in the USA, or Jewish fundamentalism in Israel, are but a minor shadow of thos infringements in any Muslim society (including relatively secular Turkey and Tunisia).

Atheist and gay issues are very good bellweathers of a society's approach to civil rights as a whole. Any atheist or gay needs only a second to conclude that s/he is far safer in Christian-influenced or Jewish-influenced societies, than in Islamic societies. Indeed, there are reports of Palestinian gays fleeing illegally into Israel to escape the very real physical threats in the PA. In contrast, gay rights in Judeo-Christian society are now mostly (though not entirely) a physically-saf political fight.

For these reasons of proportion/scale, glossing over differences between Christian &Jewish fundamentalists on the one hand, and Islamic on the other, is dangerous. Christian &Jewish values have indeed diverged widely from Islamic, over a number of centuries, and comparison is absurd.

Sic an atheist (me) defending Judeo-Christianity.
8.21.2007 2:42pm
Paddy O. (mail):
30% sounds really high to me too. The definition must be including Evangelicals. Which is like saying Libertarians and Republicans are the same.

Which means they are using the word Fundamentalist apart from its historical meaning and cutting out what are in fact major internal differences among conservative Christians.
8.21.2007 3:09pm
Jam:
So what is the definition of [Chrisitan] fundamentalist/fundamentalism?

The term was coined in the early 1900's. It was needed because of the increasing numbers of groups claiming to be Christian but were really embracing outlandish beliefs.

A set of "bottom line" Biblical assertions/fundamentals, that defined a Chrisitan, were listed:

Inerrancy of the Scriptures.
Only one God revealed in 3 persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Deity of Jesus.
The virgin birth.
The authenticity of Christ's miracles.
Jesus substitutionary atonement.
The bodily resurrection of Jesus.
Salvation by God's grace alone.
Jesus will return.

What is the definition of Jewish fundamentalism?
What is the definition of Islamic fundamentalism?
8.21.2007 3:36pm
James Lindgren (mail):
In GSS Methodological Report 43, Tom Smith analyzes various ways that have been used to classify Protestant fundamentalists in various academic studies, describes fundamentalist views of various denominations, and finally lists the sects that the GSS considers fundamentalist. Basically, the largest seem to be most (but not all) Baptist sects, a string of many specific "other" denominations (some of which would also be evangelical), and Missouri Synod Lutherans.
8.21.2007 3:41pm
AF:
Where does CNN claim that the subject of "God's Warriors" is all American religious fundamentalists as measured by the General Social Survey? According to the show's press release, the subject is a "rise of religious fundamentalism as a powerful political force" or, put otherwise, that subset of religious fundamentalists "who share a deep dissatisfaction with modern society, and a fierce determination to place God and religion back into daily life and to the seats of power." There is no claim that this includes all members of any particular Protestant sect.

Lindgren's criticism appears to be based on the incorrect premise that CNN is making general claims about all religious fundamentalists when it isn't.
8.21.2007 3:51pm
Hattio (mail):
Jam,
I think you would find many people who just about everybody would agree is "fundamentalist" who would disagree with portions of your "bottom line" principles. Or at the very least disagree as to the "bottom line" nature of them.
8.21.2007 4:12pm
amper:
I love to see how often, when a critical or scientific look is taken at religion, the response from the offended is almost invariably, "You can't use reason to assess religion", or "We're not the problem--*they're* the problem."
8.21.2007 4:40pm
Crunchy Frog:
Those bottom line principles seem to reflect more Catholic and mainline Protestant (Lutheran, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Methodist, etc) belief than any Fundamentalist sects.
8.21.2007 4:52pm
James Lindgren (mail):
AF:

My point was to inform readers when thinking about who US Protestant fundamentalists are or about similarities and differences between Christian and other types of fundamentalists.

CNN may well do a wonderful job of dealing with these issues (to the extent they are relevant), as Randy R.'s report in the comments above seems to give some hope is true. But most academic discussions and conferences that deal with Christian fundamentalism along with Muslim fundamentalism do not do a good job of keeping the facts I present in my post in mind.

I implicitly expressed concern about where CNN might be headed with the juxtaposition, but expressly reserved judgment until I could watch how they deal with Christian fundamentalists.

The impression I get from reading the comments is that many readers, not only do not know the info I posted, but doubt its truth--which is precisely why I posted it.
8.21.2007 5:09pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Fundamentalist or fundamentalist?

I won't watch the show, but a Fundamentalist (capped) is one who accepts the literal truth of the Bible (usually, with the unspoken reservation, KJV).

By that definintion, no Muslim (or other non-Christian) could be a Fundamentalist.

But when we drop the capital F, fundamentalism becomes amorphous. I suppose it is used mostly to mean 'religious nut.'

That's how I view them, having grown up surrounded by them. But since Fundamentalism is a specifically American idea and word and doctrine, it would be as well for us, at least, to be careful how we use it.

The concept in Islam that we Americans carelessly label 'fundamentalism' is probably better described as 'purificationism.'
8.21.2007 5:28pm
Yankev (mail):
Jam

What is the definition of Jewish fundamentalism?

A Jewish fundamentalist means the same thing as ultra-Orthodox: i.e., anyone who takes Judaism seriously to a degree that offends or upsets the person using the term.


When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.' That's what makes fundamentalist or ultra-Orthodox such wonderfully useful terms.

Some people picture chareidim when they hear these terms, but the CNN web site suggests that the special focuses on non-chareidi Jews who subscribe to the notion that Jews that Jews are entitled to live on land they have bought and paid for and who reject the idea that the rest of the world can tell them where they can live, or that they are morally obligated to be stateless, or that there is no historic and religious connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel. But then again I haven't watched the special. And nothing on earth can make me.
8.21.2007 6:16pm
Jam:
There are non-negotiables per Scripture. The term is coined based on what are the fundamentals the separate the Christian brethren from heretics. You may not like it but that is the orignins of the term fundamentalist.

The Roman Catholics (I am a former Roman Catholic, BTW) are not fundamentalists because they do not accept the complete atonement on the cross (telestai) and that faith-works are meritorious. A fundamentalist will not agree with that statement but simply say that good works are a result of a truly changed heart. And not to mention the whole issue of Maryology.
8.21.2007 6:19pm
AF:
Professor Lindgren,

Your data about the American Christian fundamentalist population are certainly interesting in their own right. But I'm missing their relevance to "God's Warriors," which appears to be about politically militant fundamentalists, not all fundamentalists.
8.21.2007 6:28pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
'Roman Catholics (I am a former Roman Catholic, BTW) are not fundamentalists because they do not accept ( . . .) that faith-works are meritorious.'

I think you got that exactly backwards.

Although I am not quite sure what you mean by 'faith-works,' all the Fundies I ever knew told me I could not be saved by works.

Not that any of them were ever in danger of building up too much credit for works in the first place.
8.21.2007 6:34pm
DDG:
Actually Jam, you're quite wrong. And you really don't seem to understand Catholicism at all, which is unfortunately probably part of the reason you're no longer Catholic -- poor catechesis. That's always unfortunate. By your definition, Catholics are fundamentalists, depending on what you mean by inerrancy of scripture. Catholics are not biblical literalists, but then again that's modern protestant invention and is not a feature of historical Christianity (or Judaism). Your list of "fundamentalist" tenants is a fair recapitulation of parts of the Nicene Creeds, in fact. (Catholics do not believe in salvation by works.)
8.21.2007 7:43pm
Randy R. (mail):
Under John Paul II, the Catholic Church validated evolution and other forms of science. I was also taught that although God created heaven and earth, he didn't necessarily do it in six days, or that anything in Genesis is literally true.

One of my definitions of a fundamentalist (and it's just mine -- no basis), is when a person starts telling me or society how we should act according to HIS religion. Religion should be between you and God. It's tough enough to act godly, but then to require that everyone ELSE must as well, is to me, not only impracticle, but downright insulting as well.

There are many Christian fundamentalists who abhor Islam, and their requirement that women wear burkas, and Sharia law and all that (although they are curiously quiet about the beheading of gays. If anyone can point to an instance where any Christian fundie complained about the execution of gays, I'd love to hear about it).

However, these same fundies have no problem voting against any gay rights, tryging to outlaw all forms of abortion and stem cell research, and telling women that they shouldn't wear pants.

A fundie is a fundie, no matter what the religion: they all want everyone else to act like they do, and they want the force of law behind it.
8.21.2007 8:26pm
Paddy O. (mail):
Here's the definition of Fundamentalism as coming from the Fundamentals, which was financed by a cofounder of Union Oil and written by academics from decent places of learning. Jam's list is included in these. Catholics were not included primarily because of the Catholic position on Tradition and the Vatican. Fundamentalists, historically, were quite Protestant and anti-Rome.

However, Catholics, and all conservative Christians, affirm the Nicene Creed which forms the basis of the Fundamentals, so in a way there is a shared pursuit. If Fundamentalism were used according to its historical term I would put a lot of Catholics in that category.

Evangelical is the movement that sought to recover the original goals of Fundamentalism, returning to its intellectual and spiritual roots.

Also good are the works by George Marsden on the subject. For the historical usage, that is.

For the contemporary pejorative the sources abound though they're not really always reliable.
8.21.2007 8:34pm
Michael B (mail):
Nothing concerning ideological fundamentalists? Shocked, I'm shocked there's gambling ...

Reminiscent of all the rhetorical forays that bemoan the Spanish Inquisition, which lasted roughly three centuries and was responsible for killing less than 10,000 people; while the excesses of the Bolsheviks and others, in a span of sixty or seventy years, murdered roughly a hundred to a hundred-and-thirty million. Ideological blinders.

"Under John Paul II, the Catholic Church validated evolution ..." Randy R.

Catholics especially, perhaps, have most always been blase about evolution. In Catholic encyclopedias around the turn of the century (1900) there are explicit commendations of evolution, following scientific evidence where it leads, etc. If JPII did anything in this vein, it was some type of formal or symbolic act, affirming long-held practice and belief. And of course there have been such episodes as the Ernst Haeckel drawings in the sphere of ideological fundamentalists.

Ideological fundies: everyone's to obey the latest PC dicta and scientism du jour, plied with the coercive force of law and institutional rulings and policies - to ensure others properly conform. Then, we're additionally suppose to admire and applaud their "open mindedness" and "tolerance" to boot.

An ideological fundie is an ideological fundie, no matter the facade and pretense.
8.21.2007 9:05pm
Randy R. (mail):
"Ideological fundies: everyone's to obey the latest PC dicta and scientism du jour, plied with the coercive force of law and institutional rulings and policies - to ensure others properly conform. Then, we're additionally suppose to admire and applaud their "open mindedness" and "tolerance" to boot. "

Well, since you use the word 'tolerance', I assume you are talking about gay rights? Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems as though you are saying that gays are fundamentalists along the lines of religious ones.

I can see where you might think that, but there is a difference. Gays merely want to be treated the same as everyone else, having the same rights that you do -- in terms of employment, housing, marriage and so on. Yes, people like me won't stop until we get those rights. Does that make me a fundie? Perhaps. But I'm not requiring that YOU engage in gay sex. Nor am I stopping you from doing anything -- except stopping you from discriminating against gay people.

I think that's a major difference.
8.21.2007 9:49pm
guest:
If Democrats and critics of American fundamentalists in society today are going to be taken to task for misunderstanding who the fundamentalists really are, then what are you going to do to Karl Rove and all the leaders of the GOP religious right? Surely they warrant a harsher punishment for not only misunderstanding but also misrepresenting such a large group of people...
8.21.2007 10:30pm
Aleks:
Re: Inerrancy of the Scriptures.
Only one God revealed in 3 persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Deity of Jesus.
The virgin birth.
The authenticity of Christ's miracles.
Jesus substitutionary atonement.
The bodily resurrection of Jesus.
Salvation by God's grace alone.
Jesus will return.

All but one of those would apply to just about any serious orthodox (small "o") Christian. The three that are very specifically Protetsant (and hence exclude Roman Catholics and Eastern Christians) is the Substitutionary Atonement. Salvation by Grace alone can be debated depending on what you mean by "grace" and the mechanics or its operation. Inerrancy of Scripture is not the same as "literal inerreancy" and hence can be embraced by those who see a great deal of allegory, parable and metaphor in the Bible rather than 100% factual truths.
8.21.2007 10:49pm
Paddy O. (mail):
"If Democrats and critics of American fundamentalists in society today are going to be taken to task for misunderstanding who the fundamentalists really are, then what are you going to do to Karl Rove and all the leaders of the GOP religious right?"

Rove and most of the GOP religious right aren't Fundamentalists. That's sort of the point. They are Evangelicals, which is an intentionally distinct movement. And if you want to know the Evangelical view on things wander over to the defining magazine, Christianity Today, which was founded in the 1940s as part of the new movement. You might be surprised by what Evangelicals are thinking.
8.21.2007 10:55pm
Dogwood (www):
Inerrancy of the Scriptures.
Only one God revealed in 3 persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Deity of Jesus.
The virgin birth.
The authenticity of Christ's miracles.
Jesus substitutionary atonement.
The bodily resurrection of Jesus.
Salvation by God's grace alone.
Jesus will return.


I doubt many Christians would disagree with the above tenants of faith, but relatively few of them would be considered fundamentalists.

In my opinion, fundamentalists go beyond mere beliefs and focus more on behaviors, such as no smoking, no alcohol, no caffeine, modesty of dress, etc., etc.

Its not necessarily their beliefs that make them fundamentalists, as it is their adherence to a more rigid lifestyle in implementing those beliefs, which makes defining a fundamentalist even more difficult!
8.21.2007 11:08pm
Michael B (mail):
Randy, how you pull the subject of "gays" from my comment is beyond me, is baffling in the extreme. (And we very much disagree, but am not going to engage in that topic in this particular thread.)
8.22.2007 9:51am
Colin (mail):
"And of course there have been such episodes as the Ernst Haeckel drawings in the sphere of ideological fundamentalists."

You shouldn't get your information from creationists. Science is not an ideology in that it adjusts to discard conclusions that don't fit the available evidence. That is what happened to Haeckel's drawings. Ironically, it's ideological fundamentalists like Wells who pimp this dishonest myth. See, i.e., http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/wells/haeckel.html.
8.22.2007 11:17am
Michael B (mail):
You're being presumptuous and likewise have no idea where I got my information from (or if you do I'd like to be informed of your method). I was more simply referring to the fact that the Haeckel drawings were used even after it was known they were invalid representations; that is solely what I was referring to. Too, it was a mere aside and I have no problem admitting it's a secondary issue, it was one, minor example only.

Nor did I state, or even imply, that science is an ideology, another odd construal and presumptuous inference. Most recently I framed my view of science in general terms here at VC.
8.22.2007 12:00pm
Jam:
DDG:

I am not a Roman Catholic scholar but I assure that I understand Roman Catholicism well enough. After all, I was born and raised in a country that was about 92% Roman Catholic (I still remember when Baptists where a curiosity) and attended a private Catholic school for 12 years. And another BTW, I declared myself an atheist after my High School's senior year.

About "biblical literalists." That depends on your meaning. If by literalist you mean to say that we apply all the rules of grammar, read historical accounts as history, understand metaphors and similies then we have the same definition. But, based on your post I suspect that your understanding of a literalist is, ah, less than agreeable to me. There are quite a number of Biblical interpretations that deal with eschatology, that put me in good standing with the Roman Catholic camp.

Yes, the "fundamentals" exclude Roman Catholics on account that the Roman Catholic Church does not believe that the Jesus Chrit's atonement on the cross is sufficient to save those who believe. Good works springs from a changed heart and impose no requirements on the triune God.

http://history.hanover.edu/texts/trent/trentall.html
Council of Trent, Canons on Justification
CANON IX.-If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.

I have recited and can recite the Nicene Creed (we have at our Church) but we do not turn the word "catholic" into a proper noun meaning "Roman Catholic Church." The true Church of Jesus Christ is indeed universal.

I also want to let you know that my oldest son, a home schooled high School senior this year, has begun to look into colleges. The first choice in the list is the University of Saint Thomas in Houston, Texas. Solid scholarship and ethics studies that will serve my son well if he does continue in his pursuit of a legal career. The time and attention that was given my son in his visit to UST a few weeks ago speaks volume of the classy people in that organization. But we knew that already.

So, please be careful not to group me where I do not belong.
8.22.2007 12:20pm
Xanthippas (mail) (www):
Unfortunately, this isn't a very helpful post. I don't know if it's the fault of CNN (I haven't seen the show) or Mr. Lindgren, but this post conflates Christian "fundamentalists" with politically conservative Christians of the evangelical or fundamentalist variety, who are largely supporters of the GOP and Bush. If you define "fundamentalists" to include most African-American church-goers (which is a fair definition) then I can assure that even those who worry about "fundamentalists" in our political system are talking about a different kind of church-goer. Definitions can be misleading and even a little disingenuous, and this post does nothing to bring clarity to the problem.
8.22.2007 12:37pm
Yankev (mail):

I don't know if it's the fault of CNN (I haven't seen the show) or Mr. Lindgren, but this post conflates Christian "fundamentalists" with politically conservative Christians of the evangelical or fundamentalist variety, who are largely supporters of the GOP and Bush.


That's because many people use the term as a synonym fir "bogeymen". People who use the term in that sense think that by saying "fundamentalists" instead they make themselves sound so much more sophisticated, scientific and tolerant.
8.22.2007 5:18pm
DDG:
Jan,

I'm confused. That's not what substitutionary atonement means, as far as I am aware. Essentially all Christians believe in substitutionary atonement, which basically means that Jesus died on the cross as a subsitute for sinners. Are you conflating so called "penal atonement" and "satisfaction" with the general concept of substitutionary atonement?

You also appear to be hung up on the idea of "justification", which is precisely the doctrine the canon from Trent you referred to deals with. That is the major fault line between Protestants and Catholics. And to the extent you mean Catholics think justification can occur through a combination of faith and works, you are correct. Frankly, the myriad of views on justification-sanctification-atonement just make my head hurt. Are you a Calvinist by chance?

Also there are actually Bible literalists (7 day creation, earth stood still, etc., and acknowlege no metaphors), sometimes called "flat head fundies".
8.22.2007 7:45pm
Jam:
DDG: I am not confused nor conflated. And, yes, I am hung up on justification. Did Jesus totally, once and for all, atoned for our sins at His death and that that atonement can only be appropriated through belief in the one who Died? Yes. Anything we do is in response, in gratitude, for a changed heart. Our works impose no duty on God.

I gave a definition, a historical definition, of what is a fundamentalist Christian. I understand that you disagree with it because it causes exclusion. Duh.

Unfortunately I do not have the time to get deeper into issues you raise.

And. obviously, I am in the Calvinist camp ... Reformed.

The denomination I have been a member of for over 15 years is the Evangelical Free Church. It dates back to the days of the Reformation and, as its name implies, it was not a State church.
8.23.2007 11:53pm