Yesterday, I read something that broke my heart. A Christian public figure wrote a blog post celebrating actions that clearly “missed the mark” (sin). Worse, the tone was smug and self-righteous. Worse yet, there was really no excuse for this person to do what had been done. There's no excuse for sin, period, but if a person acts out of ignorance or distress, well, I view that differently than sinning out of proud defiance. This person was sinning to PROVE A POINT.
I've spent the last week and a half teaching and talking about gender equality in Africa, and it was kind of nice to be embroiled in another culture's issues for a while. It's easy to spot sin from the outside in, to identify another culture's blind spots and address them without having a personal stake in the matter. While there are people in the USA who disagree with my belief in functional equality (meaning we don't just value people the same; we offer them the same opportunities), no one here is going to cruelly tease my husband for cooking, or make me sleep in a cooking hut because I'm female, or invalidate our marriage because we refuse to buy into the dowry system.
But it's different when we engage in social issues in our own culture. Everything feels personal. We have a lot at stake. We are horrified when society fails to live up to our expectations, and defensive when our values are threatened. Our hackles raise, our fists clench, and we assume our fighting stance. Forget humility, unity, and bearing with one another in love. We feel that we are under attack, and we'll be damned (literally?) if we let the “other side” win.
This has everything to do with what we view as fundamental to our vision for society, and nothing whatsoever to do with Christ-like-ness. Christianity, maybe. But not Jesus.
This is fundamentalism.
This is where our rules, values, and mores become more important than Christ's command that we love one another and be one, more important than Paul's advice that insofar as it is possible, we live at peace with all people. This is where ideology becomes more important than people, where winning becomes more important than communicating, where rigidity overtakes common sense. This is where Christians begin “biting and destroying” one another, and even taking pride in their macabre victories, or the downfall of their ideological “enemies.”
“Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.”
Where does 1 Cor. 13 fit into this?
Where does Phil. 1 fit into this?
Where does JESUS fit into this?
Back to my beginning paragraph, about sin and proud defiance. This person would never call themself a fundamentalist–in fact, I would guess that they view themself as opposing fundamentalism–but I would say that a proud, defiant spirit is one of the primary indicators of fundamentalism. It is a spirit that insists that I am right, you are wrong, and I will break you to get my way, if necessary. It's a spiritual “stand your ground” law, permission to sin, to shoot to kill, if your ideological boundaries are breeched. Because, again, ideas are more important than people.
Except that they're not.
So here's my question.
Are you a fundamentalist?
Let me throw out a few words and see how they make you feel.
Do these words fill you with compassion and concern (whatever side of the issue you fall on), or do they make you want to take off your earrings and assume your fighting stance?
If it's the latter, you may be at risk for fundamentalism.
Look, friends. We need to address evil and injustice. We do. But we need to do it as followers of Christ, as people who stand ready to absorb blows, instead of doling them out.
We need to keep Jesus at the center of everything, lest the issues we are fighting for become more important than Jesus himself. Lest we become proud and defiant, willing to sin (behave in un-Christ-like ways) to prove points. Lest we start to look more like charter members of the “Jerks for Jesus” club than a passionate Nazarene teacher who overcame the sin of the world by going to the cross on the world's behalf.
Maybe you're willing to fight for your cause. But are you willing to die for your enemy?
If not, it may be time to step away from the heat of battle and do some soul searching.
Because you may have become a fundamentalist.