Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Characteristics of Fundamentalism

In my recent post on the Last Generation documentary film I noted that I did not like the sound bite definition they used for fundamentalism. I am reading a very interesting book entitled:

Revival of the Gnostic Heresy --Fundamentalism by Joe E. Morris

The book gives this recitation of the what a Fundamentalist is which I think is well done:

Martin Marty and Scott Appleby in their landmark study The Fundamental Project,
discovered common factors among various movements that would qualify as

• Religion: Religion is the source of all forms of fundamentalism; each form
usually manifests a religious compulsion that drives a religious faction.

• Traditionalism: Fundamentalists are traditionalists but discriminating and
selective in what “works” for their tradition.

• Anti-Modern: Fundamentalists react negatively against modernity and modern

• Siege mentality: Fundamentalists possess a siege mentality with an air of
paranoia; they perceive the world as a specific threat to individual and corporate

• Militancy: Fundamentalists exhibit a militant attitude, fed by a paranoia that
their back is to the wall and that they are fighting for their very existence.

• Perception of History: The Fundamentalist perception of history is distorted.
Fundamentalists live in a glorious past, to which there is a felt need to
return if the future is to survive. History is viewed as a conflict between evil
and good, and evil is the modern world.

• Authoritative male leadership: With very few exceptions, fundamentalist
movements are led by authoritative males

• Exclusionists: Fundamentalists stereotype and label. Clear lines are drawn
between believers and nonbelievers, insiders and outsiders. There is no middle
ground or gray area.

• Totalitarian: Consistent with their dualistic view of reality (good versus
evil), everything is seen in absolute terms. Their totalitarian system would
replace the old.

At the conclusion of their work, the two authors make this excellent summation:

In these pages fundamentalism has appeared as a tendency, a habit of mind, found
within religious communities and paradigmatically embodied in, certain representative
individuals and movements, which manifests itself as a strategy or set of strategies,
by which beleaguered believers attempt to preserve distinctive identity as a
people or group. Finding this identity to be at risk in the contemporary era, they
fortify it by a selective retrieval of doctrines, beliefs, and practices from a sacred
past.7 (Page 68)

As the Adventist church deals with the issues of the day I think it is very helpful to remember these characteristics of Fundamentalism as seen so often in Traditional Adventism.

No comments: