A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Re-Formed Fundamentalists

If there is one thing that can be asserted without proof (that's a tongue-in-cheek comment meant for literary effect), it is that those who are reformed out of a habit or a movement tend to be the most rabid fundamentalists of them all. The most zealous anti-smokers are former smokers. Those who continually level angry criticism at Christian Fundamentalism are those who used to be Fundamentalists. Others who cannot resist taking continual shots at Protestant liberalism are often former liberals. In their obsession with the things they used to be, they put forth a fundamentalism all their own. Usually, the only people who cannot see such re-formed fundamentalism on display are those who are re-formed fundamentalists themselves. And yes, fundamentalists come in many forms-- conservative and liberal, Democratic and Republican, religious and secular.

So, how can you tell if you are a re-formed fundamentalist of some stripe? There is currently no diagnostic test available, but allow me to offer some test questions that might indicate you have the affliction:

1. When you read something on a blog espousing a view akin to your former days, do you comment, not in reasonable fashion, but in anger and disdain for the view expressed.

2. When you hear an idea or a belief being expressed that is comparable to what you used to believe, do you first roll your eyes before considering the substance of what is being said?

3. Are you more interested in getting your now "enlightened" view across to the other person whom you hope to reform, than serious engaging what you have already decided is nonsense?

4. When you think about the views of the "other" are you angry before reflective?

5. Do you truly believe (be honest here) that those who do not share your views are stupid and/or immoral?

6. Do you get more joy out of insulting those who still hold to their "unreformed" views then engaging in serious discussion?

7. Do you find yourself having trouble getting to sleep at night thinking about all those evil people who are still caught up in their ignorance that you formerly held?

8. Do you see your assault on the ignorant perspectives of others as an issue of justice?

9. Do you only read books from authors who basically share your convictions?

10. Have you answered "yes" to several of these questions, but are still convinced that the label "re-formed fundamentalist" cannot refer to you?

There is a cure for re-formed fundamentalism and it does not involve giving up your basic convictions. Surround yourself with reasonable and intelligent people who do not share your perspective. Contrary to what you might think, they do exist in plenty. Talk to them, have coffee with them, and get to know their families, and engage them on a substantive level. Converse with them and listen as well as talk. In so doing, you may find that over time the anger that consumes you will subside and eventually relieve you of your "fundamentalism;" and you will then be truly re-formed.

If, however, you desire to stay in your (conservative or liberal, Democratic or Republican, religious or secular) fundamentalist bubble, just continue to surround yourself with only those who are like-minded. Your world may remain small, but at least you can enjoy your righteous anger while being confirmed by your fellow fundamentalists.


Jim Jensen said...


I think you're quite right, and I know it applies to me! I grew up in a church of what most Christians traditionally think of when you say, "Fundamentalist" or "Evangelical," and now I have serious issues with both of those theological camps. I don't think most of my reactions to others who still espouse them are quite as severe as those you describe in your post, but than maybe I'm only fooling myself! I suppose my one saving grace is that I AM trying to read and listen to those with different views than mine.


pastorm said...

Daily, I breathe in Jesus, and breathe out contempt and meanness, so that I don't fall into these traps that you describe. Needless to say, it is a process, but one worth the effort.

Allan R. Bevere said...


Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

Allan R. Bevere said...

Pastor M,

It is a process. We are going on to perfection.

Unknown said...

I saw a discussion about this blog post elsewhere, and hope you can clarify a point.

Is your concern that ex-fundamentalists can become fundamentalist about being anti-fundamentalist? Are you suggesting that they meet with fundamentalists?

Or, is your concern that ex-fundamentalists can become fundamentalist about rejecting Christianity in general, and are you suggesting that they meet with non-fundamentalist Christians?

Unknown said...

It is a bit too convenient to simply dismiss the objections of those opposed to fundamentalism as fundamentalist in themselves. The abuses of fundamentalists are quite serious and I would not be too quick to criticize those who expose such abuses. I think some passionate honesty is required to correct it. I would rather see Christians go too far in speaking out against fundamentalism than to preserve the status quo of bigotry and hate that is so prevalent in the church today. If we err, let it be that we err to the side of love.

Unknown said...

Good post!
I'd like to point to the fact many who (de)convert go through a phase of "all-out-anti-whatever-I-believed-before" that is quite normal. This should not be mistaken for "re-formed fundamentalism" - it is actually a form of spiritual anti-biotic, and is a needed part of the process.