November 28, 2022


How Fundamentalism FailsUltimately, the closed fist can't overcome the open hand. (David French, Nov 27, 2022, The Dispatch)

By "fundamentalism," I'm not referring to any specific theology. Fundamentalism instead refers to a mindset, a kind of fierce existential certainty that's echoed in the old religious maxim, "Error has no rights." [...]

In the early stages, fundamentalism can be invigorating. It's an antidote to a life devoid of purpose and dedicated to selfish pursuits. In free and prosperous nations, it doesn't take long to understand that consumer goods provide merely momentary pleasure. In libertine cultures, millions soon learn that sex divorced from love and commitment is ultimately a source of profound loneliness and deep pain. 

And then there's the presence of persistence in injustice. The word "woke" has meaningful roots. What happens when you suddenly become aware of atrocities past and present? If you've never heard of, say, the Tulsa Race Massacre, doesn't something stir inside of decent people when they read that story? Could that be called an awakening?

But there's always a time when the awakened man or woman--no matter the righteous idea they're awake to--faces a defining choice. We'll call it the choice between the open hand or the closed fist. Do you verbally, emotionally, and sometimes even physically punch your way into the public square, or do you approach with compassion, grace, and humility--often knowing that you are speaking to people who were just like you days, weeks, or years ago?

And if you changed once, how do you know that you're finally righteous now? Shouldn't you be open to changing again?

When fundamentalism arises in your own community, it can be profoundly painful and disorienting. People who were friends will call you enemies. They'll warn others not to associate with you. In the church tradition I grew up in, there was even a practice called "chain disfellowshipping." It worked like this: If I believed the right things but did not end my friendship with an apostate in the church, then I could face my own church discipline. 

Combine these attacks with the constant repetition of the righteous idea, and fundamentalism quickly becomes conflated with the idea itself. This is what it means to be Christian. This is what it means to be Muslim. This is what it means to be anti-racist. And when you have questions or concerns, you feel as if you're not just being punched straight out of your community, you're being punched out of your faith, your party, or your very life's purpose. 

Because fundamentalism is very good at capturing institutions, it's then easy to feel both wounded and homeless at the same time. And while you're reeling in pain, other people are sneering in contempt. You were never a Christian. You were never one of us. You are weak, they say--even when the hardest and most dangerous thing you've ever done in your life might be to say no to your own community when you know they've gone awry. 

But if this is the reality, how does fundamentalism fail? Because the bruised reeds and the wounded souls find each other. The community of the closed fist ultimately creates a community of the open hand. We were not created to be despised, to be hounded, and to be hectored into righteousness. Instead, our souls long for actual love and true fellowship.

The Left is the Right.
Posted by at November 28, 2022 12:00 AM