A New Kind of Fundamentalism?

With protests against COVID-19 restrictions popping up around the country, I’m wondering if we’re not seeing a display of a new kind of fundamentalism.

Christian fundamentalists, a sliver of believers, have been around a long time. They derive their name from adhering to five fundamentals of the faith. Their resulting version of Christianity comes across as exclusionary, individualistic, anti-science, and authoritarian.

Perhaps a similar mindset, but different expression, of fundamentalism is being displayed on the national stage.

We’ve all seen pictures of protests demanding an end to the pandemic lockdown. One protest, on the steps of the state capitol in Lansing, Michigan, featured many protesters displaying pistols and assault rifles, some holding “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, and one having a “Live Free or Die” hand-painted placard.

I really feel their angst; we all do. The pain inflicted in so many ways because of the restrictions is beyond description. Great rejoicing there shall be when we can safely return to some semblance of normalcy.

However, a logical question arises: Why, in the face of a wildly infectious pandemic killing thousands and infecting millions, would these fellow Americans express outrage that they were asked to stay at home so as not to spread the disease?

The only answer I can think of is that perhaps, like their Christian counterparts, this small group of Americans holds five interconnected, fundamental beliefs.

ONE. Individual freedom is an inalienable right that trumps all other rights. Our nation was founded on the bedrock of personal liberty.

TWO. Take away one of my freedoms, you’ll take away all of them. It’s a slippery slope. If you take away my gun today, you’ll take away my vote tomorrow.

THREE. Truth is black and white. No need to contemplate grays, nor necessarily accept what “experts” say.

FOUR. There’s a (liberal) conspiracy against the truth. There’s a lot of “fake” stuff, including news and science.

FIVE. If you don’t agree with fundamentals 1-4, you lack patriotism.

This fundamentalism goes well beyond the old conservative/liberal debate. America was built on those two different sides hashing things out and, hopefully, coming up with policies that help us all move ahead. It was built on free speech that had an underlying assumption of respecting the person with whom you’re disagreeing.

But the nationalist fundamentalists see compromise as a four letter word. This limits an opportunity for real discussion.

Perhaps what might be helpful instead is to review those five fundamentals. What should we say in response?

ONE. The common good of all tempers some individual freedoms. We fought a civil war and had a civil rights movement because of this truth.

TWO. Our rights are upheld by a Constitution that is the foundation of our country. The all or nothing mindset comes from fear, not reason.

THREE. Truth expands into many colors when you broaden horizons. Encountering new people, facts, and ideas does this.

FOUR. There is no secret room where “they” are plotting their next move. It’s the grist of social media, though, to imagine it, regardless of political perspective.

FIVE.  Americans come in assorted shapes and sizes, backgrounds and beliefs, cultures and religions. Attend a naturalization ceremony for new Americans and you’ll get goosebumps.

It’s a shame that even in the pandemic, when we come together in so many ways, the divisiveness rooted in fundamentalism emerges on state capitol steps.

Luckily, though, the crisis also helps us see an emerging cohesiveness and a willingness to sacrifice for others. This is where Christians can help lead the way.

10 thoughts on “A New Kind of Fundamentalism?”

  1. “It’s a shame that even in the pandemic, when we come together in so many ways, the divisiveness rooted in fundamentalism emerges on state capitol steps.”

    I think we are missing the point. The protesters are not rebelling against good health practices, but against the well-intentioned measures that prohibit them from accomplishing their livelihood. These are not Wall-streeters protesting, they’re small business people and their employees, many of whom are facing homelessness if their rent can’t be paid. Let’s have a little compassion for them, and seek to support those who are seeking a way to open businesses AND protect each other from the virus.

    Reply
    • “Why, in the face of a wildly infectious pandemic killing thousands and infecting millions, would these fellow Americans express outrage that they were asked to stay at home so as not to spread the disease?” This quote might help you find the answer to your question. “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”
      C.S. Lewis

      Reply
    • It is much easier to sit in our homes and belittle those who are trying to keep their homes than do as you are suggesting and have compassion on our fellow Americans. Thank you for your willingness to speak on behalf of those who just want to have the same freedoms as the large business owners.

      Reply

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