Fundamentalism Loses its Mojo

street post with heaven ave and hell st signs

A fun-filled decade of evangelically-driven American foreign and domestic policy is behind us and despite best efforts to inject last minute sex-appeal à la Palin, Christian fundamentalism is fallen. Helpful clarifications and labels like the Axis of Evil are out of vogue.  Whereas previously, issues of national and international importance were seen through the handy prism of Dubya’s good vs. evil rhetoric, it looks as though we are actually going to have to think for ourselves again.

But the fact that Christian fundamentalism is losing its mojo does not mean that Christians are on the retreat.  If anything, moderate proponents of the faith are emerging from the shadows.  “I am a Closet Christian” confesses Ada Calhoun in a Dec 21, 2009 Salon.com article.  A New Yorker, Calhoun talks about her fear of being outed as a Christian: “Why am I so paranoid? I’m not cheating on my husband, committing crimes or doing drugs. But those are battles my cosmopolitan, progressive friends would understand. Many of them had to come out — as gay, as alcoholics, as artists in places where art was not valued. To them, my situation is far more sinister: I am the bane of their youth, the boogeyman of their politics, the very thing they left their small towns to escape. I am a Christian.”

Agonizing about how to verbalize her views on faith, Calhoun says, “it’s hard to talk about any of this without sounding dumb, or like a zealot, or ridiculous. And who wants to be lumped in with all the other Christians, especially the ones you see on TV protesting gay marriage, giving money to charlatans, and letting priests molest children?”

Moderate Muslims face a similar challenge.  After a decade of bad PR, the struggle remains to reshape Islam in the coming decade.  “The good news is that those Muslims who espouse militant ideologies no longer find a physical home in mainstream Muslim America… the New York-based al-Qaeda supporting extremist duo that calls itself “Revolution Muslim” has been reduced to heckling mosque-goers from the sidewalk,” says Shahed Amanullah in altmuslim.com / Global perspectives on Muslim life, politics & culture.

“Muslims Denounce Terrorism / Terror Has No Religion” reads a bumper sticker sold by the The American Muslim.  It’s hard to battle terror with talk of peace but as more and more voices demand an end to extremism, the tide may be turning.  It doesn’t hurt that Obama gave his first interview as President to an Arab broadcaster; that his Cairo speech was well-received or the fact that his envoy to address the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is seen as more balanced than his predecessor.

What the coming decade holds is anyone’s guess.  Hopefully, a new tone is being set. “We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things….” said Obama in his Inaugural Address. Dodging any delusional salvation-through-Obama drool, perhaps there still is hope that childishly extreme religious rhetoric has seen its heyday in the US.

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Bjorn Karlman

56 thoughts on “Fundamentalism Loses its Mojo”

  1. We have to tolerate it as long as it’s not violent. When it turns violent we need to subdue it with respect for human rights, because today’s fundamentalists may be tomorrow leader’s and vice versa. Just check out this story from Britain:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/05/world/europe/05march.html?hp

    Check out the anonymous quote at the end of the article. It is becoming a more and more common euphemism of WASP fundamentalism. With enough provocation, I wonder were such sentiment could lead us in the near future.

  2. Jonathan…

    For the sake of making an argument, I’ll concede that “you keep what you kill… or what you steal” is a morally acceptable way to live. After all, we believe that it was morally acceptable to drive out Native American culture, instead of integrating by learning their customs and their language… ironically the same thing we are asking of Mexican immigrants to do today :)

    But, lets say that by virtue of force, the State does possess the ownership of the land, thus making it illegal to exist of that land without its permission, or license, or tax (I sure hope you are not advocating this).

    Here comes the problem. You are drawing a false dillema that I have to do something, therefore I have to participate in social contract whether I want to or not.

    But again, let’s look at it from a “freeman” perspective.

    Let’s say that your house is located on the land that is surrounded by my land. So, every so often you have to cross my land in order to get out of your house and travel. Now, on my land I have arrangement with several people who pay me money to give them a haircut, and cook breakfast for them once a week, educate their children and maintain a medium of exchange, but they have to pay a “tax” to me. All of us agree on that.

    Now, since you have to travel through my land… I tell you that since you have to use my property to get travel, you have to get a contract to do everything else, including the research on rabbit breeding that people are paying me for. It’s all or nothing.

    As a reasonable person, you don’t mind paying for the use of travel, but you don’t need most of the other things. In face, you find some of these to be morally despicable. So, you keep traveling across the border out of necessity, and offering me payment for the services that you need.

    But, I and my supporters round up a couple of baseball bats, knock on your door and confiscate your house, and your property.

    Now, I know it’s a simplification of reality, but hardly any of us would advocate such scenario as morally acceptable. Yet, this is exactly what you are saying:

    It’s ok to force people to a social contract terms that they don’t agree with, because they otherwise have no other choice or means to live :)

    I hope you see the poor logic of such argument.

  3. Andrey, I think we are on the same page on that one. He liked a little less than his predecessors but as of yet, the stand seems not to have changed much.

  4. Jared, good to see you on CultureMutt! I share your concerns RE the violent rhetoric coming out of the Christian Right. I’d be interested in the parallels you see between Adventism (Seventh-day Adventism for CM readers that are not familiar with the term http://www.adventist.org/) and Islam. I’ve heard comparisons made in the past but am not up to speed with the latest. Thanks for the call to faith as well. Meaning and hope is something we all need. Dialogue and openness to learning from the variety of faith traditions is something I whole-heartedly support.

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