With the recent Ted Haggard scandal, the same old anti-Christian stigmas have resurfaced. In particular, media pundits and talking heads have been liberally tossing about the term “fundamentalism.” The very invocation of this term usually stifles all meaningful discourse regarding Christianity and its fundamental precepts.
“Fundamentalism” has come to be associated with either “cultural retrograde” or “extremism.” The kind of “cultural retrograde” inferred by the term “fundamentalism” is an unwillingness to accept social changes (e.g., abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage, etc.) because they are irreconcilable with the principles of an indigenous belief system. Bear in mind that the proponents of such social changes seldom ever demonstrate how their reforms would constitute a cultural advancement. The kind of “extremism” inferred by the term “fundamentalism” is violent political activism and terrorism. Bear in mind that the opponents of such “extremism” seldom ever condemn radicals who share their own ideological propensities. It is this nebulous criterion for “fundamentalism’s” application that betrays the stigma’s true purpose.
The most common recipients of this stigma have been Christians, Jews, and Muslims that exhibit a passionate adherence to the fundamentals of their respective belief systems. Ironically, terrorist organizations that parasitically attach themselves to one of these faiths typically bowdlerize the fundamentals of the host belief system. Thus, they cannot be characterized as genuine “fundamentalists.” If anything, they represent hideous aberrations, conceptually and philosophically antithetical to the fundamentals of the belief systems they co-opt. However, seldom are such distinctions made. As a result, all of the adherents of the traditional Abrahamic faiths are vilified. The term “fundamentalism” qualifies as what philosopher Ayn Rand calls an “anti-concept.” Rand defines the anti-concept as:
“Fundamentalism” is an anti-concept designed to confuse Christianity and the other Abrahamic faiths with cultural retrograde or, at worst, terrorism. Predictably, most audiences that hear the term make such unfounded correlations. Yet, as it is invoked, the term “fundamentalism” is virtually meaningless.
“Fundamentalism” connotes an unwavering adherence to the “fundamentals” of a belief system. Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary defines a “fundamental” as “one of the minimum constituents without which a thing or a system would not be what it is” (no pagination). For all practical purposes, anybody and everybody qualifies as some sort of fundamentalist. A physicist accepts the “fundamentals” of physics. A mathematician accepts the “fundamentals” of mathematics. Likewise, a Christian accepts the “fundamentals” of Christianity. Without these “fundamentals,” Christianity would not be what it is. Yet, that is precisely what detractors who invoke the term “fundamentalist” want. They want the faithful to abandon the fundamentals of their faith, thereby eviscerating Christianity. Any Christian who refuses to abandon his or her beliefs and convictions is deemed a “fundamentalist.” Of course, the bestowal of this anti-concept precedes the subject’s stigmatization and disenfranchisement. This is precisely the purpose for which the anti-concept of “fundamentalism” was designed.
The most insidious correlation that the term “fundamentalism” makes is the association of deeply held principles with “extremism.” “Extremism” itself is an anti-concept. Rand states:
“Fundamentalism” and its anti-conceptual correlative, “extremism,” are merely the semantic weapons of moral relativism. The nebulous criterion for the invocation of these stigmas betrays the nihilistic proclivities of those who use them. Rand eloquently synopsizes:
The Ted Haggard scandal has made it easier to smear men of integrity. Any Christian who genuinely embraces his or her faith is a “fundamentalist” and, therefore, qualifies as an “extremist.” Of course, “extremists” are typically criminals. Thus, Christianity itself must be criminalized. The crusade to abolish all faiths and theistic Weltanschauungs has been edified. No doubt, Haggard will join Jim Baker and Jimmy Swaggart in the litany of “cases in point” cited by secular progressives.
Ironically, left-wing critics have a deviation from “fundamentals” to thank for the Ted Haggard scandal. The evils of the Haggard scandal stem from a disregard for “fundamentals.” Yet, it is precisely such disregard that leftists encourage. However, there is little chance that such a paradox will ever be recognized by the masses. With the anti-concept of “fundamentalism” deluging public forums, further deviation from principles is guaranteed and another Ted Haggard waits to fall.
Rand, Ayn. Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. New York: Signet Books,
© 2007 Phillip D. Collins
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Phillip D. Collins acted as the editor for The Hidden Face of Terrorism. He has also written articles for Paranoia Magazine, MKzine, NewsWithViews, B.I.P.E.D.: The Official Website of Darwinian Dissent, the ACL Report, Namaste Magazine, and Conspiracy Archive. In 1999, he earned an Associate degree of Arts and Science. In 2006, he earned a bachelors degree with a major in communication studies and a minor in philosophy. During the course of his seven-year college career, Phillip has studied philosophy, religion, and classic literature.
He has recently completed a newly expanded and revised edition of The Ascendancy of the Scientific Dictatorship (ISBN 1-4196-3932-3), which is available at Amazon.com. He is also currently co-authoring a collection of short stories, poetry, and prose entitled Expansive Thoughts. It will be available late Fall of 2006.
The most common recipients of this stigma have been Christians, Jews, and Muslims that exhibit a passionate adherence to the fundamentals of their respective belief systems.