Tag Archive | fundamentalism

It says so in the Bible!

“It is wrong for Christians to drink/be in a same-sex relationship/get divorced/use Facebook/drive a Prius/issue du jour—it says so in the Bible!”

I hear that kind of statement a lot, often from street preachers in Belfast. There are roughly 800,000 words in the Bible. That’s about eight typical novels. So I normally respond with a question.

“Where does it say that in the Bible?”

It is surprising how often people can’t answer that.

If you are going to use the Bible as a basis for your beliefs (as I believe all Christians should) and you are going to share your beliefs with other people, then you should be able to locate the relevant passages. BibleGateway is a useful resource for searching the Bible in various translations.

I am a Fundamentalist

I am a Christian fundamentalist.

This may come as a surprise to you if you have read anything else on this blog. It will come as a surprise to you if you have ever actually met me in person.

It was a bit of a shock to me when I realised, to be honest.

I came to this realisation on the street one day when I was talking to some street preachers who had pressed some of their leaflets into my hand. They started to tell me that it was wrong to be gay (although they probably used the word ‘homosexual’). In the course of this discussion I said the thing that made me realise I am a fundamentalist.

“What does the Bible say? I base my belief of what is right and wrong on that.”

That is a statement that many self-described fundamentalists seem to think belongs to them. It is their shibboleth, their unique selling point. As the discussion continued I did something else profoundly fundamentalist. I quoted passages of scripture, chapter and verse, and talked about what they mean. Again, that is something that many self-described fundamentalists think is something that belongs to them, and them alone. If that is the case then I am a fundamentalist.

Of course, that isn’t the case. It isn’t just the self-described fundamentalist Christians who base their belief of what is right and wrong on the Bible. Lots of Christians do. In fact, I’ve never met a Christian who doesn’t. Many fundamentalists describe themselves as “Bible-believing Christians”, which carries the unfortunate implication that other Christians do not believe it. The truth of the matter is that all Christians are “Bible-believing Christians”. Not all Christians believe that the Bible teaches the same thing – witness the plethora of denominations – but they all believe the Bible.

Scifientology

A few weeks ago I was in a Catholic holy shop that sold various things like Bibles, prayer cards, and religious statues and ornaments. I wasn’t buying anything, I was just there with Michael as he was browsing.

A week or two after that I was in a comic book store. I didn’t go in for anything in particular – I’m not a comic book store kind of guy – but I did browse for a bit. It struck me that the comic book store was similar to the holy shop. It sold books and magazines that people revere (in some senses at least) and had statues and ornaments that featured characters and scenes from those revered texts. In both shops, patrons bought these statues to decorate their homes with objects that had meaning to them.

Although I’m not massively into religious iconography, and I’m really not into comic book paraphernalia, I don’t think there is anything wrong with any of this. How people choose to spend their money and decorate their homes is entirely up to them. Indeed, seeing the parallel between religious and secular icons has helped me understand why people would want, say, a statue of Iron Man. The role that an icon of the Virgin Mary plays in the life of a Catholic is somewhat similar to the role a picture of C3PO plays in the life of an avid Star Wars fan.

I am a lightweight sci-fi fan and I do follow some of the relevant forums. Recently I saw another parallel between sci-fi and Christianity. Sometimes the discussions about sci-fi are full of passion. There are theories that hang on precise interpretation of particular words and phrases, put forward by fans who are convinced that they understood every last detail. There are theological ideas that hang on precise interpretation of particular words and phrases, put forward by Christians who are convinced they understand every last detail. Once again, I don’t see anything wrong with this.

Where it does get weird, and where I do have a problem is where fundamentalists (be they Christian or Scifientologist) encounter other fundamentalists with incompatible theories (or, to a lesser extent liberals like me who don’t feel they have to understand every last detail). That never ends well. In those circumstances people just can’t agree to differ, and things get nasty. I have sometimes wondered if people get into heated arguments because they like arguing (as in fighting not discussing) or maybe because the need to ‘win’ arguments for some reason or other. If you are that kind of person and you are Christian you can find your need to fight in religious forums, and if you are an atheist or agnostic you can have heated arguments over sci-fi or comic books or whatever. For some people arguments over Start Trek occupy the same function as arguments over the book of Habbakuk. Once again, the role that Christianity has in the lives of some is somewhat similar to the role that sci-fi plays in the life of its fans.

Neither is right, neither is necessary, neither is terribly much fun for me to be involved in. However, by and large, the religious arguments do have one advantage over the sci-fi ones. The participants in the former usually believe they are dealing with some form of objective truth. Participants in the latter should know it is just fiction.