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The term “Fundamentalist.”

During a conversation recently it was put to me, that a comment a I’d made was considered to be ‘fundamentalist‘. I was taken aback by this judgement.  It made me think about how I had approached the conversation and why on earth my comment would’ve possibly been misconstrued as ‘fundamentalist’? As the conversation progressed my thoughts bounced back and forth to my understanding  fundamentalism.As it happens, I was sharing concerns about the acceptance of New Age ‘healing’ practises undertaken by Catholics.Exchanging money for services  implies that one would accept these practises, surely. At the same time I expressed my disdain at the negative press Christians receive in our secular society, and ended by stating that we as Catholics should be responsible for speaking up about our faith(however insignificant that may seem) and the Truth about it, more than ever.  It was at this point that my comment was deemed to be  ‘fundamentalist’. I felt uncomfortable with this label and decided to do a little investigation into the definition of the word, hoping to gain fresh insight and understanding of it’s worth.


  • Within academic circles, the term is generally used in a precise manner. For example, Author Karen Armstrong defines fundamentalist movements as “embattled forms of spirituality, which have emerged as a response to a perceived crisis” – namely the fear that modernity will erode or even eradicate their faith and morality. 1 That concern is shared by FundamentalistChristiansJews, and MuslimsSikhs, and others
  • Within Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and other faiths, the media generally use the term to refer to the most conservative wing of the religion. For example, fundamentalist Christianity is often described as the most conservative wing of Evangelicalism.
  • However, sometimes the term is used as a general-purpose “snarl” word which is intended to denigrate a religious group, implying that they are intolerant or prone to violence.
In light of the first definition, my comment certainly cannot be described as a fear that modernity will erode or even eradicate my faith and morality. My intention was and is , to highlight the accepted notion in secular society, that most decisions are made relative to one’s needs and circumstances at that one moment in time, and it is accepted that in light of this relativity, decisions  need not be held up for scrutiny.  Surely Christians always attempt to make decisions based on their knowledge and understanding of their Belief and in light of their role as Christians in society?
My discomfort surfaced when thinking in terms of definition two. Witnessing in favour of grass root foundations of the Faith, means that sometimes my views may be easily dismissed  as conservative or right-wing, simply because the issue at hand is blurred through the dirty grey lens of  relativity.  My question then is, ‘What is my role as a Christian in conversations such as these?’
I finally breathed out slowly on reading definition three. I decided that my comments were clearly rebuked in terms of a general-purpose snarl at my gall for raising a topic that in itself can cause an uncomfortable twitch during conversations.
The term, ‘don’t upset the apple-cart’ springs to mind here.
I know for sure that my contributions should not have been labelled as ‘fundamentalist’.  I do hope that in retrospect my concerns raised will encourage further sincere investigation and then be understood as an important  principle; a fundamental decision that serves as a choice between being right or wrong.
As a n extra: Over at http://the-hermeneutic-of-continuity.blogspot.com/ you can enjoy reading about new fundamental laws that have just been passed in Hungry. FUNDAMENTAL in the true sense of the word!

Leave a comment


  1. Claire

     /  January 29, 2012

    I would like to find out what the person meant when they said fundamentalist. This would lead you to understand weather the speaker firstly understood the word and which of the 3 they were referring to. Although not easy as it would then become a conversation on grammer rather than a open discusson on the topics raised.


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