A key term used the thought, writings and speech of those who denigrate contemporary biblical Christian Faith as a dangerous enemy of civil liberty, is what I have called the smear-word, "fundamentalism."
To clear the air on the term and its proper and improper use, let us first follow up with another citation of the term by Rev Dr Hewitt, in a Jan. 1st 2003 Gleaner article:
The USA and its local allies [in Jamaica in the 1970s to 80s up tt he then current time] . . . sought to empower the younger churches that have been planted by missionaries from the USA conservative 'Bible Belt' region. [sic] The high number of new denominations that were incorporated in Jamaica during the 1980s speaks volume to this perspective.
Some of these younger churches . . . were empowered . . . to counter the influence of liberation theology [NB: link to 1984 Vatical Encyclical added] with a traditional fundamentalist theology . . . . many of the younger churches saw their fight/struggle with the older churches as saving the true church from 'a serious heresy/error' in which leaders were making too many concessions to the secular world and its godless ideology of socialism and the rationalising influences . . . They unleashed the religious version of capitalism with its emphasis on rampant individualism, innovative worship and being prosperous at all cost.
The phenomenal rise in charismatic and newer forms of evangelical churches saw some church leaders functioning like TV stars . . . Salvation became totally privatised. Christ came to change individuals without similar emphasis being invested in salvation of the community.
In short, it is not just in the lands of the North that here is a deep-seated hositlity to expressions of Christianity that take the Bible seriously as the Word of God -- i.e., as I noted in 2003, "the younger –- so-called “fundamentalist” –- churches in Jamaica are those that by and large appear on Rev. Devon Dick’s recent list of recently incorporated churches [many of which are native or so-called Mission churches that were operating in Jamaica for decades but simply raised their organisational profile to incorporated status in recent years], especially those that view the Bible as the Word of God, which thus reveals His unlimited love, power, purity, knowledge and truth."
In Dr Hewitt's view, and that of a lot of people of like ilk, many of these “younger churches” are accused of betraying Jamaica by allying themselves to US political interests and associated Government agendas – perilously close to a charge of treason. They are further accused of blocking nation-building by emphasizing the individual rather than the community, and by accusing the leaders of the “older churches” of drifting into rationalistic heresy and socialist ideologies."
But are such accusations accurate, well-warranted or fair?
Plainly, not, for, first, given the large number of educated people of the highest integrity and discernment that are members of these “younger churches” Mr Espeut’s related “ignoramus” claims -- “a sensible person could not honestly continue with Fundamentalism” and: “religious fundamentalism is an obstacle to solving several of Jamaica's social problems” -- simply fail the common sense test. For, the required conspiracy to conceal the truth about the Bible if it were utterly self-contradictory would immediately fall apart due to multitudes of whistleblowers.
Similarly, while some church leaders have clearly uncritically embraced individualism, material prosperity and associated political agendas -- and have often been strongly rebuked by other local Evangelical leaders and international spokesmen such as Chuck Colson in his epochal 1992 book, The Body, for this -- there is a vast gulf between having conservative theological views and treasonously betraying Jamaica or being a violent fanatic.
Moreover, in 1989 the Berlin Wall fell and the Socialist Bloc of countries led by the former USSR disintegrated at the turn of the 1990’s. It then became all too evident that in a high-tech world driven by innovation, sustainable economic development and the material upliftment of the masses are critically dependent on market-based economic mechanisms. Thus, even officially Communist countries such as China and Cuba now emphasise the vital role of markets and innovative entrepreneurs in economic growth.
So, it is fair comment to call for an immediate toning down of over-heated, uncharitable rhetoric.
An excellent place to start such toning down would be with Chuck COlson's famous 1992 work, the Body, in which we can easily enough read:
'Fundamentalism' [in the Christian context] is really akin to [C. S.] Lewis's 'mere Christianity' . . . or the rules of faith in the early church; it means adherence to the fundamental facts - in this case, the fundamental facts of Christianity. It is a term that was once a badge of honour, and we should reclaim it.
At the end of the nineteenth century, evolution and the new higher biblical criticism began to challenge biblical authority. This assault affected even great theological institutions such as Princeton Seminary, which, though once orthodox, began questioning fundamental doctrines such as the Virgin Birth and inerrancy of Scripture. Meanwhile, a lively social gospel was also surfacing. Strong in good intentions, it was weak in biblical doctrine and orthodoxy.
So a group of theologians, pastors and laypeople published a series of volumes titled "The Fundamentals". Published between 1910 and 1915, these booklets defined what had been the non-negotiables of the faith since the Apostles' Creed:
1. the infallibility of Scripture
2. the deity of Christ
3. the Virgin Birth and miracles of Christ
4. Christ's substitutionary death
5. Christ's physical resurrection and eventual return.
These were then, as they are today, the backbone of orthodox Christianity. If a fundamentalist is a person who affirms these truths, then there are fundamentalists in every denomination - Catholic, Presbyterian, Baptist, Brethren, Methodist, Episcopal [i.e. Anglican] .... Everyone who believes in the orthodox truths about Jesus Christ - in short, every Christian - is a fundamentalist. And we should not shrink from the term nor allow the secular world to distort its meaning. [pp. 185 – 6.]
So, can we begin dialogue by first deciding to act with basic respect and old fashioned good manners? END