Thursday, February 09, 2006

Putting the "Fun" Back in Fundamentalism

Taleena, responding to this post, has written:
I want to chime in the comparisons between fundamentalist Christian reaction and fundamentalist Muslim reaction to depictions or parodies of their sacred symbols and personages.
I know that Taleena is here using a verbal shorthand, but since I have a blog I can obsess over anything I choose. Being an obsessive language nerd and having grown up in a Fundamentalist household, I cringe whenever I hear the term "fundamentalist" applied to radical Islamic viewpoints. I realize that it has now become accepted by overwhelming usage, but it was first used as a lazy way to hang a label on a viewpoint that was poorly understood by the journalists covering it, and it is now being used by those who would draw specious parallels between Christians in the Western democracies and Muslims.

Christian Fundamentalism was a response to modernism, specifically to a de-mythologizing of scripture by European theologians.

Wikipedia's article on Christian Fundamentalism is actually not to shabby. Although I'm sure that a true Fundamentalist scholar would find much to dispute. It's a decent introduction.

The major difference between Christian Fundamentalists and Islamic "fundamentalists" is that while both groups call believers back to a literal acceptance of their respective scriptures,
  • Christian Fundamentalists acknowledge that since they do not have the original autograph manuscripts of their sacred texts, all Biblical scripture is subject to textual criticism.
  • Muslim "fundamentalists" believe that the Koran was dictated by Allah, through the Arch-Angel Jibril, to Muhammad and that the current text of the Koran is identical to what was said by Muhammad to be the Koran .
This distinction arises from the fact that Christian Fundamentalism is a modern (20th century) school of thought that arose in a religious culture based on the Scottish Enlightenment. Islamic "fundamentalism" arose in a stagnant culture as a way to deal with the shame of that culture falling behind the Christian/Secular West in almost every measure.

These are not a small distinctions. They are the difference between "No" and "Perhaps."

For my secular readers, just because you don't agree with Christian Fundamentalists, don't let slapdash labels lead you to conclusions that you can't support intellectually.

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