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December 15, 2005

What's In A Word?

The word for today is "Fundamentalist".

The Paul Mirecki incident - on top of about twenty years of pondering the relationship between Christians and the world, and between Christians themselves, started me wondering. What, really, is a fundamentalist (or, as they're known to the chattering classes, a "fundie")?

The media delivers the term with a nudge and a wink, at best - "Fundamentalist" is a code word for "ignorant yahoo" in a good chunk of the media, and that's just the "objective" "news" media. In the "entertainment" media, "Fundamentalists" seem almost invariably to be portrayed as Stepford-y caricatures - neat haircuts and plaid pants on the outside, seething hatreds and psychoses and, always, always uncanny hypocrisies on the inside.

I saw "Moral Orel - the Best Christmas Ever" on Adult Swim the other night - well, part of it anyway - ironically, it was the Worst Christmas Special Ever. That it was desperately unfunny was the least of it; it's "satire" of a "Fundie" family was marinated in the kind hate that reminded me of Nazi caricatures of Jews during the thirties.

Hollywood dares not insult Arabs or Moslems by portraying them as villains or aggressors - note Hollywood's bowdlerization of Tom Clancy's Sum of All Fears, replacing Arab fundamentalist villains with neo-Nazis, who are ironically not a "clear and present danger" to this country or, for that matter, a factor in Clancy's book. Fundamentalists (and their close relatives, the devout, observant Catholic) are, however, a safe vessel for every sickness, perversion or psychosis that Hollywood can dream up.

So what is a "Fundamentalist"?

I guess I am.

I mean, the fundamentals of the protestant faith are acceptance that Christ is your Lord and Savior (and stow the pseudo-theological nitpicking; with that acceptance comes a duty to act like that matters in the way you carry on with your life).

I worship in the Presbyterian Church, in spite of much galloping idiocy on the part of the Church's temporal governing body, because of all the Christian denominations it seems to lard the message of the Bible up with less extra-biblical overburden (it's bureaucracy doesn't declare itself holy, and refrains from tacking bits and pieces onto the canon of belief), stretchy interpretation (pre-destination and election, which seem to invalidate any rational reason for faith or need for redemption and its attendant acceptance of Christ and rejection of the World, are out) or overemphasis on one facet of faith combined with neglect of others (exclusive focus on the viscerality of the Holy Spirit combined with ignorance of the intellectual study of the Father and of the commitment and sacrifice of the Son, as a convenient example).

(Please note: Comments advancing particular Christian theologies, or focusing on nitpicking my view of my own church's tenets, will be deleted with extreme prejudice. Expressing my own beliefs is not, and should not be taken as, a slight on your own beliefs, or an invitation to tell me why yours are so very much better. I'm specifically disinviting theological dick-measuring. Start your own blog, go forth, and convert the world on your own nickel).

Your mileage may vary - but if "fundamentals" means "basics", I guess I'm a "fundie".

Of course, the term as used in the media and Hollywood isn't about theological taxonomy - it's a stereotype, a code word for "people we think are weird and really don't like much".

So I guess the only response I have to the likes of Mirecki and his type - the people that fulminate against "fundies" (and all the other synonym code words, like "Radical Christian Right", which has grown well beyond describing the few genuine radical Christians to mean "everyone who's a Christian and a conservative, and doesn't hide it") - is to assume their not a lot different than the rednecks I used to know who couldn't refer to people different than them as anything but n****rs, s***s, g**ks and so on; people who aren't bright enough to actually think about dissent, and have to resort to stereotypes and bigotry.

Posted by Mitch at December 15, 2005 06:01 AM | TrackBack
Comments

You said it. I've always thought, too, that a fundamentalist is someone who acknowledges the fundamentals of Christianity. Some may choose to adhere to a strict interpretation of things, but that doesn't make them wrong. If we happen to disagree, who knows, we may be wrong.

I think to the secular world, a fundamentalist is someone who has the temerity to take their Christianity seriously.

Posted by: Jeff at December 15, 2005 09:29 AM

"Clear and Present Danger" didn't have terrorists... that was the last Harrison Ford "Jack Ryan" film. The film you refer to is "Sum of All Fears".

(I get the impression not many folks liked Clear and Present Danger, but I loved it.)

Posted by: badda-blogger at December 15, 2005 09:35 AM

Jeff,

Last sentence - exactly what I was looking for in my last sentence!

Badda,

Doh! You're right. Sum Of All Fears. (I actually liked both books. Actually, I'll say it here - Clancy was great up through "Without Remorse". Then, he started phoning it in.

Posted by: mitch at December 15, 2005 09:42 AM

"Theological dick-measuring"? You're a poet.

Posted by: Geoff at December 15, 2005 09:56 AM

And let's not forget the neatest trick of all -- grafting the word "fundamentalist" onto Islam, where it has no historical meaning, in order to blacken Christian Fundamentalists by association. With the ironic by-product that the chattering classes actually respect Muslim "fundamentalists" (who, for instance, practice honor killing and the stoning of homosexuals) more than Christian Fundamentalists (who merely disapprove of premarital sex and sodomy).

Posted by: Lars Walker at December 15, 2005 10:30 AM

I've said this many times: A Chirsitna Fundamentalist will tell you you are going to Hell.

An Islamic Fundamentalist will try to send you there.

Posted by: billhedrick at December 15, 2005 11:13 AM

Mitch, we liberals didn't invent the term fundamentalist in reference to Christians.

Christians did.

When self-proclaimed fundamentalist Christians acts outside the definition of what Jesus himself taught, he or she is opening themselves up for criticism and ridicule.

Mike Adams in your last Mirecki post is a perfect example. He completely misrepresented an non-existant exchange with Mirecki.

Look in Leviticus for any reference to false witness and tell me that Adams was acting like a fundamentalist Christian as he claimed.

I case you had forgotten, Jesus was a Jew and he taught that the commandments as given to Moses were the law and were to be followed. You can't pick and choose arbitralily (sp?) when it suits your agenda.

If you're a Christian, be a Christian but don't attempt to claim the moral authority when you (speaking generally - not you specifically Mitch) act contrary to what you claim. By the way, Jesus had a little something to say about that if I remember correctly.

Posted by: Doug at December 15, 2005 11:18 AM

"Mitch, we liberals didn't invent the term fundamentalist in reference to Christians...
Christians did."

No argument.

And then the media went to work perverting that term.

"When self-proclaimed fundamentalist Christians acts outside the definition of what Jesus himself taught, he or she is opening themselves up for criticism and ridicule."

Sure, but after nearly thirty years of concerted effort, there's now a presumption of perversion whenever the media or Hollywood present *anything* to do with "fundamentalist" Christians (not to mention their linking of "fundamentalist" with "Jihad").

"Mike Adams in your last Mirecki post is a perfect example. He completely misrepresented an non-existant exchange with Mirecki."

...while nailing Mirecki on substance.

"Look in Leviticus for any reference to false witness and tell me that Adams was acting like a fundamentalist Christian as he claimed."

You are stretching soooooo far for that one. THere was no false representation; if it were a lefty using the same device to explicate holes in a story, I know *damn* sure you wouldn't mention a word about it.

Posted by: mitch at December 15, 2005 11:34 AM

I think my complaint with Fundamentalism is centered on their insistance on a literal interpretation of the scriptures, when the work is such a tangled and complex web of metaphor, history, and culture so alien to our own that understanding without secondary sources and historical scholarly interpretation (which is often eschewed) results in an imbalanced interpretation of the main message of the bible. It is truly the example of comparing an elephant to a rope, or a tree, or a wall depending on which part you examine, or like using a magnifying glass to describe an impressionist painting.

For example, when Jesus is dying and cries out "Why have you forsaken me?" - this takes an entirely different meaning when it is realized this is meant to echo Jobs expression of faith. It is not doubt that Jesus expresses, but lasting faith in God even at the moment of his death. And yet the scriptures are full of examples such as this, where the words mean different things based on your historical knowledge (for example, the mustard plant at the time of the scriptures was the biblical equivelent of kudzu - an unwanted weed). THIS IS INTENTIONAL, for his message was a subversive one and subtefuges were necessary to keep the real message from the authorities. Jesus was speaking in a way that rural villagers would understand, but not the elites in their fine homes or the Romans in their barracks.

My other chief complaint against fundamentalism is that by believing they can understand the word of God by a literal reading of the scriptures - as if it were a textbook - that it is easy to adopt a literal, legalistic impression of morality. It is all there in black and white, just follow the religious cookbook and you are saved. No work is needed on your part to understand, everything you need is between the covers of a book. Just read it.

Yet if a literal interpretation was all you needed, well, the Jews had the 10 commandments and 600+ some laws, and a good Jew was an observant Jew. So why the need for the prophets? Why the constant decrying in Isiah (one of the touchstones for creating the new testament) against those who followed the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law? Why was Jesus always speaking in parables, forcing his diciples to constantly ask "But what does it mean?" They wanted morality laid out in front of them, easy to read and understand, they want an authority to explain things simply to them, yet Jesus was constantly forcing them to think out matters of faith and morality.

Morality is not a laundry list of dos and don'ts, it requires intellectual and spiritual effort to understand, just like you need to do the exercises in an algebra book. In my view, a literal, fundamentalist interpretation is a crutch, an easy out. "A guy on TV says this is wrong so it must be so", appeal to authority kind of thinking.

This is the kind of thinking that allows someone to see Gandalf - a warrior priest in the Davidic tradition with secular authority, for example, as a Christ figure when his message was totally opposite to this.

By seeking their values only in authority, I believe fundamentalists sacrifice their responsibility for truly internalizing and understanding the word of God. And if a person gives up their power to an authority in one realm (religion) the pattern is set for giving up their power to authority in other, possibly amoral realms.

Posted by: Bill Haverberg at December 15, 2005 12:00 PM

"THIS IS INTENTIONAL, for his message was a subversive one and subtefuges were necessary to keep the real message from the authorities."

I was with you up to this point. Jesus didn't keep his "real message" from the authorities. He rubbed their noses in it.

Posted by: Kermit at December 15, 2005 12:53 PM

"By seeking their values only in authority, I believe fundamentalists sacrifice their responsibility for truly internalizing and understanding the word of God. And if a person gives up their power to an authority in one realm (religion) the pattern is set for giving up their power to authority in other, possibly amoral realms."

Interesting point, and by your formulation, I wonder if there are many fundamentalists. My definition of Christian fundamentalist (frankly of simply Christian) is someone whose heart is subject to the Word of the Living God. People can differ on interpretation, or simply not know the final word on something. For instance, in my church there is an evolving position on infant baptism, some parents have their children baptised right away, others wait until the kids have some understanding of what is happening. I know a fundamentalist would be dumbfounded by this, but I think the soul of Faith is the realization that you need a Living God informing your life in every moment. Jesus said, "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."

Posted by: billhedrick at December 15, 2005 01:59 PM

Sure, there are Fundamentalists who have a short list of rules beyond which they don't think, but you find that in any group (including the Left). I think many people would be amazed, if they actually met some Christian Fundamentalists, to discover how many of them wrestle with the scriptures, seeking enlightenment, and hold themselves to far higher standards than they demand of others.

But if you think the Bible is so obscure that it's simply incomprehensible to the modern mind, and therefore all opinions about it are equal, well, I just disagree with you.

Posted by: Lars Walker at December 15, 2005 02:22 PM

Actually, Doug, my first response to your comment was incomlete; I was in mid-meeting.

You say "When self-proclaimed fundamentalist Christians acts outside the definition of what Jesus himself taught, he or she is opening themselves up for criticism and ridicule."

I can't believe I missed this the first time.

Bullshit.

There is *nothing* about "fundamentalism" - belief in the fundamental tenets of Christianity - that implies in any way that the believer has attained perfection. Pretty much the opposite; faith is an admission of one's own imperfection and predisposition to sin.

Being a "Self-Proclaimed Fundamentalist" (huh?) is not claiming to be without sin; it's believing that one is accountable to a much higher power above and beyond our temporal power for one's sins, and that God's grace will save you from them.

That some fundie, somewhere, might have given someone a different impression isn't in question; idiocy happens. My point: the media, academy and Hollywood have engaged in a decades-long effort to try to make hypocrisy and hubris our society's dominant assumptions about "fundamentalists".

As, seemingly, they are with you, judging by your comment.

Posted by: mitch at December 15, 2005 02:53 PM

"n****rs, s***s, g**ks" refer to a person ethnic heritage or skin color, not the content of their persons character. "Fundamentalist" refers to the content of a person's beliefs and judgement.

Liberals believe in evaluating people based on their beliefs and judgments, not their ethnic heritage or skin color.

I guess PC conservatives like you would prefer we make no judgements about people based on their ideas.

Posted by: RickDFL at December 15, 2005 02:54 PM

Rick,

I'd actually prefer one judge based on ideas.

Problem is, "fundamentalist" has become a shorthand code that allows people to judge without actually *knowing* the ideas involved.

Posted by: mitch at December 15, 2005 03:00 PM

"Problem is, "fundamentalist" has become a shorthand code that allows people to judge without actually *knowing* the ideas involved."

So no conservative should use the term "communist" until the get through Das Kapital or, at least, the Manifesto. That is silly.

Fundamentalists believe the Bible (usually the King James text) is a literal and historically accurate record of events and God's divine commands. Salvation is open to all, but only though accepting Jesus Christ the Son on God as your Lord and personal savior.

I bet 9 out of ten self identified 'fundamentalists' would accept this.

Can you give a two sentence deffinition of 'liberal' acceptable to 9 out of 10 self identified liberals?

Posted by: RIckDFL at December 15, 2005 03:36 PM

You're hiding the pea in the shells, Rick. If you'd come out and say, "I hate Christian Fundamentalists because they believe in biblical moral rules, and consider homosexual behavior a sin, and want abortion made illegal," that would be fair.

But what the Left generally does is present a picture of Christian Fundamentalists as hateful, stupid, violent yahoos, "poor, uneducated and eaily led". That caricature (demonstrably false) is what Mitch is objecting to.

Posted by: Lars Walker at December 15, 2005 04:07 PM

Say, we're always in the mood for a good talk about political religion. Our response is here...

http://monkeysponge.blogspot.com/2005/12/that-ol-time-religion.html

Posted by: cleversponge at December 15, 2005 05:56 PM

"Say, we're always in the mood for a good talk..."

...but as usual, you went with perfunctory, smug and pointlessly insulting.

10 for 10, sponge.

Posted by: mitch at December 15, 2005 11:39 PM

Was this what bothered you Mitch?

"Over at Shot in the Dark, Mr. Berg is engaging in some particularily whiny (and, as we will shortly contend, wildly inaccurate) talk about the definition and meaning of "fundamentalism". The gist of the post is that the word "fundamentalist" is woefully misused as an insult by elitists (comically represented in the post by Hollywood) against good, God-fearing, conservative Christians. Throughout the course of complaining about the misuse of a term that describes something of such great importance, Mr. Berg clearly demonstrates that he has no real use for the term in anything other than a political sense...which is sort of what he is complaining about from the other "side"."

EY: Sponge did quite well.

As I said on your other post on Mirecki, the beating made the Onion:

http://lloydletta.blogspot.com/2005/12/mirecki-makes-onion-here.html

Posted by: Eva Young at December 16, 2005 12:38 AM

Mitch, Oh Jeez... Where to start...

"And then the media went to work perverting that term."

The media had zero to do with perverting that term. If you want to hold someone accountable for that, start with Peter Popoff. While you're at it take a look at Jim Baker. Don't forget to include Jimmy Swaggart, Robert Tilton Benny Hinn and Oral Roberts in your examination.

"Sure, but after nearly thirty years of concerted effort, there's now a presumption of perversion whenever the media or Hollywood present *anything* to do with "fundamentalist" Christians"

Not that I think it's right but Mitch, sterotypes exist for a reason. I've seen you make sweeping generalization about liberals as Volvo driving, alpaca wearing etc. etc. etc. yet here you are whining about how it's not fair that the media is portraying fundamentalists a certain way. Sorry bud but maybe they're represented that way because the most visible and vocal are exactly as they are being portrayed.

"THere was no false representation."

Yes Mitch. There was. In addition there was an implied suggestion that Mirecki is lying. What did Jesus say about judging others?

"My point: the media, academy and Hollywood have engaged in a decades-long effort to try to make hypocrisy and hubris our society's dominant assumptions about "fundamentalists"."

Come on Mitch... let's be really honest. The term Fundamentalist is used by certain Christians to distance themselves from those "other" Christians. A person who was a true / real / genuine Christian would have no need to define themselves as a fundamentalist Christian because that would be a redundant expression.

The fact is, the concept of claiming to be a Fundamentalist Christian is ridiculous on it face because inherent in that claim is the judgement about other lesser Christians. The very act of claiming to be a FC is fundamentally un-Christian.

That being said, from my own personal experience, not every person who claims to be a FC is hateful, stupid, violent, and eaily led. I will say however that many of the people I"ve met in my life who fit these descriptions do indeed claim to be Fundamentalists.

Explain that one.

Posted by: Doug at December 16, 2005 12:48 AM

Eva,

Get over yourself. Very little "bothers" me; stuff on blogs doesn't rise anywhere near the level where I'd care, as a rule.

Sponge jumped all over a point that is frankly irrelevant.

Quick! Copy and paste the whole comment thread into another comment!

Posted by: mitch at December 16, 2005 12:53 AM

WoW! Cleversponge. Great post!

http://monkeysponge.blogspot.com/2005/12/that-ol-time-religion.html

Posted by: Doug at December 16, 2005 12:57 AM

"A person who was a true / real / genuine Christian would have no need to define themselves as a fundamentalist Christian because that would be a redundant expression."

Actually, you probably have something close to a point here.

"I will say however that many of the people I"ve met in my life who fit these descriptions do indeed claim to be Fundamentalists."

Possible, but untestable. I will, however, say that nearly every liberal I've met in my life has been utterly inept at Tetris, and exuded an aura of petulance that begged for a pantsing. Hey, as long as we're in the world of broad personal anecdotal observations...

"What did Jesus say about judging others?"

Judge not unless you are willing to be judged by the same standard. Christ never said "let everything go past you without passing judgement".

"The media had zero to do with perverting that term. If you want to hold someone accountable for that, start with Peter Popoff".

Look at the portrayals of "fundamentalists" in any 100 movies you'd like to name from the last 20 years; what did Popoff and Baker have to do with them?

Posted by: mitch at December 16, 2005 01:00 AM

"Look at the portrayals of "fundamentalists" in any 100 movies you'd like to name from the last 20 years; what did Popoff and Baker have to do with them?"

Well Mitch... lets start with Leap of Faith...

Popoff and Baker had everything to do with it.

Posted by: Doug at December 16, 2005 01:07 AM

Popoff and Baker wrote and produced movies and TV shows?

Like, dozens of them?

Who knew?

Posted by: mitch at December 16, 2005 01:08 AM

Funny Mitch. Guess it's easier than admitting that the media only reflects what's happening in society at large.

Posted by: Doug at December 16, 2005 01:12 AM

Riiiight.

Which is why Hollywood receipts are plummeting and people are tuning out network TV and ditching newspapers. Because the major, "elite" news and entertainment media so accurately "reflect" what's happening in society.

There've been studies - and I'm about to turn in for the night, so I'm not going to look them up now, but maybe tomorrow - that quantify and compare the irreligiosity (indeed, contempt for faith) in the media as compared to society at large.

You'd like to THINK the media reflects society - in fact, they're just trying to drive it.

Posted by: mitch at December 16, 2005 01:16 AM

As I'm a Fundamentalist Christian (Baptist...the horror!), let me weigh in with a quote from the Jesus I worship:

"Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before my Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace but a sword."

That's not the namby-pamby hippy Jesus the left constantly wants us to emulate (by laying down before THEM). They are, for the most part, godless and something about people of genuine faith pricks them...annoys them...galls their consience to the core.

Now flame away you lovely people.

Posted by: Colleen at December 16, 2005 06:57 AM

Awww...you're so cute when you have nothing to say. We're going to create a new Wikipedia post called "Mitching". It's kind of like bitching but with more of a defined process; dismissal by a) ignoring charges, b) calling them pointless, and c) continuing to engage in the behavior that brought about the charges in the first place. To cap it all off...all problems must be blamed on the media.

Mitch away Mr. Berg, Mitch away.

cp

Posted by: cleversponge at December 16, 2005 07:58 AM

"Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace but a sword."

That's not the namby-pamby hippy Jesus..."

As usual, this depends on context. According to this excellent article at answers.com

http://www.answers.com/topic/but-to-bring-a-sword

There are two interpretations, one advocating violence while the other predicts it and division. From my reading and the supporting evidence (related scriptual passages) this is far more likely to be a prediction of violence.

As for Coleen's methaporical "My Jesus can beat up your Jesus" approbation, I will only amend appropriately that famous quotation about "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" to include "Coleen with a mad-on".

Oh, and Mitch: I'm sorry, but I kind of have to agree with your detractors on this point, you're getting kind of twitchy in this comment thread. That could draught of reason you're justifiably famous for isn't showing itself so much right now. Unfortunately I have to get to work right now and can't pull in some quotes to justify this now so all I can do at the moment is smear some attitude.

Posted by: Bill Haverberg at December 16, 2005 08:34 AM

"Liberals believe in evaluating people based on their beliefs and judgments, not their ethnic heritage or skin color."

"Can you give a two sentence deffinition of 'liberal' acceptable to 9 out of 10 self identified liberals?"

RickDFL.

Actually, Dickie-Boy, I can do it in two WORDS:
Affirmative Action.

.

Posted by: nathan bissonette at December 16, 2005 08:46 AM

Sponge,

What am I supposed to say? Your piece was so wrong, light leaving "right" today won't reach you until long after your grandchildren have passed away; if I don't respond in yeshiva-like detail to - let's be blunt - completely wrong arguments, that reflects on me how?

Like the commenter on some other blog - KAR? - said; you're kind of like the male Eva.

Hm. That'd make you the Male-eve-olent Sponge, I guess.

OK; you want a response? Maybe I'll write one later today.

Posted by: mitch at December 16, 2005 09:08 AM

Colleen said,

"They are, for the most part, godless and something about people of genuine faith pricks them...annoys them...galls their consience to the core."

See Mitch... This is a perfect example of what I'm saying...

Colleen claims to be a Christian and yet she offers, "They (the left) are, for the most part godless..."

Gee... No judgement here at all...

Thanks for proving my point Colleen...

To the "quote" that Colleen offers as evidence of Jesus not fitting the "namby-pamby hippy Jesus" model, let's analyze shall we?

There are two themes being offered here but Colleen is intentionally offering only a partial picture to make her argument. She goes as far as putting the whole thing in quotes to suggest that they are part of the same quote.

They're not.

The first theme - "Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before my Father who is in heaven."

The second theme - "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace but a sword."

Colleen intentionally leaves out the context. The text that follows is,

"For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household."

Notice that the context is A: intergenerational and B: Familial - specifically, Parent versus child.

He doesn't say brother versus brother or sister versus sister does he.

So the first theme Colleen offers is "follow me or else" and the second theme is "your parents are the enemy."

Yeah... No namby-pamby hippy stuff here at all eh Colleen...

Posted by: Doug at December 16, 2005 09:23 AM

Nathan:

"Affirmative Action" would not be accepted as a deffinition of "liberal" by 9 out of 10 liberals. Since Mr. Berg seems to propound a rule that you can not use a term in political debate until you understand the term in the same way as your opponents, you'll have to go back to your thinking corner and get a better answer before commenting on 'liberals'.

As for Lars:
"But what the Left generally does is present a picture of Christian Fundamentalists as hateful, stupid, violent yahoos, "poor, uneducated and eaily led". That caricature (demonstrably false) is what Mitch is objecting to."

Is there any group in America that does not complain about the way they are portrayed in the media? When is the last time you saw a union shop steward get a T.V. protrayal like Christians get from 7th Heaven or Touched by and Angel.

TV and the Media traffic in unfair caricatures. Maybe fundametalists need constant portrayals of themselves on screen as noble and heroic to get through the day, but some of us are tough and confident enough to get by without it.

Posted by: Rick at December 16, 2005 09:28 AM

My nomination for the most neglected passage in Jesus' teaching: "Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment." (John 7:24, NIV)

Jesus commanding us to judge? Horrors!

And the context, just for the record, is a discussion of healing on the Sabbath.

Posted by: Lars Walker at December 16, 2005 09:32 AM

So, Rick, I guess the field is open for portrayals of grasping Jewish moneylenders and shiftless black welfare bums and effeminate gay child molesters, because, hey, the playing field's all level now. And you guys on the left, thick-skinned as you are, wouldn't raise a peep to complain about such things.

Posted by: Lars Walker at December 16, 2005 09:39 AM

"Maybe fundametalists need constant portrayals of themselves on screen as noble and heroic to get through the day, but some of us are tough and confident enough to get by without it."

That has my nomination for the dumbest comment of the thread. Rick, the point is that "fundies" (and I doubt I'd qualify, as a Catholic, but by Mitch's definition I suppose I am) are the focus of outrigiht bigotry in the media, which is basically true.

Posted by: Allison at December 16, 2005 09:41 AM

Doug,

You lost me with that last comment, which was pretty silly. Your attempts to deconstruct and interpret scripture aren't convincing.

Not that your earlier stuff was particularly good, but it at least had the virtue of not being too rediculous; now you're showing yourself as unserious.

Your comments aren't going to convice Colleen, or anyone, of your optinion, so I guess you're just fooling around.

Posted by: Pious Agnostic at December 16, 2005 09:42 AM

"So, Rick, I guess the field is open for portrayals of grasping Jewish moneylenders and shiftless black welfare bums and effeminate gay child molesters, because, hey, the playing field's all level now. And you guys on the left, thick-skinned as you are, wouldn't raise a peep to complain about such things."

Sure, get right on those scripts they sound like real winners. If you can make quality product I won't complain. I suggest Mel Gibson, the Dave Chapelle show, or Johnatan Demme.

Posted by: RIckDFL at December 16, 2005 09:59 AM

RickDFL said:

"Can you give a two sentence deffinition of 'liberal' acceptable to 9 out of 10 self identified liberals?"

I think that open minded would be acceptable to the liberals that I know.

Posted by: Clay at December 16, 2005 10:11 AM

allison says
"the point is that "fundies" (and I doubt I'd qualify, as a Catholic, but by Mitch's definition I suppose I am) are the focus of outrigiht bigotry in the media, which is basically true"

Folks keep saying this but where is the evidence? I mentioned two very pro-religious TV shows. The only other acutal specific cultural references are a movie(Sum of All Fears) altered to remove references to reglious fanatics and antoher movie "Leap of Faith" critical of religious hucksters, but also pro-religious (doesn't it end with a divine mirical).

My current cable line-up has two whole networks -PAX and Pat Robertson's TBN - devoted to pro-religious programing, plus a whole public access chanel devoted exclusively to religion.

So please forgive my ignorance. What are your top five examples of clear anti-fundamentalist bigotry on television or movies?

Posted by: RickDFL at December 16, 2005 10:15 AM

Hey Rick, what's up with switching names? Are you only a DFLer part of the time, as when it suits your convenience?

So 9 out of 10 self-identified liberals wouldn't say that belief in affirmative action is a defining charactistic of a "liberal."

Sounds as if you and Humpty Dumpty have a lot in common when it comes to defining words.

.

Posted by: Nathan Bissonette at December 16, 2005 10:15 AM

Clay said:

"I think that open minded would be acceptable to the liberals that I know. "

Clay, "open minded" would also be acceptable to the conservatives that I know. I think what we're looking for is a description that is both agreed-upon and descriptive.

For extra points, it should be something that conservatives will at least accept. Simply saying "Smart people who smell good and want flowers and puppies for everyone" probably won't cut it.

Posted by: Pious Agnostic at December 16, 2005 10:16 AM

""Can you give a two sentence deffinition of 'liberal' acceptable to 9 out of 10 self identified liberals?""

No, but I bet I can be really lazy and pull out a bunch of degrading stereotypes and call it a day, you lazy, shiftless, greedy, benefit-whoring public employee driving around in your Volvo with your "Somewhere in Texas" and "89.3 The Current" stickers, wearing your free-range organic tweeds drinking "fair trade" coffee with your "Wellstone" sign still sitting in your front yard, wondering if Bush really IS worse than Hussein ever was.

Which is pretty much what Hollywood does as re fundamentalists, which is my point.

Posted by: mitch at December 16, 2005 10:18 AM

"Which is pretty much what Hollywood does as re fundamentalists, which is my point."

Evidence please, see above.

Plus, you missed on every sterotype.

Posted by: RickDFL at December 16, 2005 10:56 AM

My turn:

I can only speak for myself, but I envision liberalism as using the state to perform an essential good, in ensuring that all people regardless of circumstance have the opportunity to secure life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and that the circumstances which prevent this should be controlled and regulated whether they be popular passions against a certain group or class, or ammoral forces (such as the free market) which if unregulated would through self-interested logic serve their own interests at the expense of others.

Posted by: Bill Haverberg at December 16, 2005 10:58 AM

And let's not forget the neatest trick of all -- grafting the word "fundamentalist" onto Islam, where it has no historical meaning, in order to blacken Christian Fundamentalists by association. With the ironic by-product that the chattering classes actually respect Muslim "fundamentalists" (who, for instance, practice honor killing and the stoning of homosexuals) more than Christian Fundamentalists (who merely disapprove of premarital sex and sodomy).
Posted by Lars Walker at December 15, 2005 10:30 AM

You must be from Mars, Lars. Can you identify which part of the chattering classes (I always thought this meant you suburban midwesterners, teeth chattering in fear of "Saddam's bombs") respect Moslem fundamentalists? You know, with, like, a link or something. A column in which Maureen Dowd defends honor killings maybe?

As for the "no historical meaning" assertion, the Ottomans were constantly putting down rebellions by holy warriors on the Arabian peninsula who thought that the Sultan's brand of Islam wasn't sufficiently pure.

I do admire your ability to say dumb things with apparent authority, however. Bet it comes in handy when you're tempted to do somthing crazy like basing an argument on facts.

Posted by: angryclown at December 16, 2005 11:00 AM

Pious,

My comments were made with deference to and with a understanding of 1st century Mediteranian life, Judeac social and familial hierarchical structure, and a personal background and connection and interest in revolutionary / liberation theology.

My last comment may have been "silly" but it is as legitimate as Colleen describing the Jesus that she worships.

The Jesus that I honor and try to emulate is the Jesus who challenged, questioned and exposed both the ruling authority and the corrupt religious leaders of his time.

Further, I wouldn't even attempt to convince you or Colleen of my opinion. I've had "discussions" with her in the past and I have learned that, for her, dogma and ideology trump reason, history and fact every time.

To say though that my comments aren't going to convice Colleen, or ANYONE, of your opinion, displays a level of arrogance, conceit and intollerance that one usually finds with - well Fundamentalists.

Again, thanks for proving my point.

Posted by: Doug at December 16, 2005 11:00 AM

Doug,

Hmmm....I certainly don't consider myself a Fundamentalist. I've grown up surrounded by them, and have little in common with them theologically or intellectually, though I respect the strength of their faith.

But I recognize prejudice when I encounter it. And I think I just have.

Posted by: Pious Agnostic at December 16, 2005 11:07 AM

Pious, I stand corrected. It must have been your thinnly veiled insult and conclusion that, if Colleen isn't convinced, I must be fooling around that threw me.

By the way, my "attempt" to deconstruct and interpret scripture is hardly something I claim as my own construct. As a student of early Christian movements, I just thought understanding Jesus from a historical as well as scriptural basis might be important and there is plenty of writing that adresses the points I made.

Guess not in your view. We'll have to agree to disagree here...

Posted by: Doug at December 16, 2005 11:41 AM

AC,

"You must be from Mars, Lars. Can you identify which part of the chattering classes...respect Moslem fundamentalists?"

For one? The chick from (I think) "New Yorker" who wrote the piece about how drop-dead sexy Bin Laden was? Granted, it's not a theological comparison...

"As for the "no historical meaning" assertion, the Ottomans were constantly putting down rebellions by holy warriors on the Arabian peninsula who thought that the Sultan's brand of Islam wasn't sufficiently pure."

You're right, there, Vobo - I'll defer to the guy with the fez. And I'm sure that's what David Gregory means when he refers to "Moslem Fundamentalists". Just like Dan rather was referring to Conservatism in the David Hume-ian sense when he called pro-Communists under Yeltsin "Conservatives".

Their understanding of the history of theology and political philosophy is, of course, daunting!

Posted by: mitch at December 16, 2005 11:46 AM

Doug,

If there's one thing I've learned from our little exchange it's that "arrogance, conceit and intollerance", "thinly veiled insult" and appeals to authority aren't a distinctive feature solely of Fundamentalist argument.

It may interest you to know that, despite my general agreement with Mitch on many points, I think his self-definition as a Fundamentalist is flawed, but he can of course say whatever he wishes on his blog. But I think the self-evident reason why he so defined himself is so as to point out the unfair presentation of Christian Fundamentalists in the media from the "inside", right or wrong.

I watch too much television. There's no doubt about that. In the shows I watch Christian Fundamentalists generally are presented, at best, as idiots and at worst, perverted hypocrites. And while you can point to a few specific shows entirely directed to a Christian audience, the rest of popular media expresses this view, if only through the absence of characters "who just happen to be Fundamentalist Christians."

As an example, many times I have read examples where a creative team working on a television show have asked themselves "Is there any reason why this character can't be Black? or Latino? or a woman" or whatever, which usually has resulted in interesting, diverse casts and stories. That doesn't seem to happen with regard to Christian Fundamentalists.

I have my own problems with Fundamentalist theology (with all due to respect to Colleen), but I haven't come to the general conclusion that they are idiots or perverts. I suspect that's because I am going by my own personal experience as someone who actually interacts with such people on a day-by-day basis, and not by how they are portrayed on television.

Posted by: Pious Agnostic at December 16, 2005 12:05 PM

Dear Pious:

What shows are you watching? Give me 5 named examples where "Christian Fundamentalists generally are presented, at best, as idiots and at worst, perverted hypocrites".

To prove your assertion you say ignore the whole shows and networks devoted to Christians (???) but focus on "the absence of characters who just happen to be Fundamentalist Christians."

How sensitive must we be? It is not enough to have whole shows and networks directed at fundementalists, you want all other shows to go out of their way to positively highlight 'fundementalist' characters. Do you want Grace's secretary to constantly lecture her on how Will is going to hell? Wouldn't that be a hoot.

The lack on positive fundamentalist incidental characters (not conceding there is a lack)seems a long way from the hostility you and other posters claim.

Posted by: RickDFL at December 16, 2005 01:53 PM

What shows are you watching? Give me 5 named examples where "Christian Fundamentalists generally are presented, at best, as idiots and at worst, perverted hypocrites".


*Sigh*

Sorry, RickDFL, I'm not going to fall into this trap. Say I can only think, off the top of my head, of three shows that support my position. I suspect you'll then say "see, you can only find three out of ALL THE SHOWS on television." Despite what you might think, I don't sit there with a notepad writing these things down.

But I'll bet you can't find five identifiable Fundamentalist Christian characters in shows that aren't "religious" that are presented as normal, well adjusted people.

How sensitive must we be? It is not enough to have whole shows and networks directed at fundementalists, you want all other shows to go out of their way to positively highlight 'fundementalist' characters. Do you want Grace's secretary to constantly lecture her on how Will is going to hell? Wouldn't that be a hoot.

No, that wouldn't be that funny, I agree. Do you think that Fundamentalist Christians spend all their time telling other people they are going to hell? That hasn't been my experience; though I'm sure that many of them think I'm going there, they keep it polite.

But one or two characters *somewhere* scattered in and among the "normal" folks would be a nice change.

The lack on positive fundamentalist incidental characters (not conceding there is a lack)seems a long way from the hostility you and other posters claim.

I would have thought the same thing if I hadn't learned in several office-mandated sensativity-training seminars that the inclusion of a diverity of ethnic, religious and racial backgrounds in every aspect of hiring and marketing was a goooooood thing. Now I know that it's inherently hostile to ignore such things.

Posted by: Pious Agnostic at December 16, 2005 02:40 PM

Sorry, can't figure out Mitch's QUOTE/EMPHASIS tags stuff. Previous post would have been clearer if I had.

Posted by: Pious Agnostic at December 16, 2005 02:42 PM

I don't know, Pious. I'm not sure you'd call somebody "well-adjusted" who gets in a hissy fit just because you wish him "Happy Holidays."

Posted by: angryclown at December 16, 2005 03:15 PM

Colleen asserted: "That's not the namby-pamby hippy Jesus the left constantly wants us to emulate ..."

The dude could make drinks out of water and create munchies from thin air. He was a carpenter, but didn't seem to work much. He had long hair and a beard, travelled around with his 12 pals and was always sticking it to The Man. Next thing you'll tell us, Colleen, is that Jesus couldn't kick a little beanbag around. Is that what you're trying to say? Cause I'll fight anybody who says the Lord couldn't hold up his end in a round of hacky sack.

Posted by: angryclown at December 16, 2005 03:25 PM

Still no evidence:

Pious Says:"But I'll bet you can't find five identifiable Fundamentalist Christian characters in shows that aren't "religious" that are presented as normal, well adjusted people."

1. Jeb Bartlett. Not a Fundementalist, but a faily devout Catholic.

2. The Asia girl's mom on Gilmore Girls. There was a whole sub-plot about how the Mom got the daughter's band a tour of 7th Day Adventist Churches.

3. Fr. Mulcahey on M*A*S*H, often a comdedic figure, but also presented as noble and inspiring at times.

4. Eric Camden The father on 7th Heaven. This is a family friendly drama, the religion is fairly incidental.

5. Joan of Arcadia

6. The Fred Thompson District Attorney on Law and Order, not a Fudementalist, but pro-religion

7. The Jimmy Berlucchi character on 'The Practice' was Catholic, devout, and fairly traditional in matters of morality.

8. JAG had plenty of incidental praying and worshiping.

9. On Homocide the Andre Braugher character was devout.

10. Walker Texas Ranger had plenty of positive Christian roles.

Not the greatest or most comprhensive list, but it will do. Television is full of perfectly normal characters who pray and go to church.

Now please, for a thesis that is asserted to be true beyond all doubt, Mitch's readers seem to have trouble coming up with even one actual example of a where "Christian Fundamentalists generally are presented, at best, as idiots and at worst, perverted hypocrites". I am genuinely interested. What specific cases made you think this so strongly?

Posted by: RickDFL at December 16, 2005 03:44 PM

Rick,

Close - and there are some examples I'd forgotten (Braugher).

I'm more interested, for purposes of this thread, talking about *fundamentalists*. Too broad or vague? Fair enough - I'm thinking evangelicals, people with a literal interpretation of the Bible (of which I'm not),charismatics, anyone whose worship involves more speaking in tongues than coffee cake. Of the examples above, 1,3,7 and I think 9(?) are Catholic, which has its own perception problems, but not the same thing. 6, 8 and 10 are, IIRC, fairly generic depictions of faith (as I recall - stop me if I'm wrong), and 5 strikes me as generic Christianity-via-New Age than anything (interesting though the show is). Of the examples you provide, I've not seen 2 and 4; let's assume you're right, and they fit my definition. Well, there's two.

You want specific examples? Over 30 years of watching movies, I've not written them all down; the one that started this particular thread was a "Cartoon Network" claymation Christmas special called "Moral Orel: The Best Christmas Ever", as ugly a marinade of hatred as I've ever seen directed at ANYONE in this country; Christmas Carols sung by perfectly-coiffed, '50's caricaturish "Fundies" rewritten to involve invocations of hell for gays, Jews and other non-Christians; a theme of constant hypocrisy and sickness underlying *all* the protagonists' lives; comically bigoted portrayals of the evangelicals' personal lives and outlooks; it was the most depressing thing I've ever seen. As I think i said earlier, if it'd been written about Jews or Moslems or womyn, it'd never have seen the light of day. I think it's on most evenings on "Adult Swim"; check it out. Substitute "Gay" or "Jew" or "Afro-American" in your mind's eye for the various buffoonish Christian-y characters; see if you don't puke.

Might be an interesting thread, though - building a list of specific, ugly references to "fundies" in the media.

Posted by: mitch at December 16, 2005 04:25 PM

Mitch -

Now we have a concrete example. A Christmas special that expresses hostility towards fundamentalists. See the problem. There is a whole genera - the 'christmas special' - which 99% of the time is pro-religious. Hardly evidence of overwhelming anti-relgiousness on TV.

As for Moral Orel you object to "Christmas Carols sung by perfectly-coiffed, '50's caricaturish "Fundies" rewritten to involve invocations of hell for gays, Jews and other non-Christians"

I hate to burst your bubble but "Fundamentalists" (mostly) do beleive that gays, Jews, and other non-Christians (plus Catholics and lots of not-the-right-version Christians are going to hell. They puposely broke off from mainline Protestantis b/c they wanted to maintain the 'old-time religion'. Go to any self-identified Fundamentalist web site and ask "are non-repentant / non-converted Gays, Jews, and non-Christians going to hell?" My money says you get a LOT of yeses.

Posted by: RickDFL at December 16, 2005 04:52 PM

" Christmas special that expresses hostility towards fundamentalists. See the problem. There is a whole genera - the 'christmas special' - which 99% of the time is pro-religious. Hardly evidence of overwhelming anti-relgiousness on TV."

First: Has there been a new, overtly *christian* Christmas special produced in the last 15 years on any major network? By the way, relatively few TV christmas specials are in any way "religions", at least not overtly. Frosty the Snowman? Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?

Second: Show me a "fundamentalist" X-mas program?

Third: To do an acidly hateful Christmas special is like going to a Gay Pride parade in a "God Hates Fags" float; what's the point, besides juvenile, hate-motivated confrontation?

"I hate to burst your bubble but "Fundamentalists" (mostly) do beleive that gays, Jews, and other non-Christians (plus Catholics and lots of not-the-right-version Christians are going to hell."

Some do, some don't, and it's an extremely gross generalization.

" They puposely broke off from mainline Protestantis b/c they wanted to maintain the 'old-time religion'. Go to any self-identified Fundamentalist web site and ask "are non-repentant / non-converted Gays, Jews, and non-Christians going to hell?" My money says you get a LOT of yeses."

As a percentage of respondents? You might. I suspect you'll get many more nuanced answers as well.

Posted by: mitch at December 16, 2005 05:07 PM

Mitch, come on. You cite a cartoon as an example of stereotyping of fundamentalists?

It's a parody for Gods sake. Didn't you recognize that the kid bears a striking resemblance to Davey from the 1960's ELCA produced Davey and Goliath show?

You really are getting awfully thin skinned if this bothers you.

Posted by: Doug at December 16, 2005 09:42 PM

"You cite a cartoon as an example of stereotyping of fundamentalists?"

As *an example*. Yes, I do.

I could cite you some cartoons as examples of German stereotyping of Jews; it wouldnt' imply there were more sinister motives afoot.

"You really are getting awfully thin skinned if this bothers you."

You've been toking from Eva Young's bong, haven't you? The fact that I write about it doesn't necessarily mean I'm up all night flailing in unquenchable anguish.

It's just part of my lonely fight against injustice.

Posted by: mitch at December 17, 2005 07:58 AM

MB: You've been toking from Eva Young's bong, haven't you? The fact that I write about it doesn't necessarily mean I'm up all night flailing in unquenchable anguish.

EY: Gee, I get credited with things I've never commented on.

On this:

MB: You want specific examples? Over 30 years of watching movies, I've not written them all down; the one that started this particular thread was a "Cartoon Network" claymation Christmas special called "Moral Orel: The Best Christmas Ever", as ugly a marinade of hatred as I've ever seen directed at ANYONE in this country; Christmas Carols sung by perfectly-coiffed, '50's caricaturish "Fundies" rewritten to involve invocations of hell for gays, Jews and other non-Christians; a theme of constant hypocrisy and sickness underlying *all* the protagonists' lives; comically bigoted portrayals of the evangelicals' personal lives and outlooks; it was the most depressing thing I've ever seen. As I think i said earlier, if it'd been written about Jews or Moslems or womyn, it'd never have seen the light of day. I think it's on most evenings on "Adult Swim"; check it out. Substitute "Gay" or "Jew" or "Afro-American" in your mind's eye for the various buffoonish Christian-y characters; see if you don't puke.

EY: It seems like Mitch is playing "the poor christians are so oppressed" game. Well I haven't seen this one. If you listen to characters like Bill Donahue and the other Leviticus Crowd types that were part of Justice Sunday, you can see where the cartoon came up with the stereotypes. Yup, Donahue is having a cow that President Bush's christmas card said Happy Holidays.

http://lloydletta.blogspot.com/2005/12/catholic-leagues-bill-donahue-having.html

And you have Pat Robertson running the "Christian Broadcasting Network" - well it's that type of stuff that gives material for this show.

Posted by: Eva Young at December 17, 2005 10:16 AM

So by your standards, gay men should be outraged at the "The Ambiguously Gay Duo" on SNL and George Bush and Carl Rove should be really upset at the Tutor the Turtle and Mr. Wizard show...

"The fact that I write about it doesn't necessarily mean I'm up all night flailing in unquenchable anguish."

Nope Mitch it doesn't but it doesn't necessarily mean your not either.

As I said, I havent seen the show you're refering to but based on my many, many, MANY experiences with fundamentals, I can say with a high level of certainty that they frequently do things that are a rich source of parody, anger, contempt and derision.

Does the image fit for all fundamentalists? Of course not but it's not different than your buddy Swiftee throwing out the barking moon bat / dumpster description at every "liberal" that strolls into his little blog...

Posted by: Doug at December 17, 2005 12:54 PM

"n****rs, s***s, g**ks"

Why do you have to censor yourself with the word "geeks"? There's nothing wrong about being, or calling someone, a geek. I am proud of my geekiness!

Posted by: Bill C at December 17, 2005 03:38 PM

geeks? you're kidding I hope...

Posted by: Doug at December 17, 2005 09:17 PM

This is the real agenda from the guy who has been attacking Mirecki in the media, Mitch. I'm wondering if you agree with kicking the campus atheist group off campus?

From the Kansas Journal World:

KU changed the name of the course, dropping reference to mythology from the title, and issued a formal apology from Mirecki — a move that only slightly quelled concerns.

John Altevogt, a conservative columnist and activist in Kansas City, visited the student group’s list serv and compiled a series of Mirecki’s comments made in recent years.

Altevogt sent the compilation to the media, politicians, university officials and others.

The following day, Thursday, the university announced the course’s closure.

Altevogt said cutting the course was the wrong outcome.

“This is again a meaningless gesture,” he said.

Altevogt said he was concerned about the focus of the religious studies department and he wants to see Mirecki and another faculty member moved to another department. He said he also wanted the religious studies department cleaned up and perhaps transferred to a religious organization that can monitor it; the chancellor fired, and the Society of Open-Minded Atheists and Agnostics student group kicked off campus.

Posted by: Eva Young at December 18, 2005 01:37 PM

"I'm wondering if you agree with kicking the campus atheist group off campus?"

Assuming they're following the rules (and the rules don't discriminate against deist groups) of course not.

If I were on campus (thank goodness, I'm not), an atheist group would be comedy gold on the hoof. Losing them would be like losing "guy walked into a bar" jokes.

Posted by: mitch at December 18, 2005 08:34 PM

"geeks? you're kidding I hope..."

Doug,

You take yourself FAR more seriously than you warrant.

Ever heard of something called a "sense of humor"?

I know about 99.44% of liberals out there haven't. Including Al Franken.

Posted by: Bill C at December 19, 2005 09:57 AM

"Second: Show me a "fundamentalist" X-mas program?".

I would if I could picture one, Mitch. Give me a brief plot outline of what would count. Remember it must be more than just a generic pro-religious message. Nor, can it be meant for just a religious audience such as PAX or Robertson's station. A sectarian message wraped in popular mass entertainment, a difficult nut to crack.

Posted by: RickDFL at December 19, 2005 02:34 PM

There are 40 Christian groups on the KU campus.

Posted by: Eva Young at December 21, 2005 11:35 PM
hi