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Blog // Thoughts
October 4, 2007

On The Limin Of Fundamentalism

A recent email raised an interesting question I’ve been asked a few times about the nature of fundamentalism. Typically, when I define fundamentalism, I do so in terms of social forces and in particular, the impact of globalisation on cultures that are striving to maintain a focus on local communities. This often raises the question […]

A recent email raised an interesting question I’ve been asked a few times about the nature of fundamentalism. Typically, when I define fundamentalism, I do so in terms of social forces and in particular, the impact of globalisation on cultures that are striving to maintain a focus on local communities. This often raises the question about the role of religious beliefs and practices in the shaping of fundamentalism.

It’s a good question and a natural intuition for anyone who has been shaped in a context where there is an assumed connection between belief and practice. Many evangelicals, for example, tend to hold a position where beliefs shape actions and from that perspective it makes sense to claim that fundamentalism must be an outworking of one’s “theology.”

The problem arises when we see (or allow ourselves to see) that some believers may hold remarkably similar doctrinal positions, yet have very different approaches to social issues, questions of community identity and ways of negotiating with difference. Sometimes fundamentalists and non-fundamentalists may ascribe to the same set of beliefs in terms of themselves and their faith community.

Where we see a clearer difference, however, is the way the fundamentalist and non-fundamentalist see the application of their beliefs on those who do not share their faith. The fundamentalist will see their beliefs as normative and applicable to all, regardless of what others might feel, whereas the non-fundamentalist would be far more reluctant to apply their ethics to all people regardless of creed. This is why the fundamentalist most clearly reveals themselves when it comes to social and political issues.

One implication of this is that I don’t really see fundamentalism/localism and cosmopolitanism/globalism as existing on some kind of continuum. They are distinct takes on reality; radically different interpretive grids. This is why the same set of doctrines, creeds and practices can look so massively different when filtered through either lens.

[tags] Fundamentalism, Glocalisation, Cosmopolitanism, Religion [/tags]

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