Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Fundamentally Wrong

"It doesn't matter who's to blame. They are all a bunch of terrorists. One does it for God, the other because they think they have a purer blood line."

So, can you guess who said this and who it was said about?

According to the New York Times, Jesus Miguel Gomez said it in regard to the train attacks in Madrid.

I would be a travesty to compare the Basque terrorists or Al Queda to most of the population of the American Religious Right. Although a few extremists commit horrible acts such as bombing abortion clinics, terrorizing abortion doctors, or protesting that "God hates fags" at funerals, these individuals are just that, extremists and atypical.

My first reaction to reading that line, however, was wondering if it was said in either relation to the Religious Right or possibly even the Bush administration. Either is overblown, but I think my reaction speaks to the current atmosphere in America. Fundamentalist Christians and Republicans in power have made me feel so uncomfortable in my own country that I am not surprised that some individuals, angered at the resistance gays face currently in America, did not make such a comparison.

The Bush/Republican opposition to gay marriage is hardly based on either on any belief of faith or idea of sanctity and purity, despite the rhetoric the President spews like so much vomitous garbage. The President's support of a Constitutional Amendment is solely a political convenience to secure the blessings of Christian Fundamentalists.

At one point in my life I would have self-identified as a Christian Fundamentalist; today I see myself as a Liberal Christian. Some of my friends and family are still Fundamentalists. They are good, decent people who have beliefs rooted in love, compassion, and beneficence. Still, I wonder if the concept of Fundamentalist itself is not inherently troublesome.

Theoretically a fundamental belief or understanding means an understanding on the most basic level. Rather than simpleness, the word actually conveys an understanding that is so complex and deep, that the person has mastered the understanding of the underlying principles of the complex system or theory. Fundamental Christianity, however, is just the opposite. Today it means a simplified view of the Christian faith.

The central tenet does seem simple: Christ was fully man and fully God born of virgin birth and raised from the dead as an atonement for the sins of all people. However, most Fundamental Christians have added to this core principle a thoroughly non-Scriptural teaching: the Bible must be seen as inerrent and read without any historical-critical context. Although the first tenet is not without problems (for one, it does not take into account the discrepancies in the Gospels concerning the life and teaching of Christ), but this new piece of dogma is the most problematic.

The idea that the Bible can be and must be read through an archaic (though beautiful) translation with a modern contextual understanding defies any logic, yet is how the Bible is mostly read by Fundamentalist. No discussion is held in Fundamentalist churches about what Paul means when he uses the word "natural." There is no concept that what Paul thought was "natural" in his time and context might be different from how we use the word, the modern connotations of the word or how we define it.

Of course depending on the denomination or church, you will still have sections ignored that cannot be reconciled with a strictly modern context. The Bible stricly forbids women from speaking in church, advocates celibacy over marriage, and condones slavery, just to start. Yet in most congregations, these problems are not addressed. Still, most Fundamentalists want to jump on the "homosexuality is a sin" bandwagon because "the Bible says so."

I suppose this phenomenon occurs because most Fundamentalist know women, many are women, actually, and women have actually probably been responsible for helping maintain modern Christian faith more than men. Most Fundamentalist enjoy the opposite sex and having sex, so they marry. And many Fundamentalist know and are black, so slavery is not a good idea. However, gays make up such a small percentage of the population (3%-10%) that, even if a Fundamentalist knows a few, the critical mass is not there to make them change their mind. And while even most rational whites can relate to the idea that your skin color should not make you bad (what is the roles were reversed?), same-sex attraction is completely foreign and unthinkable. Thus, it's an easy target.

And, much like a bully in a schoolyard, Fundamentalism has caused emotional and spiritual terror to many gays. Fundamentalism has caused many of us to believe for so long that there is something wrong with us; we'd better change or we'll burn; and that we are Satanic deviants. We've been ostracized instead of loved and embraced. We've had parents and friends try to change our wicked ways. Fundamentalism has left deep psychic scars on much of gay-dom in the name of God.

And notoday, the terrorism expands to a legal assault. Not content with the emotional sub-human status, they have labelled us with, many Fundamentalists want to instill into law our second-class position. Although they haven't bombed or shot at us, who knows how many gay people have taken their own lives or continue to live as broken people because of this message. Nobody thinks well when we talk of Islamic Fundamentalist. It's seen as a bad thing. Christian Fundamentalist need to ask themselves what makes them different.

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