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Who is the Real Enemy?

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To consider winning a war against Fundamentalism is far more daunting than defeating the Taliban. Fundamentalist believers are everywhere, and it seems part of what it means to be human. But Fundamentalism is the enemy worth defeating, the source of violence in all of its forms, gentle to vicious. Like everybody else, I have lots of Fundamentalist experience. In my life, it’s all been about belief that protects it’s own, and denies the goodness and humanity of anyone that disagrees with it. It’s important to recognize Fundamentalism in all of it’s forms in order to wage a war against it.  Fundamentalism is a deep pool with countless expressions. Through history, all great religions in their external and internal operations, and every political and economic system, have been grist for a Fundamentalist, non inclusive, mill.  Elitism, Sexism, Racism, Militarism, Communism, Fascism and Nationalism and indigenous tribalism are Fundamentalist and exclusionary, as well. When it comes to ones’ own Fundamentalism, this condition is transparent and accepted. And it is seen as an unpleasant and inevitable part of the human condition elsewhere. It’s like air.

And I affirm that spirituality, profound respect for life, and the awesome,  sacred mystery of the universe are not, and should not be denied. I’m not making the case for coercive secularism here.  I’m saying that the enemy is Fundamentalism.

I have a Fundamentalist acquaintance. Her religion is right, others are wrong, she and her fellow believers are going to heaven, and the rest of are to stay around in eternal torture and regret for not having seen the truth in the first place. Should she be shot, imprisoned, put in stocks in the local supermarket? I don’t think so. Still, she adds to hostility and resistance in the world, all in the name of God’s love.

I have a long list of violence inducing Fundamentalisms. Here are but a few.

Jewish Fundamentalism

As a Jew growing up in a Boston neighborhood, I grew up thinking I was one of God’s chosen people, that somehow we had the edge on intelligence, humor and ambition, and that the rest of the world was our enemy in some vague or direct way. A Rabbi told me that his job was to do good work with Jewish souls. When I asked him about the rest, he drifted to another subject.  Until I learned for myself that the world is full of worthy souls, and most of the “chosen” people I know are not Jewish, this Fundamentalism led me to follow Allport’s described path of avoidance, talking against, and exclusivity.  Anything you resist persists. The more you resist if, the stronger the resistance gets. Fundamentalism creates enemies by denying the value of those who are not on the inside.

Christian Fundamentalism

In his inaugural address, President George W. Bush, called the United States a Christian nation. What about the rest of us George? Native Americans, Muslims, Agnostics, Jews, Atheists, Theists, Buddhists.  What a huge statement of exclusion! Fundamental Christianity, as I listen to it’s ministries on the radio, is absolutely certain of the truth of it’s view of God, heaven, salvation and the definition of a good life.  This exclusionary view is responsible for much of  today’s violence  by making non believers so  wrong that they must be crazy, evil or misguided.  In the same of God’s love, Fundamental Christianity makes war. American Christians went to Afghanistan to preach their word of God. They were imprisoned because they violated Fundamentalist laws in that country. Then, they were freed and returned to the U.S. for which we are all grateful.

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