Many years ago, when I was finishing work on my graduate degree in political science in New York, I took a course on international affairs. The professor was a Muslim man from Beirut, Lebanon. One day for some reason he was talking about Pope John Paul II and he paused and looked over at me and asked: “What is the pope like personally?”
He assumed that because I was an Evangelical pastor, I must know the Roman Catholic Pope pretty well, because after all, we both professed the Christian faith. This was sort of like if I were to ask an elderly African-American friend of mine if he knew Lena Horne.
This kind of associate thinking is rather benign, but a more malignant type occurs when there is a broad-brush sweep such as the recent labeling of Anders Behring Breivik, the man who wrought murderous havoc in Norway, as a “Christian Fundamentalist.”
He isn’t. And in this case the media not only gets it wrong—they do so recklessly.
Christian Fundamentalists—of which there are multitudes in this country, are not murderous or delusional thugs. They are devout people who believe in the fundamentals of the historic Christian faith—although sometimes there are extra “fundamentals” thrown into the mix. They may be strict in their codes, dogmatic in their views, somewhat austere in lifestyle, and quite critical of popular culture (while observing it from a safe distance as diehard separatists), but they are not hate-filled murderers.
I come from a background of fundamentalism, and though I long ago shelved the nomenclature in favor of evangelical, I am still grateful for some of the important things I learned and hid in my heart. I may have moved (some Fundamentalists today likely consider me at least slightly apostate) from some of the cultural “isms” – we couldn’t go to movies or swim in pools with the opposite sex and had to dress like the Amish much of the time—but I reject any characterization of Christian Fundamentalists as dangerous people. In fact, they have been among the first and loudest to condemn that evil man in Norway.