THE BLOG

It's Time to Stop Calling Fundamentalists 'Christians'

03/27/2014 11:48 am 11:48:16 | Updated May 27, 2014

Two important events happened in Christianity on Monday.

First, the U.S. office of World Vision, a Christian charity focused on reducing poverty and child hunger, ended employment discrimination against gay Christians in legal, state-sanctioned marriages.

Then Fundamentalists reacted.

Thousands of people took to Twitter and World Vision's Facebook page, condemning the decision and announcing they've cancelled their financial support. Trevin Wax at The Gospel Coalition wrote a piece grieving for children -- both those who will go hungry without evangelicals' money and those raised by gay parents. John Piper declared it the end of World Vision's compassion for the poor, since the charity no longer cared about eternal suffering. The list goes on.

Of course Leviticus was invoked. And hundreds called the director of World Vision a false teacher. In a flourish of prophecy, Piper predicted the organization would eventually wither away, having left its roots of faithfulness.

In short: By permitting the hiring of men and women whom many churches would not only welcome but ordain, Fundamentalists claimed World Vision had forsaken Christianity and deserved abandonment and condemnation. They immediately cancelled tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations, which means that children will go hungry. People will die.

The bullying worked. Whether financially pressured or genuinely persuaded by bombastic theology, World Vision revoked their decision on Wednesday. Such cowardice is a tragedy in itself, but it pales in comparison to the initial Fundamentalist furor.

To call a response of this magnitude embarrassing is no longer sufficient. In the last two years Fundamentalists have banded behind a fast food chain, racist reality TV star and discriminatory legislation in their attempt to police LGBTQ persons. It's offensive and spiteful and incompatible with the Bible, which repeats time and time again to judge not -- especially not persons outside of Christian communities. On Monday they stopped feeding orphans and widows and the needy among them, a command found in every Gospel and Epistle of the New Testament and even Leviticus. The global poor will suffer not because World Vision endorsed gay marriage or diverted money to fund Pride parades, but because the organization tried to become a smidge more inclusive.

The defense for Fundamentalists' obsession with homosexuality is the Bible, which they claim to read literally. If this was true, they might notice the words "poor" and "poverty" appear 446 times and that "wealth" is mentioned in 1,273 verses, rarely positively. Only five or six passages discuss homosexuality, though nearly every American can recite them, hearing each one quoted so often. If Fundamentalists fought LGBTQ equality as a hobby, after fulfilling their duty to fight poverty, they might be chastised and forgiven. They've revealed, though, they will abandon the poor, to condemn not only gay men and women but anyone who tolerates them. In doing so they've denied the very faith and savior they claim to revere. Whatever religion Fundamentalism is, it isn't Christianity, and it's time to revoke that label.

Categorizing homosexuality, not injustice, as the greatest evil is absurd and disturbing, but it reflects a whole moral system that contradicts the essence of Christian Scripture. Jesus told his followers to turn the other cheek and declared, "Blessed are the peacemakers," and yet an overwhelming majority of Fundamentalists supported the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; almost as many defend stand-your-ground legislation and capital punishment. The whole law is said to be fulfilled by loving the Lord and our neighbors as ourselves, but to escape Hell Fundamentalists require the acceptance of dogma as varied as the Virgin Birth and abstinence from premarital sex. Jesus condemned greed, about taxes said to give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and damned men who accumulated wealth instead of giving it away -- teachings incompatible with Fundamentalists' rage against agencies established to clothe the naked and feed the hungry.

Fundamentalism has painted a picture of Christianity that honors vengeance and capitalism as the greatest virtues. Any glimpse at the Gospels will chip away at this. What lies beneath is some darker religion that's yet to receive a name. I know some people who have called it fascism, others 'misdirected nationalism' and some recycle Jesus' language to call Fundamentalism Pharisaical, a brood of vipers. What I can't call it anymore is Christianity.

I say that less as a Christian myself than as someone who believes semantics matters. As Joan Didion once put it, "I am still committed to the idea that the ability to think for one's self depends on one's mastery of the language." For Fundamentalists to call themselves Christians does less to tarnish the name of Jesus (though it does) than to muddle their understanding of why they do the things they do. "Because the Bible says so," they say, and then act in defiance of every biblical ethic.

It's a dangerous road to go down, I realize, designating who's in and who's out. Fundamentalists do it often, to gay people, Democrats and, until he buckled under pressure, the director of World Vision. Such spiritual judgment requires an authority no human being possesses. I'm not interested in saying these people are destined for Hell, but I think we need to resemble the identities we claim. To strip Fundamentalists of the Christian label would at least force them to examine their true motivations toward greed, revenge, and malice. The behaviors might remain, but once exposed, those of us who pursue Christ's ethos, who denounce poverty, injustice and violence would have a better idea of what, and whom, we're actually dealing with.