Friday, January 23, 2009

What is a "Recovering Fundamentalist?"

This is an important question. My work (the book, blog, talks, etc.) is predicated on the existence of such a group. So, I want to carefully define the term so that the reader knows what I am talking about. It requires unpacking two words: Fundamentalist, and recovering.

As used in this blog and in my book, the word fundamentalist is pretty simple to grab. A fundamentalist is someone who makes absolute truth claims about things that cannot be proven. In Christian fundamentalism, usually the claims begin with the the PRIME claim: The Bible is absolutely true and without error in all that it affirms; theologically, historically, and cosmologically.

From this basic affirmation springs many other truth claims, varying by the group or individual. It might be affirmed, for example (it likely would, in fact) that all other religions are false. Another belief might be that Harry Potter is a book inspired by the devil. Perhaps one might (and many Christians do) believe that God supports the Republican Party. Many fundamentalists believe that children should be stoutly spanked for disbelief. Lots of fundamentalists hold that women should be subordinate to men. The list could go on and on with slight nuances related to the fundamentalist environment in which one was nurtured.

The next term, recovering, refers to the process of being in recovery. Here is the idea that one never quite gets "over" his/her additions (in this case to absolutism). Something about the addiction or our personality makes the tendency to our addiction an ever present possibility. Recovery must be lived out day-by-day. We don't "just get over it." It is a never ending process of growth, self-understanding, and healing. Still, especially at times it can be quite painful.

For recovering fundamentalists, it is painful because something about them yearns to have a simple life where the pain of uncertainty and decision is removed. Often, we (for I am certainly one of the crowd) remember how simple it was when we just rehearsed the latest phrase from church ("Doubt your doubts, and believe your beliefs," "God said it. I believe it. That settles it."" and so on). Still, in our most honest moments, we knew that something about all of that was disingenuous and that we were, as Karl Marx might say, "drugged" by our religion. That's why we gave up on fundamentalism in the first place.

So, as I think the foregoing demonstrates, recovery from fundamentalism is a developmental process. There are many setbacks on the way. Still, even as we struggle, we know that our pains are really growing pains and that we are becoming more authentically human each day.

To read the story of my abandonment of fundamentalism and why I find it intellectually and morally bankrupt, visit my book web site: and read a sample chapter of my book.

1 comment:

  1. I'm recovering from Catholicism, Fundamentalism, Evangelicalism and finally Catholicism again. So *thrilled* to have found your blog; can't get the link to the website to work, though. Please help!