We live in a world where the term “religious fundamentalism” has taken on a rather negative connotation. Religious fundamentalists, it would seem, blew up the World Trade Center. Religious fundamentalists live in communes and the leader molests the women and children. Or so we are led to believe. Some people are proud of being a fundamentalist, and will gladly label themselves so. They believe it means they are rock-solid and can’t be moved from their principles. (all of which they claim are right and good, even if standing by them deprives other people of their rights.) However, there is no doubt that to be a religious fundamentalist means you are someone who will harm other people in your quest to be right yourself.
I will define religious fundamentalism, but first let us acquaint ourselves with what it means to truly be a Christian. The simplest definition of “Christian” should be “a follower of Christ.” This means we are like him. Not that we belong to a religious organization, but that we truly follow Christ. This means we love our fellow man, we suffer ourselves to be harmed before we would retaliate or claim anything for ourselves. It means we have absolutely nothing to prove or protect. Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 18:13 “How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? v. 13 And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that [sheep], than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.
Now that sounds very nice, doesn’t it. He makes no mention of letting a lost sheep go and carefully tending the 99 that are safe in the fold. So what are we to think…if someone does just the opposite of this, can we call him a Christian? If a lamb has fallen into the brambles and a so-called Christian gives him a kick and maybe knocks him over the edge of the cliff, is this person a Christian? It’s interesting that these verses precede the ones that the Holdemans use to justify excommunication and shunning. I still have a hard time seeing how these two ideas can be reconciled….going out in search of a lost lamb, and then suddenly doing away with someone who displeases you and cutting them off. Very few people are strong enough to deal with the kind of rejection and emotional abuse brought about by the enacting of the shun. It’s inhuman.
Here is the wikipedia definition of religious fundamentalism: ”
The term religious fundamentalism was used at first to describe some people in the Protestant community in the United States in the early 20th century. These people had a set of well defined (“fundamental”) values. These values were in opposition to more modern ideas. The group also said it was important to stick to what faith (the Bible) told them. Today, the term is used more generally.
Religious fundamentalism has been prevalent in society since its beginnings in the late 19th- and early 20th-century. People today who study religious fundamentalism see it as a response to modern society. Today society is not as simple as it was. Today many people live in societies that can be hard to understand. Changes in familiar things can make people feel unsafe. So some people look in their religion to see something that does not change. They also want rules about how to act that do not change. So they see their religion as this thing that does not change.
When people look at religion this way they see the ideas in the religion as absolute. This means that it is not possible for them to change. When religion is seen as absolute it becomes fundamentalism.
People can be any religion and be fundamentalists.”
We can see by reading this definition that religious fundamentalism is a knee jerk reaction to the threats that modern society poses to a certain type of religious lifestyle. There is an interesting but sad thing built into this; when someone is trying to protect something that makes them feel safe, they automatically hate and fear anything or anyone that threatens that safety. People who are caught up in religious fundamentalism may very well indeed have much good about them. By the same token, they may be pretty much rotten to the core. It can go either way. However, there is a rigid and legalistic aspect to them that will eventually over ride any good that they may have about them. If one runs afoul of the system that they are trying to protect, one should be prepared for a tremendous backlash. Now let me point out here that simply drifting away and giving up the dearly held principles of the religious group in question is not nearly serious enough the incur the most violent forms of retaliation by the religious fundamentalist. No, it is converting to something else that creates the problem. Here we find ourselves thinking about Islam. The world has billions? (I haven’t’ checked the number) but anyway, a large number of Muslims. We know that not all of them are “fundamentalists.” Some of them have never read the Koran, would never harm another person, bomb a building or blow themselves up. Basically, they are non-practicing Muslims, or non-religious Muslims. However, we also have the fundamentalist Muslim. These cry “Death to the infidel!” They take it upon themselves to persecute those who would dare to leave the faith and convert to another. They take it upon themselves to act out with great force anyone who speaks against them. Am I speaking of the Islamic terrorist or the fundamentalist Holdeman? Sometimes I get mixed up. Which one did I say cries “Death to the infidel?” Which one was I saying tolerates absolutely no criticism of his religion? Well it doesn’t matter if I forgot which one I meant, because they are the same. This might be hard for some to accept, but it is true.
In the case of the Holdeman religion, a member can go astray. They can lose their religious zeal and become secular. A person can even fall into grave sins, as defined by the religion. A young man can get tattooed, pierced, drink and smoke marijuana, and yet he will not feel the sting of the shun nearly as much as someone who has asked a question. Ask a question and see what happens. “Convert” to another type of Christianity and see what happens. The fear and the loathing from the formerly fond and loving family will be something to see. You will be surprised to learn that they can live without you. They can cut you off like so much contaminated garbage. They will cut your children off with you, if you have any. They will leave off visiting you, although if you humble yourself to go to them in a quest for acceptance and love, they will grudgingly, in fact sometimes even rather cheerfully, let you into their homes, but once inside, you will be treated rather badly! Be prepared! If you are a young girl and you fall into a bad situation and have a child out of wedlock, never fear…your indiscretion will be overlooked. You will be perhaps given a baby shower, and people will help you babysit. After all, it was a small indiscretion. BUT…dare to ask a question that puts someone on the spot, and you could find yourself booted out the door, you and the wife and kids, cut off, cut out,and delivered to Satan for the redemption of the flesh. (When you figure out for sure what that means, let me know!)
This then, is the evil of shunning. It is a tool of the religious fundamentalist to keep the organization intact. It has nothing to do with judging “sin” or drawing an erring one back. Well, it will draw you back if you are weak and can’t take the heat. Then you become a religious fundamentalist yourself. I’m sorry, I know I’ve been a bit harsh here. But can you see what I’m trying to say? Women who wear black scarves, men with beards, ritual behavior, and DEATH TO THE INFIDEL! Scary world we are living in!