Battle of the Fundamentalisms
April 29, 2003
Okay, now it is personal.
The developing debate about what type of government will shape Iraq has caused some stirs on opinion papers around the country. Recently, a friend sent me a copy of a piece from the Palm Beach Post by Jac Wilder VerSteeg, the paper's Editorial Writer. It wasn’t much different than the others I have seen until I got to the fifth paragraph.
Being this is the Palm Beach Post, the opinion lashes out at President Bush for his call that Iraq not be a theocracy. He basically calls the President a hypocrite. Mr. VerSteeg writes,
In some ways, the people whom President Bush freed in Iraq are remarkably like some of the religious fundamentalists -- at Bob Jones University, for example -- who helped to elect Mr. Bush. They believe that religion -- meaning their religion -- should control all aspects of life, including government. Some religious conservatives in the United States would create a religious state if they could. In fact, they're trying to do it, even though, constitutionally, they can't.
Ah, everyone’s favorite whipping post, Bob Jones University. It used to be that when the name was mentioned it would have some sort of identifier. “Bob Jones University, known for its ‘anti-Catholic’ views” or “Bob Jones University, which banned interracial dating” were the two most common. Now, those tags have disappeared. However, in recent articles (including some recent judicial nominations) all it takes to cause the liberal reader to have an automatic gag reflex is to mention the name alone. “Bob Jones University. . . yeah, I remember the name. . . not sure what the place is. . . but it must be really bad!”
More important than the smash on BJU, there is the comparison of Christian Fundamentalism to Islamic Fundamentalism. Mr. VerSteeg has it all wrong. Just as he seeks to use the media created (and incorrect) perception of BJU to prove his point, he also seeks to attribute goals to Christian Fundamentalism that simply do not exist. He bases his entire article on these assumptions and since his assumptions are false, it makes his entire article worthless.
The Iranian strain of Shiite Muslims is not in any way like “some of the religious fundamentalists – at Bob Jones University, for example.” These followers of Islam make no distinction between the kingdom of Allah and established “earthly” governments. Mr. VerSteeg is correct to point out that these fundamentalists seek to control governments. It is part of Islamic teaching. Not only are individuals to be converted, entire cultures and governments must bow before Islam. The ultimate goal is to turn the entire world into an Islamic state.
This is nothing new. In 1998, Omar M. Ahmad, chairman of the board of the Council on American-Islamic relations, said to a supportive crowd, “If you choose to live here (in America) . . . you have a responsibility to deliver the message of Islam. Islam isn't in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant," he said. "The Koran, the Muslim book of scripture, should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth.” At the time of this statement, many people had not heard of CAIR. Now, they are regular guests on the talk show circuit.
Christian Fundamentalism draws a distinction between the kingdom of Jesus Christ and established “earthly” governments. What the Bible teaches is that the Christian is to live peaceably with all men as much as it is possible. It teaches that we are to obey and honor even “heathen” governments unless those entities’ laws seek to force us to deny our Savior or refuse us the ability to publicly witness of our faith. Absolutely nothing would be gained by creating a “Christian theocracy.” This theocracy already exists—it is a kingdom of the heart and its citizens are never added by conquest, but by their own desire. This kingdom knows no national boundaries and can’t be contained within them.
The confusion for many on the left comes when they see so many individual Christian fundamentalists become involved in the political system. As individuals become involved, they obviously bring with them their own values. Those values will color how they approach policy.
Now back to the biblical injunction to obey “those who have rule over you.” For Christians, that means they must obey the Constitution. They have the right to work within the confines of the document in ways consistent with their values. However, they may not seek to subvert the law. Therefore, a true Christian fundamentalist would be sinning if he or she were to seek to establish a Christian state in America that excluded other religions. Such an action would subvert the first of the Bill of Rights.
Here is another insight into the mind of a fundamentalist. The Christian Fundamentalist does not believe that the world is going to get better. He does not hold to the idea that Christianity will take over the world. No, actually, he knows that according to the Bible, true Christianity will grow smaller and will perhaps face persecution.
He does not lose hope because he also knows that some day there will be a true theocracy. It won’t be some man made system ruled by a God that no one can see. It will be an actual kingdom ruled by Jesus Christ on this earth. However, God won’t need us to set this kingdom up for him. He does it Himself. All the religions and governments of this world will be unable to stop Him.
Until then, Christian fundamentalists won’t be out trying to overthrow our government or destroying the freedom of other religions to worship in this free country. They will be doing those things that make America the wonderful place that it is. Rather than fighting against freedom, they will be on the front lines of places like Iraq, giving their lives for freedom. Dying so that Iraqis may be free to choose to practice their form of Islam and, yes, Christianity. They know that freedom for Muslims, Hindus, Mormons, and all other religions is also freedom to share the good news of the Gospel.
Still, the role most Christian fundamentalists play in our culture can be illustrated in the following announcement found in the April 27th The Morning Call in Allentown, PA.
Kelly Lynn Hahn and Matthew Alan Ray were married April 22 in the former Grace Evangelical Congregational Church, Allentown.
Kimberly Foster, sister of the bride, was matron of honor. Barry Burge was best man.
Parents of the couple are Mr. and Mrs. William L. Hahn Jr. of Allentown and Mr. and Mrs. Alan J. Ray of Cayuga, Ind.
The bride and bridegroom are graduates of Bob Jones University. Also a graduate of Salisbury High School, the bride is a teacher in Allentown School District. The bridegroom, who graduated from North Vermillion High School, is pursuing a doctorate in chemistry from Lehigh University.
They live in Bethlehem.