The Spread of Fundamentalism
FUNDAMENTALISM—a few short decades ago, this was no more than a minority movement within Protestantism. How things have changed! Bruce B. Lawrence, a commentator on religion, wrote that 30 years ago, few would have foreseen that at the end of the 20th century, fundamentalisma would become such an important and even obsessive theme for the mass media and university research.
Yet, that is what has happened. Newspaper reports of violent street demonstrations, murders, antiabortion movements, political maneuverings by religious pressure groups, and public bonfires of books considered blasphemous are constant reminders of the actions of fundamentalists. The Italian financial weekly Mondo Economico stated that just about everywhere fundamentalism is “on the attack in the name of God.”
Fundamentalists are often portrayed as extreme and fanatic, hatching conspiracies and carrying out terrorist attacks. People are alarmed at the growth of such groups as Comunione e Liberazione in Roman Catholicism, Gush Emunim in Judaism, and the Christian Coalition in North American Protestantism. Why is fundamentalism spreading? What motivates it? Is it perhaps “the revenge of God,” as French sociologist Gilles Kepel suggests?
a A fundamentalist is one who holds rigidly to traditional, conservative religious values. The meaning of “fundamentalism” will be discussed more fully in the next article.
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Nina Berman/Sipa Press