Fundamentalism within a religious context might accurately be described as a corrective reaction to the excesses of one’s own contemporaries.
Within such a context, Jesus was himself a fundamentalist. As such, he took issue with the Ancient era of his time, the excesses of which were harmful to the very humanity he came to save.
Also, as such, he was not so different than the Protestant fundamentalists of the last century or so who have taken issue with the Modern era of our time, the excesses of which they, too, perceived as being harmful to the very humanity Jesus came to save.
Allow me to explain my preposterous, you might say, notion here.
As a micro-review, the Protestant movement of fundamentalism centered around these 5 fundamentals of faith: (1) The Protestant Bible is literally true in fact, and without any factual fallacies or errors; (2) The virgin birth of Christ is literally true in fact; (3) The substitutionary atonement of Christ is literally true in fact; (4) The bodily resurrection of Christ is literally true in fact; and (5) The biblical miracles are literally true in fact.
Such statements of fundamental faith, which began as a more rural response to the urbanized enlightenment of the industrial age, where late nineteenth century “elitism” and “intellectualism” had assumed a condescending role within America, gained traction among northern Reformed Protestants by the year 1910. This shift gave cover to the early response and brought forward its own urban “elite” and “intellectual” constituency. (Can you say Princeton University?) Its bottom line was that scripture is to be read and understood as factual truth, not as metaphor or parable. The spirit of the Law, for instance, could not possibly differ from the letter of the Law. The Modernist era was harmful toward those adherents of Christianity who questioned biblical letters of authority. Hence their anti-modernist reaction.
Any quarrels with my review above in microcosm?
If not, perhaps you’ll save them for what I’m about to say.
Because I’m not so sure Jesus didn’t have his own 5 fundamentals of faith, aimed at protecting those being harmed by the Ancient era of urban religious elitists and self-avowed intellectuals. I wonder if he might not have listed them in something of this order: (1) The Kingdom of Heaven alone is literally true in fact, and all other prior kingdoms on earth (Roman Empire included) are the stuff of metaphors and parables; (2) The Spiritual new birth in baptism is literally true in fact, regardless of any physical birth circumstance; (3) The cross of atonement is only a metaphorical substitute, for true atonement comes when we take up our own cross and follow him, whereby we are saved by losing our own lives (not his life instead); (4) The bodily resurrection here on earth is literally the “woke Church” going into the worldly kingdoms and empires to baptize and teach people to love others as Christ has loved us; and (5) The greatest biblical miracle is when we follow the Christ by loving God as he did with all his heart, mind, soul and strength and by loving even his enemy neighbor as he loved himself; in laying down our lives for others’ sake; and in doing unto others what we would have others do unto us.
Now before we break out our New Testament books, chapters, and verses, even those in red letters, and go about arguing my points, suffice it to say that I’m mostly convinced that the Gospel of Jesus as taught by himself was a reaction against the Ancient fundamentals of faith that had gotten all twisted up in seeing the letter but missing the spirit; believing the fact but doubting the parable or metaphor or allegory; affirming the writings but denying the Kingdom; feeding the wolf but starving the sheep; and glorifying the authorities while persecuting those who questioned authority and spoke truth to power.
It will be hard to convince me that Jesus was not, fundamentally, offering humanity a Modern Gospel to replace the Ancient norms and superstitions for his people. Or that the Protestant evangelicals of mostly 20th century America are not, fundamentally, offering humanity the Ancient norms and superstitions to replace Christ’s Modern Gospel for our people. I will be a tough sell when it comes to seeing Jesus and today’s fundamentalists bearing his name as being on the same track going in the same direction. On the same track, yes. But I see them moving in opposite directions. While Jesus is progressing away from the Ancients and into our Modern and even Post-Modern age, today’s fundamentalists are regressing away from our own age and into, and for, the very Ancient norms Jesus was reacting against. I would call that a disconnect.
And in which case, I would answer the greater call to connection, hoping to become a fundamentalist like Jesus during this New Year of 2020.