In order for Fundamentalism to survive as true historic Fundamentalism, the belief in and defense of fundamental doctrines that are essential to the Christian faith, we have noted so far that Fundamentalism must embrace criticism, recognize it is in a fight for survival against internal problems, and become willing to positively critique itself for the purpose of improvement. With that said, my second “must do” for Fundamentalism is really just a branch off of that first criticism.
Fundamentalism has grown accustom to what I like to call “Fundamentalism’s great red herring”–Evangelicalism. Oh, it doesn’t take too much time in many Fundamentalist camps before you hear the call against Evangelicalism. But let me say one note of caution, for the most part, Fundamentalists critique evangelicalism fairly accurately. The accuracy of their critique is, therefore, not my critique. Further, the existence of their critique is not my critique (for we ought to identify problems). My critique is that evangelicalism has become many Fundamentalists’ red herring.
If you are not familiar with the term red herring, it refers to something used to distract or divert attention away from the real problem or issue at hand. Therefore, what I mean by Evangelicalism being “Fundamentalism’s great red herring” is that when Fundamentalists are confronted with or speak of Fundamentalism’s problems, many often attempt to divert the attention away from Fundamentalism’s problems towards Evangelicalism’s. A common phrase goes in the Fundamentalist circles, “Fundamentalism has its warts, but Evangelicalism has its tumors.” My response is, so what?
First of all, it’s rather difficult to say which movement has more problems than the next. Both movements are rather broad, both are rather different (relatively speaking), and certainly both have a lot of problems. But to claim one is worse off is a rather immeasurable estimate. But that’s beside the point.
The real issue is, like I said, even if Evangelicalism is in a far greater mess, so what? Not “so what” as in who cares about Evangelicals, but “so what” as in, it doesn’t change the fact that Fundamentalism has its “warts.” And that’s the problem with any red herring. It avoids the real problem. And by avoiding the existence of problems, Fundamentalism is avoiding the solutions it so desperately needs.
So my charge to Fundamentalists is not to necessarily stop seeing Evangelicalism’s faults, but to see Fundamentalism’s faults through a magnify glass. Avoiding problems never solves them. Comparison always makes you look better than you are. But, sorry to say, Fundamentalism’s standard isn’t Evangelicalism.
Fundamentalism will have a hard time dealing with its issues until it can get over its “great red herring.”
See all “What Fundamentalism Must Do to Survive” posts
If you are unfamiliar with the term “Evangelicalism,” don’t worry about it. Understanding it isn’t necessary for the sake of my argument.
Now obviously this is a broad statement and will not apply to all of Fundamentalism or all Fundamentalists. Further, I am not trying to say Evangelicalism is the sole red herring. I simply believe it is Fundamentalism’s “great” one.
* Originally posted on former blog, I’m Calling Us Out.