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Video | Fundamentalism As Social Bond

Journeyman Pictures consistently creates thoughtful short TV documentaries. This one runs twenty-seven minutes and is relevant as it’s never been more apparent that religious fundamentalism underlies the world’s most intractable problems.

As Karen Armstrong has pointed out in The Battle for God: A History of Fundamentalism, the core of all fundamentalist groups is strict adherence to their ancient texts – a powerful mindset mobilized by 19th century emergenc(i)es such as the theory of evolution and global corporate capitalism. Many members of the “Educate Truth/Weimar” crowd publicly identify as fundamentalist, others resist the term, although it’s not always clear how each defines it.

Notably, all too often fundamentalist rhetoric moves from ad hoc literalism to exclusionary language. It’s the classic desire to purify the people – from the Donatists to the Thirty Years War, to the Puritans, to self-supporting colleges to the Southern Baptists yesterday.

Community has its place. And literalism is one way to provide a strong sense of identity. Another is a sense of evangelistic mission. Another is social change.

As Ryan Bell pointed out, fear over a perceived loss of identity propels much ad hoc literalism.

The doc shows how that’s not just the case among the “Educate Truth/Weimar” crowd – it happens to fundamentalists around the world. But freezing a time period is not the only way to create meaningful identities – group growth and social change also provide a strong mission.

Perhaps we can choose to not be of the world portrayed in the doc. And thus as a young, naïve member I wonder, in avoiding these old fights, how might Adventists proceed?

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