Sermons

Summary: The United States has a very long history of unsuccessful conflicts with Islamic fundamentalists. The reason is that the only person who can really understand the dedication of a religious fundamentalist is another religious fundamentalist.

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UNDERSTANDING RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM

ILLUSTRATION

THE GATHERS

There was a very wise man who one day decided to journey to a neighboring city with three of his followers. They were not long into their journey when they came upon a man picking berries. In his quest to get the largest and best berries the man had wandered into a quagmire and was buried up to his thighs. The wise man called out: “May we be of any assistance!” The man answered: “No! I am doing fine, and I would advise that you seek berries somewhere else … these are mine.” The wise man replied: “Very well.” And, he and his students continued on their way.

Before much longer they came upon a man who was picking apples and in his quest to obtain the largest and best apples the man had wandered into a quagmire and was now stuck up to his thighs in the mud. The wise man called out: “May we be of any assistance!” The man answered: “No! For I fear that you too may come to as sad and end as I. For once the sun sets the beasts of the night are sure to devour me.” The wise man noticed that the limb, from which the man had been picking the low hanging fruit, was of substantial size. He instructed his three students to climb up the tree and go out on the limb, knowing that their combined weight would cause the limb to bend down within reach of the man who was stuck in the quagmire. The wise man’s plan worked and soon the man was free of the mud and standing on solid ground with the wise man.

At once the man, who had been picking apples, fell at the feet of the wise man, and taking his sack of apples from his shoulder, he offered all that he had. The wise man remarked: “Get to your feet. I only ask that you share some of what you have so that I, and my students, might be strengthen for the remainder of our journey. As they ate of the apples, one of the students asked: “Why is it that the first man did not want our help; as he too was fast and will surely be devoured by the beasts of the night.” The wise man answered: “The man’s heart was calloused by his greed for the fruit, and because his eyes still beheld the sun light his mind was blinded to the reality night would bring.” You see, even blatant reality is hidden to those who do not want to believe it.

SERMON

RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM

Most Americans know very little of the truth about ‘Islamic terrorism.’ This is because they neither know Islam nor do they understand those who are faithful to the teachings of Mohammad. Probably more important, is the fact that very few Americans, or Muslims, have any idea what it means to be a loyal and faithful follower of spiritual or religious principles. In other words, people do not know what it means to be a religious fundamentalist.

To be a religious fundamentalist means you have an unwavering conviction in an existing set of irreducible beliefs. This means that a religious fundamentalist knows exactly what it is they believe and there is nothing on the face of the earth that can change their belief. Probably most important is the fact that a religious fundamentalist passionately believe their holy book is the complete, final and accurate revelation of their god’s will for mankind. This means they will never add to, nor delete from, nor alter in any way, the teachings found in their holy book. Most people have no such conviction; thus, they do not understand fundamentalism because they themselves have no real idea what it means to be a loyal and faithful follower of a religious belief.

Most assuredly there are religious peoples in America and they will claim Islamic or Christian beliefs … but this does not mean they are devoted to the fundamentals of their faith. Most religious people have a situationally religious attitude. In other words, their religious text is simply viewed as a collection of situationally relevant teachings, which could be applicable to their life: assuming they are properly modified or interpreted to adapt to current conditions. Thus in many ways, a person’s attitude toward their religious text can be the defining factor in separating a fundamentalist from a non-fundamentalist. A non-fundamentalist is willing to adjust the documented teachings of their faith, based on the current situation. A true fundamentalist, on the other hand, will make it a point to personally know what is written in their religious text and they will not listen to anyone who does not rigidly adhere to these teachings. A true fundamentalist believes their religious text is the complete, final, and accurate documentation of their god’s will. Thus, you might say that the only person who can really understand the dedication of a religious fundamentalist is another religious fundamentalist.

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Ralph Lawrence

commented on Oct 17, 2017

An interesting, well prepared essay on this subject. Thank you for sharing it. My question is: Should a devout, fundamentalist Christian submit to a ruler when that ruler is an absolutely evil dictator, such as Hitler or Stalin? In the case of Hitler, the majority of Christians in Germany were persuaded to bow to Hitler's regime, while a minority such as Bonhoeffer for example, and others in the Confessing Church, chose to form a resistance and ultimately died at the hands of the regime. Meanwhile, the Allied forces in World War II fought against and defeated the Nazis. If we are to be subject to the governing authorities, should we be subject to, and go along with, a leader like Hitler or other similar people? What would be a scripture to support refusal to follow them? I think of Matthew 22:15-22.

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