The Words of the Miffleton Family
The Enemy: Fundamentalism
Although we all believe in the same God, it is a distorted belief (I hesitate to call it "faith") that motivated the terrorists to hijack jets and turn them into guided missiles. Such actions by so-called "religious" zealots makes me want to renounce religion altogether— even Unificationism. But that's no answer, either.
Something has always troubled me in certain Christian rhetoric, in certain Islamic or other religious attitudes; something that I consider a threat. It's a threat to me, to the nation, ultimately to God and humanity itself: fundamentalism. This is the bane of all religions and of all thinking people. Watching those two jets slam into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 only served to solidify that resolution.
Born out of ignorance and fear—or fallen man's inability to relate to the Living God— fundamentalism has always been stalking man's spiritual life like a jealous lover. When one's relationship with God ceases to be a thriving, growing, life-giving thing, fundamentalism takes over. Then it chokes the believer like Kudzu strangling an Oak tree. It has many aspects, I suppose, but the three main ones I see are: a) it is legalistic; b) it is adversarial; and c) it is blind.
Religious fundamentalism is preoccupied with questions of Authority— presumably God's. True Father says that God's love and God's embracing heart are the ultimate source of authority, but the fundamentalist will have none of it. He understands God as a Lawgiver who rewards the righteous and punishes the "disobedient." God's Law is invariably codified in some written document: Bible, Koran, Divine Principle, etc. All authority stems from these documents, thus it is inherently legalistic. The best example of this attitude is the Pharisees at the time of Jesus (who Jesus condemned mercilessly). Rather than embrace the living God in Christ, these characters were worried about what the Bible said.
What's the problem with a legalistic approach, anyway? One thing is, when the book is the ultimate authority, it is too easy to use scripture to justify almost anything. For many years, white Southern Christians used the Bible to support their enslavement of blacks. After emancipation they used those same scriptures to justify segregation and "Jim Crow" laws. That attitude is still prevalent in certain parts of the Deep South today. I speak from personal experience: I worked as a missionary in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and some of the most virulent racists I ever encountered were white "Christians."
Another problem is that it makes one inflexible and intransigent. Habit makes cowards of us all, and thus we become resistant to change. If someone should come along with something NEW— ex. Joseph Smith, Mary Baker Eddy, Sun Myung Moon— charges of heresy are brought, and the witch-hunt begins. So, how dangerous it is to think that God's Authority resides in some book! Unificationists are not immune to this; how many times have I seen someone extract a quote from TF's speeches to use as a cudgel or battering ram, or as a writ of mandamus when such was never the intent? 2000 years ago, this type of thinking got Jesus crucified.
In its never ending quest to be the "Chosen of God" or the "Elect," fundamentalism draws a sharp line between us and them, thus it is adversarial. Even though God's love and will encompasses all humanity, with no exclusions, the fundamentalist insists on a dichotomy between Jew and Gentile, saved and unsaved, Muslim and infidel, Family member and "outside people," etc. The inevitable result is conflict and disunity, even religious warfare (like the Muslim fanatic's Jihad against that Great Satan, the USA).
I have never liked the adversarial nature of Christianity— the "believe this or else" mentality. The whole notion of a small, exclusive group of religious people rejoicing in Heaven while the vast majority of the human race suffers in hell for all eternity is ridiculous. If this were true, what kind of God would that be? The fundamentalist God is a terrible, fearsome deity— the master of all cruelty. That being the case, almost any means is justified in coercing unbelievers to conversion, even torture. Read the bloody, barbaric history of European Christianity as a point of reference. The Inquisition especially showed a genius for inventing new methods of inflicting pain on "heretics."
Unificationists seem obsessed with assigning Cain and Abel roles to people, cultures, and nations— and even members within the ranks— when it is not so clear that this has any basis in Principle. The classic example is leaders who once taught, "I am Abel, you are Cain, so you must obey." Fact is, Cain and Abel were both fallen men, both were sinners, and any difference between them was negligible in God's sight. Divine Principle teaches the universal brotherhood of man under True Parents. We are all brothers and sisters so there can be no further discrimination. The Kingdom of Heaven is the dwelling of all people— either we all go together or no one goes.
There is no greater form of willful ignorance than fundamentalism. For example, regardless of how much evidence science accumulates to the contrary, many otherwise intelligent people insist that the Bible is literally true, therefore science must be mistaken. This doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy results in firm belief of the six-day creation, 6000 year-old earth, worldwide Flood, etc. None of these things are scientifically possible.
A theologian once explained, the reason why some Christians insist on the literal truth of Genesis is so that they may preserve the literal truth of Revelation— i.e. the Apocalypse, coming of Christ on the clouds, and so on. My question: why does having faith in God depend upon accepting, without reservation, the "truth" contained in documents written thousands of years ago? Do people actually believe that questioning the literal truth of the Bible is going to jeopardize their "salvation"? Again, what kind of God are we dealing with here?
Fundamentalists invariably reject other philosophies or traditions that either contradict their views or exist beyond them. Why else would Christian clergy assert that Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Islam, or (you name it) is "of the devil" and all their followers are going to hell? Why else would, say, Jehovah's Witnesses call Roman Catholicism a "cult" and the Pope an Anti-Christ? Why would they want to persecute the Unification Church?
Conversely, why do I perceive intolerance in our own movement? Why are persons who "leave the church" reduced by some to persona non gratas, to the extent that even if someone wants to return, he knows full well how he is likely to be treated if he does? Thus, most do not return. Obviously, betraying the True Parents is a serious matter. But that has little to do with whether you are "in" or "out" of the church. I have met several ex-members who continued to love TPs but were unwilling to endure the humiliation of returning. If the movement cannot take care of its own (which it cannot), how does it expect to save the world?
What To Do
The core evil of religious fundamentalism is this: it denies the Fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of humanity. It is patently insane to speak of "God's love" while at the same time believing uncounted billions are going to suffer in hell for eternity. And how are you going to rejoice in Heaven when your own brother is in the pit? No, we are all in this life together— the fate of one is the fate of all.
Whence resides God's Authority, then? It is the Principle that God's truth be embodied in a human being— and so the necessity of Christ. God's Authority is in the Messiah himself, not in his speeches or the DP text. Scriptures are meant to inspire faith and act as a guide; they are not statutes. The final authority in all matters is the conscience of each individual. So responsibility for one's actions can never be transferred away from the self and no evil can ever be justified, regardless of what the Bible "says." Any ideology that pits one against the other, divides human populations into sheep and wolves, or makes me Cain and you Abel should be questioned. The age of blind faith is over.
Unless the religious world neutralizes fundamentalism, it will continue to block the way of God's providence. The sectarian strife will continue, the divisions and resentments and hatreds will continue, and yes, the terrorism will continue. America wants to wage a war against terrorism, but how do you fight an idea? Fundamentalism has to be marginalized and exposed for the virus it is. Otherwise, for every Osama bin Laden we liquidate three more will take his place.
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