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The Intolerance of Fundamentalism

Fundamentalists believe that they have the “Truth” and that everyone else is destined for hell-if they are not saved in time. With this believe it is difficult-indeed impossible-for the effects of fundamentalist Christianity to be confined within its own flock. This certitude has led fundamentalists to condemn everything and everyone that do not agree with their beliefs. We have seen what they have tried to do to scientific education in the U.S.. Let us now look at their other favourites hates:

New Age Movements

The term “New Age” is one applied loosely to a collection of wacky ideas that are nominally rooted in the eastern theologies and mysticism. Examples of New Age movements include pyramid power, macrobiotics, channeling and astrology. The movement is mainly irrational and anti-intellectual-in many ways similar to the fundamentalist’s. Perhaps because they dread seeing their reflection in these movements, fundamentalists have reserved their most vituperative attacks on these. They believe the source of these beliefs is the devil himself and do not eschew any chance of being able to publicly renounce a “new ager”. Thus when the English [a] medium, Albert Best, was attending a spiritualists conference in Liverpool in 1990 he found himself confronted by a group of fundamentalists who gleefully prophesied that he would be dead within 24 hours. [1]

But their attacks go beyond the odd encounter with mediums or occultist. Many times their action is one of concerted condemnation, utilizing all the resources at their disposal. A case to point is that of Chris and Sarah Townsend. In December 1990, the Townsends set up a shop in Lincoln selling occult paraphernalia which they called “Bridge of Dreams”. Almost immediately their business was subjected to a stream of verbal abuse and public demonstrations by the fundamentalist churches of that area. The Christians, headed by two fundamentalist organizations, the Reachout Trust and the New Life Christian Fellowship, also utilized the local media to the fullest. Newspapers and radio phone-in shows were used as platforms for their scathing attacks on the shop and their proprietors. The Christians further showed their love to their neighbour by sending a petition to the landlord, demanding the closure of the shop. The abuse continued for half a year and eventually degenerated into death and arson threats. Defeated, the couple closed their shop, moved out from Lincoln and set up a market stall in Corby. However, here too they were attacked by fundamentalists. Demonstrations against their market stall were organized by a group called Christian Rescue Service. Again the Townsends packed up and left. They returned to Lincoln in December 1991 and, somewhat inexplicably, reopened the “Bridge of Dreams”. And almost immediately, the stream of abuses begun again. Finally, in January 28 1992, a petrol bomb was hurled into their shop. The fire which broke up ravished most of the shop and practically destroyed their business. [2]

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Rock Music

Another pet-hate of the fundamentalist is rock music. Their condemnation on the use of “backward masking”, a technique to include messages that can be heard when the audio tape is played backwards, are well known. According to fundamentalists backward masking hides subliminal messages of praise to Satan thus unconsciously leading the listener into the path of hell. Whatever the actual case may be, they illogically conclude that because some rock music have satanic overtones therefore all rock music must be of the Devil. Thus according to the fundamentalist Lowell Hart, in his book Satan’s Music Exposed (1980): “rock music is a pollutant every bit as deadly as pornography.” [3] The Beatles were one of the first rock groups to be condemned by the fundamentalists. Their music had been attacked by fundamentalists as a form of witchcraft:

The Beatles opened up a Pandora’s Box when they hit the United States with their druid/rock beat in the 1960’s. Then they became so popular that they were able to turn our young people on to the Eastern Religions. The floodgates to witchcraft were opened. [4]

The above lines are taken from the Christian comic book Spellbound by the fundamentalist John Todd.[b] With such wrath surrounding them, we would not be surprised that the fundamentalist would cross the border between non-physical to physical abuse. Burning music records and tapes are common enough in fundamentalist circles. But this attack on rock music culminated in the murder of the ex-Beatle John Lennon in 1980. His murderer, Mark Chapman was a “born-again” Christian with an abhorrence for rock music. He is known to have been angered by Lennon’s statement in the sixties that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus.” While it was obvious that Chapman was mentally unstable, it is also probable, according to the (non-fundamentalist) Christian author R.A. Gilbert, that the murder would not have been committed had there been no concerted attack by the fundamentalists on the evils of rock music in general and on the Beatles in particular. [6]

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Books

Book burning, being a Christian cultural heritage, still occurs today. [7] However, the fundamentalist have also evolved more subtle methods of handling what to them are “undesirable” books. In 1988 a group of fundamentalists filed a lawsuit challenging the right of a school in Hawkins County, Tennessee to require their children to read such “undesirable books”. The disputed books included The Diary of Anne Frank and The Wizard of Oz. The only thing the fundamentalist could see in the former book is the statement in it that all religions are equal. It is not important to them that the book should serve as an important reminder of the Jewish holocaust and the evils of racial and religious hatred. As for The Wizard of Oz, the basis of their lawsuit was that the book contradicts the teaching of the Bible which states that all witches are bad. Luckily their lawsuit was finally thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court. [8] This did not deter the fundamentalists however and further lawsuits on undesirable books followed. [9]

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The Environmental Movement

Surprisingly, the environmental movement is also an object of attack for the fundamentalist. Increasing scientific knowledge has enabled us to understand the environment and the unintended damage we are doing to it. There is today, happily, a general acceptance that we cannot continue to live as though the environment or ecology of the world would take care of itself. Unleaded fuels, the gradual banning of CFC’s and recycling are happy by-products of this environmental, or “green” consciousness. After all, the earth is the only world we have. If we are to destroy it today, what will our children and grandchildren have?

To the fundamentalist however, the main concern is with their idea of God’s plans (isn’t the world going to end anyway?) with the world, not man’s understanding of it. In fact, some fundamentalists have even outrightly condemned the environmentalist movement. Thus when Prince Philip of England initiated a meeting with the leaders of eight major religions on the environment in 1986 he was immediately renounced by the Reverend David Higton. The reason for this renunciation? In Mr. Higton’s own words: “Christians should not be involved in a worship or prayer which marginalizes or even excludes Jesus Christ.”

Similarly when the Greenpeace movement in the U.S. made use of some old American Indian sayings for their cause, they were attacked by the fundamentalists. To these Christians “the truth is to be found in God’s word and not in the fable of American Indians.” [10]

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Notes

a.According to an e-mail I received from a friend of Albert Best, he was raised in Ireland and spent a large part of his life in Scotland. So maybe "English" may not be the best description of who he was!
b.John Todd alias Lance Collins alias John Todd Collins made many baseless allegations against the occult. He claimed to be an ex-druid priest and to have witnessed, for instance, Senator James McGovern stabbing a girl in an act child sacrifice. In the late seventies, his allegations were finally and decisively proven to be false. He was found to have not even been to the places he claimed to have been (such as Vietnam). He changed details of his stories whenever the circumstances suited him. His army records also indicated that he was emotionally unstable and was unable to distinguish fact from fantasy. Despite this, his books continues to be published and sold in fundamentalist circles- an excellent example of the fundamentalist’s lack of veracity. [5]

References

1.Gilbert, Casting the First Stone: p113
2.ibid: p 1,4,5,114,115
3.Quoted in ibid: p98
4.Quoted in ibid: p100
5.ibid: p161-162
6.ibid: p118
7.Gilbert, Casting the First Stone: p5-6
8.Reuter, 24th February 1988.
9.Gilbert, Casting the First Stone: p69
10.ibid: p87-88

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