Simple Living Works!

Fundamentalist ≠ Evangelical

Posted on: October 7, 2013

4-A2141I am an evangelical as a member of the ELCA – Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. I am not a conservative, though some members of the ELCA are. You’re welcome to call me a progressive Christian or even a liberal.

Conservatives do not have exclusive rights to “evangelical.” Let’s not confuse people by calling fundamentalists and conservatives “evangelicals” just because the commercial media do.

Some folks ask me how to change fundamentalists – religious, political or social. Studies show that it is futile to try to change fundamentalists. They are not touched by facts. And though progressives are stereotyped as caring and “feeling,” fundamentalists are actually more moved by emotions, primarily negative ones, particularly fear. The way they deal with fear is through security and the way they feel secure is with a strong military.

Only about 10% of fundamentalists are open to input from outside their circle of fear-mongers, such as Fox News. So, how much time and energy do we want to invest in finding those few?

Usually we have to ignore them and work around them when we can. Try to keep them out of positions of authority.

I have a friend who is a success story. We went to college together. Bob was conservative then and throughout most of his professional life. Now he’s a honest-to-goodness, anti-war, pro-gun-control progressive. Several things happened. He and his wife moved from a conservative Lutheran Church to the Episcopal Church, and now, through the influence of their children, to the Catholic Church.

Bob credits his wife — a family counselor — for his change. The relationship brought the change. He’s content, even grateful, with his new outlook.

I’ve heard many personal testimonies that the mind-changer about gays and lesbians was getting to know some. As long as they’re just a group, it’s easier to dislike them. But when we have a nephew who’s gay, it becomes easier to be accepting.

Likewise, it’s easy for Tea Party politicians to discriminate against poor people and try to cut their assistance benefits, until they actually get to know some. As one of my most respected modern-day prophets says, “It’s not that the wealthy hate the poor. They just don’t know any.”

Let’s not put a smiley face on fundamentalists by calling them evangelicals.

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3 Responses to "Fundamentalist ≠ Evangelical"

I can see that there is a very important difference between ‘evangelical’ and ‘fundamentalist’, likewise between ‘evangelical’ and ‘conservative’; the latter is especially clear to me as a frequent reader of Sojourners, a magazine/blog for progressive evangelicals. But I do think it can be worthwhile to work, worship and have difficult but courteous conversations with (self-described) fundamentalists and conservatives.

My background is Quaker and I live and work on a Catholic Worker farm, but I’m now worshiping with a small, probably fundamentalist nondenominational congregation. We disagree on many points of theology and politics. We share a commitment to the great commandments–to loving God wholeheartedly and loving our neighbors as ourselves. We’ve been able to strengthen each other ion prayer, in faithfulness and in outreach to neighbors in need. They’ve shaken up some of my stereotypes about fundamentalists. I think I’ve shaken some of theirs about liberals, and perhaps also in some cases about gay and lesbian folks and people of other faiths (I don’t fall in either category but have talked about my friends who do…). We stil disagree profoundly. Our conversations have been painful at times but not rancorous. I am deeply grateful for the connection, and I am afraid of what happens when we dismiss some groups of people as not worth talking to.

I would like to add, for many people who are down on the poor because they don’t know them, what happens when they do know someone who is poor, they often decide that person is the exception, not like other poor people and continue detesting the poor as a group.
Cathy Brechtelsbauer, Sioux Falls, SD

[NOTE from Gerald: Posted with Cathy’s permission. She is a long-standing volunteer advocate with Bread for the World.]

[…] to my blog Fundamentalist ≠ Evangelical, explaining why I decline to call conservatives and fundamentalists […]

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