Understanding Fundamentalists And Why We Shouldn’t Hate Them

One of the great tools of personal development I have learned this year is called Spiral Dynamics. I learned about Spiral Dynamics from several Richard Rohr references, and it has helped me understand human growth and why we process spiritual experiences differently during different times of our life. For years, I was deconstructing my world. For most of my life, I have been around black-and-white belief structures.  During my last year of high school, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I was left in a lot of angst regarding the religious absolutism I saw around me (although now I see why it was a necessary part of my journey).

What Spiral Dynamics teaches is that fundamentalists (of all religions) enter into absolutistic, black/white, completely right or completely wrong ways of thinking, because it is a response to a previous free-for-all ways of living. You often see addicts, criminals, toddlers, turn to religious fundamentalism because their life needs order. Some religious people might believe that alcohol is evil. They can’t handle thoughts like, “Well for some it might be bad, but for others it might be okay.” They struggle to find a discernment, like in Romans 14, in which some things might be okay for some, and not okay with others, and God allows people to listen to their conscience and be responsible to God.

Every human being needs to go through a black-and-white, absolute stage in their life. There are times in life when people need to be told, “You can’t do this. You can do that. This is right. That is wrong.” What fundamentalism offers is a safe, controlled environment in a time in life when you need one. This form of absolutism is one step in the journey. It helps us create an always evolving identity. When you recognize this stage in yourself and others, instead of hating it (which is an ego-based judgment), you are able to recognize this in your own past, forgive it, and reconcile with it. Many people find these moments unacceptable in their past and experience guilt over it. It was a necessary part of your journey. The reason some people later in life who find God (or return to their faith) and don’t go through a fundamentalist stage is because they found they have already dealt with this mode of consciousness during a previous time.

Being a fundamentalist isn’t bad; it’s when you stay there that’s when it gets sad. This doesn’t mean that we recognize the poor decisions that come out of fundamentalism and dismiss them. It doesn’t mean that we allow them to pass off the injustices they commit against those who challenge there control. What it does mean, and what Spiral Dynamics allows us to have, is a recognition of the stages of life, and our ability to accept others in there stage. Fundamentalism only gets bad when people stay there for a long time; they take the “fun” out of fundamentalist and emphasize the “mental“.

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5 thoughts on “Understanding Fundamentalists And Why We Shouldn’t Hate Them

  1. Pat Pope says:

    It also gets bad when you’re willing to accept people where they are, but they aren;t willing to accept you. That is what makes fundamentalism in some people so intolerable.

    • Mike Friesen says:

      You’re right Pat. But, hopefully the more spiritual growth we find, the more we can accept ourselves and the less we need the acceptance of those around us.

    • hmimler says:

      I agree, but I’ve walked out of fundamentalism and sat with people as they slowly (or suddenly) made their way out. I’ve seen the fruit of being constantly rejected by them (painful, depressing, difficult) – but the fruit they bear in my own and other’s lives afterwards makes it worthwhile (doesn’t make the pain, etc go away).

      • Mike Friesen says:

        Henry, I agree. It’s painful and hard, which is why our transformation happens, I believe, when we come in contact with an “Other.” Whether that be something from God, a different perspective from another human being, or whatever. Unfortunately, according to Spiral Dynamics, people don’t learn to be non-violent for a few more stages.

  2. Frank says:

    I grew up in fundamentalism and am a BJU graduate. I find myself almost twenty years removed from fundamentalism and it continues to shape me. Why is it that post modern thought (funny…I didn’t know I was influenced by pomo thinking until the evangelicals told me I was) captured me? Why is it that I am a relativist? Why is it that I perpetually leave the door to EVERY question OPEN? Why is it that I don’t trust ANYONE in authority…but especially conservatives? Why is it that the hermeneutics of suspicion are my modus operandi?

    I would suggest it is a reaction to my fundamentalist past. I learned to trust no one in authority. I learned to doubt and question EVERYTHING because everything was a “spin”. I was ripe for my time at Duke…and my experience in the evangelical church has confirmed me in my doubt. Why do I have faith in doubt? I think the answer is clear…maybe.

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