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“.