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So What is a Fundamentalist?

June 12th, 2008 · Posted by Hugo · 14 Comments

This is the post that I was busy writing when I decided I need to first write On “Richard Dawkins is a Fundamentalist” and “Shofar is a Cult”. That post was mostly about label agnosticism and how I care about what people mean by the labels they use, rather than whether it is the “correct” label.

In terms of what people mean when they throw around the “fundamentalist” label, a perfect resource might be the de-conversion blog’s humorous collection of one liners of the form You might be a Fundy if… Using a humorous approach (with many a true word spoken in jest), it sketches out the “outsider”‘s impressions of those people so labelled.

Below are a couple of my personal favourites from the list, with some anecdotes attached. And then there’s a more thorough treatment of the origins of the label, prior to its redefinition to obtain a primarily negative connotation. I.e., what do people mean when they label themselves a fundamentalist.

“You might be a Fundy if…”

Your typical prayer uses the phrase “Lord Jesus” or “Lord God” more times than the Bible.

I have a confession to make. Towards the end of my more regular socialising with the more Fundy-leaning portion of our population, I was no longer able to pay much attention to their prayers (e.g. in the evenings, out camping, before heading to bed). I ended up counting “Lord Jesus”‘es and “Lord God”‘s instead. A typical prayer would contain between twenty and fifty, if I recall correctly. (Twenty would be a short prayer.) In my experience, its use and placement in prayer is somewhat similar to the use of “um” in secular speech. Like a particularly interesting but somewhat annoying mannerism of a lecturer, I found that once you start noticing it, it becomes extremely difficult to not notice it. It unfortunately becomes rather distracting.

You’ve been warned. If I’ve now inadvertently spoilt such prayers for you, I apologise… but I also eagerly await your anecdotes with regards to your experiences! πŸ˜€

God regularly opens up convenient parking spaces, JUST FOR YOU.

In search of the supernatural, every little answered prayer gets hoisted on the flag pole and waved about as a “sign”. This is necessary: the more you believe in miracles, the bigger the miracles that will come your way, supposedly. (It is a chicken and egg problem: you have to believe in miracles in order to have significant ones happen to you, and if you’re scientifically minded, you need some evidence before you’re prepared to believe.) So you start small, with everyday ordinary coincidences, attributing, or rather “recognising”, the divine hand in things otherwise considered coincidence. And parking spaces is one of those coincidences that serves as an easy starting point.

(A note on stats: Remember, to an eager Fundy, there is “divine guidance” behind everything, including the throw of a dice. The guidance may be such that the statistical distribution of the dice is still maintained, but if the likelihood of throwing five sixes in a row is one in 7776, divine guidance can guide this to occur at a time when it bears significance… Consequently, it becomes all about recognising the significance in everyday coincidental events.)

You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.

This one isn’t really much of a highlight to me, it just reminds me of something: I once received a piece of Islamic proselytising in an email. I should maybe dig it up and share some of the details, because I found it really interesting. Much of it hammered on the Christian’s belief in the trinity, and how blasphemous the Christian’s belief is about Jesus, when “there is no God but Allah”.

On another note, Trinitarian beliefs can be found in a couple of traditions, one of which is Hinduism. Apparently it never really caught on though, “had little real influence”. Nevertheless, I found this interesting page discussing potential Hindu influences in Christianity quite interesting. (Do read it with a little skepticism, of course.)

Now here’s a rather offensively worded one:

While modern science, history, geology, biology, physics and textual scholarship fail to convince you that the Bible may be less than reliable, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in “tongues” is all the evidence you need to “prove” Christianity.

The choice of the words “some idiot” won’t sit well with the tongue-speaking Fundy. A much more diplomatic one that contains a somewhat similar idea, is found in HeIsSailing’s comment (comment number 4):

You might be a Fundy if…

you don’t trust any church pastor who received his biblical knowledge from a seminary or university. You trust the pastor who learned about the bible by the private guidance of the Holy Spirit more than one who has degrees hanging on the wall.

As a former fundy, I plead guilty to this one..!!

The former: any Dutch-reformed pastor, or Theo Geyser et al from Stellenbosch Gemeente. The latter: Fred May, Sias le Roux, and most of the rest of Shofar leadership, and most of HisPeople/EveryNation’s leadership. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.)

Now to let things get more nuanced, to start touching on the “original” definition of fundamentalism, Comment 19, HeIsSailing again:

You might be a Fundy if…

You think an “Evangelical” is a carnal Christian who does not have the true, transforming dunamis of the Holy Ghost to be a real, on-fire-for-Jesus “Fundamentalist”.

guilty. I once told a fan of Robert Schuller that he was not a real Christian. gag

That touches on the more formal and “proud” definition of fundamentalist. Wikipedia’s entry on Fundamentalism states the following:

Religious fundamentalism refers a “deep and totalistic commitment” to a belief in the infallibility and inerrancy of a holy book, absolute religious authority, and strict adherence to a set of basic principles (fundamentals), away from doctrinal compromises with modern social and political life.[1][2][3][4]

The term fundamentalism was originally coined to describe a narrowly defined set of beliefs that developed into a movement within the US Protestant community in the early part of the 20th century. Until 1950 there was no entry for fundamentalism in the Oxford English Dictionary;[5] the derivative fundamentalist was added only in its second 1989 edition.[6]

The term fundamentalist has since been generalized to mean strong adherence to any set of beliefs in the face of criticism or unpopularity, but has by and large retained religious connotations.[6] The collective use of the term fundamentalist to describe non-Christian movements has offended some Christians who desire to retain the original definition.

About the origins of the term:

The term “fundamentalism” came into existence at the Niagara Bible Conference which defined those things that were fundamental to belief. The term was also used to describe “The Fundamentals”, a collection of twelve books on five subjects published in 1910 by Milton and Lyman Steward[10] [11]

Fundamentalism as a movement arose in the United States starting among conservative Presbyterian academics and theologians at Princeton Theological Seminary in the first decade of the Twentieth Century[10] [11]. It soon spread to conservatives among the Baptists and other denominations during and immediately following the First World War[10] [11]. The movement’s purpose was to reaffirm orthodox Protestant Christianity and zealously defend it against the challenges of liberal theology, German higher criticism, Darwinism, and other “-isms” which it regarded as harmful to Christianity[10] [11].

And that is where we bump heads then, as I typically try to represent liberal theology and higher criticism. And science (which is pretty much unanimous about the factuality of Darwinism). For an article explaining Christian Fundamentalism in more depth, see Fundamentalist Christianity.

Finishing off with one last one-liners, Comment 27, by LeoPardus:

You might be a fundy if… you read the passage, “In as much as it lies within you, live at peace with all men.” and then go out and picket against Jehovah’s Witnesses, evolutionists, atheists, Promise Keepers, and anyone else who doesn’t agree with you 100%.

(In light of this one, I must offer a personal “Mea culpa.” πŸ˜‰

Yup, again, these guys are speaking from experience.

Categories: Worldviews
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14 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Linda // Jun 13, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    Hey Hugo,

    Good post. I’m not very good at keeping up with all that you write, so remind me… what exactly is Shofar? All I know is that it’s from the OT, correct? Very legalistic, right? Is that your religion?

    Good list of fundy traits. πŸ™‚ I only have one thing to say – I personally don’t trust anyone based solely on their credentials. Not only pastors, but any other professional as well. Even doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc. I have to be convinced on a case-by-case basis that they have something worthy to listen to or learn from. I guess I’m a skeptic at heart.

    Will you come and tell me what you think about my numbers theory?

  • 2 Hugo // Jun 13, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    Shofar, as I refer to it, is a local pentecostal church that idolizes the Bible… oh wait,… that’s biased, that “believe in Biblical inerrancy”. They pray in tongues, believe in demon possession, and believe and pray for supernatural intervention. All good and well, interesting practices. More worryingly, they reject science, believe the world is young (kinda comes with the absolute-inerrancy territory), promote (intentionally or unintentionally) the “prosperity gospel”, and have similar teachings on “purity” (believe enough and be pure enough, and all will go well… if things don’t go well, clearly you did something wrong). They are accused by critics of being a cult, somewhat separatist, people that join sometimes lose contact with their families. In short, they look very much like Pharisees to me. But that’s possibly just my interpretation of what often happens, not necessarily official policy.

    And they’re spreading. Started in Stellenbosch, they now have ten churches/congregations around South Africa, one in Windhoek Namibia, and one in London.

    So that’s my summary of Shofar. In the Old Testament, it is the name of an instrument, a ram’s horn.

  • 3 Linda // Jun 13, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    Wow… that’s unfortunate. Thank you for that explanation.

  • 4 // Jun 14, 2008 at 4:09 am

    “I personally don’t trust anyone based solely on their credentials. Not only pastors, but any other professional as well. ”

    The hysteria lies in this Linda: The founder/leader/guru person is a man named Fred May, has NO theological degree. He never studied at a theological college. He has never studied a B.Sc – yet, of course, He claims to be an expert, personally led by God and anyone who questions him, will get struck down with cancers.

    Among other things, he claims to have raised the dead … now there is some real hard science for you…

  • 5 Linda // Jun 15, 2008 at 5:54 am


    I hear ya! But all I was trying to say was that even if the guy had credentials up the yin yang, the credibility (or lack thereof) of his claims would not change one bit… not in my eyes.

  • 6 // Jun 15, 2008 at 10:28 am

    Linda, see … I’m not sure how well versed you are in the thorny thickets of what separates applied theology from popular cultism, especially of the bullshit baffles brains variety – but this Shofar thing happened in Stellenbosch through very skilful manipulation by this man and his wife. They targetted young emotionally vulnerable people on campus and living in Stellenbosch – and make no mistake … sans bona fides from any recognised church, refusing to recognise and belong to any other local church, no recognised tertiary education in the field of Theology or Science – yet still, he is a type of genius in his own right. Today he parks himself in a 25m ex-wine mansion, previously owned by people who previously enslaved his ancestors and those slavers great-great-great-great-grandchildren children must pay him for it in cash as revenge or “give” it to him, because if they don’t, God is not going to bless them but if they doooo…….

    Stripped of his designer clothes, the cultivated and melifluous veneer and tear away all the convoluted demon infested theology – right down to the bone, he is that kind of bitter revengeful beggar on a street corner who uses self-pity to induce a specie of passing guilt into his mark, by acting out a role of the socially downtrodden with the subtext that the mark is somehow responsible for that pain but he pays the mark, pocketing the cash and pronouncing a heart felt blessing on the mark from God Himself for the charity. Dissected, that is his entire game and nothing else. The dumbass mark doesn’t realise the beggar lives in a mansion worth three times his….

    “Taking the whole gospel to the whole world” according to this great Holy Prophet as he keeps punting himself shamelessly and tirelessly from his pulpit while he decries how distasteful it is for for him to share how important he is to God, and what a terrible burden he carries for his “vision” – that the devil wants to attack* and attack* him with “lies” and stop him from being “obedient”. *(main mission for all the money he, so glaringly displays socially and so crudely craves for himself.)

    But it all falls apart when the whole world lies bleeding locally on the streets ouside your “church” from xenophobic attacks or rather on the municipal rugby fields, out of sight – far from Oude Molen. It falls apart further when you find out the perpetrators of those attacks are local opportunistic youth, who because they have grown up ignored, abused, shunned spiritually and are living in the most inhuman filth and degradation and have been since Fred May came to Stellenbosch and began recruiting very young people fresh out of school to support “His Vision” and his “Mission to All Nations”, something by the way, which is not supported or recognised by any other of the highly respected Christian leaders I’ve spoken to in Stellenbosch. So he does not have any good publicity, none – so he has to try and generate it for the beggar business he makes of church.

    Yeah, to actually “belong” to Shofar costs money, registration fees for his “Foundations” to be exact and if you have any music talent, you can pay for a course, sign away your intellectual property rights and right of personal veto and he might let you play in one of his multimedia productions that he uses to punt himself – but you, the musician, will never see a cent. That all belongs to “the ministry”. How much does it cost to be a Jew or Muslim??? Why does one have to pay him for the privilege of playing a guitar and singing songs about God – the real question one has to ask, is since he never paid for anything with his own money in this town, not one cent in his pocket is his, it all belongs to other people dumb enough to believe one can pay God for something you already have – why does he charge musicians to play and sing??? This is all readily available from documents on his website … probably not for long either …

    Since the publishing of “Acid Alex”, Fred May has frantically needed to procure validation any way he can because of the expose in the book. He had to change his whole marketing image away from the cult of his own persona and to a generic, more graphically acceptable social demographic, post-apartheid fantasy, beer commercial form and more illustrative of the business’s hollow advertising blurb “For all Nations” – outside of Stellenbosch entirely – and woo Joy! Magazine and TBN media-darling Christians – who seem to spend their days claiming to be saving the world with money you can send to the bank account number on the screen or their website. Or order the CD and DVD or book available from CUM…

    Commercial Christianity is a billion dollar industry and like all global organised crime, it stretches the globe sucking money in exchange for the promise of post dated divine blessings from the gullible, greedy and lazy. The biggest retail bookshop in Stellenbosch is CUM – and not one book in there, not even the BIBLE could prevent the mess of humanity on the municipal rugby fields in the last few weeks.

    Remember, this is a man who basically walked into Stellenbosch a shameless grifter, so utterly lazy that his wife had to drive to neighbouring to teach so he had a cottage over his head and food in his belly – while he fought the devil by brainwashing a handful of younsters. He has become stinking rich doing it, given his lieutenants lives of luxury – so Linda, he might be a liar, a cheat and an evil prick who tried to frame me for pointing this out back in the nineties – but he is damned good at it, so you have to respect him as a professional.

    I’ve seen him burst into rivers of tears almost instantly, on cue and better than a Hollywood actor – for some white person he never even knew or cared about, who died in a car accident. That shower of misery was generated because two words applied to someone in Shofar and under his sphere of psychological control: “Post Probate”.

    In my opinion, whenever I saw those tears, it was the time it was going to take to get the property deeds to the Shofar lawyers or the cash money in Shofar’s bank account that he was really crying over…

  • 7 Linda // Jun 15, 2008 at 8:21 pm


    What passion you have. I admire that. You’re right. I don’t know how “versed” I am in applied theology either. But I know religion and what it can do to the minds of the unsuspecting follower. I know my truth, I know who I am, and I am determined to never be under the control of another human being ever again.

    I don’t know the situation with this Shofar (cult) that you speak of… it sounds like a powerful force that has “the gullible, greedy and lazy” under its spell. Religion can be very seductive. Yes… I can respect his skills in manipulation. He may even actually believe that he’s doing God’s work.

    You keep doing what you do to tell your truth… and I believe truth will eventually speak for itself. And truth can never be killed. It will rise up again and again. His work is already finished. We just have to rest in the fact that the enemy has been defeated at the cross. Christ lives, and we are free.

  • 8 Linda // Jun 15, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    Just to be clear, when I said “His work is already finished,” I was referring to Christ, and in essence, God’s work.

  • 9 // Jun 16, 2008 at 12:56 am

    Amen, and when he’d finished it, he went and found His friends and made them breakfast…

  • 10 // Jun 16, 2008 at 1:28 am

    You know what really, really freaks me out Linda, a girl who calls herself “Bubbles” once confronted me on another blog, very … extremely … honey sweet – an almost living breathing clone of Lucille May and inside the sweetness was the poison of course, I think it was something about me being a drug dealer or wanting my personal tax number or something. But that didn’t bug me personally in the slightest not as much as a final taunt she threw at me.

    Now most people in an argument save their taunts, like good cards in a game – and you know they are good cards, they will win you the game. Feel me? This girl believed in the Power of what she confronted me with …

    She challenged me with: ‘If I do not give God my tithe, how will I get blessed?’

    She thinks this of the resurrected Jesus of John 21. This is the Jesus who made breakfast for his disciples while they fished futilely for a commercial catch. And one that he gave to Peter in spite of his denial…

    This same Jesus demands 10% of Bubbles money every month else He is not going to bless her.

    To get that deeply into someone’s mind and take control of their Christian values, their actual understanding of the Father Christ came to reveal – takes some serious doing.

    To use Christ to focus on the demonology that is a thread that runs thoughout the “Foundations” and away from the Father heart of God, means that the kind of fear this man panders, is deeply, deeply effective.

    And evil.

  • 11 // Jun 16, 2008 at 10:05 am

    Follow the money … always follow the money …

  • 12 skoembs // Jul 8, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    A debate on this topic has flared up on:

  • 13 jami // Aug 12, 2009 at 8:35 am

    Hi! If I can recommend a book for you guys to read, I would recommend ‘Battlefield of the Mind’. Please go and read 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. Also go to a service at Shofar… if I’ve never been to the new shopping centre everyone’s raving about, I can’t really form my own opinion:-) xx

  • 14 Hugo // Aug 12, 2009 at 10:52 am

    Hi jami! You sound friendly, I like that. πŸ˜‰ Are you sticking around for a conversation, or were you just passing by?

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