Per Crucem ad Lucem quotes at length the splendiferous Marilynne Robinson on the ironic self-defeating position inherent in American fundamentalism, which she calls the “third great awakening” in her essay “Hallowed Be Your Name” which is part of an interesting book offering a theological critique of the Christian Right.
Fundamentalism, of which contemporary American evangelicalism is the child made good and respectable, arose in the early 1900’s as a reaction to social Darwinism and the great array of forces that they would have called “liberalism” or “modernism”. But as Robinson points out, that Christian movement seems cut off from the previous 19 centuries of faith in Christ by their almost total disinterest in social justice. Their unyielding support of laissez faire capitalism and the globalisation process that profits their own bank balances looks alarmingly, in history’s cold gaze, similar to the social Darwinists. Thus, “Creation Scientists” and Paleo-Darwinists end up reflecting each other. They both reduce human life down to minimal descriptions, understanding “pro-life” to mean “anti-abortion” on one end of the spectrum and on the other “beauty”, “justice” or “virtue” become interesting evolutionary side effects expressed in firing neurons.
So Robinson, one of the great Christian artists of our age, concludes by wondering what would happen if we considered fundamentlism alongside:
the passage in Matthew 25 in which Jesus says, identifying himself with the poorest, “I was hungry, and ye fed me not.” This is the parable in hallowed be your name which Jesus portrays himself as eschatological judge and in which he separates “the nations.” It should surely be noted that he does not apply any standard of creed – of purity or of orthodoxy – in deciding whom to save and whom to damn. This seems to me a valuable insight into what Jesus himself might consider fundamental. To those who have not recognized him in the hungry and the naked, he says, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels.” Neofundamentalists seem to crave this sort of language – more than they might if they were to consider its context here. It is the teaching of the Bible passim that God has confided us very largely to one another’s care, but that in doing so he has in no degree detached himself from us. Indeed, in this parable Jesus would seem to push beyond the image of God as final judge to describe an immanence of God in humankind that makes judgment present and continuous, and that in effect makes our victim our judge. Neither here nor anywhere else in the Bible is there the slightest suggestion that our judge/victim would find a plea of economic rationalism extenuating.
Your Correspondent, Neither fun nor mental