A letter to the editor recently asked me to explain what I mean by the term “radical Christian.” Curiously no one asks Michelle Bachman, Glenn Beck or Rush what they mean by using “radical” to refer to Muslims.
Please know I am not talking of all my fundamentalist brothers and sisters when I use the term. Defining “radical” is helpful. “Radicals” favors extreme changes in existing views or institutions. It’s associated with extreme political or religious views. Fundamentalism isn’t the same though it often leads to radicalism.
Muslim detractors found they couldn’t get traction simply calling them “Muslim fundamentalists.” That sounded too much like Christian fundamentalists. Fundamentalists of any faith are those whose beliefs center on a narrow understanding of the Divinity and the inerrancy of their own scripture.
You can disagree with fundamentalists and still respect the source of their beliefs. But radical religionists are different. Their fundamentalist views don’t stop at the church or Mosque door. It isn’t enough for them to believe. They’re driven to make sure that others either believe it or at the least, live under its thumb.
“Radical Islam” is commonly associates Muslims with political activism, extremism, and religious fanaticism, not far different than what can be denoted by the use of a word like “radical Christian.”
“Radical Christians” denotes those whose beliefs in scriptural literalism and the inerrancy of the Bible lead them beyond a personal religious commitment into the world of politics and fanaticism. Radical Christians seek to exchange democracy with a hybrid form of theocracy. They worship a narrow interpretation of scripture, not a broader understanding of God.
Some say radical Islamists seek a "revolution.” They’re called “radical” because they believe society should be “Islamized” through political action. Are they unlike those who believe society should be Christianized through political action?
Radical Christians are those who populate organizations such as WyWatch Family Values, the American Family Association, the Family Research Council and other Christian based organizations. They form political action committees and hire lobbyists who work to make sure their fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible becomes the law under which we all live.
That’s radical whether it’s the agenda of Muslims or Christians. In a pluralistic society an effort to dominate and control the institutions of government for your own narrow religious purposes is radical.
Radical Christians believe, for example, that life begins at conception. It’s a belief rooted in their understanding of the Bible. They quote verses providing slim reeds for support such as Psalms 139:13. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.” Although other Christians, as well as people of other faiths, disagree these fundamentalists become “radicalized” in their churches and head for the Capitol Building. They work to make certain that civil law imposes their religious beliefs on everyone. They are radical Christians.
Radical Christians believe marriage is confined to a man and a woman. They claim the institution of marriage is endangered if devoted same-sex couples are allowed to marry. Their beliefs are almost entirely religious, scripture-based. They choose to interpret their scripture to support their views.
Others, Christians and non-Christian, see it differently. Their opinions are based on scripture and the Constitutional guarantee of equal protection under law. Civil law defines marriage and bestows benefits on married people, but some Christian fundamentalists insist legislators and judges impose their religious beliefs on all of us. They are radical Christians.
These radical Christians seek to stop the building of Mosques though the law permits freedom of religion, having no regard for the freedom of religion, using the political system to impose their extreme beliefs on everyone.
Now comes word that a recent poll shows 34% of Americans would favor establishing Christianity as the official state religion. A third of American are radical Christians!
The term “radical Christians” refers not to fundamentalists, but to those who would impose their beliefs on everyone else, using the political to do so. That is what I call radical Christianity.