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Understanding Fundamentalism: Against Modernity
About Jerry Falwell's Comments on 9/11
With a pained expression a young woman recently asked me about the terrorist attack: "Why do they hate us so much?"
There are many answers having to do with political policies and practices of the United States in Middle Eastern countries, but what we began to talk about was fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is a religious movement opposed to the secularism of modern societies. Modern transportation and communications have brought different worlds into awareness of one another. As people in other societies have been exposed to the secularism of the United States there has been a reaction against it. In fact, Christian fundamentalism is a reaction against modern secularism within this country. The remarks of Jerry Falwell on September 13 (reproduced below) speak specifically of what it is about modern society that he believes led to the terrorist attack.
Osama bin Laden is an Islamic fundamentalist. He hates secular American influence in the Middle East as much as Jerry Falwell hates secularism in the US.
If people in the Middle East do not want American influence there, why are we there? Well, it has to do with oil, the Gulf War, and American support for Israel. Without oil from the Middle East Americans could not drive their automobiles very long; the whole society would shut down rather quickly. So economics gets all tangled up with religious fundamentalism.
One of the most helpful pieces I have read about fundamentalism is by Karen Armstrong on BeliefNet. She discusses fundamentalism in the three religions of Abraham: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. At the BeliefNet site they have arranged for several more articles about the terrorist attacks that are quite helpful.
Partial transcript of comments from the Thursday, September 13, 2001 edition of the '700 Club.'
JERRY FALWELL: And I agree totally with you that the Lord has protected us so wonderfully these 225 years. And since 1812, this is the first time that we've been attacked on our soil and by far the worst results. And I fear, as Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense, said yesterday, that this is only the beginning. And with biological warfare available to these monsters - the Husseins, the Bin Ladens, the Arafats--what we saw on Tuesday, as terrible as it is, could be miniscule if, in fact--if, in fact--God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve.
PAT ROBERTSON: Jerry, that's my feeling. I think we've just seen the antechamber to terror. We haven't even begun to see what they can do to the major population.
JERRY FALWELL: The ACLU's got to take a lot of blame for this.
PAT ROBERTSON: Well, yes.
JERRY FALWELL: And, I know that I'll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way--all of them who have tried to secularize America--I point the finger in their face and say "you helped this happen."
PAT ROBERTSON: Well, I totally concur, and the problem is we have adopted that agenda at the highest levels of our government. And so we're responsible as a free society for what the top people do. And, the top people, of course, is the court system.
JERRY FALWELL: Pat, did you notice yesterday the ACLU, and all the Christ-haters, People For the American Way, NOW, etc. were totally disregarded by the Democrats and the Republicans in both houses of Congress as they went out on the steps and called out on to God in prayer and sang "God Bless America" and said "let the ACLU be hanged"? In other words, when the nation is on its knees, the only normal and natural and spiritual thing to do is what we ought to be doing all the time--calling upon God.
PAT ROBERTSON: Amen
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