Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Fundamentalist or Evangelical

We have a problem with names. The term 'fundamentalist' means someone who religion is based on the fundamentals (the basics) of the faith. But words change their meaning. Nowadays the term is most commonly applied to Muslims who like blowing up themselves and everyone around them. When applied to Christians it refers to the Religious Right, but it can be applied to anyone whose attitudes are inflexible and hostile. Richard Dawkins has been called a fundamentalist atheist.

'Evangelical' is similarly traduced. Originally, it referred to the good news, and applied to Wycliffe, Whitefield and Wesley and later to the social reformers, Wilberforce and the Clapham sect, a recent survey of British parliamentarians though it referred to those opposed to condoms (I though that was Catholics). Indeed Hansard also reveals a whole set of negative meanings; those who are opposed to contraception of any sort, who campaign against homosexuals, are opposed to women priests and bishops, open private 'creationist' schools, and preach witchcraft!

No word of the fact that Evangelicals led the campaign against slavery, the abuse of women and children in coalmines and factories, founded charities like Oxfam, Action Aid, Barnardos, the Salvation Army, Help the Aged, Tear Fund and many others. We are called anti-intellectual when we can boast Michael Faraday among our numbers.

Nevertheless, words change their meanings and we can't stick to the old terms if they now mean something else. It has been suggested that we call ourselves Biblical Christians, or Classic, Orthodox, Creedal, Historic or perhaps Committed Christians.

1 comment:

justme said...

I vote for "Biblical Christians."
(And then let's live up to the term and know what the Bible says. :)

I think "Committed Christians" infers a more works-based (as done-in-our-own-strength type works) instead of faith-based life. And then there's the double meaning in the word "committed"... (haha)