Magazine article The Christian Century

Fundamental Things

Magazine article The Christian Century

Fundamental Things

Article excerpt

SOMETHING "ANOMALOUS" is "inconsistent with or deviating from what is usual, normal, or expected." I just learned that this definition fits the University of Chicago faculty, with whom I worked for four decades.

I read about this in my favorite Catholic magazine (U. S. Catholic, August) in an interview with Scott Alexander of the Catholic Theological Union. Speaking of an American Academy of Arts and Sciences six-year study of fundamentalism which he associated with the University of Chicago, Alexander said: "To put it the way sociologist Peter Berger did, if you want to have a project studying anomalies or curious movements in the latter part of the 20th century, don't have faculty at the University of Chicago study traditional religious folk around the world. Instead have religious folk all around the world study the faculty of the University of Chicago."

Interviewed about his field of expertise, Muslim-Catholic relations, Alexander offered informative, clarifying and generous responses, but then swiped at use of the term "fundamentalism" to describe certain forms of Islam. Fair enough. No covering term is perfect for scholars who do comparative work. Alexander rejects "fundamentalism" because he thinks it is "a Christian self-descriptor" and "is based on the assumption that the norm is Western secularism." He must know that words travel. He uses normed-in-the-West terms such as revolutions, traditions, nationalisms, imperialisms and pilgrimages as applying to Islam.

The academy people who produced the five fat volumes of the Fundamentalism Project met at the University of Chicago six times and published the volumes at the university's press. Beyond that, the school lent the academy a phone-booth-sized office for "control central." How many "faculty of the University of Chicago" were involved? An emeritus historian, an emeritus English professor mad an anthropologist. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.