An Antifundamentalist Rejoinder
Adelman, Saul J., National Forum
Don Warrington's article, "Public Education: A Christian Perspective," in the Winter 1990 Phi Kappa Phi Journal, is gross anti-intellectualism in the guise of reason. While in principle fundamentalism does not have to be, in practice it often is intolerant towards other philosophies, militant in the need to proselytize, and totalitarian in its attempts to silence anyone expressing an opinion which evidences any shade of difference from the official line. Although it is best known in this country among Christians, there are counterparts to Christian fundamentalism in most religious groups. Muslim fundamentalism is no less dangerous, especially as it has been applied to the detriment of minorities-to say nothing of women. In Judaism the struggle over fundamentalism consumed much of the intellectual energies of the community in Eastern Europe for over a century.
Teaching about the history of religion can easily become teaching religion. But it can also be a weapon against religious narrowness and bigotry. How are we to choose whose point of view will be followed? I seriously doubt that any nonfundamentalist approach would satisfy Don Warrington. Will we discuss the changes in Christianity imposed by the Romans when it became the State religion? Will we discuss how the decisions of the Christian fathers to accept the views of die Ancient Greek philosophers led to the downfall of the authority of the Church via the confrontation with modern Science? Will we emphasize that many of the Founding American Fathers were deists whose version of Christianity is almost as remote from fundamentalism as is possible in the Protestant tradition?
Tolerance for and willingness to listen to opinions which are contrary to one's own are prerequisites for intellectual maturity and progress. An idea which cannot be criticized is an idea without merit. We should regard with deep mistrust anyone who views the world in "black and white" terms. Much of human suffering during recorded history has been produced by individuals with such mindsets.
As a Jew, I have had my civil rights abused-sometimes deliberately and sometimes not. To defend my point of view, I have had to learn a considerable amount about Christianity. I have never found those individuals who make a great deal about being Christians to be following those Christian precepts which are derived from Judaism. …