Joel Hunter on Fundamentalism

Via the Huffington Post, from an interview of Joel Hunter by David Roberts on

Q: Some people might say the reason there's such enthusiasm around social issues like gay marriage and abortion and pornography is that people in the evangelical church are primarily called on to condemn other people. Once you bring in issues like poverty and global warming -- and more broadly, compassion for the least among you -- obligations turn on them. There's a little guilt. Is that too cynical?

A: Not at all. Let's develop this conversation at a little deeper level. In Foreign Affairs, Walter Mead talked about the difference between fundamentalists and evangelicals. We make these differentiations in our own family of believers.

Fundamentalists are always mad. They don't play well with others, and they feel tainted by any view other than the one they have. That is a pretty narrow segment, but a pretty attention-getting segment of Christianity. In terms of stereotype, that's what most people focus on when they see conservative Christianity.

By the way, I don't say fundamentalists in the pejorative sense. I believe there is a legitimate reaction to what we would see as declining moral integrity in culture.

But another reason it has been so popular is that anger is the greatest and most immediate way, not only to invoke a response and build an audience, but to raise money. We'll both be cynical here for a minute: One of the things fundamentalist churches have learned, have practiced, and continue to practice, is the best way to grow in influence and fundraising is to make people mad. And the best way to do that is to create an enemy. So from that standpoint you're right.

But from another standpoint, a much larger portion of the church really does want to be more like Jesus. And that wasn't Jesus. Jesus didn't spend his time walking around yelling at people. His concern was for the vulnerable. As I often say, unless we start to care as much for the vulnerable outside the womb as we care for the vulnerable inside the womb, we won't have a picture of who Jesus was. There's a growing number of people who want to emphasize this. They're just not the people with a lot of money, or time to be self-righteous -- there are millions of us.