Friday, May 14, 2004
America has come a long way in establishing equality and appreciation for minorities of every sort except one: fundamentalists. In fact, there is an increasing level of hate-mongering among the general populace who have not taken the time or made an effort to understand fundamentalists. We term this attitude "fundy-phobia". Fundamentalists remain the last unprotected minority in America today and it is time to bring an end to the hate speech, discrimination and vilification of fundamentalists and the fundamentalist lifestyle.
While many fundamentalists have come out of the closet and live an openly fundamentalist lifestyle, the vast majority of them lead normal lives just like the average citizen. They are not all flag-waving, placard-carrying marchers in Fundamentalist Pride parades. These are just the ones who get media attention. Most fundamentalists live peaceably in their neighborhoods; contribute to the civic health of their cities and support community initiatives. Fundamentalists are generally good Americans.
Myth: You can spot fundamentalists by the way they dress.
Fact: While many fundamentalists do wear distinctive dress or dress in a culturally unique way (like fundamentalist women who never wear slacks, make-up or cut their hair), this is by no means common among all of them. Most fundamentalists dress like ordinary people. While it may be possible to identify someone dressed in a particular way as a fundamentalist, it is a mistake to assume that all fundamentalists dress the same way or even in a way distinct from the general population. Nor can you assume that people who have a fish symbol or some other identifying decal on their car are fundamentalists. They may be the parent, sibling or child of a fundamentalist; or they may have simply bought a used car from a fundamentalist. Assumptions about a person's religious orientation can prove embarrassing so don't jump to conclusions about a person's particular lifestyle based on externals.
Myth: You can tell someone is a fundamentalist if they never swear or take the Lord's name in vain.
Fact: Just like one cannot assume that all people who affect lisping voice and speech patterns are homosexuals, one cannot assume that all people who do not swear are fundamentalists. Many groups avoid the use of strong language or taking the Lord's name in vain and to assume that that person is a fundamentalist based solely on the way they talk is offensive to them as well as to fundamentalists.
Myth: Fundamentalists are mostly uneducated, work in low wage jobs and tend to concentrate in certain industries.
Fact: Many fundamentalists have graduated from college and gone on to get advanced degrees. Some of these highly educated individuals excel in all areas of commerce. It is possible to find fundamentalists in institutions of higher learning, science, technology and corporate boardrooms. While certain industries like Christian bookstores and Christian schools may have a high percentage of fundamentalists working for them, it is a mistake to think that there are none in your workplace. Just because you don't know any fundamentalists doesn't mean they aren't there. It may mean they don't feel comfortable "coming out" in your workplace or around you.
Myth: Fundamentalism is a mental or emotional disorder.
Fact: The research on fundamentalism is very clear. Fundamentalism is neither a mental illness nor moral depravity. Studies of judgment, stability, reliability, and social and vocational adaptiveness all show that fundamentalists function every bit as well as everyone else. Some people erroneously believe that people are born fundamentalist or with a predisposition to fundamentalism. Others hypothesize that there is a "fundy gene" that makes certain people susceptible to fundamentalism but research in this area is inconclusive at best. At the very least, there is no way to predict who may or may not become a fundamentalist as many times people don't discover their true religious orientation until relatively late in life.
Myth: Once a fundamentalist, always a fundamentalist.
Fact: Many people have left fundamentalism that were previously fundamentalists. By the same token, others experiment with fundamentalism without fully committing to it and adopting a fundamentalist lifestyle. They are exploring their own moral beliefs and a brief foray into fundamentalism does not make them fundamentalist. The chief misconception is that fundamentalism is a "disorder" and that people need to be "cured" in order to leave. In point of fact, efforts to forcibly change deeply held religious beliefs are ineffective and can be harmful. Fundamentalists who have accepted their religious orientation are better adjusted than those who have not done so.
Myth: All fundies…
Fact: First of all, the use of pejorative names is offensive to fundamentalists as well as those who are sensitive to diversity issues. We have learned that language can be oppressive when used to label or marginalize minority groups. Gays, people of color and women have campaigned long and hard to increase awareness of how damaging hate speech can be. It is time we recognized that fundamentalists have the same rights and treat them with respect. Secondly, there is nothing that is true of "all" fundamentalists. They represent a diverse group of individuals with varying temperaments, dispositions, attitudes, feelings and outlooks. We do them a disservice by stereotyping them or categorizing them with uncomplimentary language.
Many people feel that fundamentalists are brainwashed or "recruited". Instead, they are people who have discovered their orientation as a process of maturing. There is a great deal of unwarranted prejudice against them and many people feel that fundamentalists are unfit parents who will only raise up another generation of fundamentalists. Statistics show that over 85% of children raised by fundamentalist parents reject fundamentalism and go on to live a normal lifestyle. Fundamentalists are just as capable of providing a positive, nurturing environment for children as their non-fundamentalist counterparts.
Fundamentalists today remain one of the last unprotected minorities in America. While it is considered in poor taste to tell jokes based on race, gender, sexual orientation or national origin; it is still socially acceptable to make fun of fundamentalists. There is no national recognition of fundamentalists as a marginalized group and many people don't even recognize them as a legitimate minority. This denies them equal protection under the law and there has not been a single successful case in our courts of a fundamentalist who has been the object of discrimination who has been protected by the law. Frequently fundamentalists are the objects of violence and many law enforcement agencies are reluctant to protect them because, in the words of officials, "they were asking for it by displaying their lifestyle in such an outrageous way."
If you are concerned about these or other issues, we are here to help. The Fundwall Union exists to educate, inform and promote the rights of fundamentalists. You can be supportive by:
• Avoid hateful words - don't call them "fundies"
• Don't laugh at fundamentalist jokes
• Use inclusive language - don't say things like "you people" or "your kind"
• Encourage open-mindedness and tolerance
• Recognize diversity - not everyone shares your religious orientation so celebrate diversity among others
• If someone comes out to you, know that it is a big deal - be sensitive to people who share (and those who choose not to share) important aspects of their identity with you
• Don't assume that someone is not a fundamentalist just because they haven't told you so. Not everyone chooses to disclose their religious orientation.
"By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
John 13:35 (NIV)
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