Probably most informative and encouraging at the UN Commission on the Status of Women was the session on “Religious Fundamentalism Gender Equality & Development.” A panel of speakers addressed the rise of fundamentalism within all major faiths. (Christian, Islam, Buddhist, and Judaism). “Fundamentalism, they argued, rises out of deprivation (and disorientation).” Fundamentalism provides very certain answers, very clear (and rigid) roles and laws (dress codes enforce this). When it is “full blown” it dehumanizes (excludes) those who don’t follow the rules and roles. When you exclude certain people from humanity they become expendable (as evidenced with ISIS and Boko Haram).
I’m thankful I live in American at a time in history where American Fundamentalism isn’t “full blown.” But the seminar did make me question those churches I know who have such rigid rules, dress codes and role distinctions. I wondered if those churches were a reaction to a time of disorientation from the women’s movement, science, the industrial revolution etc. I’ve read several of Dr. Michael Kimmel’s books on men and masculinity. (Dr. Kimmel is considered one of the leading researchers on the subject). Kimmel states the women’s movement left men disoriented because women took on characteristics that had traditionally been defined as male qualities. Men haven’t known how to redefine themselves – yet. This maybe an indicator as to why male driven churches like Mars Hill (under the leadership of Mark Driscoll) drew such crowds.
The panelists gave suggestions on how to break the chokehold of fundamentalism. One was to support those within the local community who are progressive in their thoughts and actions. Another was to offer theological conversations where people can become informed and make informed decisions about a particular theological issue. The example given was “divorce” within Islamic fundamentalists. The idea was to dialogue about how the Koran addressed the issue and share different Imam’s interpretations of such passages. The dialogue is a way to provide the people with different opinions and allow them to come to their own conclusions.
My heart leaped. WE DO THAT! I wanted to scream. We have salons for this very reason. It was so encouraging to be in such a big place with important people tackling a large issues and knowing in the middle of all that big – Jesus works in the small.