Saturday, May 21, 2016

Religious Fundamentalism and A Politics of Reconciliation

  By Rudy Barnes, Jr.

            Religious fundamentalists who referred to themselves as evangelical Christians made Donald Trump the presumptive Republican nominee for President, but Trump’s arrogant and mean-spirited rantings and his narcissistic lifestyle do not even remotely reflect the teachings of Jesus.  Michael Gerson has gone so far as to characterize Republicans who support Trump as conservatives making a deal with the devil.

            Religious fundamentalists believe that their ancient scriptures and laws are the inerrant and infallible word of God and that their exclusivist religious doctrines define the one true faith.  Fundamentalism is not unique to Christianity, but among Christians fundamentalists are a minority while they are a majority among Muslims in Islamic cultures.  The fundamentalist belief that God favors one religion and condemns all others has been a divisive and hateful force throughout history and continues to cause much hate and violence today.

            How can fundamentalists believe in a god who orchestrates hate and violence?  Perhaps because their exclusivist religious beliefs negate the idea taught by Jesus and other great prophets that God loves all people, regardless of their religious beliefs. 

            In a globalized world of increasing religious pluralism, religions and the politics they shape are in need of reconciliation.  The greatest commandment to love God and our neighbors as ourselves is a common word of faith for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, and the story of the good Samaritan makes it clear that our neighbors include those of other religions.  But that universality has been ignored by Christian and Muslim fundamentalists.

            In addition to Christian fundamentalists who have supported Donald Trump, Muslim fundamentalists have supported radical Islamist violence, and Jewish fundamentalists have used violent tactics against Palestinians.  For all of them religious fundamentalism has subordinated the moral imperative to love others to exclusivist religious doctrines that prevent reconciliation.    
            God’s will is to reconcile and redeem humanity, while Satan’s will is to divide and conquer; and Satan does a convincing imitation of God.  That is obvious with those “Christians” who support Donald Trump and those “Muslims” who support Islamist violence.

            Religious beliefs shape our politics, for good and bad.  Fundamentalists should be held accountable for subordinating the greatest commandment to love all others to exclusivist beliefs that condemn those of other religions.  That should be as much a political priority as one of religion to promote a reconciliation of the divisiveness caused by religious fundamentalism.

            In America political reconciliation should begin with voters rejecting the mean-spirited and divisive politics of Donald Trump and all Republicans who do not disavow them.  That does not mean supporting Democrats who promote partisan divisiveness with their own special interest politics coupled with the corrosive influence of Wall Street wealth.  Voters should consider third-party candidates who promote a politics of reconciliation and the restoration of legitimacy to American democracy.

            Religion is the primary source of the standards of legitimacy (what is right) that shape American domestic and foreign policies.  Islamist fundamentalism promotes distorted concepts of legitimacy that support Islamist terrorism.  To minimize religious divisiveness at home and to undermine Islamist violence overseas, America should promote religious and political reconciliation with a common word of faith, along with fundamental freedoms that begin with the freedoms of religion and speech.   

            The moral imperative to love others as we love ourselves doesn’t provide easy answers for the difficult political issues of our day, but it does provide moral parameters for elected officials.  Donald Trump has ignored those moral parameters, yet his supporters admire him for standing up for what is right.  Exit polls indicate that many Trump supporters consider themselves evangelical Christians.  That indicates a disconnect in their religion and politics.  They have confused God’s will with the will of Satan, and need to be reminded that Jesus taught reconciliation and redemption, not condemnation and division.   

References to Related Blogs at and Notes:

For previous blogs on related topics, see Religion and Reason, December 8, 2015; Faith and Freedom, December 15, 2014; The Greatest Commandment, January 11, 2015; Love Over Law: A Principle at the Heart of Legitimacy, January 18, 2015; Is Religion Good or Evil?, February 15, 2015; Religion and Human Rights, February 22, 2015; The Kingdom of God, Politics and the Church, March 15, 2015; May 10, 2015; Faith as a Source of Morality and Law: The Heart of Legitimacy, April 12, 2015; Religion, Human Rights and National Security, May 10, 2015; De Oppresso Liber: Where Religion and Politics Intersect, May 24, 2015; Liberation from Economic Oppression, May 31, 2015; Reconciliation in Race and Religion: The Need for Compatibility, not Conformity, July 12, 2015; Fear and Fundamentalism, July 26, 2015; Freedom and Fundamentalism, August 2, 2015; Balancing Individual Rights with Collective Responsibilities, August 9, 2015; How Religious Fundamentalism and Secularism Shape Politics and Human Rights, August 16, 2015; The Power of Freedom over Fear, September 12, 2015; Politics and Religious Polarization, September 20, 2015;  Who Is My Neighbor?, January 23, 2016; The Politics of Loving Our Neighbors as Ourselves, January 30, 2016; The American Religion and Politics in 2016, March 5, 2016; Religion, Race and the Deterioration of Democracy in America, March 12, 2016; Religion, Democracy and Human Depravity, March 19, 2016; Religion, Democracy, Diversity and Demagoguery, March 26, 2016; Standards of Legitimacy in Morality, Manners and Political Correctness, April 23, 2016; and The Relevance of Religion to Politics, April 30, 2016.

On Michael Gerson’s assertion that Trump supporters are conservatives making a deal with the devil, see


  1. Here is the example of a former politician--Bob Bennett, a Republican senator from Utah who was booted out in 2010 by the Tea Party--who seems to share your principles, principles he practices as a Mormon. You can't help wishing he were still around, and that he were electable.

  2. Bob Bennett was my kind of guy, in spite of being a career politician. Too bad so few people in America appreciate public servants like him.