Fundamentalism of the West and Far West
Islamic fundamentalism is predominant. But there is also a wave of fundamentalism, especially in France and Germany, where xenophobia, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are strong. The many attacks by al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups feed the feelings that dehumanize everyone: the victims and those who victimize. We can understand the global concepts that underlie terrorist violence, but never, for any reason, can we approve of it, given its criminal character.
The fundamentalism of several Islamic groups is radical, creating a new type of war: terrorism. It is an insult today to accuse someone of being a fundamentalist. Generally we consider that only others are fundamentalists, often forgetting that the accuser also lives in a fundamentalist culture. I would like to briefly touch on this, although it may irritate not a few readers. I am thinking of the fundamentalism found in broad sectors of the West and Far West (the American continent).
Historically, fundamentalism, although already in existence, came into the open in North-American Protestantism, between 1890 and 1915, when a group of Pastors published a collection of 12 theological fascicules, titled Fundamentals: a testimony of the Truth. It rejected secularization, affirming the absolute truth of the faith, outside of which there only could be error. That fundamentalism still prevails today in many Christian denominations and in sectors of conservative Catholicism of the Lefebvre style.
I would say with some exaggeration, but not very much, that fundamentalism is one of the chronic and more deleterious diseases of the West and Far West. This fundamentalism is so deeply rooted that it has become unconscious, but it was well expressed by the most hilarious and gross politician in Europe, Silvio Berlusconi, who declared that Western Civilization was the best in the world and therefore should be imposed on everyone. I mention two types of fundamentalism: religious and political.
The Roman Catholic version of Christianity was for centuries the hegemonic ideology of Western society, of the orbis catholicus. Seen through this lens is the absolutism of two Popes, a clear expression of fundamentalism.
Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503) through the papal letter, Inter Caetera, to the kings of Spain, declared: «By the authority of all powerful God, given to us in Saint Peter, as the Vicar of Jesus Christ, we give, concede and hand over to you, the islands and dry lands found and to be found, with all their domains, fortress cities, places and villages». This was taken seriously and used to legitimate Spanish colonization, with the destruction of ethnic groups, ancestral cultures and religions.
Pope Nicholas V (1447-1455) in the papal letter Romanus Pontifex, addressed to the kings of Portugal, was even more arrogant: «I give you full and free power to invade, conquer, combat, defeat and submit Saracens and Pagans wherever they may be found, and to reduce such persons to perpetual servitude». That power was also exercised «to expand the faith and the empire» at the cost of exterminating our Indigenous peoples (there were 6 million in what is now Brazil) and the devastation of our jungles.
That religious doctrine attained a secular version in the colonizers who practiced such terror over the people.
Sadly, this absolutist version was resurrected through a controversial document by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Dominus Jesus (2001), where he affirmed the medieval concept that there is no salvation outside of the Church. Everyone else is in a dangerous situation with regard to eternal salvation.
The religious version gained political expression with the Manifest Destiny of the United States. This expression was coined in 1845 by the journalist John O‘Sullivan, to justify North American expansionism, with the annexation of parts of Mexico. In 1900 Indiana senator Albert Beveridge explained: «God designated the North American people as the chosen nation, to initiate the regeneration of the world». Other presidents, especially George W. Bush, based their actions on that pretentious exclusivity. It justified wars of conquest, especially in the Middle East. It looks like Barak Obama is not totally innocent.
In short the West and Far West imagine themselves to be the best in the world: with the best religion, the best form of government, the best technoscience, the best cosmovision. This is fundamentalism, which makes its truth the only truth, and imposes it on others. That arrogance is present in the Western conscious and subconscious. Thanks to God, we have also an antidote: self criticism for the evils that such fundamentalism has brought upon humanity. But it is not shared by all.
The phrase of Antonio Machado, the great Spanish poet is on point: «Not your truth. The truth. And come with me to search for it. Your truth, keep it to yourself». If we search for together, through dialogue and cordiality, then my truth increasingly disappears, giving way to the Truth, which is shared by all. And thus, perhaps, it can rein in the fundamentalism that the West and Far West visit on the world.
Free translation from the Spanish by
Servicios Koinonia, http://www.servicioskoinonia.org.
Done at REFUGIO DEL RIO GRANDE, Texas, EE.UU.