A More Authentic Fundamentalism (Peter Rollins)

This quote is from Peter Rollins who will be in Hollywood speaking on his Evandalism tour March 1 and 2. In the post he discusses the subjective violence of Fundamentalism, which covertly seeks to cover up a maintenance of the status quo:

The main gist of the argument lies in exploring how the fundamentalism we witness at work today is, at its core, a movement that conserves and preserves the status quo. Its violence at the subjective level (e.g. defending the evils of misogyny, homophobia, unjust conflicts and self-interested foreign policy) is the direct outworking of its ultimate impotence when it comes to instigating real change….

In the same way fundamentalism, while violent at a surface level (at the level of everyday life) is simply a mask that hides the fact that it does not rock the very foundations of worldly power. Its frantic posturing and aggression is ultimately in the service of those with power, money, and voice. In this way their various highly funded projects designed to change society actually ensure that nothing of any significance really changes (those who are oppressed continue to be oppressed, the rich continue to get richer, the poor continue to get poorer).

In contrast to fundamentalism it is people like Mother Theresa and Martin Luther King who, in their pacifism, are truly violent (who are the true church militant). In their non-participation and uncompromising actions they lived out an alternative vision of how the world could work, directly challenging the foundations of worldly power. In their seductive vision of an alternative world and their unrelenting quest to pursue it they ruptured the systems of power that surrounded them and thus expressed the true violence of Christianity. A violence that shifts the underground by allowing the outsider to be heard.

In what ways have you witnessed the challenging of worldly power through a more authentic “fundamentalism” that Rollins discusses here, where the status quo is not being protected but rather intruded upon and overturned?

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Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

6 thoughts on “A More Authentic Fundamentalism (Peter Rollins)”

  1. So, i guess he is saying the preservation of the fundamentalist staus quo is not really violent because the staus quo is what it seeks to keep and nothing ever really changes? Sort of like the GOP!

    For me personally, i have witnessed a more authentic 'fundamentalism' i guess through my advocacy for gay rights through protesting, signing petitions, calling congress people, blogging, writing, etc.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post and enjoy Pete's visit! He will be here in Richmond, VA this weekend and i am so stoked to see my dear friend!

    Warm Regards,

    EP

  2. Wess,
    I think represents some of what I was trying to say about Rollins before. This argument is very close to identical to the one Zizek has been making but Rollins just 'christianize's' it. That isn't a major problem but when Zizek makes his case I am not sure dead bodies in the name of the revolution is his concern, whereas for those committed to pacifism should be very clear if we are talking about violence (which I am not sure we do because it seems to give into the idea that "violence" is the driving force of history) it is the violence of love.
    My second concern is that his Derridian (sp?) read of much of theology does give him an adequate ecclesiology (or linguistic framework) to sustain a Zizekan (sp? )reading of social movements. The question to be raised from a purely philological lens is if these two are compatible, and from a theological can the work together to make us more faithful followers of Christ. I am not convinced we can really answer a fully throated yes to either of those questions.

  3. "That isn't a major problem but when Zizek makes his case I am not sure dead bodies in the name of the revolution is his concern, whereas for those committed to pacifism should be very clear if we are talking about violence (which I am not sure we do because it seems to give into the idea that "violence" is the driving force of history) it is the violence of love."

    I think you are absolutely right on both accounts here Matt. I think Rollins would agree as well, on the violence of love bit. I hesitate too on the amorphous usage of the word "violence." But I do see the point that at some level, even nonviolence is an abrupt intrusion that clashes with symbolic as well as sometimes physical orders in our world.

    I might need you to unpack this a bit more, "My second concern is that his Derridian (sp?) read of much of theology does give him an adequate ecclesiology (or linguistic framework) to sustain a Zizekan (sp? )reading of social movements." I don't think I quite follow.

    I think Zizek is for the most part incompatible with Derrida, or at least Zizek would think so! I think Zizek is useful insofar as he offers some compelling readings of liberal-permissive culture, beyond that I'll stick to the Yoder's, McClendon's, etc for my ecclesiology. You may be right that Rollins relies (too) heavily on non-christian thinkers for his theology, there are a number of theologians who are guilty of this in my opinion, but I guess one question is where do you see his theology falling short because of this?

  4. Shoot, I just wrote a long comment responding to you and I seem to have deleted it! Basically I said, yes yes, I completely agree! To this:

    "That isn't a major problem but when Zizek makes his case I am not sure dead bodies in the name of the revolution is his concern, whereas for those committed to pacifism should be very clear if we are talking about violence (which I am not sure we do because it seems to give into the idea that "violence" is the driving force of history) it is the violence of love."

    And then asked you to expand more on this because I don't think I understand:

    "My second concern is that his Derridian (sp?) read of much of theology does give him an adequate ecclesiology (or linguistic framework) to sustain a Zizekan (sp? )reading of social movements."

    Zizek sees his project as largely being against Derrida's so in this case it's interesting to see them together. I think Zizek is helpful for his cultural exegesis, that's about as far as I take him. I'll stick to Yoder, McClendon, etc for my ecclesiology, which I know you're on board with.

    For Rollins, you may be right, he may rely too heavily on non-christian philosophers for his theology, Lord knows there are a number of theologians guilty of this, but I guess we need to ask specifically where is he inadequate because of this?

  5. My response seems to have gotten lost in the internet as well. What I think am trying to say is not just that relying on philosophy too much is bad for theology (although I think it is), but that his use of postmodern theology undermines the nature of church. I know you have a much more kind view of Caputo's work, but I think much of the use Derrida makes the faith practices that gave us MLK. Dorothy Day, and Mother Teresa impossible. James Smith makes this point about Caputo.
    That said, you will go to Yoder and McClendon to find those resources and thoughts. My concern is most people won't do it, and I am not sure Rollins see that his work leaves us short-sighted on that front. If you listen to him talk about Ikon (which he might not say is a church) and how we talk about God the robust black church of MLK, and the Catholic church of Day and Teresa can't be sustained.

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