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A very interesting blog: Another Voice recently posted an article on Catholic fundamentalism from an Australian priest. Citing two significant cultural shifts – the social upheaval of the 1960’s and the Catholic upheaval of Vatican II –  Father Gerald Arbuckle SM suggests the following:

Catholic fundamentalism is an often aggressive reaction to the anxiety-creating turmoil of these two cultural and religious upheavals. It is an ill-defined but powerful movement in the Church to restore uncritically pre-Vatican II structures and attitudes.

He then goes on the itemize the characteristics of Catholic fundamentalism. One of he points he makes is that the image of Jesus Christ within fundamentalism tends to reflect “an unforgiving and punishing God”  much in accord with the judging image of God in the Old Testament.  But even in the Old Testament there are other images for God. And in the New Testament there is little evidence that Jesus portrayed God, or was himself portrayed, as a vengeful divinity.  Rather,  as Arbuckle points out, fundamentalism overlooks the fundamental characteristics of Jesus: mercy.

Arbuckle is not trying to incite anger in response to fundamentalism. Anger just feeds the fire of their righteous indignation. People are drawn to fundamentalism because of a “sincere, but misguided, search for meaning and belonging.”  So a more effective response would be promoting alternative ways of discovering meaning and a sense of belonging. To that end he concludes: “Our best witness to the truths of our Catholic beliefs will be our inner peace built on faith, charity and concern for justice, especially among the most marginalised.”

So, maybe this Christmas we can reach out to one fundamentalist amongst us and make a connection. Perhaps a shared experience of social action can do more to heal the divisions among us than debates about doctrine and liturgical change.  Many churches and agencies sponsor angel trees, that’s a good way to connect. Look for a program near you and invite someone you have had a disagreement with, over the new liturgy for example, and rediscover the a more important Advent tradition.

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