In The Record article “Stewart, HMML featured on 60 Minutes,” about the work of the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML) the writer cited a remark of mine about the potential danger posed to our own cultural heritage by those I described as “fundamentalist Christians.”
I made this comment after describing the way that Muslim extremists with a narrow and uninformed view of their tradition are attacking not only religious minorities in Iraq and Syria, but their fellow Muslims as well. Such was also the case in Timbuktu, fabled center of Islamic learning in northern Mali, where HMML now has the privilege of digitizing the manuscripts rescued from the jihadists who occupied the city in 2012.
It was in this context that I made the comment about “fundamentalist Christians” who have a narrow view of the Bible and use it as a weapon against others. I used the term in the generic sense of ideological extremist, as I had just done for a certain type of Islam.
In response to Danielle and Mark Glen’s letter to the editor, however, I recognize that it would have been better to have said “extremist” rather than “fundamentalist” to avoid the confusion they highlight.
I certainly was not referring to those who are law-abiding members of our society and participate in the American political system while believing in biblical inerrancy.
I stand by my point that there are individuals and groups belonging to various Christian traditions—Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox—who reject the modern world, the separation of Church and State, and the give-and-take of the democratic process. That is the kind of ideological fundamentalism I was talking about.
Such people do exist, and we must not assume that the forces of intolerance that are active in many parts of the world will never be a threat to our own way of life.
Fr. Columba Stewart