The tragedy of the University of Larissa in Kenya is an example of how fundamentalism can lead to something as tragic as mowing the lives of 147 people. The motivation is a return to the old paths of Islam, a return to supposedly basics of a religion.
I do not want to delve into the tragedy, but learn from it and apply lesson for ourselves. In our Church increasingly becomes more popular to do things with a flavor and atmosphere of 19th Century. We speak of returning to the “old paths” (Jer. 6:16) justifying thus many restrictive and anachronistic behaviors, in some cases even violent. Yes, violent, we may not kill like Islamic fundamentalists, but we do indeed with just a comment, a sight or a glance… (Mat. 5:28).
The so called “fundamentalist Christians” claim to recover the fundamentals of faith, quoting frequently Jesus’ words, “but from the beginning it was not so” (Mat. 19:8). Is this what Jesus was seeking for? Was He a fundamentalist?
Fundamentalism intends to return to the “old paths” in manner and form, mostly forgetting the essence. Jesus was not a fundamentalist at all, but a revolutionary of nostalgia; nostalgia for principles, the essence of the antique things. Jesus was the Master Rescuer of ancient principles, diluted with time, faded in the mix of traditions and forms.
Jesus was and is an expert in updating and keeping fresh the Word of the Gospel. His words were at once vigorous and fresh: “You have heard that it was said to those of old…” (Mat. 5:21, 27, 38, 43), and latter He added “But I say to you that…” and then He did the miracle of rescuing the principle behind, bringing it to light and to a contemporary context. An example: the woman caught in adultery (John 8:4). The most puritans arrived with the “Church Manual”, claiming for discipline. Jesus rescued the fundamental essence in that very moment, the ancient core, the reason for the discipline: redemption and forgiveness. “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” (John 8:11). He never confused the forms with essence of matter, and rescued the true “ancient paths”, forgiveness and love.
Jesus went even further, not only being merciful with the woman, but with her accusers as well. The Lord could have demanded them to apologize to her for setting a trap, but He did not do so. Mutual forgiveness and reconciliation come from within, as a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). It can not be demanded from abroad. Jesus was and is a Man of principles, not a fundamentalist.
Today Jesus would not propose us to do the same things like in the 19th Century, to dress at the nineteenth century style, rather He would update His message targeting the 21st Century audience. We have 147 reasons to think about what really means “ask for the old paths, where the good way is” (Jer. 6:16). We can make mistakes, taking the wrong path moving forward in the future, but we may as well make mistakes, receding through a mistaken path in the search of principles, as happens to Islamist extremists, and ultimately, to any type of fundamentalism.
Download the PDF file here.