Several years ago I heard a Baptist pastor publicly berate a member of his own congregation at a statewide meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. The member, who worked with battered women, had dared to openly disagree with the Southern Baptist Convention's edict that wives should "graciously submit" to their husbands. She planned to challenge that ruling at the state convention meeting, but, as her pastor knew, she was called away at the last minute to make funeral arrangements for an immediate family member.
I found myself wondering how anyone could be so malicious as to publicly libel, defame and berate before a statewide audience another Christian in absentia. The act was unconscionable to me. Especially so given the circumstances that led to that absence.
In a vein similar to the title of John Dean's book "Conservatives without Conscience," I started to write an article about "Fundamentalists Without Conscience." After considerable reflection, however, I decided that fundamentalists don't lack a conscience, they just have a defective conscience. The defect lies in hubris.
Conscience is the ability to put yourself in the place of others and to look at yourself through the eyes of others. This ability is presupposed by the "Golden Rule." Some form of the "Golden Rule" or some principle of respect is common to most religions and philosophies. Most of us are familiar with the formulation that Jesus gave: "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and Prophets." (Mt. 7:12 NIV)
The "Golden Rule" tells us to view ourselves as subject to the acts of others and commands that our own actions reflect the same respect that we hope to receive from others. In effect, it says our human capacity to assume a standpoint outside ourselves should be exercised with humility (looking back on ourselves) and not with arrogance (looking down on others).
Arrogance (looking down on others) is a fault that bedevils all fundamentalists. They presume to use their ability to assume a standpoint outside themselves to put themselves in the place of God and look down on others through the eyes of God.
In the Christian faith, such arrogance is explicitly prohibited. Jesus said, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Mt. 7:1-2 NIV).
Despite this prohibition, Christianity has its share of fundamentalists. They are the ones who are so certain of their interpretations of scripture that they feel authorized to pass judgment on others for God.
The only real difference between the fundamentalists of different faiths lies in the sources of revelation that they think authorizes them to pass judgment on others. The arrogance and judgmentalism that renders the conscience defective is common to all fundamentalists.