Something is amiss in the Land of Pundits when a journalism stylebook and a popular tv series seem wiser than syndicated columnists and professors. Consider the lowly word fundamentalist, about which The Associated Press Stylebook offers this counsel: "The word gained usage in an early 20th-century fundamentalist-modernist controversy within Protestantism. In recent years, however, fundamentalist has to a large extent taken on pejorative connotations except when applied to groups that stress strict, literal interpretations of Scripture and separation from other Christians. In general, do not use fundamentalist unless a group applies the word to itself."
Similarly, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin dealt a fair hand to Christians when his hit program, The West Wing, explored the September 11 terror attacks. The White House drama's deputy chief of staff explained to visiting students that Osama bin Laden is to Islam as the Ku Klux Klan is to Christianity. Even Sorkin—whose screenplays for A Few Good Men and The American President painted Christians with grotesque strokes—recognizes the difference between a peaceful believer and an Al Qaeda killer.
Such discernment has thus far eluded editors at The New York Times and London's Guardian. Both papers have devoted a bewildering amount of space to shrill essays that equate many fundamentalists (be they Christians, Jews, or Muslims) with bin Laden's homicidal minions. No serious thinker has proposed that the United States wage war on the whole of Islam. For all his appeals to Islamic purity, bin Laden is a pariah even to the brutal Muslim regimes of Pakistan and Iran. Instead, pundits have shifted their attention to a new scapegoat: fundamentalism.
Consider a few of the more egregious examples ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more