I was reading a few stories on the new movie Brideshead Revisited and came across a word not often associated with Catholicism.

In asking the screenwriter of the film which seems to bastardize the great Catholic novel what the story was about he said:

“In that tug between individual freedom and fundamentalist religion, there’s a story that’s apposite for our time. In the modern age that’s something we’re all dealing with.”

Fundamentalist religion? So, in that little phrase he is, I believe, referencing the Muslim terrorists who we are currently at war with but ascribing it to Catholic characters.

He’s essentially calling a character in the novel a “fundamentalist” mainly because she calls off an extramarital affair because it’s against her religion. He’s lumping her in with terrorists.

But in a wider scope I’ve come across the word “fundamentalist” quite often. And it led me to ask, what is a “fundamentalist” anyway? Or more accurately what is it that people mean nowadays when they speak of fundamentalists?

Now the Christian Fundamentalist movement arose mainly within British and American Protestantism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries among conservative evangelical Christians, who, in a reaction to modernism, actively affirmed a fundamental set of Christian beliefs including the inerrancy of the Bible, Sola Scriptura, the virgin birth of Christ, the doctrine of substitutionary atonement, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and the imminent personal return of Jesus Christ.

But that’s what it meant. Clearly the term has come to encompass much more at least to the secular elite.

Does it mean “extremist?” Of course, the question must be asked whether something is extreme according to whom. Is it simply a subjective measure? It seems to have become commonly used by the news media to refer to any religious group whom they consider to hold radical views. Except what the media considers radical I think is any religious inclination whatsoever.

In a quick GoogleNews search I came across the term describing Islamic terrorists, Mormons, Republican Christians, human rights activists, and Baptists.

I think the screenwriter Brock summed up the supposed dichotomy well. He called it the “that tug between individual freedom and fundamentalist religion,” and I think that for many a “fundamentalist” is simply someone who inexplicably refuses to be a libertine.

Has it really come to the point where anyone who takes their faith seriously can be lumped in with terrorists? Surely, the language has enough flexibility to have separate words to make a big fat distinction between me and Osama bin Laden. Or do the secular fundamentalists refuse to make the distinction?