How to Speak with a Fundamentalist

By: Jelle

Having a radio show and speaking at public events has brought with it may different unique challenges. One of those has been dialoguing with the general public through emails and comments. Anytime you poke at sacred religious cows with a stick, you’re bound to rouse the ire of the Fundie crowd. And no, contrary to common thought, there is no fun in a fundamentalist.

I want to let my pain and the hard knocks of my experience be a free learning lesson for all of you when it comes to your encounters with a fundamentalist. Following these tips, won’t prevent the blast of rhetoric and narrow-mindedness, but it can help you survive the experience.

How to Speak with a Fundamentalist :

1. Realize that they are not actually interested in a dialogue

The fundamentalist is a dodgy creature, who has learned to survive in the wild world through certainty. The standard ethics in their life and theology, for that matter, are filled with concrete absolutes. When encountering others, the fundie’s main goal in life is to bring you to their way of thinking. They have the truth and you don’t.

The essential goal of dialogue is an exchange between individuals where different points of view or ideals are exchanged. The fundie may say they’re interested in a dialogue, but don’t fall into that trap. They just want to convince you… or worse convert you. Your opinion doesn’t matter, you are just a pawn in their scheme. Like the Borg in Star Trek, their main goal in life is assimilation – of you to their way of thinking and worldview.

2. Realize that you can’t change their mind

Much like with the first point, realizing that you can’t change their mind will help you immensely. With creatures of certainty, entering other ways of thought or belief is frightening to your average fundie. Free thinking is the enemy of certainty. It’s like trying to mold a brick after it’s hardened. The only option in changing it’s shape is to either break it or leave it. Such is the mind of the fundie. Hard and unchanging and it wants to stay that way. Trying to change their mind is about like hitting your head against that brick. You’ll walk away with bruises.

3. Realize that they are always right

Along with their inflexibility, they are also driven by the desire to be right in all situations. No matter what you think, or even how wrong they may be… they are always right. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to prove your point, because it’s a lost cause. Your goal in these types of encounters are merely to get out alive. Leave your pride, and run for your life.

4. Realize that (most) fundies don’t understand sarcasm

Most fundies are a literal beast. Things like humor or sarcasm are often lost on them. I know it may be hard (it always is for me) but resist sarcasm or slang. During one encounter, “I remarked, I don’t want to dance this dance with you.” Meaning that I didn’t want to get into it. He responded, quite puzzled. “Why are we talking about dancing?”

This article, if read correctly, is full of luscious sarcasm and will be lost on the fundie. There’s no doubt that I’ll hear about it later.

5. Realize that quite often you’re talking about two different things

The key to your sanity in these encounters is to understand that in conversations that you’re quite often talking about two different things, even if you’re using the same words. Within the Christian sphere, we routinely use words like love, grace, humility and peace. To the fundie, they are supposed to use those words because they’re in the Bible and Jesus used them quite often, but don’t be fooled. They don’t mean the same thing to you that they do to them. Case in point, so many hateful, bigoted, vitriolic statements are launched at the common ‘sinner’ by fundamentalist. They justify it by saying that they’re telling them the truth in love. Their version of love isn’t your version of love. Remember that and it applies for many different words and terms. If ever you get really confused in the encounter, just remember that it may be a game of vocabulary.

You can survive an encounter with a fundamentalist, if you use these simple survival tips. It may no happen every day, but like encountering a grizzly in the wild, you need to be prepared because your life, sanity and patience may depend on it.

Am I missing any others? Care to add to the list?

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