Bane of fundamentalism


Snake_handling_NARA_541340Dear editor:

Historians will surely look back on this generation as an age when ignorance and silliness trumped reason and progress.  Ours is a time pregnant with potential, yet scarred and crippled by war, greed and prejudice.  Why?

I’ll lay blame squarely on the bane of fundamentalism.  Whether in religion, or politics, or the social contract we all enter into when we choose to share the risks and rewards of community, fundamentalism has shackled us to a form of slavery that is beholden to what it imagines once was, and willfully blind to all that can be.

There is something about the fundamentalist spirit that insists every new revelation, invention and discovery be immediately ossified.  Frozen in place…  Innovation must be stifled.  Once something new is set in motion, it must never be re-invented, or adapted to meet new realities, or pressed into a service its inventors never imagined.  Old truths must never be discarded, but tortured into bizarre, illogical reconciliations with new truths.  And when the old cannot be reconciled, fundamentalism clings to it anyway, and concludes that God stands with regression while progress is the work of the Devil.

Thus we are told we must forever hew to ancient recollections about a tribal god of wandering Hebrews, a deity of smoke and fire and blood sacrifices and prone to much smiting.  A strange fellow named Jesus showed up later in occupied Palestine, and dared suggest there was a better way than that old-time religion of endless rules and regulations.  Got killed for his radical opposition to religious fundamentalism…

We are told by political fundamentalists that even our America, born in the crucible of colonial tyranny long ago, must be forever held hostage by the “original intent” of those powdery old white men who signed the U.S. Constitution (rumor has it, by the flickering light from a burning bush on Mount Sinai).  It’s peculiar of course, but apparently only certain fundamentalists can rightly divine original intent…

Fact is, all of fundamentalism’s divinations are patently silly.  They would give rise to light-hearted mirth were they not dangerously perpetuating rampant poverty and plunder.  Why give a damn about lingering injustice, or our systematic rape of the environment, when Christian fundamentalists itching for Armageddon insist the world as we know it is about to end anyway?  These same Christian fundamentalists constantly lecture us about the dangers of Islam, even as they lust for the glory of bloody new crusades.  Patriarchal fundamentalists and dynastic duck hunters wax pathetic about women’s rights and maternal responsibilities.  Straight fundamentalists seem to know an awful lot about homosexuality.

The end of fundamentalism is what?  A long, backwards slide into the squishy swamps of unreason, where humanity’s collective intellect whimpers and dies?  In the winter of 1170, King Henry II said of Thomas Beckett, “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”  In this, the winter of 2014, will no one rid us of these meddlesome fundamentalists?

Jacques d’Nalgar
Hot Springs, Arkansas


PS (and beginning at 496 words, this postscript is NOT for publication since we are now venturing beyond the infamous 500-word limit) – it is deliciously ironic that your recent self-congratulatory review of the new mandate for brevity required more than 500 words!  And whatever happened to Pat Oliphant?  It has been many months now since “the most influential cartoonist now working” (according to the New York Times) graced the pages of this newspaper.  Does his absence signal an overt right-wing shift at the Sentinel Record?


Photograph of serpent-handling ceremony at the Pentecostal Church of God, Lejunior, Harlan County, Kentucky, by Russell Lee, 15 September 1946.… or

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    • Mike Nunn on January 21, 2014 at 2:09 am

    I also noted that the cartoons are clearly more right wing and in many cases outright vicious.

  1. There were two dazzling responses to my letter in today’s paper (the Sunday, January 26, 2014 edition of the Sentinel Record). The first was titled “Missing the point” and the second “Use common sense” — interesting choices in both cases. Enjoy…

    Missing the point

    Dear editor:

    [Monsieur d’Nalgar] uses words well, but is a reactionary in his thinking. He has truly missed the point of religion which to me is based on faith. If he chooses to denigrate others’ beliefs, that is his right, enshrined in that other fossilized idea that he disdains so eloquently — the Constitution.

    Given [Monsieur d’Nalgar’s] apparent belief that fundamentalism is the bane of all things humane, it is an odd choice of Henry II’s complaint against St. Thomas Beckett. Perhaps he liked the sound of the words “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” A cleaver use of words which supports his anti-fundamentalist thesis, but alas is a bad choice of words; it provides the path towards his anti-intellectual view of the Constitution. These words being uttered by a king had the effect of a command to his knights, some of whom then brutally assassinated Thomas Beckett, archbishop of Canterbury. Surely the king was aware of “your wish is my command” when it came to exercising his powers.

    [Monsieur d’Nalgar’s] apparent nostalgia for a medieval monarchy is reactionary as well as revealing. He obviously sides with the state rather than the church, which is precisely why “those powdery old white men” put the 1st Amendment into the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” which raises the question that if the judiciary says that religion cannot be exercised (i.e. prayer) on public property, is not the judiciary passing a law and worse, it is a law that violates the 1st Amendment.

    I digress, when it comes to divining original intent, surely it is easier to read the words as written, with meanings concurrent with the time, than chasing after emanations and penumbras. This might be more stimulating to folks like [Monsieur d’Nalgar], but like Henry II’s comments, they are loaded with unanticipated negative consequences. The most egregious of which is the devolving of our republic into a medieval monarchical tyranny.

    The poverty and plunder you speak of is the reality of King Henry II’s world that you seem to admire, rather than the American way of life where the individual (fundamentalist or nonbeliever) is free to do with his talents and property as he chooses, of course, limited by the fundamentalist doctrine of “do onto others as you would wish them to do onto you.”

    As to ossification, take a look at how rigid and dictatorial our administrative state has become. One cannot move or even take a breath without breaking some arcane rule with the force of law; a law which was never passed by Congress. The amendment process has kept the Constitution vibrant; the progressive administrative state is the cause of our time being “… pregnant with potential, yet scarred and cripple by war, greed and prejudice.”

    Camelot was not all beauty and light, it was mean and grubby for the masses not born to privilege.

    John “Jock” MacGregor
    Hot Springs

    Use common sense

    Dear editor:

    In response to [Jacques d’Nalgar’s] letter of Jan. 23, I find that it all is ramblings of an obviously schooled but uneducated man. There is no evidence of common sense. It seems strange that a well-schooled man would submit a writing exhibiting so much literary ability uses words such as silliness, silly, wax, ossified and duck hunters.

    I do feel our time has been screwed but I see no evidence of us being pregnant except with opinions such as [Monsieur d’Nalgar’s], which I hope fall victim to the abortion craze. There is indeed the potential in our time for innovation, however, it does not lie in the acceptance of the act of homosexuality and same-gender marriage, totally unnatural acts.

    I suspect he finds homosexuality and abortion potentially something that will progress our time to a new and higher level of understanding and benefit mankind. I am sure it is evident that I am unschooled. However, know this — I am a religious and political radical and find him to be a man of schooled ignorance. If he were a well-educated man, he would realize that most readers will find his writing to be nothing but an attempt to showcase his schooling and find it incorrect and insulting, highlighting his lack of a well-rounded education and intellect and lacking common sense or what I call street smarts.

    [Monsieur d’Nalgar’s] agreeing audience will be small. He will be forgiven, but further writings of similar nature will be to no avail. They are the ramblings of a poorly educated man. He might do better if he quoted the King of Kings rather than King Henry II and wrote in Samuel Clemens style and choice of words rather than as if writing for a scientific journal.

    Chuck Lilly
    Hot Springs

    • Mike Nunn on January 29, 2014 at 3:44 am

    If they were not so pathetically stupid, they would be laughable.

  2. Another day (Wednesday, January 29, 2014), three more responses. Two critical and not unexpected, one supportive (thank you, Bill!)…

    Fundamental truths important

    Dear editor:

    Fundamental: A stone or concrete structure that supports a building from underneath; the base on which a structure rests; something (such as an idea, a principle, or a fact) that provides support for something. The foundation. I wonder about your fear of fundamental principles, dear [Monsieur d’Nalgar]. Adhering to the fundamental teachings of scripture and of the “powdery old white men” who forged laws from that Good Book, would have forestalled the various troubles our country is experiencing. For instance, from the Center for Disease Control note the following data: There were 1,422,976 cases of chlamydia reported in 2012, an increase of 0.796 percent since 2011; gonorrhea cases in 2012: 334,826, an increase of 4.1 percent; syphilis cases in 2012: 15,667, an 11.1 percent increase, solely among men, particularly gay and bisexual men. Four in 10 men with syphilis also are infected with HIV. It seems these gentlemen had no fundamental foundation for behavior. And we want same-sex marriage? At what price!

    No, don’t force any fundamental or foundational education on us or our kids; no conscience-pricking barriers to our selfishness. As the world’s wisest man said, “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes.” Men who eschew God’s fundamentals for a good life and basic “old truths,” despise us — who do not, by the way, rape the environment, itch for Armageddon, deny women their rights.

    The woman who raises a baby into a good man has the “hand that rocks the cradle,” therefore, is the “hand that rules the world.” No “itching fundamentalist” can keep a good woman down. Thousands of good mothers have contributed a lot to the world. Ever hear of Madame Schumann-Heink? We women can scrub floors, as she did to raise her kids, and sing, dance, play instruments, paint, run a business — we multitask well. We don’t need the government’s birth control to do it, either!

    The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that in 2011 drug use in America is up 8.3 percent since 2002. Again, no fundamentals as pertains to health, no foundational conscience building to guide choices.

    When the joining of sperm and egg begins to grow, it is called “life,” for goodness sake! And one sweet, living little baby is thrown into the garbage bin and on into eternity every 26 seconds in the U.S! Over 1,206,192 every year! Millions of parents, thousands of schools and churches have failed their responsibility to instill the fundamental truths about life into their children. Unbelievable!

    I, like yourself, love to dance. Next time you are swinging your partner to the jitterbug, imagine doing it on a trampoline. It simply won’t work. One must have a firm, fundamental foundation to dance! Firm, fundamental foundations are also necessary to build successful lives, and for some of us, those fundamental beliefs will contribute to our next life, too!

    Your “meddlesome fundamentalist” friend, at 501-282-3102.

    Pat Pine Darnell
    Hot Springs

    Don’t blame Christians

    Dear editor:

    I would like to respond to comments made by [Jacques d’Nalgar’s] letter to Viewpoints dated Jan. 23, 2014. [Monsieur d’Nalgar] has decided to lay the blame of many social problems on fundamentalists, aka, “Christians,” those who have chosen to follow Jesus Christ. I get the impression that [Monsieur d’Nalgar] believes Christians are ignorant to believe humanity must have morality if they are to please their Creator.

    Yes, we believe all people should live by the Ten Commandments. [Monsieur d’Nalgar] insulted and ridiculed our Founding Fathers, who were of the Christian faith, referring to them as “powdery old white men who signed the U.S. Constitution by the flickering light from a burning bush on Mount Sinai.” These men sacrificed all they had, including the threat of death if caught, to free us from tyranny and created a republic where a person can have a voice without fear of persecution.

    [Monsieur d’Nalgar] disrespects our Founding Fathers and slanders Christians who only want the best for this nation. Therefore, [Monsieur d’Nalgar], by the sacrifices of our Founding Fathers, we can all enjoy the freedoms, such as freedom of press and speech. Where would the homeless, hungry be without such Christian organizations as The Salvation Army, Samaritan Ministries, Jackson House, churches and so many others who open their doors to serve those in need. These wonderful people, Christians, serve their local communities, asking nothing in return. What arrogance to state, “Will no one rid us of these meddlesome fundamentalists?”

    Our nation is already in a moral meltdown, and out of this will come lawlessness and anarchy leading to a socialist government who will rule by the bayonet, relinquishing our country’s freedoms we take for granted.

    Craig Joyner
    Hot Springs

    A limited perspective

    Dear editor:

    It is one thing to not agree with a man’s opinion and quite another to disparage the man for his opinions … especially on an opinion page. I, for one, would like to thank [Jacques d’Nalgar] for his humor, wit and eloquent letters. I look forward to his letters which not only entertain but also have a deep well of compassion.

    I happen to agree, as I am sure many do, that fundamentalism is a world problem.

    What I have learned through my life experience is that “truth is a pathless land.” Truth changes as we learn about the world we live in. The church and Bible are not the infallible word of God. Otherwise the Earth would be flat and the center, around which the universe revolves. Also, God would still be sending messages to men like Moses with words on rock brought down from the mountains. Ah, but instead, what have we got today? Certain evangelical leaders say our weather problems (hurricanes and global warming) are caused by God being upset with man’s sins. And we have certain political figures saying they were told to run for president by God … (and what happened there?). Let’s grow up. Responsibility demands we be flexible with science and learning the truth as it evolves.

    Fundamentalists think that all truth is known to them and leave no room for change or other views. The fundamentalists of any religion are the ones creating the need to get rid of all that don’t believe in their limited perspective. I totally refute the idea that fundamentalists think and believe “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If that simple and common religious theme were followed, we would have a world at peace. But fundamentalists will not make room for other viewpoints or adapt as they should. And thus, witch hunts and wars and killing in the name of God.

    Anyway, that is my opinion.

    Bill Wiedmann
    Hot Springs

  3. I just sent the following in with instructions to disregard the intentional deviations from what is considered “good” English…

    Dear editor:

    Well, I guess it was bound to happen. I’ve been called many things in response to writing letters to the editor. The most clever appellation (look ma, four syllables!) and my all-time favorite was martini-sipping liberal. But an anti-intellectual uneducated monarchist lacking in common sense? Who hates Christians? Really? That had to have cracked up everyone who knows me. Sorry to disappoint, brothers and sisters, but this curmudgeonly Christian (yes, I are [am] reluctantly one of those) is one of you…

    Folks, this war against fundamentalism is as old as the hills so, without further eloquence, allow me to pass the fight on to a far better soldier. Read a 1922 sermon by Harry Emerson Fosdick (yes, he are [is] one of you, too) titled “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” and then we’ll talk. That brilliant sermon was preached more than ninety years ago, but it seems precious little has changed along the fringy edges of the ecclesiastical landscape.

    If your fundamental leaps of faith lead you to the illogical conclusion that the usual opinions rendered in this paper reflect the wider sentiment of Christendom generally, then for you happy few the answer to Fosdick’s question must surely be a resounding “Yes!” And if the fundamentalists have indeed won, then reason and justice and mercy have suffered a terrible defeat. God help us all…

    But I do digress… For those of you offended that I do not write like Samuel Clemens, beware what you wish for. My pokes at the hypocrisy of this age are timid and tame by comparison. Were you to read his scathing accounts of outrages whitewashed and paraded as American patriotism, you would be downright apoplectic. To save face you would likely conclude, like the self-righteous congregation in Twain’s “The War Prayer” (which was censored in 1905) – “it was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.”

    [Jacques d’Nalgar]
    Hot Springs, Arkansas

    This was printed, with my intentional grammatical errors corrected, on Sunday, February 2, 2014. Continue reading below for another gem of inanity by Mr. Chuck Lily…

    • Mike Nunn on January 30, 2014 at 3:01 am

    Mark twain was indeed a breath of fresh air and it is sad that so many who read him have no clue as to what he was saying. I really doubt if that town clown — Lilly — has a clue about what Mark Twain was about. I do get a little upset that they seem to protect this idiot. Of all of the writers to the paper I consider him to be the most vicious and stupid.

  4. My friend Mike Nunn’s letter was partially published today (Thursday, January 30, 2014). He commented elsewhere re. our new editor (scion of the Hussmans):

    …she edited out my comments on Lilly. I had ended the letter with the comment that regarding Lilly’s comments on your brilliance, I have elected to follow the advice of Mark Twain ” Never argue with stupid people they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.” As always it seems that she chooses to protect Lilly who has made some of the most derogatory comments of anyone.

    Don’t ignore progress

    Dear editor:

    A few days ago, the citizens of this realm were treated to an entertaining and very insightful letter written by that master wordsmith John Ragland. John seldom graces us with his erudite comments, but when he does they are classic. It is little wonder that they would provoke a reaction from those who oppose his rational approach to the problems of society.

    For anyone to claim that the Golden Rule is a fundamentalist doctrine is to ignore the facts. Resting their view of history on the virtual deification of that diverse group of wealthy, old, white slave owners and smugglers who started the revolution is ignoring the progress we have made. John presented a very clear statement of the problems that face this nation. The masses of this country still face a rather mean and grubby existence, even though we do have the resources to correct many of the difficulties that exist.

    Mike Nunn
    Hot Springs

  5. More love from the one and only Chuck Lily (this beauty showed up in today’s Sentinel Record)…

    Bible most reliable source

    Dear editor:

    This letter is in response to Bill Wiedmann’s letter of Jan. 29.

    I would never deprive anyone of their opinion. We all have an opinion about everything. So, the following is my opinion of your perspective.

    I did not find [Monsieur d’Nalgar’s] or your dissertation to be humorous, witty, eloquent or compassionate. Opinions of Christian fundamentalism vary widely, the difference generally determined by the thoroughness of study and understanding of the Bible. You obviously know one quote from the Bible, however, I sincerely doubt you to be a student of the Bible or of science either which you briefly quote.

    Unlike you, I do believe the Bible to be the infallible word of God, however, churches are a different matter. Churches, ministers and evangelicals are mere humans and not infallible. The fact that our opinions are different does not mean we are not grown up, responsible and attentive to science and discernment of truth in the Bible. You seem to believe all fundamentalists believe and behave identically. If you interfaced with those of different faiths, Christian denominations and studied the Bible, you would discover how incorrect you are.

    Speaking of science, your review of recent scientific writings, you would know that most scientists now believe a supreme intelligence created everything and there is nothing new in creation since the beginning. The Bible has the word “heart” in it more than 300 times and mentions the brain not at all. Would it surprise you to know, the heart communicates with the brain more than the brain communicates with the heart? The heart controls emotions, intuition, reasoning and many other functions and activities previously attributed to the brain through various electromagnetic signals transmitted through the blood. Scientists also believe the electromagnetic signals extend beyond the body and influence those around us.

    You and I might meet one day and unwittingly change our opinion? Science data was extracted from The Scientific Magazine and other reliable sources while Christian statements were extracted from the most reliable source, The Holy Bible. One question, “Do you do unto others as you would have them do unto you” consistently? If not, you are also part of the problem!

    Chuck Lilly
    Hot Springs

    Incidentally, I can find NO reference to Mr. Lily’s so-called reliable source “The Scientific Magazine.” My suspicion is that most of his “science data” was extracted from a fevered, fundamentalist imagination… As bizarre as this letter is, there was another that was even weirder. Check out Bob White’s “sex is actually sinful” letter which will be posted (as a separate entry) very soon…

  6. Pat Pine Darnell’s letter in today’s paper (Wednesday, February 5, 2014), proving the essential premise of my last sentence:

    To save face you would likely conclude, like the self-righteous congregation in Twain’s “The War Prayer” (which was censored in 1905) – “it was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.”

    Understand fundamentals

    Dear editor:

    [Monsieur d’Nalgar], I do not think you are any of those negative things you mentioned. I think you are a nice guy. Perhaps you are not defining what you mean by “fundamentalism” in a way that we understand. Fundamentals in life are basic. Do you not think we should observe the fundamentals of the Constitution? Do you not think there are fundamentals in the home by which to raise your children? I understand your passivity toward Islam. I, too, found many Iranians to be delightful and loyal friends when I was there in the 1960s. But radical Islam is another thing altogether, and it is growing worldwide. Why do you never mention “fundamentalist Islam” when you defend Islam or when you attack those of us whom you consider to be “fundamentalists?”

    Neither the “Duck” people, nor do I, run around killing people who do not agree with us. Whence comes your bitter hatred for those who believe that there are foundations upon which good behaviour is built? Some bad experience in your life of which we are unaware, I suppose. I had four wonderful kids to raise alone, and we had rules — fundamentals, if you will, of behaviour for the family. We didn’t think one should steal, kill, lie about others; hard work was necessary for success. I complained once that I was never able to do everything I would like to have done for them. My second son, a pilot for U.S. Customs, whom we lost when he was only 48, said, “Mom, you gave us the best thing anyone could have done: You taught us to work, and all four of your kids are successful.” I appreciated that. I thought I was teaching “fundamentals.” If I was not, please tell me what I was doing.

    Pat Pine Darnell
    Hot Springs

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