Fundamentalism on the Left


berkeley miloFundamentalism: “a movement or attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles.”

I occasionally tell my left-leaning friends that the kind of progressivism that dominates American universities has its own set of orthodoxies that can be easily described as “fundamentalist.” When I say this my friends look at me like I am crazy.  (Don’t try this experiment at home.  I only do it with very good friends).

Academia may be the most conservative realm in American culture.  Of course I am not talking about political conservatism here.  You won’t find much of that on university campuses.  Fundamentalists don’t like ideological diversity.  I am talking about the conservative impulse to resist change.  Academics have been preaching the same stale orthodoxies for generations.  The modern university produces very few independent thinkers.

But I digress…

Over at Religion News Service, David Gushee, Distinguished Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University in Georgia, says “It’s time to worry about leftist fundamentalism, too.”

After offering several examples of this left-leaning fundamentalis, Gushee offers this conclusion:

A number of recent campus incidents around the country also suggest that a kind of left-wing fundamentalism is on the rise. Sometimes these incidents are egged on by the presence or words of outside provocateurs, but other times it is simply professors who are perceived as crossing liberal orthodoxy boundaries and then facing the rage of their students and some of their colleagues.

Why is all of this disastrous for liberals?

It is disastrous culturally, because it widens the gulf between our warring tribes, which degrades the environment all of us live in.

It is disastrous politically, because left-wing fundamentalism hurts the image of the Democratic Party and liberals in general and is a sure loser in state and national races in most of the country.

It is disastrous intellectually, because it shuts down intelligent reflection on difficult issues and leaves dissenters or potential dissenters afraid to express themselves.

There is plenty wrong on the right. But there is plenty wrong on the left, too. Each side needs to get its act together. If there is a sensible, grown-up center to American public life, it’s about time it showed up.

Read the entire piece here.