GUEST OPINION: The American fundamentalist mindset

Inadvertently, those who attempt to advance their cause sometimes damage it permanently.

By: Frank P. Armentante
   Inadvertently, those who attempt to advance their cause sometimes damage it permanently.
   The fervor of a fundamentalist is well known in our society today and can have inauspicious results for a particular mindset. Society needs people with a cause who will foster change. Communities, however, can be damaged permanently if individuals innocently or deliberately attempt to advance their cause with fundamentalist extremes.
   This mindset, at times, can develop from a backdrop of religious ideology and a bunker mentality where the fundamentalist is frozen in their purpose and course. Compromise becomes taboo and the truth is either completely hidden or lost.
   Recently, this mindset has been violently demonstrated; the domestic and foreign tragic events we are experiencing exemplify the extreme effects of the fundamentalists.
   Organizations should clearly state and pursue their specific purposes, policies, and procedures and indeed, the mission. Thus the function of the group will not be stymied or abrogated by the action of certain people.
   Extreme fundamentalist actions are created by ideological minorities on the fringes of the organization. Often these extremists are passive in the initial set-up of the organization. Their extreme purposes become apparent when they move to enforce dogmatic positions.
   As citizens of any society and participants in local government we must all be wary of actions that compromise the founding principles of the organization. Chaos prevails when an organization attempts to assert its power beyond its actual mandate, authority and mission. The result is a fundamentalist mindset that compromises and infects the purpose and mission of the group and community.
   Moreover, it gives birth to an elite group. This group accepts its members only on the basis of its fundamentalist mindset. All others are ostracized and eliminated including any member who challenges the group. The members create a wall around themselves which prevents any genuine communication.
   Citizens should be watchful of this "elitist cabal" and guard against infection of the community. We must deal with this phenomenon, carefully, discreetly and intelligently.
   This mindset is tantamount to declaration of theocratic doctrines in the fundamentalist sectors of the religious societies. Religious societies, however, are answerable to God and have a right to emphatically pronounce their dogma based on the "word" of their own personal God.
   Our governments represent the people. They are responsible to the community for the actions taken that affect society. They should be flexible and develop goals, policies and rules depending on the different times and circumstances in our society.
   As Karen Armstrong states in her book ISLAM, "(i)n (western society), we have made a point of separating religion from politics; this secularization was originally seen by philosophers of the enlightenment of a means of liberating religion from the corruption of the state affairs, and allowing it to become more truly itself."
   Governments and their communities betray this precept when they proceed in a manner that resembles theocratic doctrines. Societies and communities have a duty to strive for flexibility, imagination and openness to their constituents. Advancing this goal will avoid the mindset of extremes, abuse and stagnation.
Frank P. Armenante is an attorney in Allentown Borough.