Bob Jones University president is abandoning the term “fundamentalist” in exchange for what he calls a more positive label to describe his school’s theological slant.
“‘Fundamentalist’ evokes fear, suspicion, and other repulsive connotations in its current usage,” wrote Bob Jones III, in his presidential column on the school’s Web site.
Robert Parham, executive director of the BaptistCenter for Ethics, wrote in January that Christian fundamentalists would dump the term fundamentalism. “It is the first dirty word of the 21st century,” he wrote. “Shrewd Christian fundamentalists will abandon the term.”
“The term is beginning to carry an onerous connotation with the world at large because of the media’s penchant for lumping Christian Fundamentalists in the same heap as Islamic Fundamentalists,” wrote Jones.
From its founding in the 1920s until Sept. 11, 2001, Bob Jones University proudly described itself as a fundamentalist institution, practiced a literal reading of the Bible and pursued an anti-ecumenical attitude toward Protestants and Catholics.
Jones claimed the university would remain “unashamedly Fundamentalist.” Referring to those who held different theological convictions from his, Jones said, “Ecumenical butchers dismember the faith, doctrine by doctrine and compromise by compromise, and leave a Christianity that bears no resemblance to the biblical model.”
But Jones, the grandson of the school’s founder, also wrote, “Many of us who are separated unto Christ feel it is appropriate to find a new term that will define us.”
His choice of terms is “Preservationist,” arguing that believers have a responsibility to preserve authentic faith.
“Americans will no longer tolerate extremism in the name of God,” Parham wrote in a column on EthicsDaily.com. “Christian fundamentalists will be seen as no different from Islamic, Jewish or Hindu fundamentalists.”
He wrote that Christian fundamentalists would not disappear, but would slip away from the highly charged, negative term of fundamentalism.