The End of Fundamentalism

On or about September 19th, 2013, the world changed, to paraphrase Virginia Woolf. I’ve been waiting for the definitive character of the Era change that’s been in the air, and Pope Francis just provided it. He did a pretty thorough job of demolishing the core of the late 20th Century bizarre decades-long retreat into fundamentalist thinking.

His comments about the Catholic Church’s strange, and completely anachronistic fixation on bodily functions, sex as it happens, were wise and welcome. But they were vastly greater signifiers than is yet apparent. They mark a shift, a basic one, in history, and not only for the Church. You know that this is so, not because they mark such a distinct shift, a 180 degree shift as it happens, but because they feel so unmistakably right, and profoundly overdue. Our mini-epoch of fundamentalism is ending. What fundamentalism? Let me be expansive!

Religious. No need to elaborate here. It’s not just the Catholic Church. I won’t name all the names names, but many the world’s religions have been in serious competition to see which can crawl furthest backward into its most constricting, reactionary version. A version, as often as not, at variance to the original spirit of the faith. THAT is the house of cards that Francis was really talking about, and he knocked the base cards out from under it in a single interview. Ideas have been set in motion.

Market. Free-market fundamentalism is another one on its deathbed. The idea that markets are “self-regulating” and in particular, self-regulating in a way that distributes benefits fairly, has been disproven countless times, including 1929 and 2008, and yet a rump of true-believers continues to cling and infest economic and political policy-making. No, Pope Francis didn’t say anything about this, but its day, too, is done, as just another misbegotten artifact of the same kind of magical, non-analysis worldview.

Constitutional. This one is really just a weird echo of the other two. People wanted to believe that the government was or should be powerless to regulate markets, (and automatic weapons), and needed a sacred text to back them up. So they sacrilized the Constitution, because it’s what was available. You know that this was contrived, because the same people also wanted the US to be a “Christian Nation” and somehow claimed that’s what the founders wanted, even though they said the exact opposite in that very same Constitution.

Anyway, now you know where we are, and a likely sense of what lies ahead. Or at the very least, behind.

Tom Toles is the editorial cartoonist for The Post and writes the Tom Toles blog. See all of his cartoons here.

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