Osama bin Laden and his mentor Sayyid Qutb are
fundamentalists. So are Jerry Falwell and, in a slightly more
complicated (because also pentecostalist), Pat Robertson.
 Bin Laden & Co. are Muslims, who would rather kill
you than let you connect them in any way with Protestant
fundamentalists. Jerry Falwell & Co. are Christians, who
would rather see God remove you from the scene than let you
associate them with Islamic fundamentalists.
 They have good reasons to be kept at a distance from each
other. It is not hard to respect those reasons.
 Because they are in many ways so far apart, why would it
occur to anyone anywhere anytime to associate them and their camps?
We can picture a variety of motives for the people of the West to
do such linking. (We will let Arab Muslims take care of the
interests of al-Qaeda.)
 First, people might say the two are "like" each other out of
ignorance. They hear the word "fundamentalist" properly associated
with both - and I think I can demonstrate why it is in place to use
the word "properly" here - and therefore assume there must be some
similarity between them. Without prior knowledge of either or close
familiarity with both, it is easy to do such association stupidly.
Thus: the People's Republic of China, the former Union of Soviet
Socialist Republics, and the United States all described themselves
as "republics." But they have little in common.
 A second reason for associating the two is ideological.
Since bin Laden is the most to-be-despised name since Hitler,
anyone who does not like or who fears Falwell and American
fundamentalists can dismiss the latter and, if it suits his or her
purposes, can rouse others to despise the close-to-home
fundamentalists. Since I am writing in a "Journal of Lutheran
Ethics," I better bring in ethics somewhere and say it strikes me
as unethical to slander, and one can slander by falsely associating
movements - unless out of simple arrogance.
 A third reason is more legitimate: it has to do with the
effort by scholars, mass communicators, government personnel, or
clergy, to inspire curiosity, to inquire, to find a way help move
an inquiring public to proceed from the known to the unknown, to
plan strategies for dealing with what one discovers. Wherever that
occurs, a journal of ethics would likely encourage such research
 To the point, now: if and insofar as there may be parallels
and similarities among them, it is as in place to mention this as
it would be foolish in general not to, and unethical in specific
when there are dangers against to warn and to ward off, or
affirmations due where parallels, if any can be found, to be
 After having spent six years through twelve conferences with
toward-200 scholars around the globe, co-editing a five-volume work
for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (University of
Chicago Press), with focus on over a score of fundamentalisms,
including "Sikh," "Scientific," "Buddhist" and the like, I'm game
to take a hand at pointing at the elements these fundamentalisms do
have in common.
 They have roots, they claim unique and absolute and pure
roots, in existing religions, always in the conservative,
traditionalist, orthodox flanks. "Muslim." "Southern Baptist."
"Pentecostal." Check it out. Second, they experience and can convey
to others a language to describe a total threat to their individual
and collective being. "The West." "The Infidel." "The Secular
Humanist." "Religious Liberal." Third, they criticize moderates in
their religious movement for not fighting back. So they fight back,
coming to the side and maybe even the rescue of Allah/God, The
Prophet/Jesus, the Umma/Church.
 Next, being self-described as "fundamentalist," they pick
out their choice of most useful "fundamentals" from a perfect
primal moment, community, or, best of all Book.
Qur'an-Shari'ah/Hebrew Scriptures-New Testament. These are useful
in fighting back. They use the instruments of modernity, e.g., mass
media, against modernity. Both draw we-versus-they lines, allowing
for no middle ground. They know where history is going: to the
eventual triumph against the enemies of God. All that all the
fundamentalisms we observed had in common. It is fair to say so,
and it is not possible to understand them or the times without
having done so.
 Now, as for the first difference: from top to bottom they
believe different things, adhere to polar-opposite stories and
doctrines, and these are of supreme importance to them. That has to
be understood and respected.
 What brings up this issue in a journal of ethics, however,
is not fundamentally doctrinal, but strategic, tactical, and
related to fear and hope. Since Islamic fundamentalisms and, e.g.,
in Gush Emunim on the West Bank, or among Hindu militants, the
final logic of the movements licenses and impels people to making
war, assassinating, and engaging in terrorism, should we fear that,
because of the formal as opposed to substantive similarities, the
Christian fundamentalists might some day kill or engage in
 Some warning signals are out there. Radical Christians on
left and right have, through the years, done plenty of killing and
terrorist acts. They might again. Today, some Northern Ireland
Protestants kill in God's name. A few abortion-clinic bombers have
been in Christian movements. While most of the militia and white
racist groups have not been related to Protestantism, they do
borrow some symbols and signals from it. Should non-fundamentalists
work on spiritual missile defense shields, build psychic
 I believe that the counsel to engage in counter-action
based in terror of terrorism or to promote one's own political
advantage should go unheeded. While one can find as many
pro-militancy, pro-killing texts in the Bible as in the Qur'an, and
can come across as many blood-stained pages in the traditions
issuing from both, some things have occurred in the West that help
assure that such widespread phenomena of war and terror are not
 Let me close by giving one reason why this is so, a reason
not sure to be popular. Call it American constitutionalism,
pluralism, or anything like these. We lucked out, or a kind
Providence and reasonably reasonable people through the last two
centuries have not credibly worked to rule out "the other," to
successfully establish "us" versus them. While fundamentalists and
some of their friends knock the Enlightenment, secularity, the Age
of Reason, the academic ethos, I think Christians here should send
their agents a card of thanks. They helped us find a polity that
allows us to be firm in our convictions without setting out to kill
 That is one reason why some of us, in the spirit of old
counsel to "resist beginnings" are as much opposed to creches on
court house lawns as we are for them on any non-governmental
property; as anti-posting of the Ten Commandments on the Court
House wall as we are for parents teaching them to their children;
as critical of legally privileged "school prayer" as we are
promoting learning about religion in public school and praying any
where but in even implicitly coercive "public" situations.
Pluralism is a delicate invention that has been working, even while
being tested. It could be that it is one of the better friends of
those who care about their faith and freedom, their future as
Christians and citizen.