For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness...
It should be clear by now. White Wolf doesn't like fundamentalists.
OK, so it's understandable. There was the big flap over Dungeons and Dragons that gave RPGs in general a bad name. Moreover, the tone of the various books suggests that most of the staff are either secularists or members of new religions; their world view is different from that of fundamentalists and has been attacked by them many times.
As a result, when fundamentalists appear in White Wolf books at all, they show up as villians. No, not antagonists--villians in the old black-and-white sense that White Wolf claims to disdain. In the Book of the Weaver, for instance, they're products of the increasing insanity of the Weaver, which has apparently given up the desire to understand in favor of just calcifying the whole mess. And if the Celestial Chorus was thrown out as a sop to Christians...well, they did a lousy job.
OK, suppose it's true. Suppose that you don't like fundamentalists and want your troupe to run into a bunch of them. Shouldn't you take the time to really understand them instead of stereotyping them? Alternatively, maybe you want to play a fundamentalist, either as a change of pace or because you are one. (Yes, role-playing fundies do exist!) Well, White Wolf hasn't exactly made it easy. Of the things your character really ought to know several blatantly contradict the way fundamentalists think. I've never heard of a single one, for instance, who believed in reincarnation. White Wolf has given us a few groups who deny these things, but has usually failed to explain what they do with the evidence, other than ignore it (which could well be their point--people who ignore them are caught in denial).
So to make up for White Wolf's apparent negligence, here goes. If you want to make sympathetic fundies, I've got you some answers and ideas on how to do it. (A quick note: there are a wide variety of fundamentalist types, some Christian, some "heretical Christian", and some non-Christian (Islamic and Jewish, for the most part). These ideas should be useful for any of them to varying degrees, but are focused mainly on the first two.)
Fundamentalists and Stasis
This is the one White Wolf is fixated on. Well, there's some truth to it. Yes, fundamentalists can be rule-bound. Yes, they worship a single, male God who makes the rules. Yes, those rules do involve a certain amount of social control and self-control not particularly in favor in today's world. Yes, fundamentalists are sometimes more interested in control than in understanding. And lastly, yes, fundamentalists are in some senses "anti-magic".
This is not, however, the whole story.
Fundamentalists and Freedom
Now let's take a second look. Fundamentalists follow the rules--but whose rules? Not those of human society. They follow their own rules, or rather, God's rules (as they see them). Fundamentalists often fear that "big government" is taking away their freedom. Most often, this is freedom of religion; other times, however, it may be their freedom to keep and make use of the money they earn and the possessions they buy; their freedom to speak out in the public arena; and yes, their freedom to bear arms. A fundamentalist who opposes the United Nations may be acting partly out of national pride, but he likely also fears losing his freedoms and those of his country to an international government too distant to understand his needs. In truth, a fair number of fundamentalists are closet anarchists who would prefer no government but God.
Now, about that God. Fundamentalists make no secret of the fact that they don't believe in any other. And some of them are leery of allowing religious freedom to people who follow other religions. This can be scary, obviously, to the neo-pagans and others out there. However, few if any fundamentalists want to start the witch-fires burning. Whatever their faults, many tend to honestly believe that the "gods" of other religions are actually demons in disguise, and that those demons live for nothing but to enslave and kill--body, mind and soul. While this may not ease the fears of the local Verbena (or real-life pagans), players and storytellers should remember that a good fundie does not hate followers of other religions--she pities them and wants to free them.
What about social control, then? First, the fundamentalist believes that, ideally, people should control themselves--not someone else. Think--wouldn't the world be a better place if people thought before they acted and were considerate of the rights of others? Don't many of our problems come from the fact that they don't? Sometimes, however, it may be necessary to prevent certain actions for the benefit of other people. Very few of them attempt to make rules or laws unless they see a victim, even if that victim is invisible to others. A fundamentalist may oppose abortion, but only rarely because he wants to restrict women's rights; rather, he sees the rights of a different class (the unborn) being taken away. Some of you may see this as hypocrisy, granted; but if you really want to include such a person then you need to get into the mindset. Second, fundamentalists actually fear social control. Many of them believe that a one-world state is approaching that will deny them basic rights because they disagree with the government's policies. Even those who do not are often offended by political correctness; it appears to them that it is becoming socially improper just to speak their mind. Some things, they insist, transcend politeness. (Surprise, surprise!--They agree with the Verbena about something.)
Do fundamentalists really oppose understanding the world around them? Not usually. There are individual exceptions, but typically this is the result of a misunderstanding between them and science. Prior to the 1800's, their precursors supported science and were supported by it. Many of them even believed in life on other planets (which might or might not be fallen); some were willing to tolerate evolutionary ideas. Then followers of Darwin began using his ideas to attack their religion (not long after, in the World of Darkness, the Order of Reason turned on the Cabal of Pure Thought and rebuilt it from the ground up). Naturally, they felt betrayed, and some of them turned on science. What would you have done?
A last consideration is the antipathy of fundamentalists for "magic". Unfortunately, White Wolf's publications have badly overplayed this hand. The "magic" that fundamentalists oppose is relatively narrow (consisting mainly of invocations to other gods and certain practices like tarot reading that are likewise seen as idolatrous) compared to the way the term is used in Mage. Few Christians refuse to follow weather reports or stock market predictions as being "divination", and in Mage terms, the powers some fundamentalists expect from the Holy Spirit are magical too.
Simply put, fundamentalists are not as static as they have been portrayed. They do have elements of stasis; but then, the Dreamspeakers do too ("My ancestors and my ancestors' ancestors made use of this ritual. Who are you to suggest I change it?"). Because of the privileged manner in which White Wolf treats reincarnation, let's complete the Metaphysic Trinity (which no fundamentalist would believe in) by talking about Entropy.
Fundamentalists and Death
This has been one of my biggest gripes with the Mage system. In a world where belief is everything, for no apparent reason everybody gets reincarnated. If anything in the world is purely personal, it ought to be life after death. Needless to say, no fundamentalist is going to believe in reincarnation. But with her Avatar talking to her, how will she avoid it?
It's one thing to say that a fundamentalist isn't going to perceive the Avatar as a newage "higher self" (see Frank Peretti's books if you don't know why). But perceiving it as an angel, a vision of God, or a demonic tempter isn't going to change the fact that the Avatar may present information ostentibly from past lives. There are several ways in which fundamentalists can deal with this. If the Avatar appears as a tempter, naturally it will probably be rejected as simple falsehood. But there are alternatives. The information may be presented simply as a vision, without the "past life" context (even the first-person aspect is negotiable). Or it could simply be understood as a fabrication of the mind. There are likely other methods as well.
The real question, then, is how do fundamentalists view death? In two conflicting ways, either of which may be dominant under different circumstances. The first is that death is the transition to the next world. The fundamentalist usually expects this to be heaven, but not always. They may well come into conflict with Euthanatos because of this; where the Euthanatos sees herself as giving the victim another chance, the fundamentalist thinks that the victim's last chance is being taken away. The other viewpoint is that death is an intrusion into the world which does not belong. It does little good to suggest that in some cases death may be preferable; to her, the suffering that would make that true is itself an expression of death as it destroys the body or the mind. Fundamentalists in this mode rage against death; any "cycle of life" that leaves a body rotting in the grave and a soul potentially in hell is a waste and an abomination.
Types of Fundamentalist
No, not "groups" of fundamentalists. These are several different varieties of Christian fundamentalism, none of which is really unified in itself, let alone with the others. I'm not knowledgeable enough about the matter to extend the brief descriptions to sects like the Muslim Taliban or Hasidic Jews, but you probably won't have any trouble. These are just to give a general idea of the diversity present.
This is where the fundamentalists proper come from. Evangelical groups derive from mainstream religions, usually of some variety of Reformed faith, though they are now "Arminian" (in briefest terms, they believe in salvation by faith alone). Among their number are the Charismatics and Pentecostals, who represent the indigenous variety of mystical tradition. While some belong to organized religions, others hold only to "nondenominational" congregations. And that is all that need be said about the most familiar variety.
Unlike most fundamentalists, Catholics are strongly wedded to an institutionalized tradition and to the words of official spiritual leaders. Some, however, take that tradition more seriously than modern leaders whom they see as weakening the faith. They tend to hold to many rituals that the other types disdain as superstition.
A small group of Calvinists (ie, they believe that God saves some people by grace alone and damns others for no reason humans can fathom), these hold to the last vestiges of postmillennialism, the notion that Christ will return only after his kingdom has ruled the Earth for a thousand years after being set up by the church. Favoring a return to the harshest aspects of Old Testament law, they exert an influence far out of proportion to their size by manipulating other fundamentalist groups (and that's in the real world; in the conspiracy-laden World of Darkness they may wield more power still).
Restorationists exist in a bewildering number of varieties and seem to spring up almost at random; their only true commonality is their belief that the true church has died out and must be or has been restored in recent times. They often take up unusual theological positions and are sometimes labeled "cults" by other fundamentalists, rarely managing to make their own name for themselves the one in common use. The most mainstream are the Churches of Christ, Independent Christian Churches, and International Church of Christ, all of which come primarily from the American Restoration Movement of Stone and the Campbells. They are radically Arminian almost to the point of Pelagianism (the idea that man can save himself by works, sometimes without any need for grace), like many other restorationist groups. Unlike most restorationists, they hold that the Bible is accurate and adequate to serve as a model for the church but that it has not been honestly and consistently applied. The Churches of Christ in particular tend to snap up budding restorationist groups wherever in the world they appear. Other well-known restorationist churches include the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (ie, the Mormons) and the International Bible Students (ie, the Jehovah's Witnesses).
Fundamentalists and the Supernaturals
Generally speaking, fundamentalists are presented by White Wolf as antagonists. About the only exception is in a hunters' chronicle (Imbued or otherwise), and that's because the players have been deliberately put into the role of the people who are usually hunting their characters. Now and again you may find a fundamentalist Chorister (more often, now that the Templars have joined), but by and large such creatures are a rare bird indeed.
It doesn't have to be that way.
Fundamentalists and Mage
Repeat after me: Fundamentalists do not hate magic(k).
There, that wasn't so hard, was it? Rather, fundies are opposed to certain kinds of magic because those varieties are connected to religions or philosophies they oppose. At least, as far as the "true magic" of Mage: the Ascension is concerned. Remember, in Mage computers and microphones are just as magical as fireball-summoning medallions, though your fundamentalist character isn't going to say that any more than a Technocrat would.
But what kind of magic will a fundamentalist do, and what faction will she be associated with? What paradigms, in short, are congenial? Maybe not the ones you think.
The Celestial Chorus
Having the Templars join may have been necessitated by the metaplot, but IMHO it was a mistake. Yes, some Choristers may be "Christian", but not in a sense fundamentalists are likely to appreciate. Fundamentalists live in a separatist world and are suspicious of the syncretism most Choristers favor. Nonetheless some fundies are more tolerant than others, and you might find them among the Chorus now and then. Paradigm depends on the type--Catholics are apt to pray to saints and chant the rosary; Charismatics pray to God extemporaneously, lay on hands, and may preach (in tongues, perhaps).
Tell me, what's wrong with this picture? The supposedly anti-intellectual fundamentalists joined with a bastion of super-science? The people who used to preach on the evils of secular humanism siding with its very incarnation? Those who think a one-world government is a harbinger of the Antichrist in lockstep with the New World Order? Yes, many fundamentalists are in favor of more social controls. And no, not all of them fit the above mold (though nearly all evangelical fundies do). But even when the basic world-view falls into line (and as I've said above, fundies are not usually truly anti-science), the ideology just isn't going to do. A real fundamentalist in the Technocracy is going to be a mole of sorts, trying to use the organization for his own ends. Odds are, he won't get very far.
Some Other Candidates
Okay, if the Technocrats are unlikely, what about the technomantic Traditions? Now you're getting somewhere. Most of the Virtual Adepts and Etherites are atheists, or deists at best. But there's certainly room for scientific creationists among the Sons. The VAs are a more iffy case, but it's possible; note the rise of cyberfaith.
Hermetics are a possibility too, and not just as a tiny faction of Ex Misc. While most of them downplay it, fundamentalists attach immense importance to the power of words (primarily of God's words, though, rather than humans', which is why they downplay it). Besides the occasional Charismatic Criamon, there are likely at least one or two among Quaesitor, Shaea, and Thig.
As a parting notion, here's a somewhat bizarre concept: a faith-healin', tongue-speakin', snake-handlin', prophesyin', Spirit-filled Ecstatic. No, he's not going to get along too well with weed-smoking, free-love hippies. But the praxis is right, and those hippies aren't the whole of the Tradition anyway.
Much as I'd like to propose the concept, the other Traditions really are too religion-based to contain more than one Christian fundamentalist every century or so. Yes, even the Akashics. Ironically, the closest counterpart would be among the Verbena; to many fundamentalists, Christianity is as much a blood religion as an ethical one. They stand in about the same relation to Chorister-style liberal Christianity as the Verbena do to crystal-wavers, not that either party is likely to admit it. Feel free, however, to devise fundamentalist varieties of other faiths.
Fundamentalists and Vampire
Most of the time, any fundies in a V: tM chronicle are hunters--Inquisitors, perhaps. But since the Embrace is usually not truly voluntary, it's not hard to imagine a fundamentalist who's gone through it and hung onto her faith. Except for conservative Catholics, most fundamentalists are very Americanized and thus lack the long tradition of opposition to the Kindred as being damned. The only people to tell them they are are other vampires--and why should they believe their elders anyway? The Kindred are obviously the last people who'd know anything about an afterlife--they've (supposedly) died and still not experienced one.
Many fundamentalists continue to take the restriction against consuming blood seriously, but not all; some consider it to have been repealed with other ceremonial aspects of the law of Moses (its appearance in Acts 15 being a concession to Jewish scruples). Even those who do consider such to be a sin may be willing to consider it permissible in order to survive (though naturally they would attempt to minimize unwilling feedings from humans and prefer not to kill).
Fundamentalists anticipate the Beast already. The majority believe that even ordinary humans contain a "sin nature" or some equivalent which drives them to commit evil acts. The only change, from their point of view, would be an intensification of that nature. (Restorationists differ from other fundamentalists in not considering the sin nature to be a result of original sin, in which they disbelieve. Rather, it's derived from the ordinary appetites of the body, which since the Fall are no longer in harmony with humans' real needs.)
Let's start by talking about the respectable folk. Fundamentalists, being apt to take Genesis literally, believe there was a son of Adam named Cain, who murdered his brother. Beyond that, though, there's no reason they should go on to believe such tripe as the Book of Nod claiming that Cain was also the first vampire. After all, the Bible says Cain took a wife and had children. Besides, according to the Lord, the mark is supposed to prevent people from killing him--not brand him as a bloodsucking monster to be destroyed. So they have a reason for going along with Camarilla claims that Caine and the Antediluvians are mythical. Fundamentalists will also tend to be less than pleased by what they hear of the vicious and vile Sabbat and prefer to join with the somewhat more humanlike Camarilla.
Clans most likely to target fundamentalists for the Embrace are the Brujah, the Gangrel, and some Malkavians. Brujah may Embrace fundamentalists because they see them as rebels against secular society. Gun-toting survivalists such as the Gangrel like to go after are apt to be fundie extremists. Certain Malkavians see fundamentalists, especially of the Charismatic sort, as suffering from a limited form of their "divine insanity" and seek to open their minds further. Despite their alliance with rich economic conservatives, few fundies belong to the social elites that Ventrue tend to target, but televangelists are potential victims.
Given the probable fundie explanation of the Beast, no fundamentalists are going to like being told to listen to it in any sense of the word, and the Sabbat is too violent for any but the most extreme of cults to be attracted to its tenets. Fundamentalists in the Sabbat have probably been recruited by the shovel-to-the-head method and likely plan to desert at the earliest opportunity. The exception could be the Salubri antitribu, who might find "soldiers of God" acceptable as the parent clan once did.
Anarchs and Other Breakaways
In the end, the majority of fundamentalist vampires are apt to end up among the Anarchists, the Autarkis, or the Unbound. With the exception of conservative Catholics and some restorationists like Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses, fundies dislike following chains of authority, and the tradition-bound elder Kindred typically seem straight out of the Dark Ages, even when they're not quite that old. While the Camarilla seems more acceptable than the Sabbat, fundies are unlikely to bring themselves to kill for no other reason than to uphold the Masquerade, and if they retain that humanitarian conviction will eventually find themselves on the outs with the sect.
A large number of Cleavers are fundamentalist types with strong family values. Some may even tell their families right from the start of their new attributes, though most will be hesitant for a time.
Before you ask, yes, there are fundamentalists in Gehenna cults--usually their own rather than someone else's. The largest known are the Blood-Bought Redemptionists, who believe that "Caine" is not the actual brother of Abel but a veiled reference to the Antichrist (who may or may not be the first vampire). While they follow the standard seven-year timeline for the Tribulation (ie, Gehenna), the Blood-Bought do not expect to be raptured along with living believers before the Antichrist takes power. At present, they are preparing hideaways to shelter themselves and other believers from the wrath of "Caine". They often establish public church buildings which appear to be those of an ordinary small charismatic sect but which actually serve mainly as shelters from the sun.
Fundamentalists and Wraith
Waking up in the Shadowlands is hard on anyone. For a fundamentalist, it can literally be hell.
Most fundamentalists arriving in the Shadowlands have traditionally abandoned their previous faiths as obviously incorrect. However, members of certain groups which believe it possible to fall from grace and that there is an intermediate state before the dead enter heaven or hell consider the Dark Umbra to be that state. Such wraiths usually consider themselves to have failed and been damned, though not always. Often they regard both Transcendence and Oblivion as equally mythical and consider them deceptive gateways to still lower regions of punishment. The Shadow, like the Beast of a vampire, is usually considered identical to the "sin nature", something to be cast off and destroyed.
In times past, the majority of fundamentalist wraiths joined Heretic cults, the most notorious of which is the vicious purification cult called the Church of the Blissful Slumber. "Slumberites" believe Transcendence is the real cessation of existence, which they seek eagerly; Oblivion is only a pathway to the "lower hells". Led by a Restorationist preacher named Moses Lard (a young Gaunt from the mid-1800s), the Slumberites hunt wraiths who interact with the Skinlands as demons and consign them to Oblivion. Since the fall of Stygia, the Slumberites have been rising in power.
However, with Stygia gone, an increasing number of fundamentalists are instead joining the remnants of the Hierarchy. These seek to shore up what timbers of stability remain in the Underworld to prevent what's left from fading from existence, and if possible to rebuild society on a religious base like that of the other dark empires.
Fundamentalists and Werewolf
It goes almost without saying that Christian fundamentalist shapeshifters are as scarce as hen's teeth. Most shifters will go out of their way to avoid breeding with fundamentalists, who in turn are not apt to engage in the kind of extramarital relationships sex with shifters usually entails. Fundies who go through a First Change usually abandon their old faith.
It's not that there are no points of contact between Christian and shifter cosmologies. The most obvious is the Wyrm, itself an Old English term for both "dragon" and "serpent", each of which are metaphors used for Satan. With ecological concern on the rise even among some fundamentalists, it's theoretically possible to equate the two evil forces, though most Garou claim the Wyrm is older and more basic than the devil.
But when it comes to God and Gaia, the situation is harder to resolve. Fundamentalists, while not necessarily believing God to be literally male, usually consider the masculine terms to be mandated by God and balk at thinking in terms of female imagery. Thus the merging of the two ideas of a supreme being rarely occurs among them as it can among more liberal religions. Fundamentalist concepts of the Deity tend to be closer to a merger of Wyld and Weaver, a less-than-palatable concept to most shifters. Theoretically, Gaia could be regarded as a planetary ruling spirit under a greater God, but so far that concept has not even been suggested.
The real flashpoint comes when someone brings up the Patriarch. Traditional Garou and other shifters see fundamentalists as being as much under the Wyrm-Incarna's snare as any other Judeo-Christian monotheists. The handful of fundamentalists who have heard of the Patriarch, on the other hand, identify the being only with hierarchial churches such as Catholicism and claim to be rebels against him themselves. Typically, they last only a few months before someone becomes offended, and with Rage in the equation, offense soon leads to the minority opinion-holder's death.
Fundamentalists and Changeling
Like fundamentalist shapeshifters, fundamentalist Kithain are extraordinarily rare. Fundamentalists, though they lack the traditional belief that the fae are damned or have no souls, take their religion with extreme--read, deadly--seriousness. Fundamentalist fae who hold on to their religion most often succumb to Banality with extreme rapidity. Certain boggans and redcaps may hang on for years before fading; satyrs and pooka have been known to succumb within a month. The most deadly variety is Restorationism proper; most Churches of Christ and many Christian Churches deride creativity as being detrimental to proper adherence to the Scriptures, ignore art other than religious music, and idealize rationalism. The International Church of Christ, with its absolute hierarchy added to the mix, has never been known to harbor a single fae soul in its decade of existence.
Fundamentalists and Eastern Kindred
Fundamentalist Kuei-jin are rare for a different reason--although some forms of fundamentalism have penetrated Asia, they insist on absolute rejection of old religious beliefs, though rarely on abandonment of the culture as a whole. As a result, Asian fundamentalists have lost a significant portion of the cultural ties that might bind them to the local afterlife. Nonetheless, this severance is usually far from complete, and sometimes it even serves as the karmic basis for entrapment in Yomi.
Stereotypes aside, these fundamentalist Kuei-jin rarely dress in black and bemoan their "damnation" in the mode of Kin-jin. For one thing, many fundamentalists believe that damnation is literally impossible for those who have been saved. Rather, they more often consider themselves to have been aided and abetted by God in their escape from hell, which they may regard as the real thing or as a home of the pestilential demons who have ensnared Asian peoples in their traditional religions but not the true afterlife. The majority follow the Flame of the Rising Phoenix dharma, seeking to return to their old lives.
Fundamentalists and the Imbued
An astonishing number of Imbued belong to fundamentalist sects. Almost the only Creed that lacks fundamentalists is that of the Visionaries, who are more open to alternative possibilities than fundamentalists are usually prepared to tolerate. Aside from that, fundies move freely among the ranks of the Imbued. The majority of fundamentalist Imbued attribute their powers to God or to angels, and believe the Messengers to be the latter. So far, no one has suggested the darker possibility that the Messengers might be demons in angelic garb.
Restorationism proper is an exception to the general rule. Because members of the Churches of Christ and the Christian Churches strongly downplay the notion of supernatural forces in the modern world, they tend to hesitate when the Messengers appear, and the majority, if not all, of them become Bystanders.
Fundamentalists and Mummy