Fringe Faith (take two)

Apparently there is more to posting on a WordPress blog than I know. I’m not sure when the post will appear over at the Crowded Handbasket, but in case it doesn’t, I’m duplicating it here…

It seems somewhat typical of me that I used th occasion of my first post over there to problematize the reason for that blog’s existence.

I resonate with the identity of the Crowded Handbasket blog – the fringe, the heretics, the outliers. And I have a penchant to like underdog views, and underdog composers in music. If I was more into sports, I’d support underdog teams.

But when it comes to faith, I wonder whether there isn’t a sense in which all faith and all the faithful are “fringe”. After all, Christianity began as a fringe movement within Judaism (itself a fringe faith of a fringe people on the world scene). And those who have taken their faith completely seriously have always been a small minority.

What about those who have defined the faith, who composed the creeds? They may have been a powerful minority, but they certainly were on the whole better educated, and undeniably more influential in the church, than the vast majority of Christians. And so when it comes to Christian faith, the “official” version has itself always been defined by a fringe group, a minority, albeit a powerful one.

Fundamentalists today, through their dishonest claims to “believe the whole Bible” and “take it all literally”, have cowed many other Christians into silence by making them feel like somehow they aren’t “good Christians”. But in most churches, few attain (and I suspect many do not aspire to) the radical rhetoric of some of their leaders.

I’d like to suggest that all faith is fringe faith. All our experiences and all our convictions and all our points of view are always a small subset of those of human beings in general.

So as we engage various other viewpoints on this blog, let’s remember: they’re on the fringe too. They may think that their fringe viewpoint is obviously correct, and ought to be what all people of faith everywhere think. But go easy on them. That’s just a defense mechanism they use, because unlike us, they are living in denial of their fringe existence…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04262012749524758120 Eamon Knight

    ….fringe…“You keep using dat word. I don’ tink it means what you tink it means” [/princess_bride_reference]Granted, any particular POV is likely to be a numerical minority among all of humanity. But if you can get a whole bunch of people to believe you enough to follow and obey you (like: any major religion), you’re not fringe: you’re at the centre (of power, of influence, etc.) “Fringe” is what you find at the edge of something — just next to the Outer Darkness, which most sane people avoid.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12973236204479909543 Kay

    James,Currently all new posts require admin approval. Maybe I’ll change that as things progress, once I get a better feel for some of the authors and commenters.Your post is great by the way. I don’t know if you intended to or not, but you actually picked up on the subtleness of the blog name. The handbasket is crowded, in that there have been a lot of so called heretics over the years, but at the same time, a handbasket is small. Dare I say it’s even “narrow?” Heh. ;-)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Although I can be persuaded of most things by a quote from The Princess Bride, in this case I’m going to try to run with my point a little further.What do most Evangelicals believe about salvation outside of Christianity? According to recent polls, not what one might assume. How typical are fundamentalists of any religion? They’re pretty fringe – perhaps more so than people who cling to the tradition even though they don’t really believe any of its claims literally. What do “most Catholics believe”? I don’t think even the Pope could answer that question…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Thanks, Kay! Since it was my first time using WordPress, I just assumed I had done something wrong. I don’t mind waiting, now that I know it is normal. But as with all of us on that blog, we don’t always cope well with normality… :)


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