Christian fundamentalism–another gospel? Guest post by Michael Hardin

Michael Hardin is a mimetic theorist, author of The Jesus Driven Life, and co-founder of Preaching Peace. Perhaps better known as “the guy with the ponytail in Hellbound?“. He posted this on his Facebook page today, and I simply had to repost it here.

But thank God, who is always leading us around through Christ as if we were in a parade. He releases the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere through us. We smell like the aroma of Christ’s offering to God, both to those who are being saved and to those who are on the road to destruction. We smell like a contagious dead person to those who are dying, but we smell like the fountain of life to those who are being saved. Who is qualified for this kind of ministry? We aren’t like so many people who hustle the word of God to make a profit. We are speaking through Christ in the presence of God, as those who are sincere and as those who are sent from God.  — The Apostle Paul to the Corinthians

The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.
― Albert Einstein

For over 100 years Christian Fundamentalists have drawn a line in the sand. On the other side of that line are Liberals. I know. I became born again in a Fundamentalist Dispensationalist Baptist church. I read everything Francis Schaeffer wrote. I read Josh McDowell and quoted apologetics at every turn. I read voraciously, listened steadfastly and studied diligently. That part of my life’s journey lasted about two years. I moved on to Evangelicalism.

Religion needs to defend itself, the Gospel needs no defense. Religion is about certainty, the Gospel is about assurance. Religion needs every “I” dotted and every “T” crossed while the Gospel dwells in ambiguity and mystery. Religion seeks perfection, the Gospel offers wholeness. Religion validates sacred violence and a wrathful god, the Gospel speaks of the nonviolent, non-retributive God. Religion takes the State as its consort; the Gospel refuses the State and takes a peace loving people as a Bride.

Yesterday I reposted some thoughts Martin Trench had on Fundamentalism.

I have come to the conclusion that Fundamentalism (in any religion, branch of science, or discipline) is actually a mental disorder brought about by the persons inability to cope with a complex world, and need to see everything as black & white/right & wrong/dualistically, and always have an enemy that you are waging a culture war against. It is a sickness which is destroying western Christianity. It has nothing to do with the character of Jesus. Talking to Fundamentalists and trying to help them see a bigger, fuller, more inclusive and fully rounded view of God is a total waste of time. As a former, and now fully recovered Fundamentalist, I know this to be true. When you have to reject the proven findings of every branch of science and archaeology in order to hold to your beliefs, then something is seriously wrong with what you believe. If you think that God wants you to believe something which can be clearly proven to be completely untrue – you are worshipping a false god. There is no way to reason with an unreasonable person. Their only hope is to eventually become so sickened by the unChristlike fruit that Fundamentalism produces and by accidentally stumbling upon information that they cannot refute which contradicts their comic-book-version of faith …. then they may be open to talk. Try to talk to them before that and they will attack you and accuse you.

Let’s remember – it was Fundamentalists who crucified Jesus.

I thought his analysis was both on the mark and to the point. Christian Fundamentalism is not a faithful representation of the Gospel. Some will get their dander up and their panties all in a wad because I said this. But think this through. What if we are right? What if Fundamentalism is not a true representation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Does this not have enormous implications? So, after a hundred years of drawing a line in the sand, now we turn around and do the same. I can hear the defensiveness cranking up. (And before you non-Fundies get too snarky just realize that some of the same stuff could be said about the Jesus preached in progressive churches but that’s for another day).

“Do not judge.” But haven’t Fundamentalists been judging since they began? Have they not said that across that line is only relativism, untruth, ungodliness and liberalism? Have not Fundamentalists created their own little insular world with radio hosts, book publishers, TV shows, church decrees, and schtick to hang up on living room walls? Sure they have. They invest heavily in all this and why? In order to demonstrate that they will not be polluted or tainted with any outside worldly liberal influence. The Jerry Falwell’s the Pat Robertson’s, even the Billy Graham’s (and Billy is, or was, a closet Fundie) all created the ugly monolith known as the Religious Right. I know. I have books on the origins and beliefs of this movement. I have a friend who was there in the beginning who now repents of this (Frank Schaeffer). Now it has morphed into the Tea Party, merged with conservative Evangelicalism and its adherents see themselves as Keepers of the True Flame of God and Country here in the United States.

Fundamentalism is being challenged from every side. Science has broken down its poor excuse for creationism. Historical criticism has destroyed any chance of seeing the Bible as Perfection Dropped From Heaven. But far more important is the work of thinkers who have been able to show that the Gospel itself is deconstructing Christian Fundamentalism. It is the Gospel of the Prince of Peace which calls into question Fundamentalism’s god of arbitrary power and might. It is the Gospel which shows clearly that the Living God has no interest in human blood, does not want it, never needed it, and hates when we shed it. It is the Gospel that is showing us that faith in a neo-con neo-Calvinist Teavangelical God is idolatry. That god is a false idol, an admixture of nationalism and civil religion with a little Jesus thrown in to make it palatable to the mindless grey masses. It is a seductive serpent. It lies and kills. It justifies all manner of exclusion and warmongering. It is not the truth, never has been and never will be.

Is this judgment? Yes it is. Have I condemned any Fundamentalist to eternal perdition as they have others who were not with them? No I haven’t. I am not condemning people, but an ideology. I am saying that the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Christian Fundamentalism are worlds apart. I am saying that if you attend a Christian Fundamentalist Church you may not be worshipping Jesus. The Jesus of Fundamentalism is different than the Jesus of the New Testament. The Jesus of Fundamentalism is not the Prince of Peace, the One who takes away all fear, the one who challenges the very heart of all religion and all culture. The Jesus of Fundamentalism looks more like John Wayne or Rambo or the Terminator than the Jesus portrayed by Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Fundamentalists use these same Gospels to twist the Living Jesus into a fake.

Let us name Christian Fundamentalism for what it is: it is ‘another’ gospel’ which is no gospel at all. There is no good news in Fundamentalism, there is only an angry deity, an arbitrary lottery spinning, blood thirsty, vampiric, alcoholic, torture loving, war mongering little god that puffs itself up like the Wizard of Oz. But we have seen behind the curtain. We have seen that that god is a fake. We know that that god is the One Jesus came to destroy. Hallelujah and Praise be to God who brings down the satanic god that accuses, marginalizes, discriminates, lies and kills. Jesus is and always as been the Victor and He has drawn a line in the sand by His death and resurrection. The old has past, and Behold! The new has come.

So how does this Gospel smell to you?

About Kevin Miller

Kevin Miller is an award-winning screenwriter, director and producer who has applied his craft to numerous documentaries, feature films and shorts. Recent projects include "The Chicken Manure Incident," "Hellbound?," "Drop Gun," "No Saints for Sinners," "spOILed," "Sex+Money," "With God On Our Side," "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed," "After..." and the upcoming biopic "The Divine Comedy of Thomas Merton." In addition to his work in film, Kevin has written, co-written and edited over 45 books. He lives in Kimberley, BC, Canada with his wife and four children.

  • William A. Cirignani

    Kevin:

    You rightfully note that “the Gospel dwells in ambiguity and mystery,” yet you make no room for the ambiguity and mystery of a God who has shed human blood by decree. My sense is that His Truth lies like a narrow beam across a chasm of heresy–fall to the left and you think God is all love and kindness; fall to the right and you think God is all power and destruction. The ambiguity and mystery is that He is both. I agree that the fundies lean too far to the right and need a counter-balancing call to stand straight, but those doing the calling best be careful of pulling so hard that they fall the other way. Don’t you think?

    Bill Cirignani

    • Michael Hardin

      I am not a believer in those texts that assert that God shed any human blood. I do not think God is “all power or destruction.” I read the Bible through the lens of the Cross. I have a short piece here in lay terms that describes my hermeneutic: http://www.preachingpeace.org/2013/06/12/reading-the-bible-from-a-peacemaking-perspective/

      • debi sue

        What do you do about the old testament where he ordered the shedding of blood?

        • Michael Hardin

          Debi Sue: did you read the above essay I referenced?

      • Yowie

        I just finished reading the link you put above.
        Thank you.

        • Michael Hardin

          You’re welcome.

    • William A. Cirignani

      Thank you for your timely response (and sorry for calling you Kevin!). I read the writings of yours to which you referred me and think I have an understanding of your position. In essence, your hermeneutic filter can
      be summed up in this quote of yours:

      “[O]ne can either defend an outdated and inefficient theory of inspiration that requires mental gymnastics worthy of a gold medal or one can relax into re-conceiving just how Scripture speaks to us. For me, I prefer to follow Jesus rather than Calvin or John Owen or Roger Nicole. I would rather take the risk that Jesus is worth following rather than hide myself away in some theological hidey-hole from which I peer out from time to time.”

      Of course, you see the problem, don’t you? This method of interpretation presumes, as it must, that you have an accurate understanding of who Jesus is; right? (If not, then I would think that what or who you are following is just yourself.) But the natural question that follows from this filter of yours is: Where do you get your understanding of Jesus? I assume, of course, because you cite it enough, that you get your understanding of Him from some parts of scripture, but what parts? The Gospels? The Letters? Acts? Or just the parts that support your views?

      I get it that it that you see too many “Christians” who believe in a “punishing” God because they “want so much to believe that God takes
      sides, and that side is inevitably [their] side.” Certainly that is true. Indeed, I suspect we are all guilty of creating a God in our image. (Do you see this in your own beliefs?)

      But perhaps the problem is not that we’re wrong about God as someone who punishes, but wrong about our understanding of the proper context
      of His punishment. Certainly that’s a possibility, isn’t it? What, for example, do you do with the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira? Do you choose simply not to believe that story? If so, what is the hermeneutic filter you use to discard that story but not the others?

      • Michael Hardin
        • William A. Cirignani

          Michael, thanks again for your prompt reply. I have listened to the discussion and thought long and hard about what was said, specifically trying to discern the interpretive principles which underlie the position you and the Preaching Peace movement hold. In the end, it became apparent to me that there are no principles. Indeed, you have no way to defend your beliefs except by starting with the words, “I think God is”…and then fitting everything that follows into those words, which is, BTW, the exact criticism you level at orthodox evangelicals! Ultimately, yours is an incoherent theology and recklessly disingenuous. Thank you for the opportunity to hear what you have to say, but we will have to agree to disagree. God bless, my friend.

          • Michael Hardin

            I cordially disagree; if you had read my work carefully you would find therein a new view of the authority of Scripture, a revisiting of atonement, eschatology in the light of an orthodox Christology and doctrine of the trinity. I have written over a thousand pages, I don’t accept your caricature of my theological position.

  • Yowie

    Thank you for posting that.

  • dapowellii

    Three words describe fundamentalism: ignorance, self-aggrandizement, and dogma. Nearly 13 years ago, I realized those three words after I became so sickened by fundamentalist garbage — and left the church altogether. This article brings just a bit more clarity to that. Thanks.

  • R Vogel

    I am sure you have read some of Karen Armstrong’s works – I am very impressed with her analysis the rise of Fundamentalism coinciding with the Western position that Logos is superior to Mythos. In many ways I better understand my own Fundamentalist background in that context. I also love how she talks about the history of science versus the history of religion and how science used to be interested in ‘facts’, while religion dealt in uncertainties, but with the advent of the scientific method and modern physics, science has become much more comfortable with uncertainty while religion, in the form of fundamentalism, is much more concerned with establishing itself as fact. Great post.

    • Kevin Miller

      Great observation. The switch in epistemological positions is quite striking.


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