Why Aren’t Fundamentalists Telepathic Comedians?

Future fundamentalist, right?

With my morning cup of coffee just now I spotted a story in the Orange County Register entitled, “Saddleback Church Hosts Conference on ‘Radical Christianity.” So I was, like, “Hmm. This promises to be almost vaguely interesting.” Then, perusing the article, I read:

The conference covered techniques to build better church [sic], connect more with parishioners, inspire youth worship and innovative ways to incorporate praise music.

Then I remembered that the alternate definition of “radical” is “exactly the same.” How weird that I momentarily forgot that.

Anyway, I know that a lot of my writing tends to challenge some of the more traditional understandings of Christianity. And that’s cool; being honest about engaging in a real dialogue about anything as intense as religion generally, and Christianity in particular, is like playing hopscotch in a mine field: sooner or later, you’re bound to make a boom. (Ew. Sorry. That didn’t come out right. Oh, great. That also didn’t come out right. Oh, crap. Oh crap! Okay right here, kids, is why you should never become a writer.)

So about hardcore right-wing fundamentalist Christians.

First of all, who cares what I say about that crowd: it’s not like any of them are going to read it? Fundamentalists don’t read my blog. They can’t. I don’t use enough pictures. Plus I write in complete sentences.

Har! Of course, now I’m going to hell.

I knew I’d end up in hell! There’s such a dangblangit fine line between “Funny!” and “Meet Snikky and Snarky, the two fanged minions who throughout eternity will be jabbing at you with searing tridents. Have fun, funny boy!”

No, but the truth is that my readers — or my commenters, anyway — tend to be what you’d call the intelligent, sensitive, articulate, profoundly insightful types. Exhibit A: the recent advice and support proffered by my readers in last week’s post, “Help: I Want to Come Out to My Evangelical Father.” Reading the comments on that blog is like spending a week at Camp Feel Good (but without the creepy counselors that I know turned my sixth grade school-sponsored week in the woods into something between Porky’s After Dark and Lord of the Flies). The comments to that post make me as proud of this blog as anything ever has.

But about the fundyvangelists—the people who think the earth was created in 1822, and that Jesus had a pet stegosaurus, and all that.

So, one thing is, you know how I always know when I’m dealing with such a person? Because they always throw Bible quotes at me—and the quotes are always from the King James Bible. I love love love the King James Bible, for sureth. But it’s always so weird to get an email that says

“Yew are tthe amnti-Christ becuuz of yur faggy love for the durty homer-sexals what ar reckin evvyrything. For as the Lord doth sayeth, ‘Woe be unto you, thou wretched and disbelieving purveyor of all this is before the Lord unholy and wicked craven … .”

It’s like having Boo Radley suddenly transform into Shakespeare.

But the really important question about hardcore right-wing fundies is: Why aren’t they more fun? They’ve got fun right there in their name! You hear the word fundamentalist, and what do you think? Of course: telepathic comedian. But is that what you actually get with a fundamentalist? No. I never have, anyway. Every time I hang out with a fundamentalist, I’m forever saying to them, “Tell me what I’m thinking right now? Is it funny? Can you make it funny? Does it show up funny in your mind? Is that person over there thinking anything funny?”

And all I ever get in response is that stare that says, “Why are you talking to me? Stop it.”

I swear, it’s like they don’t know how to socialize at all.

Anyway, this morning I wanted to say something kind and edifying about our good brothers and sisters who believe in a Christ who, if, at, say, an art gallery opening, ever bumped into the Christ that a lot of others of us believe in, would say unto Him, “Say, ain’t there supposed to be some kind of food at this shindig? And free booze or sumpin? And what in Papa’s name is this crap hanging on these walls? Please tell me this ain’t supposed to be art!”

Um. Yeah, that wasn’t that edifying.

Okay, so tomorrow I’ll say something kind and edifying about the fundies—who, thank God, are increasingly being seen as the radical fringe.

Seriously. I’ll do that tomorrow. Or maybe the next day.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • http://kenreads.wordpress.com wken

    Yes. Radical now means exactly the same.

    I know a local radio station that was trying to honor blue-collar workers who work hard and do physical labor. A bunch of cubicle-working folks complained that they were being left out because they work hard, too. And, you know, paper cuts are almost as bad as getting hit with a hammer, and it’s almost as hard to walk up stairs as it is to climb the frame of a skyscraper that you’re building …

    From my office (not even a cubicle; I was a manager back then) I found it all very weird. (And check out the semicolon!)

    What was I saying?

    Oh, yeah …

    I’ve noticed the same thing about marginal literacy and KJV-onlyism. I wonder if anyone’s actually done a study on this. If not, maybe I should write up a grant request.

    Like I’ve ever written a grant request before …

    • A’isha

      Wken, we were both thinking the same thing regarding a study on fundie literacy! I’ll work with you on that research project. I’m sure the results could be used for something beneficial in this society. LOL If you’re a really good grant writer, you might even be able to get it funded by some right-wing group!

      I forgot to say there’s a “Christian” bookstore here (the only one in my town and the next town) that won’t sell any Bibles besides the KJV. What’s up with that? If they could only open their minds they could see how very far from the original texts that version is.

      • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ sdgalloway

        they won’t sell any versions BUT the KJV? Which begs the question. Of the other books they sell, do those books reference other translations other then only the KJV?

        This is from one of those people who can’t understand the KJV only argument from a theological or a historical perspective.

        • A’isha

          I don’t know if books have references to other versions or not. How could they not? Honestly, I never went in after I heard about the KJV-only policy. They regularly put verses on their reader board outside that are always in KJV. Just weird! We used to have another Christian bookstore, but it went out of business. That was a sad day for me…I love bookstores!

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            If you work in Christian book publishing—especially if you write Christian books—here’s a completely obnoxious reality you have to deal with: The huge Christian retail bookstores–the big chains, upon which all Christian publishers depend for sales—have people whose whole job it is to read and vet for propriety every Christian book their chain is thinking about buying. If they turn a book down because there’s something in it they don’t like, that book dies. So publishers are very eager to please these vetters—which means you can’t put ANYTHING in any Christian book that might in even the slightest way offend anyone. Which is just one of the reasons Christian book publishing is sinking like a marble statue on the Titanic … .

          • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ sdgalloway

            note to self. Don’t plan a future in that particular genre.

          • Christy

            And, thus, is why in *those* kinds of Christian bookstores you won’t find any Anne Lamott, M. Scott Peck, Marcus Borg, Barbara Brown Taylor, Karen Armstrong or Rabbi Irwin Kula. Definitely no Shelby Spong. Shoot, Anne Lamott couldn’t even stand up and share her conversion story in the church of my youth. I’ve actually imagined that scenario: “Hallelujah, she’s born again, but she said f#@k – what are we supposed to do with that?” I always picture a deacon asking her to leave and escorting her to the parking lot just to make sure that she does.

          • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com Ric Booth

            But they can publish “radical” Christian books there still.

          • Christy

            Notice how the “radical” Saddleback approach is focussed inward toward the contents of the church and not outside the church doors where Jesus actually lives, how it’s worship focussed vs. service focussed. For me, the only way to address fundy KJV thumping is to fight fire with fire.

            Therefore, there’s a lovely verse in the OT where it says God doesn’t care at all about all of our feasts and music and praises. In fact, God’s pretty worn out with the whole bowing down before God and “Father we adore you” stuff. What God wants is for us to love mercy and do justice and walk humbly with God.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            Look closer still, at what it’s really about.

          • http://leap-of-fate.com/ Christy

            Hmmm……church growth, perhaps?

          • http://leap-of-fate.com/ Christy

            OK, too hasty and judgmental on my part.

          • http://anniejonesjoywritingthroughlife.blogspot.com/ Annie Jones

            You’re right on the Christian publishing industry but again this is true of MOST publishing, you have to please a few limited folks and end up getting a lot of notes that have nothing to do with the writing and more to do with things like characters being likable enough. Which is why epublishing will probably become the reading of choice for people who actually love books.

            Anyway – Radical is the newest Christianese buzz word it seems. Like they are all reading the same books ( see above to know that means those books come from the same thought factories). Radical is the new marketing hook – replacing edgy. If they encountered true radical thinking (love each other, legalism won’t get you into heaven and even if it did, you are not the one who sets the laws, ya know actual Jesus stuff) they wouldn’t know what to do.

          • Diana A.

            True.

      • http://kenreads.wordpress.com wken

        Actually, I’ve never written a grant request in my life. I have many friends and a few relatives with graduate and doctoral degrees, and so I’ve heard of people who do this. I, however, have never come closer to writing a grant request than that time I asked my father for $50 because I left home without my wallet and needed gas.

        The bookstore only sells KJV? Really? I mean … REALLY?

        I’ve always assumed that people who run bookstores are interested in literacy, and reading, and expanding their minds and the minds of their customers. I’ve known the owners of two different Christian bookstores, and they were both like that. I guess you’ve got the exceptions to that rule?

        Wow … Maybe I’ll open a bookstore and not sell anything except my one favorite book. There’s a business model with which I can work.

        Or maybe they’re trying to use the slogan, “God says you should only buy from us!”

        • A’isha

          Who knows what they’re thinking. I think I’ll open a bookstore that only sells John’s books. LOL Do you think I could make it work? During college I worked in a Christian bookstore that was incredible! When there weren’t customers I read so much from so many points of view. I think that’s when my love of bookstores really took off.

          Grant writing is a very definitely skill. When I was helping get a non-profit counseling center started I looked at some of the grant-writing seminars online. It all baffled me.

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ sdgalloway

      “I’ve noticed the same thing about marginal literacy and KJV-onlyism. I wonder if anyone’s actually done a study on this. If not, maybe I should write up a grant request.”

      Ok, I guess I am not the only one who has noticed that. It is rather contradictory in methods of communication, especially seeing how language of the 1600 when the KJV was written during a time of massive illiteracy, was quite different from today, were most people only need help with exactly how to pronounce some of the words in The Star magazine.

  • A’isha

    “First of all, who cares what I say about them, because none of them read my blog. They can’t. I don’t use enough pictures. Plus I write in complete sentences.” This is one of the best lines you’ve ever written! Well, until I got farther south in your post today! Shoot, that’s so true! And if you try to discuss anything outside of their little tiny realm of knowledge they do give you that stare. I never thought of it as a “why are you talking to me?” stare but more like an “are you speaking English?” stare. I think someone should research the number of words in the vocabulary of fundies and compare it to the, well, rest of us normal folks.

  • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com Ric Booth

    Then I remembered that the alternate definition of “radical” is “exactly the same.”

    It’s good to see you employing quotation marks so liberally. I mean, radically.

  • Mary G

    Positively ROARING with laughter here in West Virginia my dear!!!!!

    You’re in rare form today!

    Consider yourself

    {{{{{HUGGED!!!!}}}}}

  • Mindy

    Smiling, nodding in agreement, chuckling – a fine thing on a Monday morning. And that was with John AND all the comments -

  • Mary G

    I think all you have to do is change one letter and you’ve nailed it:

    FundEmentalists! They’re demented, and we have fun with it?

  • Mary G

    “..there’s a “Christian” bookstore here… that won’t sell any Bibles besides the KJV. What’s up with that? If they could only open their minds they could see how very far from the original texts that version is.

    AND

    This is from one of those people who can’t understand the KJV only argument from a theological or a historical perspective.

    *********

    Ok, having NOW read the other comments, I want to know which version(s) of the Bible ya’ll read. I was raised Episcopalian, became Baha’i at age 17, and the only time I read another version (The Living Bible, some time in the 1970′s) I read the 23 Psalm and found it very unpleasant to read. It read like common slang to me. I love the poetry of the KJV, even if most of what I read makes no sense to me. LOL

    I’d love to know which version I can read that will help me actually UNDERSTAND the Bible!

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ sdgalloway

      I generally use the NLT or the Message. sometimes the NIV. I have biblegateway.com bookmarked.

    • k.

      The best translation–in terms of accuracy and readability–that I’ve encountered is the NRSV.

    • JAy.

      I agree with k. that the NRSV is a very good translation that adequately bridges the divide between literal and non-literal translations. That said, I find that the NASB, NIV, the KJV, and the NKJV can all add appropriately to a Biblical discussion. The Message Bible is another interesting read, but can be very difficult on some passages, especially if you are used to the KJV.

      And, yes, Biblegateway.com is also a fabulous resource, which I use regularly. Unfortunately, they do not pay for the NRSV.

    • http://kenreads.wordpress.com wken

      The poetry of the KJV is nice, yes. And I do read it sometimes, but mostly I read the NIV or NLT. I was raised on the RSV and have at least one of those lying around somewhere.

    • http://myfanwe.wordpress.com Meg

      I use The Message almost exclusively, but I also like the American Standard Version and the New King James.

  • Tim

    I’m on the funduhmentallist. And that isn’t the image of Jesus on the Shroud of Turin. It’s a giant pair of skid-marked briefs.

    • Suz

      Thank you, (I think) for adding that little Je ne sais quois to a post that ALREADY had me in fits at work today! Who LAUGHS while reading Christian blogs?

      I do! I do!

  • melissa

    John, I have read this three times so far today, not because I don’t get it, but because I relate so well to it and it has given me great levity in this horrible day I am having. Working in this fundy environment has gotten on my last nerve today. I feel a nose bleed coming on from working up here in the company of God’s chosen, chosen ones.

    • melissa

      OH, and Jesus would never go to an art fair…are you kidding me? Jesus only sits in rooms where people are worshiping.

  • http://www.shadsie.deviantart.com Shadsie

    “Homer-sexuals” you say?

    Homer-sexual

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omvKySSRa2Y&feature=related

    Why, yes, I’m a geek. I actually searched for that specific clip.

  • Kim

    I use the NRSV, NIV and The Message. Very good post today and so true.

  • Debbie

    Yes – ‘exactly the same’ – I am not much of a Rick Warren fan anyway – I prefer a Gospel Driven Life to a Purpose Driven Vainglory.

    I was searching for the ten participants who were going to define radical and couldn’t find it yet I don’t think I would have read anything radical anyway.

    Good post cactus.

  • Suz

    John, if this is you being “broken,” please stay that way! You absolutely made my day, here in Hooterville among the folks who send you those emails.

  • Donald Rappe

    I was brought up with KJV but have fallen in love with NEB.

    ‘Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord,

    rejoice, rejoice, my spirit, in God my saviour;

    so tenderly has he looked upon his servant, humble as she is.

    (NEB)

    The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

    (KJV)

    Although I think RSV and Jerusalem Bibles are good, I like to feel a little poetry in the book.

    • Donald Rappe

      Love that picture of the young John the baptist!

  • Tim

    KJV? John 3:16 in the PidginBible

    “God wen get so plenny love an aloha fo da peopo inside da world, dat he wen send me, his one an ony Boy, so dat everybody dat trus me no get cut off from God, but get da real kine life dat stay to da max foeva.”

    • http://myfanwe.wordpress.com Meg

      I prefer the LOLKatz version: So liek teh Ceiling Kitteh lieks teh ppl lots and he sez ‘Oh hai I givez u me only kitteh and ifs u beleeves him u wont evr diez no moar, kthxbai!’17 Cuz teh Ceiling Kitteh not snd hiz son 2 take all yur cookies, but so u cud maek moar cookies 4EVAR! John 3:16

      • Susan G.

        Oh! LOLKatz translation makes me laugh and spew iced tea all over my screen! LOVELOVELOVE!

  • Shannon Bass

    “Elizabetheans…I think that’s why they wore those massive round neck collars: they blocked offensive upward-wafting aromas.”

    It’s insight like this that brings me joy daily because I know someone out there is smart enough to be making a difference being as twisted as I am. Thanks again John!

  • Happyfeet87

    Hi all, this is 23 yr. old lesbian from the letter last week. I’m changing my screen name because I want to stick around here for awhile, and I’d like to use something a little less unwieldy.

    First of all, it’s posts like this that made me start reading this blog in the first place, so thanks for that. :)

    Secondly, I WHOLEHEARTEDLY AGREE with John’s assessment of his commenters. You guys… I can’t thank you enough. I read every single comment. I think I’m going to print them out, so I can read them for the rest of my life. I wish I knew every single one of you in real life, but I’ll settle for getting to know you online.

    The past week has been crazy. More drama and sadness with my parents, issues with my job, stress over the future. I’ve pretty much made the decision that I won’t be moving to the town that my parents live in to go to school. Oh, and the girl that I mentioned liking in my letter? We “officially” started dating.

    I’m terrified, but also exhilarated. I feel like I’ve turned a corner, and having John post my letter and reading all of your comments was a huge mood lifter for me. I love you all, seriously.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      You know you inspired me to start this whole series, right?

      http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Smith-Family-Chronicles/196158427075318?sk=wall

      • Happyfeet87

        I do know that! The first installment was extremely emotional, and yeah, pretty much totally accurate. I can’t wait to see what else happens with Jane.

        • http://www.shadsie.deviantart.com Shadsie

          I read the letter and kind of wanted to say something, but did not know if I had the wisdom to – and so let other people give their advice. I’m not gay. I’m sort of asexual-in-a-straight-relationship, if that makes any sense. In fact, I used to be homophobic because it’s what church told me to be… for a while. (I always ask people to forgive me for that).

          My thoughts when reading the letter were along the line of an analogy: A good way to judge how much people in your life will accept you is to imagine their reaction if you *actually did something wrong.* I know that my parents will always love me – why? I know what handcuffs feel like (and not in the fun way) and they didn’t disown me. (For the record, I never actually went to prison..) EXCEPT to visit my brother, who did something worse and was incarcerated for three years. My parents could have disowned him. Instead, my parents and I visited him an average of every two weeks, on visit days, when we could, and we wrote letters back and forth.

          I know that my parents would accept me if I were gay (or any other thing not quite understood by larger society) because, hey – if you love someone who’s been an actual criminal, love is there.

          • http://www.shadsie.deviantart.com Shadsie

            *Waves hands around* Ick, ick I just realized how people can take what I said the wrong way like whoa….. heading that off at the pass…

            I am NOT saying that being gay is being a criminal or in any way like a criminal here. I’m just saying, if you’re worried about people disowning you for something that’s neutral that (they think is bad), try to imagine their reaction to your doing something that is *actually* bad – if soneone can accept you then, it is very likely that they’ll eventually come around to accepting the neutral thing they don’t understand when you prove the them that you’re still the you that they’ve always loved.

    • Megan

      I’m sorry there’s been stress (though we all go through that, right?), but overall. . . YAY, YAY, YAY, YAY, YAY!!!!!!! Sounds like you are taking some important positive steps toward having the life you absolutely deserve. And what a great new name you’ve chosen. And extra and: I’m going to be totally presumptuous and speak for everyone in saying, “we love you back!”

  • kim

    John,

    Please don’t sue me for plagiarism because I have to use the following quote in a memo I am writing- “There’s such a dangblangit fine line between “Funny!” and “Here’s Snikky and Snarky, the two fanged minions who throughout eternity will be jabbing at you with searing tridents.”

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Ha, ha, ha! How I love sharing the laughter with my friends.

      I’ll send you a bill.


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