Fundamentalists: Problem solved!

Got this in yesterday:

Hello Mr. Shore. Thanks for your writing—I find your ideas inspirational. I have what is probably an obvious question, but I have yet to truly understand the answer. I’m curious how fundamentalists, who take the Bible as the literal word of God, are able to rationalize only adhering to certain of the Bible’s tenants. For instance, how did they become so focused on the rules around sexuality, but not around slavery, clothing, etc.? What is the rhetorical mechanism/rationalization that allows them to justify living by only some of the rules, yet get a free pass on the others? I mean no disrespect; what one chooses to believe is their right. I’m just wondering how a literalist would justify and defend against charges of hypocrisy. If it makes any difference, I’m a secular humanist Jew living in Boston, and am trying to understand all this. Many thanks for any insights, observations or resources. Best, T.

Dear T:

What a great question.

Here’s what I think it’s like inside the mind of a guy who’s a fundamentalist:

Hey, who turned out the lights?

Wait. Sorry. Lemme try again.

My sister is hot.

Sorry. Unforgivable joke. Sorry.

One more time.

I like my children’s Bible just fine. Lookit all the pictures!

Wait. This is getting ridiculous.

Check it out! If I get naked, I can count to twenty-one!

Okay, this failed.

Let me just try the more normal approach to answering this.

Obviously, for fundamentalists it’s not really about critical thinking. It’s about a very conditional emotional security. Mainly of course through the influence of his culture and upbringing, the fundamentalist has ultimately surrendered himself to the considerable seductive powers of the simplistic.

It’s so easy not to think. It hurts to read, concentrate, analyze, logically process—especially if your education has left you without a lot of the tools for engaging in that sort of endeavor. No one enjoys riding in a car with flat tires and lousy steering. Better just to stay where you are.

Venturing outside the neighborhood in which you are comfortable can also take a bit more courage than most people are inclined to muster. It’s scary to wander away from everything you’ve known and been taught.

The fundamentalist goes: “Any fool can question and doubt. But you start using questions to punch holes in the house that is your belief, and pretty soon you might as well be outside. Others may not know what they believe, but I do. I know what I believe; I know what my family believes; I know what my pastor believes; I know what everybody at my church believes. Let others pick God apart, whittling Him down till He’s no bigger than they are. Let them set sail on waters so choppy they can’t do anything but get tossed this way and that, and go nowhere. My boat is sturdy; my waters are calm.

“Keep your endless questions; I’ll take God. And the Bible is the pure and uncomplicated word of God. Believe that—believe in the simple, righteous message of the Bible—and be saved. Doubt it, and good luck staying off that slippery slope straight down to hell.”

The Christian true fundamentalist denies any hypocrisy inherent in his belief system by simply refusing to acknowledge that there is anything inherently contradictory in the Bible. Asking the fundamentalist to apply logic to his or her belief system is like asking a cat to fetch your slippers. Not going to happen. Not in the nature of the beast.

To the Christian fundamentalist, questions pointing to any kind of inherent problems with taking the Bible literally reveal but one thing: the person doing the questioning doesn’t have the Holy Spirit. If they did, they’d be so full of knowledge and certainty they’d have no reason to ask any questions at all.

* * *

Lest anyone think I’m too harshly anti-fundamentalists: A bit o’ fundy love, to name just one such piece.

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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.

  • K.E.

    This is a really good insight, thank you for sharing! I come from a very fundamentalist Southern Baptist family, but I myself am not (clearly, since I frequently read and enjoy your articles). We don’t argue about religion because there’s no point – we know where we stand, and we know that while we are all Christians, our interpretations of the Bible and Christianity are different.

    But I was never able to really understand why they are so hell-bent on clinging to their fundamentalist views, instead of branching out and thinking critically about the issues at hand. For me, the Bible is a beautiful book and message, but like any other tomb it needs to be viewed through the proper cultural and historical lens to be accurately understood and applied to modern life. To them, the idea of viewing the Bible through an appropriate cultural or historical lens is anathema – they see it as “watering down” the Bible, or “picking and choosing” what I want to believe. Now I think I understand, though – your description of where they’re at spiritually and intellectually makes sense.

    (I’m not saying that my fundamentalist family, or any fundamentalists, are intellectually inferior – just that as far as critical thinking goes, they aren’t comfortable applying those thought processes to the Bible, something they think is Holy and unerring, and therefore it would be wrong of them to turn a critical eye to any part of it.)

    So anyway, thanks again for this! While I still disagree with the way much of my family chooses to read and interpret the Bible, at least I have a better understanding now of why they feel that way.

    • Mindy

      This is decidedly off-point, but I have to comment. To say that someone is “not intellectually inferior but lacks critical thinking skills” is to sum up the reason we, the US, are falling behind the rest of the world educationally. While NCLB has every teacher in America teaching to the test, what they are NOT teaching is critical thinking skills. Skills absolutely imperative to creativity and the application of science to invention. Which leaves us with too many people at risk of being sucked into a fundie mindset, and not enough people out there loving, creating, inventing and building. And it scares the bejesus out of me . . .

      • K.E.

        I totally, 100% agree that No Child Left Behind is the bane of education in America and the reason we are so “good at” teaching to a standardized test, and so bad at teaching children the skills that are most important to a true, thorough education.

        But my point was that I just think that it’s important to delineate between not having been taught how to think critically, and being intellectually slow. I know plenty of people who are smart and CAN be taught how to think critically, and when they are, they come to a lot of amazing conclusions. The natural intellectual aptitude is there, they’ve simply never been taught how to look at something with a critical eye. Not having any foundation in being taught how to think critically doesn’t equate to stupidity or an inferior intellect.

        It’s worth stating, because I feel like a lot of people make the jump between “doesn’t think critically” and “is a stupid person” when I don’t find that to always be the case. Certain members of my family are a great example – smart people, people with college degrees and good jobs, etc., who simply do not know how to think critically about the Bible. They have always been taught that anything with the word “critical” in it as pertaining to the Bible means that you are *criticizing* the Bible, which they believe is wrong. In their mind, critical thinking about the Bible means you’re saying that the Bible is wrong, and they have never been in an environment that allowed or encouraged them to think intellectually about it without denying its veracity.

        Simply put, they were never taught how to think critically about the Bible. If someone taught them how to, without making them feel like they were questioning the very validity of their beliefs, then I’m sure they would be perfectly capable of doing so. The problem is that, at least with my family, they are so afraid of what they perceive to be criticizing the validity of the Bible that they don’t even know how to try, and get defensive when the idea is even suggested.

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

          Fear is a big factor all around, thus the photo John chose.

        • LSS

          Also many people who *are* intellectually slow have much less trouble understanding fundamental (in the real sense, not the religious sense) concepts like justice and compassion than regular people who might be bogged down in a particular dogma.

      • http://www.sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

        You don’t mean just the religious fundamentalism here, right? (With the lack of creativity, invention and so forth). To me it seems like a lot of people are stuck in this or that kind of “fundamentalism” or even just various forms of apathy.

        After reading some things about prominent people, I started thinking about the mentality of “viewing people only as potential converts.” I remember having this attitude for a time, and now I think it makes people miss out on… people. But I know it’s an attitude that not just religious people have because I’ve encountered (online) many, many anti-religious people who feel the same way – “not fully-human until you agree with me /think how I want you to think.”

        Even some of our subcultural stuff, brand-loyalty and coorporate loyalty can fall under this, whe I think about it. I don’t use PCs because I’m a boring whitebread drone who’s never tried a Mac, I drive the car I drive because I got a good deal on it and happen to like the model not because I’m a “Toyota Lady,” and etc.

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

          I think you’re right and this falls under ideals of “open-mindedness”. There is some liberal/conservative cognitive/psychological research into this that has been making the rounds that is quite fascinating.

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

          Here’s one such article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/howie-klein/the-liberal-mind-vs-the-c_b_85898.html

          There are other factors, I think, that other research has touched on like in-group loyalty and respect for authority being more highly favored by conservatives than by liberals. And psychological factors like self-awareness and ego come into play all around.

          Here’s another fascinating article about political mindset: http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/haidt08/haidt08_index.html

          • http://www.sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

            I remember quite some time ago reading something on a link someone posted at some forgotten board regarding a book/series of essays on Authoritariansim – and there are many kinds. While there was a chapter on the religious kind, most of it was on the political kind and basically proposed that “people of a certain type feel the most comfort when they are following authority figures – when what they should and shouldn’t do/should and shouldn’t believe is decided for them.” Something like that.

            The first article you posted… while interesting, I don’t find much value in it. It seems like another one of those “certain people seem to be a little too eager to erase the concept of free will from the collective mindset.” And, in my experience, it’s WRONG. People change their minds, their ways and their politics throughout life. Maybe some people don’t, but I’m living proof that some people do. It’s annoying to be told I don’t or shouldn’t exist by “experts,” you know?

            Which brings in the other article – the parts about Republicans making themselves the “party of the sacred” – maybe Democrats and Liberals need to become that, too, and not just in the abstract, but maybe for the party to gain strength, more people of Democratic persuasion who do believe in God/Higher Power and other religious ideals ought to be more vocal about it. I mean, I get the feeling all the time, that again, I am not allowed to exist – in my political ideals, I find myself siding with athiests more often than with “my own kind” and yet I also feel like I cannot be on the side of issues I’m on the side of becuase “you believe in God. Ew. Go back to Reagan.” If people persist in vocalising and advertising such attitudes, more people will “stay with Reagan” or go back to him simply because of the insistence on exclusion and/or non-existance of certain people.

            I also find it interesting that the guy in the second article basically had to go to another country and immerse himself in another culture in order to appreciate the *basic humanity* of his fellow Americans. It reminds me of the Anthony Bourdain episode where he went to Texas and found out that he actually liked a lot of people me met there only *after* he decided to treat the trip like going to another country. Maybe there ought to be charities funding everyone in America go abroad to deeply foreign cultures for a while, just for the sake of us coming back to see the basic “human” in each other. Politics might go a lot smoother if that were to happen, maybe.

          • LSS

            That’skind of what happened to me about the south. Except sometimes it un-happens. But my students are so various that they always knock some perspective back into me. I learn a lot from my students because how else is a person as a-social as me going to meet 80-100 people every semester? They are the largest community of people that i have contact with.

        • K.E.

          That’s a great point, regarding “fundamentalism” in all its forms, not just religious. It seems like there are “fundamentalist” personalities that tend towards fundamentalism in all its forms, not just religious, but also political, or in terms of their construction of gender roles and other social interactions, etc. I think what Christy said is right on the money – it comes down to whether you are a generally “open minded” person, a progressive who welcomes change, or whether you are more generally conservative as an individual – not just conservative in a political sense, but also in the sense of religion, personal values, etc. One values change and moving forward, while the other values holding onto tradition and staying in the same comfortable spot, even if that spot may not be so great.

        • http://www.facebook.com/john10423 John Gragson

          good point. fundamentalists do come in all stripes–atheists (who can border on the obnoxious), people who think their vision of the Constitution is “the original intent” (generally when it yields the result they want), even sports fans or those who think a certain model of truck is superior–you name it. i think human beings generally have a tendency to retreat into a set of comfortable beliefs. it’s self-affirming. liberals do this less, perhaps, but i’ve seen it on the left as well as the right.

          • http://www.sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

            Here’s a short passage from a short story I wrote recently… wonder if it might be a bit relevant:

            “The way I see it,” Kallin said slowly, still keeping his eyes and his ears attuned to the surroundings, “Everybody’s gotta have faith in something. For some, it’s a god or a gaggle of ‘em. For others, it’s some big idea like ‘Their People’ or ‘The Future.” For some, it’s the idea that they’re just plain better ‘en others – a wolf among sheep or a smart person in a sea of dumb. I feel sorry for the last kind, ‘cause it really seems like it’s all they’ve got – for most of ‘em. Call me a bastard who hates other bastards, maybe.”

            From this: http://sparrowmilk.blogspot.com/2012/02/sword-and-sage.html

            Posting because I found something even more relevant to the disscussion on the whole while browsing Cracked . com … An article about why people don’t get along with each other in general, written in the traditional-for-Cracked snarky-style. A fun read and I find very true:

            http://www.cracked.com/blog/4-reasons-humans-will-never-understand-each-other/

            The articles that were linked above do try to understand the “other” and what I like about this blog is that it tries to understand the “other” with a heavy dose of humor but without demonization. In other words, I find a lot of people here *aren’t* falling into trap #1 of the above article: We know that “understanding ISN’T the same as agreeing with.”

            I have to wonder if people falling into #1 is reason why we have so much frustration and talk about failures in critical thinking.

  • Melissa Chamberlin

    Wow, great response. In my heart I have questioned the Holy Spirit’s activity within a Fundi’s heart. I don’t understand how the Holy Spirit, so pure and full of wonder and compassion, can produce such hard core beliefs of exclusion and condemnation from this type of person. People who are like this in my life are some of the most rigid and unloving people that I NEED the Holy Spirit for the most to love THEM.

  • Gary

    “Check it out! If I get naked, I can count to eleven!”

    I am going to be laughing my ass off at this line for days.

    Thanks John…Brilliant insight into the fundy mind. Your post today is spot on!!

    • http://www.buzzdixon.com buzz

      The irony, of course, is that the modern fundamentalist movement devolved from the real fundamentalists of centuries earlier, people who questioned where the overlay of tradition / culture / interpretation to the Bible was correct and went back to the original source material to study what it said, ponder it, question, and evaluate.

      • Diana A.

        True that!

      • Andrew Raymond

        Exactly, buzz!

      • Gary

        I agree. In truth I believe we are more authentic fundamentalists by far.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nwbuckeye Pat Hux via Facebook

    Quite true. Been there. Seen that. Was that. But God gave me the ability to reason and the desire to be free. Came out. Still coming out. No, not that closet….. ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Carin-Cryderman/681781278 Carin Cryderman via Facebook

    touche.

  • http://leap-of-fate.com Christy

    As I’ve said here before: The faith of my youth left reason and biblical scholarship on the doorstep of moral certainty, and certainty is so bright and shiny and terribly blinding. Thanks for this, John.

    • K.E.

      “Certainty is so bright and shiny and terribly blinding.”

      I wish there was a “like” button for this!

  • Carl Johnson via Facebook

    Brother John, I liken the blind Faith forged by ignorance and a lack of questioning to be like a ship tethered to the dock.

    “A ship in harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are for.” John Shedd

    • Mindy

      I LOVE this quote. I’m stealing it. :)

      • Susan G.

        Me too!!!

  • http://twitter.com/dland Dave Land

    Well, yeah, but where’s the love of Christ in this explanation, Brother John? I am a decidedly UNfundamentalist Christian, and I find little in common with the fundie mindset, but they ARE my brothers and sisters. I may disagree with their way of grasping the Divine, may find it harmful and damaging to our shared religion, but for me to be “Christian” — “of Christ” — I need to find a way to love them, to believe that they come to their way of believing honestly, Are at least as sincere in their desire to know and serve God as I am, maybe even more. They are no more “faux” Christians than I am. They are sinners like me, fallen and falling short of the glory of God, needing forgiveness and grace. Better for me to root out the fear that underpins my own orthodoxy than to laugh at others’.

    • Gary

      For a “decidedly UNfundamentalist Christian”, your beef with John’s post sounds very fundy to me.

      Just sayin…

      • Joanne

        Gary, I don’t see this in Dave’s reply at all. I see him reaching out with love and compassion towards fundamentalists. He calls them his brothers and sisters and says he needs a way to love them. Where is the fundamentalism in that? I just see someone who is willing to attempt to dialogue with them. That’s an incredible thing because he will be beating his head against the wall with some of them, yet he’s willing to reach out.

        • Gary

          Really? Go back and read it again.

          It is not the looking for ways to reach and to love fundies that I was referring to. I do that in fact since my family is full of them. My comment was because he then wandered squarely into fundamental territory with the whole sinner saved by grace routine and the we are all so unworthy rhetoric used as a platform to criticize John’s post.

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

      Dave: There’s no particular reason for you to know this, but I’ve done quite a bit of writing—here, on my blog—in defense of the fundamentalist’s mindset. Here, for instance:

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/2011/07/10/remembering-the-true-love-of-christ-lived-out-by-fundamentalists/

      • http://twitter.com/dland Dave Land

        John and others: I’m listening. And reading. And questioning. And will continue to do so with the help of God as delivered by good people like you.

        • Gary

          Dave, for the record I think you are very sincere. It took me a long time to realize how deeply ingrained my inner fundy was. Eventually I came to the conclusion however that to believe I was in a moral position to lecture others, even cloaked in humility, represented the very fundamental mindset I had come to despise.

          Let’s face it…fundies can be so difficult to comprehend. John chose to address the question posed to him by a reader by employing some humor along the way. I won’t fault him for it.

    • http://leap-of-fate.com Christy

      Nowhere did he say they were faux. He answered the question “why” and “how” for the letter writer.

    • Hannah Grace

      I really respect your insistence that the most important thing to do is to love, whether that’s loving people who think the way you do, or people who you disagree with. I agree, and would think that any Christian would, since love is the most basic Biblical responsibility.

      I think you can love someone and disagree with them at the same time, though. However, I think it’s important to do that respectfully, rather than by mocking people. Whether or not this article was too mocking is up for debate…I winced a couple times at the “they’re dumb outsiders” mentality at the beginning, too. It seemed a bit too much like the “us vs them” mentality we so often attribute to fundies themselves. Especially since the article John linked about loving fundies wasn’t even written by him, but was a letter (a great letter, by the way) written by someone else. I’m sure he has other similar articles around, though, that I haven’t noticed, and probably picked that one only because it was so perfect.

      That said, this is the kind of attitude and way of joking I notice myself using all the time. It’s so easy to see something unpleasant and imperfect elsewhere, but so hard to notice it in one’s own self. So I guess this was a good article for learning where the planks in my eye are.

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

        Honestly, I have too many articles showing love to fundies to choose just one: I didn’t even know the one I chose was a letter from someone else; I chose it so quickly. And why not choose to show that; I did, after all, edit and run it on my blog. That’s not nothing.

        And I’m comfortable with the “us” vs. “them” thing–depending. I don’t have any love for, say, Nazis who are rounding up Jews. I can’t. I can love them ultimately, as is so easy to do. But when people are getting hurt–as fundamentalists these day are so often hurting, say, gay people–then I’m compelled to take to sides. You should be, too.

    • Dr

      Anger is an activating agent. To ask “where is the love” in stating something directly, plainly and boldly and pointing out how wrong it is and even saying how angry one is about it is not unloving. It is a manipulative suggestion to suggest that anger and stating it is ” unloving”. It is time for accountability and a reckoning of impact, the “all have fallen short” – while being true – is now an excuse to hide from the conflict of calling our fundamentalist brothers and sisters out on their horribly abusive behavior. It is also an excuse for those of us who are smarter and know better but lack the courage and commitment needed to step in and do the damage control on their. Shelf when they are unwilling or incapable of doing so themselves.

  • shadowspring

    I was born into fundamentalism. I was raised in fundamentalism. So naturally, once I had an amazing encounter with Divine Love whom I know as Jesus, I returned to the fundamentalist church and kept interpreting what I had experienced through a fundamentalist lens.

    It was a long confusing experience. I kept thinking we (the fundamentalists and I) meant the same things by the same words. It just wasn’t true. I kept bumping up against all the unspoken taboos (I am a woman, so it wasn’t hard. Lolz.) and just being so confused. After a long time, I think I figured it out.

    Most fundamentalists do not know Jesus. They know *about* Jesus, but a lot of what they know are untruths. For instance, John wrote that Jesus was the Word made flesh, and that He dwelt among us. Jesus said, “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.” As best as I can see, that means Jesus came to show us what God was really like. This was necessary because the prophets who came before were unable to do God justice, and the Law was NOT a reflection of the true nature of God. Paul laid all that our in the book of Galatians. On the Mount of Transfiguration, if the Bible is a true account, God Himself exalted Jesus above Moses (the Law) and Elijah (the prophets).

    The unmistakeable message, to me, is that Jesus truly reflects the heart and will of God. His life is the One worth studying if you want to know what God is like.

    To the fundamentalist, that is not the case. The fundamentalists refer to the entire Bible as “the Word of God”. Therefore, when they read that Jesus is the Word of God make flesh, they actually break that down as Jesus=the Bible. They interpret obeying “the Bible” as obeying Jesus. I am not making this up.

    Jesus spoke of this mystery called being born again, saying it was unpredictable as to who, when and where this happens, like the source of the wind was at that time a mystery to mankind. (It’s not a mystery anymore, but it was then.) A fundamentalist will tell you there is no mystery to it at all: repeat the Sinner’s Prayer and magically you are now born again. Unless you doubt, question, or otherwise fail to conform to the full fundamentalist culture following that prayer. You can have some time to get in line, at first, but if you are not whole-heartedly following their doctrines, then you probably weren’t really born again when YOU prayed that prayer.

    No mystery. Repeat after me, I now pronounce you “born again”. Or not.

    The culture of fundamentalism is the true God being worshiped in their churches. Where their culture says the OT is obsolete, it is obsolete. Where their culture declares it still in force, it is still in force. It’s more about creating cultural conformity than anything else. If you are a big enough financial contributor, you can even influence you sub-groups doctrines to give you a free pass for when you break the rules. You know, like the deacon “tempted” by the teenage babysitter (that Jezebel!).

    There has to be an enemy to coalesce a group identity. Gays, liberals, feminists, Democrats (am I missing anyone) serve that purpose for fundamentalists. It’s about passing on a way of living, fundamentalist culture. It stopped being about Jesus when the doctrine of inerrancy came out, reducing the gospels themselves to a lowly 4/66 of the ‘Word of God”.

    • Gary

      I spent 40 years as a fundy. Your insight into their thinking is brilliant.

    • Jennifer

      Very well put!

    • http://leap-of-fate.com Christy

      I third that. Those of us who’ve lived it truly know you are not making it up. So well said.

    • http://rindle.blogspot.com/ Lyn

      Islam– big enemy of the fundamentalists.

      • http://rindle.blogspot.com/ Lyn

        And, yes, well-said.

    • Jim

      Well said. It’s very easy to see the hypocrisy once we have lived through it as you have. And thankfully God will use that experience to bring us to true faith in Him, and not in some misguided group’s poor image of Him.

    • Cat

      You left out all of the Non-Christian people out there. Whether they are Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Taoist, Sikh, Wiccan, Druids, Shamans … they are all enemies to Fundamentalism. I do agree with your reply to the blog … but I wanted to point out that there is a REALLY big group of people who are enemies to Fundamentalism.

      I am one of “them”… a person who has taken aspects of Druidry and aspects of Shamanism and also aspects of Wicca to weave a whole that makes sense to me. Then again, I am “other” so am not bound by “original sin” or the need for “salvation”. I am part Lakota and the majority of the rest of my genetic background came from the British Isles. Both were communities that were at least partially isolated from the Middle East so I can not be bound by “original sin”. I am the definition of “dangerous” to most Fundies.

    • http://www.barnmaven.com Barnmaven

      “There has to be an enemy to coalesce a group identity”

      Yes.

      This is also one of the fundamental steps a fascist government uses to convince the population to allow them to pass laws that take away the rights of the individual. A common enemy is one of the most necessary elements in any attempt to control a culture.

    • Don Rappe

      I too believe your analysis is excellent. I praise the Risen Christ for visiting you. Your last sentence indicates why I prefer to refer to inerrancy as a “heresy”. It is not a mere mistake, like others. Its structure works demonically against the faith. When the “66″ are read with almost any serious intent by any serious person, whether highly educated or not, they cry out to be understood. The messages can burn what is bad, heal what is sick and inspire what is dull. The reason for pretending the belief in a literal understanding is often to attempt to numb out the awareness of the true content of scripture. It is a frequent motivator for the bibliolatry you describe. Idolizing the Bible in this way makes it useless, by neutralizing it! (IMHO)

      • Don Rappe

        Or the worship of their own culture, like a nationalism. Food for thought. Perhaps the Unlistened to Bible is only one idol of their culture. I like your analysis.

  • Derek Chapel via Facebook

    So true!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Derek-A-Collins/563951499 Derek A Collins via Facebook

    Now I know the answer!! It’s the Bible’s tenants! We can blame it all on them!

    Wait… There’s no one living in my Bible…

    • Erin D.

      That made me chuckle. :)

  • Valerie

    My response to those that say I shouldn’t question God’s holy word is to say that even Abraham and Moses and Noah questioned God. God invites questions and answers them. In my opinion, and I know everyone has one, if your faith cannot handle a little questioning then you do not actually have faith in God.

    • Susan G.

      There is no question too tough for God! There are questions, however, that are too tough for us – that’s what makes God God and us us!

      (Doesn’t that sentence read weirdly? I had to read it aloud to ensure it was grammatically correct!) ;-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/William-Kilmer/100000427786435 William Kilmer via Facebook

    Does anyone remember the story of the man who built his house upon the sand. So many of the apparently devout fall away, at least for a time, because they were unprepared for a storm. An unexamined faith is a vulnerable faith. Or so it seems to me.

    • Diana A.

      I love this! I’d never heard this interpretation of the “house on sand vs. house on rock” parable. But you’re absolutely right!

    • Andrew Raymond

      Well said, William.

      • Dianne Mc

        Excellent, William!

    • http://www.barnmaven.com Barnmaven

      It seems to me as well, William. Well stated.

  • Lyn

    Here’s the thing that gets me. I’ve sat in my pretty fundamentalist church and listened to my preacher explain from the pulpit the nuances of “metanoia” or “agape” or how we can’t look at passages about slaves and slavery and equate them to America’s enslavement of Africans and their descendants, but must understand the cultural context of the slavery that existed at the time. And then these self-same fundamentalists go foaming at the mouth if I discuss the nuances of “to’evah” or “malakoi” and “arsenokoites” or eschew imposing our cultural context of marriage on the text. I really, truly don’t get how one is approaching the text with respect and the other is not. It’s hypocritical.

    • http://leap-of-fate.com Christy

      You’re right. It is. Because it does not comport with what they have already decided is “right” and “wrong”.

    • Mindy

      It is, Lyn. And while I totally get – and believe – John’s description of the average fundamentalist parishioner, I find it utterly inexcusable in their church leaders. Because they are supposedly educated on Biblical matters, and if they understand cultural context with regard to one part, they have to understand it with regard to all parts. They are the truly evil ones, in my book. They are the ones who are intentionally hypocritical, in order to maintain their position of power over their submissive flock. It is sickening, truly.

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

        Mindy, but their clergy are only educated by others who hold the same theology. It is not an inclusive education of Biblical scholarship. It is from a Fundamentalist worldview which is inherently limited.

        • CJ Barker

          Exactly. The average Bible College curriculum wouldn’t give anyone a clue what has been thought and debated about these things- or why.

          • Hannah Grace

            So true. Ahhh, who is to blame? No one would be doing anything which would hurt Christians unless they thought it was right, surely. Fundamentalists often hurt others so deeply, despite having the best intentions in the world. It is such a tragedy.

  • http://thesewingexperiment.wordpress.com/ Sensible Seamstress

    K.E. said “But my point was that I just think that it’s important to delineate between not having been taught how to think critically, and being intellectually slow. I know plenty of people who are smart and CAN be taught how to think critically, and when they are, they come to a lot of amazing conclusions. The natural intellectual aptitude is there, they’ve simply never been taught how to look at something with a critical eye. Not having any foundation in being taught how to think critically doesn’t equate to stupidity or an inferior intellect.”

    This post… I hardly know where to start. I am the person K.E. described. I was a hidden smart person. I didn’t know I was smart until I left fundamentalist Christianity. I was never encouraged to engage in critical thinking. Critical thinking = questioning God = sliding down the slippery slope to rejection of God. But once I escaped the strait jacket and began thinking, well… a whole new world opened up to me. A world that is still opening up, I must admit.

    If you were to ask me to narrow down the one glaring answer to the original question of this post, I believe it’s this:

    power, control, kingship

    Mindy basically said that she understands what happens to the people in the pews; it’s the leadership she can’t excuse, and I agree. As long as the fundie church leaders (men, I might add) keep the pew-warmers in the dark, then they, the leaders, have the knowledge, and the power, and the glory forever, Amen.

    The way you keep that power is to say, “Don’t ask these questions about the Bible, and our interpretation of it! That’s the equivalent of saying you don’t trust God! And that’s pride! And that’s a sin! God is too great for you to understand, so just trust us when we tell you what to do and how to think.” It’s a wonderfully cyclical trap, and hard to escape when you want with all your soul to be a good Christian.

  • Lymis

    I met one fundamentalist who defended his mindset in one of the most frightening ways I’ve ever seen.

    Faith was the most important thing, and God wanted his faith more than anything else. Therefore, the most dangerous thing Satan could do was cause him to doubt what he believed, and the most effective way to get him to doubt was by using logic, facts, and reasonable discussion to cause him to think about what he believed.

    In all seriousness, this man appeared to feel that the more logical and reasonable an argument against Biblical literalism and his current take on the Bible was, the more evident proof it was that the argument was the work of Satan. And by extension, the more unrealistic and ungrounded in reality a belief was, the more proof it was that it was the work of God, whose ways are mysterious. Not only was he functionally impervious to logic, he actually felt that listening to logical arguments would send him to Hell.

    Luckily, I’ve met far more people of the “I just don’t bother to think about it” school than people like him, but they’re out there.

    • Gary

      It is scary how closely this resembles so many I used to trust in my fundamental church background.

    • erika

      what a scary way to live.

    • Dan(Chicago)

      Pretty common. I’m guessing he also used the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness by Satan as part of the argument? They used to say nobody knows Scripture like Satan.

    • http://leap-of-fate.com Christy

      Sadly, sounds familiar, Lymis.

    • Don Rappe

      It is frightening because it is in fact, demonic.

  • Florence Davis via Facebook

    I don’t believe spiritual blindness is a condition religious people choose any more than victims of racism & poverty choose their plight. Fundamentalism / legalism / right-wing Evangelicalism is the result of denominational brainwashing that often begins in childhood for many long-term-churched-people. IMHO, we as Progressive Christians are called to show as much compassion for those who suffer from spiritual poverty due to their religious oppression as we do for those who may suffer from economic poverty because of their social oppression. I feel we are to heed God’s call to be “the aroma of Christ among those who r being saved as well as those who are perishing” (2 Cor. 2:15). We are called, not to cringe away, but to love those who may be unreasonable and simply dogmatic in defending their faith. It’s only by God’s grace that oppressive belief systems are dismantled in a person’s life, whether they be racism, sexism, or religious indoctrination . . . so let’s not judge the jugemental, let’s love them too!

    • Dianne Mc

      Thank you for that Florence, I agree. Making fun of those who might have had no choice but to be brought up in areas where the only church available was Fundamentalist doesn’t make us any better than the very people who are close minded and make us crazy with their judgmental attitudes. I love your humor John, and I get it, but being one of those who felt like I lived in a third world country most of my life when it came to education and religion, I think we have to take that into consideration, even when it drives us Cuck Coo…LOL

    • cat rennolds

      you may be right in general, but I KNOW people who have chosen it, coming from places where they weren’t brainwashed, jumping into places where they were. Because it felt safer. It’s a lot easier to follow the rules when you know what they are, even if they don’t make sense. I for one am getting exhausted with having always to parse every decision I make, because I don’t HAVE an auto-default “this is what the rules are.” Except love. and there’s a lot of leeway in that:)

      • vj

        “The only rule is Love” – what a great thing to try to remember….

        Rom 13:8-10

        Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

    • http://leap-of-fate.com Christy

      This is lovely, Florence.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Elizabeth-Rossano/100001148589372 Elizabeth Rossano via Facebook

    Amen Florence!

  • http://www.facebook.com/rainbowgoddess Iris Gray via Facebook

    Fundamentalist churches promise their followers “We have all the answers. Just do what we say and everything will be okay.” That’s comforting to a lot of people when we live in a very big, very scary world. Unfortunately, they don’t have all the answers; no one does.

  • Dianne Mc

    Well, I just made that huge mistake earlier today of getting drawn into an argument with the wife of my former Fundamentalist Pastor. I love them dearly, but she was making fun of Obama and saying he was Muslim etc…and I couldn’t help myself..yes..I did it, I broke the golden rule and defended Obama on Facebook and they are all preparing for my final damnation in hell as we speak. But when I tried to explain that even Franklin Graham had admitted that Obama was obviously Christian (reluctantly) the response was, “But when my Spirit dose not bear witness with another’s spirit it raises a flag ! The fact that he canceled the National Day of Prayer at the White House and then allowed the Muslim to have pray there and as well as his lack of support for Israel tells me he is not a real friend of Christians or Israel ” Well, let your imagination run wild about the rest of the conversation. I am growing horns and looking for my pitch fork now. I can remember when I would have been right there with her and condemning everything left and right of me. It still leaves me a bit confused that if what I was taught all my life was true, then only a very very very few people in all the world would actually be right, saved and going to heaven and the rest will burn in torment for eternity. And 90 percent of those going to heaven would be from America. Even though I was raised in the backwoods and could fit in to many of John’s jokes, even I know better than that.

    • Dianne Mc

      And let me add, she said that no true saved person would be against Israel. So is that the new measure of how we know who is saved and who is not saved? I actually know people who are not even aware of Israel and the biblical implications of supporting the country or the whole “chosen people” thingy and they seem very Christian to me. Think I should tell them??? LOL

      • http://www.facebook.com/john10423 John Gragson

        ironically, Israel treats its native Christians (who are overwhelmingly Palestinians) quite as shabbily as it does Palestinian Moslems. while i don’t go so far as to suggest Israel has no right to exist, i’ve had no use for the “true Christians should support Israel” argument ever since i found that out!

      • http://rindle.blogspot.com/ Lyn

        I’ll have to tell my daughter’s best friend– a Christian Palestinian– that she’s not saved.

      • Andrew Raymond

        Hmmm. Aren’t these also the same fundies who hate Jews? How do you love Israel and hate Jews??? Oh wait — apply rule #1, no critical thinking allowed :-).

        • Ember

          If this explains anything…There’s a whole mess of people who believe that The Second Coming will only go down once ALL Jews are returned to their given land. There’s some slick marketing involved in funding that impossibility, too, a lot of it put out by Pat Robertson’s gang.

          • Andrew Raymond

            Ember, yes it explains a few things. And it scares me :-). But I had more in kind the types who would burn Jews at the stake because they were ‘Christ Killers’.

        • Lymis

          How do you love Israel and hate Jews? That’s easy. By feeling that any Jew who doesn’t convert to Christianity is subhuman and worthy of hate. If you have a vision of Israel as the Christian Holy Land, then anyone there who isn’t (the right kind of) Christian is a blot on the landscape.

          How do you love America and hate Hispanics, African-Americans, Liberal, and gay people? By having a narrow view of who “counts.” Same deal.

          I’m not defending it, but it isn’t that hard a concept. They don’t actually love the modern political state of Israel. They love the fantasy version of it that they hold in their heads, full of shepherds and miracles and burning bushes.

          • Andrew Raymond

            Lymis, my mind can envision it, but OH what an ugly vision!!

      • Hannah Grace

        Whooaaa massive can of worms. I’d say that I don’t think that massive human rights violations and ethnic cleansing is what Jesus would do, so I’m not going to support Israel, especially since his kingdom is “not of this world”. But then I’d leave it at that.

    • Susan G.

      Also, Dianne – http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/prayerday.asp – it’s just not true that Obama cancelled any day of prayer (designated by Reagan as the first Thursday in May) – he’ll issue a proclamation this year as he has for every other year about it. And, for the record, he asserts that he prays PRIVATELY every day – just the way Jesus told his followers to pray in Matt: 6:5-6!

      Congratulations on opening your heart, mind and spirit to a view of The Christ that welcomes, comforts and affirms!

      • Dianne Mc

        Thank you for sharing that Susan. I would love to share that with my friends, but as I told someone lately, I believe Jesus and John the Baptist could come back and tell them face to face that Obama was not Muslim and they wouldn’t believe it, and more important…what if he were Muslim? So what? They don’t like Mitt Romney because he is Mormon, they say that is a cult, they don’t like Newt Gingrich now that he is Catholic because he prays to Mother Mary and confesses to a Priest, but they are considering Rick Santorum…don’t know why, guess because he says sex of any type is bad. LOL

        • Andrew Raymond

          Dianne, you can always tell them that Santorum is a Catholic. Not that he’s any kind of role model for a good Catholic, of course.

          • Dianne Mc

            That is true Andrew, but I guess the anybody but Romney and ABSOLUTELY anybody but Obama is the new mantra. These people have Obama’s picture beside Hitler, Lenin, Castro…you know what I am talking about. They have given up on him being the Anti-Christ..I think…

          • Andrew Raymond

            I thought they were hoping for the rapture. Wouldn’t the appearance of the anti-Christ be a good thing then? I guess I’m most interested in where they’d go once they had to disqualify Santorum. But I expect it would just frighten me…

          • Dianne Mc

            I think they are holding out for Palin or maybe Jeb Bush to rush in at the last moment and save us from the Muslim. Who knows? I have given up on trying to figure out what they think anymore, it just makes me sad and wonder how I sat under that sort of exclusive, hate and single minded preaching for so long.

          • Andrew Raymond

            Yep, that frightens me :-). My heart goes out to you for having to deal with that in your youth. My Jesuit-educated youth was no picnic, but at least they encouraged us to think critically (up to the point at which they leaned on ‘It’s a mystery…’ of course.)

    • http://rindle.blogspot.com/ Lyn

      Gah! I suppose snopes.com is a liberal, Satanic organisation. Here, how about the National Day of Prayer website– http://nationaldayofprayer.org/news/2010-presidential-proclamation/ — and this — http://blogs.cbn.com/thebrodyfile/archive/2010/04/22/president-obama-defends-national-day-of-prayer.aspx

      For someone who supposedly canceled the event, it’s sure strange that he decided to defend it…

      I’m one of those crazy people who thinks Christians should be seeking the truth and not spreading falsehoods.

      • Dianne Mc

        LOL Lyn love it. Yeah, the conversation went just as you suspected. The amount of hate and animosity for this President and the disrespect he has been shown by some “Christians” is just beyond me. It makes me sort of sad actually.

        • vj

          But bravo to you for speaking up! If God is a God of Truth, then there can be no higher calling than standing up for Truth, even if you have to disagree with so-called spiritual leaders…

          If we all consistently called out falsehood and bigotry, [perhaps] it would eventually disappear. I have to keep on hoping!

    • Don Rappe

      It is ironic Dianne, that you get to wear the horns and tail, when what you are dealing with is the demonic. One of the devil’s better tricks, I think.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lisa-J-Kennedy/1388343975 Lisa J Kennedy via Facebook

    I grew up fundamentalist and remember the ‘doubt equals lack of faith’ mantra very well. I think if you are sincere with God about wanting to understand things, he will send you the answers– and that might be through something you can read (like this blog!) or a situation in your life. You might not get all the answers or an answer every time, but I think he does care about this kind of thing.

  • Diana Avery via Facebook

    @ William Kilmer–Thank you for sharing that interpretation. I never thought of that parable that way, but I like it!

  • Megan Sheppard via Facebook

    Valerie Tarico, who writes for the Huff Post (among other venues) has a book all about literalism and evangelicalism. Originally published as The Dark Side,” it’s now called “Trusting Doubt.” http://www.valerietarico.com/Trusting_Doubt.html

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jake-Kampe/1043349133 Jake Kampe via Facebook

    Urggg! Liberals hate the fundementalists! Fundementalist hate the liberals! Us vs. them! Urggg! Yeah! That’s what the Kingdom is all about, John! Propituate more division! Good job!

    • Andrew Raymond

      Jake, I have to grant John his frustrations, as I understand and share them, so let’s cut him a little slack in that respect. However, his point that critical thinking is treated as heresey is most fundamentalist groups is still well made.

    • Hannah Grace

      I was a little uncomfortable with the “all fundamentalists are attracted to their sisters” comments etc, and agreed with you that maybe they would cause division and hate rather than causing people to come together in understanding and love, but maybe it’s also good to be able to joke sometimes about people who have caused such pain, and often pain to the point of depression/suicide.

      I also found the second half of the article much more thoughtful, and thought that fundamentalist fear was well dealt with. Life is scary, and it’s easier to cling to surety in a postmodern world, especially if you have family/friends clinging with you. And especially if you don’t have much education…which is certainly no reason to scorn a fundamentalist, or anyone else – many of the disciples lacked education, as have many good men and women – but you have to admit that a lack of education can make it difficult to analyse things critically.

      That said, thanks for not being comfortable with looking down/making fun of fundamentalists. That’s something I’ve been really trying to work on so I appreciate the reminder.

  • Curt Naeve

    John,

    I too love the blog and appreciate your efforts here. The link below is to a brief discussion of literalism and fundamentalism form New Testament scholar John Dominic Crossan. I’m not so much leveraging a point as sharing what I thought was some interesting insight. Thanks for all you do.

    Blessings,

    C

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8zn9mkDpDE

  • Chris

    Only one comment: They’re tenets, not tenants. No tenants in the Bible, even in the fundy version.

  • Andrew Raymond

    What ever happened to the days when the right and proper occupation of a man of God was to study and learn about his creation through science? When we left that mindset behind (I think that would have been around the time of the Northern European inquisitions) we seem to have left critical thinking along with it.

    I’m seldom glad of my Jesuit education, but at least they did teach me to think critically.

  • http://www.torrancetheatrecompany.com/Members/Members_PShields.html Perry Shields

    Fundamentalists of all persuasions face cognitive dissonance when confronted with overlapping truths, and thus create false dichotomies. For example, evolution and creationism both true? Absurd! Abortion is murder but may be necessary at the same time? Crazy! The Bible is not inerrant, yet we can learn from and trust it? Nonsense!

    In politics, people on the extremes tend to lump “Conservatives” and “Liberals” into categories they can easily identify and demonize. A Black conservative? Sell-out! A liberal Christian? Unsaved! A Republican environmentalist? Crazy!

    The truth is that we are ALL hypocrites; we act contrary to our beliefs and “group mentality” on a daily basis. As soon as we think we have a group figured out, exceptions will soon raise their heads.

    • Andrew Raymond

      Perry, prototyping (the pre-form of stereotyping) is a large part of how we learn to understand the world around us. It only becomes stereotyping when we refuse to accept the fallibility of our prototypes.

      That said, I think most of us stop well short of hypocracy, as long as we keep thinking critically.

    • Peet

      That’s exactly it Perry. A lot of it is how comfortable people are with ambiguity, gray areas, not knowing. I found it so comforting and strengthening to have all the answers (at least I had copies of Josh McDowell’s books, and that was CLOSE to having all the answers). And then time went on, and my confidence fell apart. So…double-down on McDowell? Talk louder and ignore my conscience? Or admit there are a few questions that haven’t been fully answered? Better to ask the questions.

  • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdgalloway

    “Asking the fundamentalist to apply logic to his or her belief system is like asking a cat to fetch your slippers”

    I believe that my cat does fetch my slippers, but only to hide one from me.

    I thought about all the people who are adherents to this line of thinking who consider getting an education as something that is against the Christian way of life. I’ve heard a few pastors boast about how they didn’t go to seminary, or college. Those folks tended to be the ones most sure that God used them as a hand held microphone…

    Does God do bad karaoke? (I think I need to lay off the Diet Sierra Mist, that thought process went in a completely odd direction.)

    • Andrew Raymond

      I know when I was in a choir that God used me as from time to time as a karaoke microphone. But when it was bad karaoke, it was probably my mistaktes :-).

  • http://www.facebook.com/JohnShoreFans John Shore via Facebook

    You don’t know me, Jake Kampe. Below are just a couple of the many posts like it I’ve written. If you’re really interested in quelling strife, you might want to take a moment to learn a little something before you jump right onto sanctimonious criticism.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/2011/07/10/remembering-the-true-love-of-christ-lived-out-by-fundamentalists/

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/2010/01/26/conservative-vs-liberal-christianity-which-is-better/

  • http://www.facebook.com/JohnShoreFans John Shore via Facebook

    You don’t know me, Jake Kampe. Below are just a couple of the many posts like it I’ve written. If you’re really interested in quelling strife, you might want to take a moment to learn a little something before you jump right into sanctimonious criticism.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/2011/07/10/remembering-the-true-love-of-christ-lived-out-by-fundamentalists/

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/2010/01/26/conservative-vs-liberal-christianity-which-is-better/

  • http://www.facebook.com/lisa.n.weigand Lisa Noelle Weigand via Facebook

    After I laughed, I thought. Thanks, John.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Randy-Attwood/843441121 Randy Attwood via Facebook
  • Carol Mannarino via Facebook

    And that’s the twuth!

  • LSS

    Right, what i want to know is how do you explain the intellectual fundamentalists? The ones that wouldn’t touch the word fundamentalist except to throw it at a baptist. That wouldn’t even admit to knowing any rednecks. The ones who feel so superior because they can drink and dance and study philosophy at quality universities. I don’t think it’s just calvinists (what i was raised as) but can’t think right now some of the othe categories. Oh well probably mormons are in there, too… I’m thinking that my college was in like the top 5 most conservative in the country, maybe top 3, and more rigorous academically than most, but BYU is probably right up there.

    • LSS

      PS: Frank Schaeffer tries to explain them because his family was that kind. I have read like 2 of his books and i’m still not getting how it works, though… I understand what happened to us all in the sense of the political progression of it, but not entirely why we could let it.

  • Elizabeth Cox

    When I was growing up, we moved around a lot. Lots of chaotic stuff happened. So, though my Mom and Grandma and her friends would sometimes tell me about God when I was 3, by the time I was 12, all I knew about God was what I saw on movies: That if you weren’t too bad, you went to heaven, but sometimes you had to do things for God last minute so you didn’t go to hell. Furthermore, God was no more real to me than Superman. In fact, Superman was portrayed the same in the several movies he showed up in. So, to me, God was -less- real than Superman.

    Then one day, my Stepmom insisted that me and my stepbrother were going to go off to church camp with two of her co-workers daughters. That got rid of us for a whole week (or was it two? I don’t remember) during the summer break. Well, it was a baptist camp, and to my 12 year old self, I was suddenly in danger of hellfire. Suddenly, things I had thought nothing about could damn me to hell. It was as if I had just been told that I really -was- breaking people’s backs every time I stepped on a crack. Now, don’t get me wrong, I had very little guidance. Once me and my stepbrother came back from church camp, I suddenly started reading first the children’s bible, then the King James Version, and between then I think I went to church maybe less than five times before my stepmother got angry. She had assured us that we’d get over our original zeal for reading the bible. My stepbrother did within the first week back, but I’d just found out that in addition to all this science stuff I was learning in school, there was a God that had to be placated. I started out very literal. I prayed in the closet…the one that contains clothes. I didn’t have a veil to wear, so I used a scarf. If I’d had access to cattle, I’d have been building an alter with stones and sacrificing animals to Him. Seriously, I was quite lost, far, far out there. As I read more, and had more life experience, I was still looked after, but I began to understand that Jesus did more than just get rid of the need for animal sacrifices. I did not need to kill all the non believers or kill witches or anything like that. He’s not that kind of God. He’s a much better, more loving God than I thought. I’m not the gate of heaven. Jesus is the gate of Heaven. And He’s a lot more fair and balanced judge than any human on this world. God is not a dictator. He’s a hero, who is going to save us, but just like any hero going to save a maiden in distress, we have to not despair, keep a watch out, and be ready to go. It’s taken me a very long time to get far removed from the 12 year old that was terrified of hell and would have done anything she was told to in order to avoid hell, and get a supernatural benefactor, who it turns out I had the whole time without even knowing it. (Yeah, I know, I could have used someone saying to me, Elizabeth, you can’t -earn- God’s grace, it’s -grace-…but hey, God loves his slow children too, right?)

    So, with that context, remember that parable about the money loaning lord? The guy whose got some slaves and he gives them money to invest for him, while he’s out of country for a while…and the one slave is so terrified of him he hides his talent (the currency unit), because he’s so sure his lord reaps what he doesn’t sow and all that? Basically, he’s decided that his lord is a really big jerk, so he didn’t want to risk trading and possibly losing the talent? Yeah, that guy: me. I started out so scared that God was a horrifying, whole family slaughtering, natural disaster welding, evil dictator thing that was willing to kill people for working on the sabbath, which in classic misinformed American fashion I believed was Sunday, that I didn’t do -anything productive-. How many disturbed people were comforted by my refusal to wear makeup? In fact, I rather think I upset the mind of my stepmother quite fiercely.

    So, basically, that’s what zero faith in God looks like. It’s not doubt in the words of the bible; it’s elevating the words to be more powerful than the meaning; it’s doubt in God Himself. It’s reading all that about how merciful and kind the Lord is, and dismissing all that as just flattery so that He’ll not pan sear their souls with a light sauce made of the bodies of His enemies. When I see people who have signs telling people that God hates them, this is exactly what I think of.

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdgalloway

      “So, basically, that’s what zero faith in God looks like. It’s not doubt in the words of the bible; it’s elevating the words to be more powerful than the meaning; it’s doubt in God Himself. It’s reading all that about how merciful and kind the Lord is, and dismissing all that as just flattery so that He’ll not pan sear their souls with a light sauce made of the bodies of His enemies. When I see people who have signs telling people that God hates them, this is exactly what I think of.”

      Brilliant. Of course I love the light sauce analogy.

      • Don Rappe

        I agree, this is brilliant. And, I can’t help liking someone who has really prayed in a closet. I know she understands the good side of fundamentalism.

  • vj

    John, you excel so much at making me think about my faith – thank you! I really believe this is what Jesus requires of us when He tells us to love God with all our MINDS.

    • Andrew Raymond

      Well expressed, and I agree, VJ.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JohnShoreFans John Shore via Facebook

    I’m sure I would, Randy. But, alas, I simply don’t have the time to find out.

  • http://www.barnmaven.com Barnmaven

    You guys might only be able to count to twenty-one naked, but *I* can count to twenty-TWO. I’m pretty certain that this means women are genetically superior.

    I am grateful to have reached an age and mindset where I no longer have to pretend to believe things I find repulsive or confusing in order to belong to a larger group. I am my own group, my own consensus, my own culture. I think its sad when people desire so desperately to belong to a group or culture that they will consciously divest themselves of any semblance of critical thought in order to conform to the group identity. Churches offer safety to those that belong. People instinctively long for a sense of community, safety and order. They allow themselves to be penned up like cattle inside a structure just so they can live within the pretense that the world is controlled and ordered and that someone will protect them from the dangers and unpredictability of life. Christ never promised us we’d be safe and comfortable; He promised us instead His endless and eternal love and compassion through our human struggles and a life beyond this one where we are freed from all the pain and struggle that we experience because of our corporeal bonds. I believe the biblical literalist and fundamentalist mindset is simply incapable of dealing with the painful realities of life. Fortunately this mindset does not have to be a permanent one, but many churches would prefer it to be. Their power, control and financial security depend on the vulnerability of the church body.

    • Andrew Raymond

      Dunno, Barnmaven. The chubbier of us guys (myself included, sadly) can actually count to 23, then!

      • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdgalloway

        Oh Andrew! That made my day! HAHAHA!

        • Andrew Raymond

          I’m glad I could give you a smile. These days it’s so easy to get tied up in all that ugliness…

  • mike moore

    John, I’ve been gone for almost a month, and this post is what I come home to? Hot sisters and a new-found ability to count to 21? LMAO, AWESOME. Totally missed you while gone.

    Also, in light of this post, I have to tell you about my journey home last Friday.

    Not long after take-off from Salt Lake City, from a few seats behind me, I overheard an older preacher dude tell his seat mate, with a bit of that southern brimstone drawl, that his church took the King Jame’s Bible “literally and seriously.” Crazy with curiosity, I quickly made an excuse to get into the overhead compartment, and then I could see he had his Bible open (to the OT … man, they love the OT, don’t they?) and appeared to be working on a sermon.

    A dark navy suit and rumpled white shirt covered covered his ample gut, and, I kid you not, his LAVENDER silk necktie, which hung down just below his breastbone, had an air-brushed picture of Jesus on it. And not just any old Jesus, but the classic white-as-Wonder-Bread Jesus with subtly highlighted blonde shoulder-length curly hair. Jesus’ image was, of course, back-lit, like in Charlie’s Angels.

    I know there’s a joke in here somewhere, but all I could do was sit back in my seat in a daze, dumbly wondering: where in heck can I buy a tie like that?

    • Andrew Raymond

      Try the gift shop at the Tabernacle next time your in SLC.

      • mike moore

        fortunately, I was on location in eastern (read, freezing cold wilderness) Oregon, so SLC was only a stopover … plus, I think I’m on a watch-list at the Tabernacle. I’m thinking I’ll look for the tie the next time I ran across a Cracker Barrel restaurant.

        • Andrew Raymond

          Nice to know I’m not the only one on that watch list :-). Then of course, there’s always Zion’s department store, if you have them.

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

      Love it, Mike Moore.

    • LSS
      • mike moore

        good call, LSS! zoom in, tight on face, on the Jesus on the left tie, and you’ve got it. don’t forget, lavender silk is key to bringing out Jesus’ blonde tresses.

      • Lymis

        Funny, he doesn’t LOOK Jewish!

        • LSS

          the Gringo Jesus is one of my main pet peeves with american christian pop culture.

  • Soulmentor

    Fundamentalists are people who NEED the safety and security of knowing to the exclusion of thinking. Faith, by definition, is not knowing. It is a mindset that has gone beyond hoping to having talked oneself into believing without knowing. It is a cover for fear and it is so much easier than thinking, or introspection or honoring God with the use of the intellect he gave you. It is a mindset that fears being wrong and that comes from being taught that the individual intellect cannot be trusted. But something MUST be. Thus, the clinging to that “something” that provides all the answers, never mind that all those answers came, ultimately, from individual intellects. That is a reality that simply must not be confronted because then one is back to the hard work of finding “God” within oneself instead of from what someone else says….or writes, which strikes me as the antithesis of having a personal relationship with God or Christ or whoever. Having a “faith” based upon what others think is precisely NOT personal.

    Growing up gay in a conservative Lutheran farm family was lonely and painful but I’m so glad it happened to me. It forced me to think; to find my own way thru the complexities, especially because my childhood religion was telling me every Sunday how unworthy I was. I forced me to dare to question. There simply were only two other alternatives; become a religious robot or kill myself. Neither option, tho not consciously considered, occurred to me, thankfully. My family farm was surrounded by wooded hills that became my second home. I looked to the hills from whence came my “faith”. Nature became my cathedral and that space it gave me for introspection became my strength. Critical thinking became my survival mechanism. It nurtured and prompted my need to learn and I became an independent thinker not subject to the peer pressures that are causing the young suicides today.

    Thus, I survived to come to a “faith” stronger by far than the false certainty of a fundamentalist bunker mentality that threatens to implode when real “truth” that sets one free gets confrontational.

  • Kimberly Moser Musci Phillips via Facebook

    And it could also be simple biblical illiteracy. Too much time spent listening to other people tell them what the Bible says, without ever questioning which passages might really say *that* at all.

    • vj

      Especially if they only ever use one translation, and MORE especially if that is the KJV.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brena.easterday Brena Easterday via Facebook

    It is so much more than illiteracy. Too many bright people read the same thing I do. Hear the same evidence and say, “That’s interesting. I will think about it.” Only to later say that they were told differently so they do not see what I see. They really are more afraid of people judging them to be on the wrong side than they are of their own conscience or of God’s judgement.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Randy-Attwood/843441121 Randy Attwood via Facebook

    Okay, here’s a sequence that should get you hooked and you’ll find the time:
    An address from the Pastor President always did that to her, making her feel righteous, and Bob knew what was coming.
    “We’ve got to fornicate again tonight, Bob.”
    “So soon?”

  • http://www.facebook.com/cathy.k.egan Cathy Kinyon Egan via Facebook

    Wow. That is great. I wish I could write like that. That is exactly how I feel but usually try to express it with caveman language like: “Fundamentalists are so darn stupid.”

  • Kimberly Moser Musci Phillips via Facebook

    Exactly, Brena. “They were told differently”. Reading, w/out comprehension, *is* functional illiteracy. When someone believes w/out questioning, or w/out *reading* for themselves, they’re willing to follow blindly, despite if and when their heart (? the holy spirit) tells them differently.

    This is why we’re warned about false teaching and wolves in sheep’s clothes, and told to test the spirits. It’s our responsibility to not be deceived.

  • Monte Wehrkamp via Facebook

    Bookmarked! Thanks for turning me on to this cool blog thru your share, Cathy.

  • http://www.genesisfix.wordpress.com Christopher Cudworth

    Well said and well done. Since my friend Monte signed up, I will too. As I write on these topics, it’s always interesting to hear fellow/different perspectives. Here’s one on What the bible really says about nature and knowledge.

    http://genesisfix.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/161/

  • Brent Boyd via Facebook

    The Quakers believe there is no possible way of correctly reading the Bible without the Holy Spirits guidance, because the intellect can twist anything to it’s own devices.

    • http://www.genesisfix.wordpress.com Christopher Cudworth

      So do you raise that as a legitimate point or simply to provide context?

    • Andrew Raymond

      I would posit that you have to use the Holy Spirit to guide your intellect, but I’m not sure that abandoning intellect is necessary wise.

    • Gary

      I would agree with them. So many in the church worship their bibles as if on the same plane with God Himself (bilioletry) and they are far more divided and confused than when there was no bible.

  • Жърва

    “Check it out! If I get naked, I can count to twenty-one!”

    That only works for males.

    • Ina, the Ambisexual

      Girls can count to 22 ;)

  • Peet

    Dude, the joke about counting to 21 made me snort coffee out my nose.

  • Tammi Carrick via Facebook

    ^^^^^^oh snap~

    I will never stop laughing about ““Check it out! If I get naked, I can count to twenty-one!””

    • Soulmentor

      OK…..I don’t get it. Somebody please clue me in about counting to 21.

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

        It’s a dick joke.

  • otter

    Bless you for your inspired snarkiness….I really needed a chuckle.

    It seems to me you crawled right into the mind of a fundie……hope you recover soon…

  • Ina, the Ambisexual

    I am a reader, and have had horrible nightmares where hell was, literally, a Fundamentalist’s Library – the dictionary only held definitions of worlds in the bible, the children’s books were all illustrated verses, there were large print editions, and the book on tape, there were copy machines…but no pens, no pencils, and no erasers.

    I’ve always had a hard time reconciling what I knew in my heart that Jesus, as an ancestor and a scholar HAD to be, and whole concept of ‘following’ someone who had very clearly asked people to walk with him, to do as he had done, and seek their own questions.

    John – you help. knowing that you’re just the most visible of many, really helps : )

  • redlo

    How did some believers become adament about rules to do with sex the authore asks? Let the word of God answer that for you:

    1 Corinthians 6:18

    “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.”

    Sinning against one’s own body through sex outside marriage is described as being especially destructive to oneself (and the other person involved as well) according to this verse. That is born out when you consider the results–herpes, gonorrhea, aids, unwanted pregnancies/children and/or abortions, broken hearts, etc. etc….

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

      Redio: The verse you’ve quoted doesn’t define sexual immorality; it simply says to avoid it. Whole world of difference there, sport.

    • Gary

      I love that verse redlo…wish you understood it though. A lot of abuse has been propagated on people by those who would twist it to their own purposes.

      Stop doing it. You are wrong. You are hurting people.

      Just stop it.

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdgalloway

      Hmmm. Let us see. Popular people in the bible were anything but monogamous keeping “sex in the marriage” concept. Abraham? nope. Jacob? no as well. David? Oh hell no. Samson? Believe he holds some kind of record.

      No one seems to accusing them of sexual immorality.

      • http://lifeafterwcg2.wordpress.com/ Felix T.

        A-freaking-men, sdgalloway!!!

  • otter

    All joking aside, I have seen several articles recently that indicate political affiliation is linked to a person’s hard wired mental functioning. Conservatives are more cautious and react fearfully to perceived threats. Progressives are more adventurous and comfortable with ambiguity. So it seems to me John writes about the same mechanism applied to religion instead of politics. And this sure explains a lot about this election !

    It’s much easier to be charitable to those who use religion to oppress me when I remember they can’t help themselves!

  • Molly Whipple Douthett via Facebook

    And it could be the answer is to “add this thing I’m sending to you that is NOT as threatening as you’ve been told to your arsenal of what makes you feel safe”. And then, after a lifetime of adding new things, one will find that the WHOLE WORLD – created and ordered by God – belongs to God and is not to be feared. The entirety of creation is “safe”. I’m getting there, myself! I freeze up at the thought of going into space, for example….

  • abracadabra

    I grew up in a progressive Catholic family deep in the Bible Belt and eventually married a man whose family is fundamentalist (though he is not). It has been a long, painful process to come to the realization that fundies, though well intentioned and often generous, are fundamentally fearful and are not just mean and/or ignorant.

    I remember getting dragged to the First Baptist Church’s production of “Heaven’s Gates & Hell’s Flames” – two solid hours of people either following The Rules exactly and getting welcomed into Heaven or not and literally getting dragged kicking and screaming into the (not literal) flames of Hell. There were several people who responded to the alter call after the show, I found it repulsive. Though I was no sexual libertine, I had a really hard time believing that having premarital sex would win you a place beside Hitler and Pol Pot in Hell for eternity. Plus The Rule followers were exceedingly boring and sanctimonious.

    I cannot imagine how scary it is to live in fear of a vengeful god who requires strict obedience but it is clear how necessary it would be to cling to very clear – if not well supported – rules about how to be obedient. While you often hear “hate the sin, love the sinner”, what happens in reality is good ol’ fashioned shunning — driven by fear that whatever sinful activity or attribute will rub off, endangering one’s own immortal soul.

    • Gary

      Fearful…yes indeed they are. This fear can lead to meanness…and certainly tends to breed ignorance due to the fear of considering any question considered out of bounds by the church, but the root motive I believe is exactly as you state…fear.

      I remember my former church’s production of “Heaven’s Gates, Hell’s Flames” vividly. In fact I portrayed the Satan character in it. (Since I am bald they had me made up into a type of Darth Maul image…lol) I can tell you what it is like to live in the fear you describe…it is terrifying. It also completely distorts one’s understanding of the nature of God. I could never reconcile that God could be good if He was willing to torture for all eternity (an unending and unquenchable need for vengeance) those who messed up…or were simply born into the “wrong religion”. I could never understand it…so out of fear I simply accepted the perversion of the gospel I was raised to believe. (For a while…I even preached it)

      My faith has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. In fact I have presently left the church all together. Nearly a year ago I walked away from yet another very fundamental bible believing Baptist church. I am in my time in the wilderness…and it has been incredible. My awakening began several years ago…and it finally lead to my departure when the disconnect between what I now knew and what I heard preached every week became too great.

      I will likely return to a church fellowship at some point…though it will NOT resemble the type of church I left behind.


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