The tragedy of Christian fundamentalism strikes again

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People sometimes ask me why I fight so hard against Christian fundamentalism (The Fundamentally Toxic Christianity, Unfundamentalist Christians, etc.) This letter, which I got in yesterday, shows exactly why. Religious fundamentalism destroys people’s lives. It always has. It always will.

Dear Mr. Shore,

Christmas time is coming and I guess I needed to reach out to someone. This has been running through my brain for a long time, waiting for a chance to be written.

I like to think I am fairly low key. I try to get along with most everyone with perhaps the exception of people who block me in traffic. I go to church with my wife and kids and try to live my life in a way that will please God. We live in a liberal to moderate city in a darkly conservative state. As children, my sister and I grew up in an average working class family, we went to church until my sister and I got to our teens and then it tapered off to Christmas and Easter. My parents nonetheless set a good example for us, i.e. no drinking, smoking or cussing.

I lost, for want of a better term, my sister to Conservative Christianity, in the mid 80’s, when she got saved. She was still around, but she limited contact with me and our parents in order to, she said, limit her exposure to worldly ways. These worldly ways were ever-changing and seemingly applied only to us and not to her. I used to try to reach out to her, but gave up worrying about the state of her relationship with God, and now tend to treat her like I would were she a drug addict or alcoholic that I couldn’t reach.

I don’t want to walk away from her because after our parents are gone, she will be my only relative. I am the older brother and feel like I somehow need to be there for her. That being said, we cannot talk about politics or religion or for that matter anything else with her because everything leads back to her politics/religion. Any conversation with her or her husband on any subject eventually turns into them quoting passages designed to hammer dissent. She seems to live to correct other’s ideas, her responses always start, “Actually, if you read…”

At Christmas we normally gather at our parent’s house. It is the only time we see my sister’s family, they live a couple hours away. When she does come to visit, she calls it witnessing to us. We all walk a mine field trying not step on any of her triggers. To be fair she has always been the sort to believe that whatever she thinks is the only way. When she got saved, she just applied this attitude to her Christianity. She found a husband with the same mindset and off they went.

They jumped into the fundamentalist cause early and embraced it totally. She bought Rush Limbaugh’s and John Piper’s and so many other’s books and would, and still does, quote them to us as her own thoughts. Abortion is murder and the only abomination that God still cares about is homosexuality. Judge not lest ye be judged? Liberal secularism. “Actually, if you read it, the Bible does indeed tell us to judge, to chastise, these terms are one and the same.” She has memorized all the edged verses.

I think her ideology might be summed up in this neat bit of circular logic, “Doubts are born of Satan, so any doubts I might have are because of Satan.” This dovetails neatly with her theory that if you are saved and backslide or doubt, then you weren’t really saved in the first place and are going to Hell.

They have raised their daughters the same way, homeschooling them and not allowing them access to the evils of the liberal world. No vaccinations of course. They expect them to find husbands and settle down. They will tolerate no dissent, to the point that they kicked their oldest out at 17 because she rebelled. She was allowed back only after she had repented. My nieces are not allowed to visit us or their grandparents unescorted even though they are now young adults, because they could be exposed to bad things. (MTV, National Enquirer, People Magazine . . . .)

She has mentioned casually her doubts that our parents are going to go to heaven because she doesn’t approve of their Baptist church. My BIL became a pastor recently and has started his own church. Before this they were church hoppers going from one to another, always becoming dissatisfied for some reason.

I have been unable to break through her shell and talk to my sister, and indeed I am not sure there is anything left in there.

I guess my point was to get your opinion, but it has turned into a stream of semi-consciousness rant. Please disregard if you like.

Thank you and my best to you and yours in this holiday season.

 

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Melinda Hailey

    I am a lesbian married to an amazing woman who has a fundamentalist sister. Her sister was not overly religious until she met her husband and he drug her down into the depths of the christian fundamentalist lunacy. She has gone so far as to publicly refuse to accept me as her sister-in-law and to deny me entrance to her home. My wife and I decided to move out of the large liberal city in which we lived and return to the small, rural, conservative town in which she and my SIL grew up. My SIL chose the day we were pulling out of the city with children, pets, and our belongings in tow, to send my wife an email regaining the sins of her life and how I am Satan bringing her into the pits of hell. That was Nov 5, 2013. We continued on our road, got settled in our new home in our small town, and I made her sister’s family a homemade gift basket for Christmas with hand painted personalized gifts. I did not receive a thank you nor any kind of acknowledgment, but that was not the point. I felt good about rising above it and just believing in my heart that she means well. I have come to accept the fact that the things she says and believes are not born of her hate, but her love. Yes, she is misguided and, in my opinion, flat out wrong in her beliefs, but she believes the same about me. I think that what she believes comes from a place that desires to follow God, but the road out from that place has been twisted by those teaching her about God. I guess what I am getting at here is that you can’t change the fundies that truly believe what they spew. You can only try to see them through the eyes of Jesus, pray for patience for yourself and an epiphany for them, and remember that they are family (whether they believe it or not). I wish you the best, and hope that you can find some peace with your sister, even if only within yourself.

  • http://www.fordswords.net/ Ford1968

    There’s tremendous grace in this comment, Melinda. Thank you for sharing a little bit of your story.

  • Mom

    What a wonderful example of grace. Forgiveness is a powerful force that leaves a clear path for God to channel in His love. Like Saul of Taursus, these people really do NOT know what they’re doing. They THINK they are doing the right thing…. Showing unconditional love and forgiveness is the only way they could ever be reached….. Kudos to you!

  • ckratzer

    Sometimes, the best you can do is to love from a distance. Continue to be Grace to her and her family, realizing only God changes people. Having had a similar experience, the hardest part is grieving the loss of the closeness you desire with your sister. It’s hard when we come face to face with the strong possibility that our family relationships will never be what we had hoped and longed for, or what they once were. This takes time.

  • John H.

    Like CKratzer said…..sometimes love doesn’t need to be so up and close. If she believes you so bad you can’t spend time with your adolescent nieces, you are the sum of all her prejudices, and will never truly inspire her towards a softer disposition. Better to allow her her space, before one of those triggers causes a war. I’ve got family like that, and even at times I can be like that. Introspection is the only thing that will ever change her, if it should ever happen.

  • John H.

    And to clarify, “like that” for both me and my family member, is to say that we can be hard headed and sure in our beliefs to a fault. Not to be a bible basher.

  • http://www.fordswords.net/ Ford1968

    I’m loath to offer any advice. It sounds like what the letter writer is doing is about all he can do…and his efforts are noble.

    I sometimes wonder what leads people to fundamentalism; it often seem like the need for structure/discipline or certainty. The former does not require religion, the latter is impossible. The quest for certainty is sure to lead to heartache.

    In any case, there’s demonstrable destruction caused by such rigid dogma. I agree with Pope Francis (which is still disorienting to me): “A fundamentalist group, although it may not kill anyone, although it may not strike anyone, is violent. The mental structure of fundamentalists is violence in the name of God.” This is, unfortunately, the experience our dear letter writer is describing.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/14/pope-francis-fundamentalists_n_5493045.html

  • Matt

    If there’s one thing I have learned, it’s that people will go to the ends of the Earth and their own graves seeking absolute certainty. The inherent uncertainty and ambiguity of being human is viscerally terrifying, and some people simply can’t face that (or choose not to). I can intellectually understand why they might refuse to accept it. I could never live that way myself.

  • AtalantaBethulia

    Best bit of wisdom I’ve encountered came from a guy named Gordon Livingston. He’s written a couple of useful books.

    You can’t change anyone; you can only change yourself. You have no control over her nor how she chooses to live her life, you can only control how you choose to react to her and how much you choose to expose yourself to her. If it causes more pain than it does joy to be together, then you are under no obligation to spend any time with her and her family.

    If you choose to spend time together, you can talk to her about setting limits. If she refuses to abide by these limits (no talking about politics, religion or whether your parents are going to hell) then you can choose to no longer spend time together or accept that when you do, she will not change her behavior.

    People who cannot honor boundaries have issues that need working through. Few often ever choose to do this unless the consequences they suffer because of their behavior significantly impact their lives.

    If it is important to you and your sister to maintain a relationship, this will trump ideological differences and both of you should be willing to honor boundaries that you agree upon. If she wants to be together, but refuses to honor your boundaries – then the choice is up to you whether you have any contact.

  • Timothy L. Northrup Jr.

    I guess my council would be to, as far as possible, focus on your nieces. Someday, at least one of them is likely to wake up and want refuge from the hellhole that growing up in such a place, especially as a young woman, has to be. What you have to model is both lack of certainty and grace, as said so often. And make it clear every time you see them that you’re there if they need you, in whatever way possible.
    Your sister and her hubby have proven their pathological need for control quite nicely by starting their own church in this manner. Such people inevitably harm the ones they love the most (and they already seem to have for the eldest). So be there for them.

  • http://newyorker.com/books/page-turner/science-fiction-classic-still-smolders Isaac Edward Leibowitz

    Fundamentalists gain great strength for their totalitarian cause from Progressives acceptance of the Bible, even though Progressives try—admirably but ineffectively—to whitewash the horrors within.

    In the end, as Robert Price points out, the fundagelical interpretation of the Bible is more honest than the progressive whitewash. So I’ve rejected the book as contributive to ethics, and Fundies can’t use my acceptance of the book to “thump” me with the damned thing.

  • Jeff Preuss

    Oh, gosh, I don’t see Progressives trying to whitewash horrors from the Bible at all. The way I perceive them addressing the more horrific parts of the Bible is to own them as horrific, and specifically related to the tribal cultures of the time.

    I mean, of course it depends on the Progressive, but by and large, I don’t see them sweeping the dirty parts under the rug.

  • http://newyorker.com/books/page-turner/science-fiction-classic-still-smolders Isaac Edward Leibowitz

    That is exactly the sort of rationalization (excuse-making) of which I mean.

  • Nicholas Kr.

    That depends on whether “cultural context” is offered as an analytical explanation with no endorsement of the text’s authority, or as an excuse to show that the text isn’t actually that bad, in an effort to keep biblical authority alive. I’ve seen people do both on the Internet.

  • Bones

    Yeah they are.

    We don’t get our morals from the Bible.

  • http://newyorker.com/books/page-turner/science-fiction-classic-still-smolders Isaac Edward Leibowitz

    What do you get from the Bible?

  • Bones

    Maybe the Gospels give us a glimpse of God. Maybe. What I get from it is going to be different to most. I’m quite happy rejecting the bits that I don’t accept eg Paul’s teaching on the flesh and sexuality as evil, most of the Old Testament as embellishment to create the theocracy of Israel. The Bible was written by humans who disagreed with each other. Some of it is inspirational, some isn’t.

  • Jeff Preuss

    As you apparently originally typed, “excuse-making” is not how I perceive it when I see Progressives acknowledging the horrifically violent bullshit of our Biblical history and refusing to participate in modern acts of said bullshit.

    It’s not rationalization to say, “Hey, we have slavery in our history, but we think that’s monumentally shitty, so don’t do slavery.”

  • http://newyorker.com/books/page-turner/science-fiction-classic-still-smolders Isaac Edward Leibowitz

    > our Biblical history

    Why make it yours?

  • Jeff Preuss

    There are so many ways to read your question. Without you explaining specifically what you’re asking, I don’t have an answer for you.

  • http://newyorker.com/books/page-turner/science-fiction-classic-still-smolders Isaac Edward Leibowitz

    > our Biblical history

    You used a possessive pronoun, our. I am asking why you consider it yours, possessively.

    I don’t consider Biblical history to be mine. It’s rather poor as a historical source anyway. And even if it were true historically, I observe very little ethical guidance to glean from its pages, and very many reasons to reject it on moral grounds.

    The main reason I reject it is how horrific it tends to make people behave, such as fundamentalists. But I think their reading of it is actually more honest than the progressive attempts to make it acceptable to secular moral standards. As much as the horrors are cleverly rationalized and constantly whitewashed, they never go away.

    Why make a book “ours” when it is so problematic?

  • Jeff Preuss

    I consider it mine, possessively, because the history of the Bible is intertwined with the history of Christianity, which is the religion I choose to follow. Without quibbling about semantics, my intent was to indicate Christian history and Biblical history to be one and the same for the purposes of the discussion. I’m not claiming the bible as an accurate historical document.

    “I don’t consider Biblical history to be mine. It’s rather poor as a historical source anyway.” To expand upon what I said above, I don’t use the Bible as a historical source, so when I claim Biblical history, I claim the history of the development of my religion, which is inextricably linked to this collection of Scriptures. It’s more the history of the book, not in the book.

    As far as making the book “mine” – the book came with the religion. Horrific parts and all.

    I say it can be a parallel with asking why someone would become an American citizen, despite the past and present not-so-nice bits of this country. Some people still wish to join this country, because of the better parts of it, the ideals. But becoming an American would still mean you adopt and “own” the negative history, and you are responsible for ensuring the ideals and the positives get reinforced going forward.

    Becoming a Christian is much the same. We don’t whitewash what bad things have been done in the past – we strive to make sure those evils don’t happen in the future.

    You see it as trying to make Christianity acceptable to secular moral standards, but many of us just don’t see it the same way.

  • http://newyorker.com/books/page-turner/science-fiction-classic-still-smolders Isaac Edward Leibowitz

    > the better parts of it, the ideals.

    What parts do you consider better or ideals?

    As far as the Gospels themselves, the parables are mostly exclusivist, they damn anybody not being piously self-righteous enough, save for the parable of the Good Samaritan, which I do like. But as a whole, the “kingdom” described in the parables is nothing in which I’m interested. I also do like Jesus’ encounter with the woman caught in flagrante delicto, giving the Pharisees a fine dose of their own medicine.

    But Jesus rants against everything and everybody, and often condemns the very part of the Bible that is best: Ecclesiastes (minus the Pharisaical/Stoic interpolations that clash with the Epicurean/Sadducean views.) And so does Paul. Eating, drinking, being merry, getting married, living a normal “worldly” life, everything that is good — all condemned throughout the NT, in favor of becoming worthy of a mythical afterlife.

    All of the magic is unimpressive to me. Healing? Doctors heal the blind too. Feeding 5000? A nice gesture, but Arby’s feeds more. Salvation? I don’t need saved from a mythological underworld.

    In short, my “better parts” or “ideals” in the Bible consist of a rather short list:

    1. Ecclesiastes. Eat, drink, enjoy life, be moderate in desires, don’t worry about death, we’re going to the same place as a dead horse.

    2. Ethic of reciprocity, i.e., “Good Samaritan” parable and “Golden Rule”, but Confucius had Jesus beat on it by hundreds of years.)

    3. 1 Cor 13 on love, that’s a great poem.

  • Jeff Preuss

    “But as a whole, the “kingdom” described in the parables is nothing in which I’m interested.”

    Great, I think that part’s pretty clear. You’re coming off like an ass, though, so there’s no point in continuing any debate with you.

  • http://newyorker.com/books/page-turner/science-fiction-classic-still-smolders Isaac Edward Leibowitz

    I think you just came across as an ass, like Jesus was. He despised normal life on this earth.

    Luke 14:26 If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even their own life–such a person cannot be my disciple.

    John 12:25 anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life

    Anyway, have fun fighting with the Fundies. You well deserve each other.

  • Jeff Preuss

    The only one “fighting” here was you. I don’t think there’s an emoticon strong enough for how much I’m rolling my eyes at your bluster.

  • http://newyorker.com/books/page-turner/science-fiction-classic-still-smolders Isaac Edward Leibowitz

    If you can conjure any decent “ideals” from the Bible, let me know.

  • http://www.fordswords.net/ Ford1968

    As far as the Gospels themselves, the parables are mostly exclusivist, they damn anybody not being piously self-righteous enough, save for the parable of the Good Samaritan, which I do like

    That’s simply not true on any level (except I’m sure you do really like the good Samaraitan story…which is, in fact, typical of the teachings and example of Christ).

  • http://www.whoaisnotme.net/anakinmcfly anakinmcfly

    As Jeff Preuss points out, you’re wrong. So I’ve rejected your post as contributive to anything.

  • http://newyorker.com/books/page-turner/science-fiction-classic-still-smolders Isaac Edward Leibowitz

    Ever hear of Poe’s Law? You’re today’s poster boy.

  • BarbaraR

    I don’t want to walk away from her because after our parents are gone, she will be my only relative. I am the older brother and feel like I somehow need to be there for her.

    You are there. You haven’t gone anywhere. But sometimes it is necessary to love someone from a distance for your own safety.

    As AtalantiaBethulia perfectly described below, set boundaries and keep them – as your sister has none. If she is unable to respect your boundaries – i.e. she cannot discuss anything without turning it into a religious forum – then you have to be the one who makes a choice: is this relationship worth all the pain it’s causing?

    You say your BIL became a pastor recently and before that they were church hoppers. That’s likely because no other church could meet their “standards” and were probably making all the other parishoners crazy with their incessant badgering and judging. You aren’t the only one they’re doing this to.

    Protect yourself. You can be there for your sister, but on your terms, not hers. If she can’t abide by your rules, walk away. You cannot change her but you can choose how you interact with her.

  • http://mikemoorehome.com/ mike moore

    I hate to say this (sincerely, I do) but your sister and BIL are not unreachable like alcoholics or addicts. They are evil and should recognized as such.

    They kicked out their innocent, naive, 17yo daughter, a young woman with zero worldly experience (by their design.) Even for kids with options – staying at your home or with grandparents – this can be the first step to running away and a life on the streets. We see this so often in the gay community, and predators can smell the innocence and know exactly how to manipulate kids into prostitution, drugs, and worse.

    Parents who would put a child at risk like this are truly terrible humans.

    With that said, I think you have a way to be the best big brother a sister could hope for … by being there for her children.

    I would try my best (you’re a saint … your patience is a miracle itself) to hold steady until the daughters are grown. It sounds like you may one day be the only safety net they’ll have in their lives. Knowing they have an uncle they can trust and turn to when their parents shun them (as your sister and BIL will inevitably do … it sounds like no one will be able to live up to their standards, in the long run) may save those girls someday.

    After that, wash your hands of these bad people.

    As I read your letter, the phrase, “suppose they gave a war and no one showed-up?” Your sister and BIL appear to live to provoke wars (it’s probably why they had to start their own church) … were I you, I’d do my best not to show up.

  • Phlegon

    To be fair, alcoholics and addicts will often do evil things in pursuit of their particular fix or as a result of their growing inabilty to care about anything else. So maybe the comparison isn’t that far off.

  • Carol

    Alcoholics and addicts are not unreachable and many do get well. I should know as I have been sober 12 years and in a 12 step fellowship world wide that has being going 80 years and proves otherwise.

  • StudentHealer

    I don’t want to derail the entire conversation (this dear Letter Writer deserves all the care and prayers and positivity this comments section can offer!), but I just can’t help but tell you congratulations for your 12 years of sobriety. :)

    In just a few short hours, I will have one year of sobriety. It lightens my heart and gives me hope when I hear and see people like you.

    God’s Blessings to You, Carol.

  • SparksinTexas

    My grandmother and mother (before she passed) were not part of my two youngest children’s lives. I was in a fundamentalist stage of life and their secular lives (Christians not going to church) were a threat to my children’s eternal souls. We would see them on Holidays but the children were never allowed to spend summers with them as my eldest daughter had been.

    I am so filled with regret for the lost years that can now never be recovered. My children will never know the security of the extended family.

    Religious Fundamentalism is evil. It is a tool used by power hungry leaders to control their flock.

  • Michael Rigby

    Do the one thing you can do, love her and her family and show her the love of Jesus. It’s the only way.

  • Dejah

    Several people in the comments have mentioned control. Any family history of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Narsicisstic Personality Disorder? What is to say, underlying the fundie crap, your sister sounds mentally ill. Hard to say, of course from this distance, but the mentally ill DO latch on to religion and long have. It’s not like it’s unusual.

    And while this doesn’t make it any easier for you to understand, it might make it easier to cope if you just take the attitude that she’s sick. She’s latched on to something she can obsess over, as many sick ppl do, and nothing short of psych drugs and intense therapy are going to help. I know what you mean vis a vis the drug addict thing. And it’s a useful perspective.

    Good luck.

  • BarbaraR

    An insightful observation. I agree that there may well be personality disorders at play here.

  • Pavitrasarala

    Narcissism is NOT a mental illness. If it were, it would be treatable.

  • Dejah

    A hundred years ago, we couldn’t treat Depression. Fifty years ago, we couldn’t treat Anorexia Nervosa. Today, we cannot treat Narcissistic Personality Disorder. This is not to say that we will NEVER be able to treat it or that it is not a mental disorder or doesn’t constitute a mental disease.

    Once we understand the bio-mechanism of NPD, I strongly suspect there *will* be treatments, just as there are now scads of anti-depressants. Even if it isn’t, there may come about psychiatric drugs where the effects and side effects seem to neatly nest into the disorder, making it a decent bandaid if not a cure all. Anorexia Nervosa is now treated with Prozac because it 1) makes you hungry and 2) reduces compulsions to restrict food and 3) makes you feel less depressed and just better all around.

    I’m not a psychiatrist (nor, I would guess, are you). I don’t know how NPD is treated whether through behavior modification, cognitive behavioral therapy, talk therapy, or psychiatric drugs. I do imagine that the appropriate professionals try when they find someone who wants treatment. The rub is finding someone with NPD who will 1) admit it and 2) wants treatment. The big challenge is living with the person with NPD who is not treated.

  • Matt

    I am a nursing student, and I just finished my mental health course. NPD is treated much like the other personality disorders–therapy and boundary-setting. They often have co-occurring depression, so they will get an anti-depressant for that. However, NPD is one of those illnesses where people rarely seek treatment voluntarily. And unless they are a direct and immediate threat to themselves or others, we cannot force them.

  • http://modicum.mu/ Tom Minkler

    One of my favorite quotes is:
    “…psychology [is] at the point in its development that surgery was when it was practiced by barbers…”
    –Tom Robbins, Still Life With Woodpecker

  • http://www.whoaisnotme.net/anakinmcfly anakinmcfly

    Nowhere in the definition of ‘mental illness’ does it say ‘must be treatable’. And given that medicine finds new cures for things all the time, you’re basically suggesting that if we find a cure for mental condition X, then it’s now a mental illness even though it wasn’t one yesterday. Which makes no sense to me.

  • pegtwhynott

    This letter could’ve been written about my niece. Since she married, she is a completely different person. However, it’s not as bad as your situation. Our family background is basically the same…we’re all Christians who were raised in the church. But we’re not Christian enough for my niece and her husband.
    Thankfully, after a few years of ALL of us basically ignoring their constant invitations to their cult-like church and being kind, deaf and changing the subject when their political/religious lectures began…they relented. SO…we get to see them and their four young children without too much tension. The kids make it all worth while.
    I wish I could help you…but your sister sounds beyond reach. Just BAND TOGETHER as a family like we did and shut out the weirdness…change the subject to something pleasant and keep trying to love them for the kid’s sake. God bless and help you stay sane!

  • Lori Wells Mang

    I’m sorry that your sister is brainwashed. Because that’s what it is. I don’t think she is evil. She is like a drug addict. But instead of drugs, it’s religion. One of my friends was somewhat like your sister (not to that extreme, but close). It took her 2 oldest daughters going off the rails (drugs, alcohol, sex, running away) for her to snap out of it. It took many years, but she is 50 now and while still very conservative, she is more normal.

  • http://mikemoorehome.com/ mike moore

    Truly, not trying to be a jerk, and maybe I’m reading a non-existent connectivity between your sister’s fundamentalism and her daughters’ going off the rails … but isn’t driving your kids into drugs, etc., kind of evil? Maybe she wasn’t actually an evil person, but it sure sounds like her actions were evil.

  • Lori Wells Mang

    Yes, my friends’ fundamentalism drove her oldest child into drugs and severe misbehavior. But I love my friend and she is not evil. She loves her children very much and honestly thought she doing the right thing. She was brainwashed. Being brainwashed is NOT the same as being evil. Fundamentalism is evil. But most people are VICTIMS of that evil…not evil themselves. Granted, SOME fundamentalists are evil, but then so are some of the rest of the population. To label every fundamentalist as an evil person is the same as them calling you evil because you are more liberal…..

  • http://mikemoorehome.com/ mike moore

    Ok, I can see that, but It’s hard for me. I don’t ever want to be evil, but that doesn’t mean my actions can’t result in evil, no matter how good my intentions, and I think that’s something we should all own.

  • Mom

    Love her. Forgive her…. she doesn’t know what she’s doing. If they kick any of the kids out of the house, make it known that you will take them in. Love them. Don’t argue….. smile…. and bless them. She needs to know the love of God. She will eventually. You show her the unconditional love of the Father.

  • LoriBelle

    Forgive her???? Seriously????

  • http://www.whoaisnotme.net/anakinmcfly anakinmcfly

    Why?

    “Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus *said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” – Matthew 18:21-22

    Seriously, it’s not like his sister is a child murderer or something; it’s not even as though the author is gay and his sister shunned him because of that. There’s no serious crime here other than her having embraced fundamentalist Christianity and tried to push her beliefs on others, and I don’t see what there is in there that makes the thought of forgiving her anathema to you.

  • LoriBelle

    No, she just murdered their relationship. THAT is a crime. She has apparently destroyed every relationship with everyone who does not think like she and her husband. Apparently you have never lived with a similar situation. One gets tired of being a doormat for others to abuse.

  • BarbaraR

    “Murder their relationship” is just a wee bit hyperbolic, isn’t it? And “that is a crime”?
    We’ve all had situations like that; it’s going to happen to everyone sooner or later. Our choice is to stay or walk away. But as Anakin said, the sister is not guilty of a crime other than being very pushy and difficult. That’s hard but hardly unforgivable.

  • LoriBelle

    No, not everyone goes through something like this. This sister and bil are beyond pushy and difficult. What? He says “I forgive you” and she just keeps on the same path? These are the type of people in which “it’s my way or the highway.” If they cannot get along with the family and unwilling to try hold their tongues during family times, they are the ones that need to removed themselves. This brother has nothing to forgive. He can still have a relationship with his nieces and let them know that he will always be there for them. His sister is nothing but a crazy fundamentalist no different than the Taliban or ISIS. It’s their way or no way.

  • BarbaraR

    Because forgiveness doesn’t require the other person to change. It’s allowing oneself to let go of the situation, releasing the blame and anger, realize they are free, and be healthy. As someone said, “forgiveness is giving up all hope of a better past.”

  • LoriBelle

    One can be “free and happy” with out forgiving. It’s called moving on with your life. Believe me I know.

  • StudentHealer

    The simple “answer” from my Christian upbringing is, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

    We do not forgive to make the person who wronged us feel better. We forgive so we are not holding a grudge against another child of God. We forgive others because God forgives us.

    A more intricate explanation, digging into our broken human-ness and all the messes therein:

    “Forgiveness” is not synonymous with “let this person into my life to be close to me so they can hurt me again”. This kind of forgiveness is about letting go of the grudge so you can heal and move forward. For Christians, it’s about remembering that when Jesus paid for our sins, the wrongs done to you personally were also paid for… and that God is already carrying these burdens for us. We don’t have to and we can choose to stop trying.

    Real freedom (from pain, from old wounds caused by people we thought loved us) comes through grace. Where there is grace, there is forgiveness.

  • Virginia Galloway

    I think it’s also important to remember that forgiveness is a process and doesn’t necessarily happen all at once. Although I try to be open to the grace that engenders forgiveness, the best I’ve been able to do so far–and I speak from the perspective of someone who barely survived a childhood under the tyranny of cruel fundamentalists–is move from “I WILL not forgive you” to “I DO not forgive you.” At least the latter leaves the door open [barely, I acknowledge] to the possibility of forgiveness.

  • Pavitrasarala

    Sooooo, in other words, just put up with her emotional, verbal, and spiritual abuse and say nothing? Let her run over everyone else with hatred in the name of supposed love?

    Oh and yes, these fundies most *definitely* know what they’re doing. They’re justifying their personal hatred and insecurities by hiding behind Jesus’ robes.

  • Tim Crowhurst

    This situation is about more than just the sister and BiL. There are their daughters, who are in a vulnerable and (judging by what’s already happened) abusive situation. IMO their welfare is the single most important reason why the letter writer should maintain contact.

  • Elizabeth 44

    Try using the word “accept” her. This is not letting her run over you etc. This is acknowledging that she is what she is and you are not likely to change her. You love her. Forgiveness does not include having no boundaries. You are letting go of the anger, frustration, pain… You are letting her be.

  • https://twitter.com/ashareem Ash McSidhe

    Matthew 22 holds a key to her, I believe. In particular, verses 37-40:

    37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
    38 This is the first and great commandment.
    39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
    40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

    Her problem is that she doesn’t love herself.

  • LoriBelle

    If all they do is surround themselves with like-minded people, they will never change because they never hear another prospective. I’m in my early 50’s and my gentleman friends is around 65 and really, we both are pretty much middle of the road. We don’t do everything together and I can tell when he’s spending waaaaaaaaay too much time with his extremely conservative friends. I also know these friends and know that they surround themselves with like-minded people — same church, most own their own business. (I actually walked away from that church because to see how they are outside of church, looking down on others “liking” racists pictures and pages on Face Book (especially if it has to do with our President), it sickens me that then they stand up in church as leaders.) Luckily I can always pull him back to the middle. We listen to each other and hear each other. Sometimes he can change my mind, but mostly I change his mind. We love each other and will never walk away from each other. I keep him grounded in truth and reality. :)

  • Michelle Par

    Sounds like my parents (father especially). My husband and I just try to shut our mouths and grit our teeth for the three days (never more than that) that we visit. We chat, like very polite and casual acquaintances, and change the subject rapidly when we feel that we’re approaching dangerous topics. My husband (a political science professor) won’t even read the news because it will cause a problem. For various reasons, we’ve been able to avoid visiting the church they’ve started so far. This Christmas, that may not work, and I’m dreading trying to figure something out. They’re never going to change, and we’re never going to be comfortable with their fundamentalist beliefs, so we just keep plugging along the only way we can. *sigh*

  • http://mikemoorehome.com/ mike moore

    I find it’s next to impossible to for someone to challenge, “I hope I’m not getting the flu …”

    Good luck, you and your husband should be commended for even trying.

  • Michelle Par

    Thanks. I’m just waiting for the day that they find something l’ve posted online about this stuff. I am, from my perspective, very honest and open about everything, and I know they’d FREAK OUT if they saw any of this. It probably isn’t wise to use my actual photo and my name, but I can’t not be that way. Being secretive and hiding crap while trying to portray one’s self and one’s family as perfect is both exhausting and will come back to bite one in the butt (also stuff I’ve learned from watching my family).

  • DC Rambler

    They remind me of the motorcycle gang in ” The Wild Bunch ” that rolls into town all noisy and rude and have their way on the good people..
    They have broken off into a cult-like sect and and have strict rules for membership..Step out of line and you will be banished..
    They no longer even fake that they want to save souls or spread the word..They just want gather with their tribe, congratulate themselves and talk about how evil everyone not in the room is..In Jesus’ name..Amen..

  • Matthew Bade

    I am convinced that people embrace religious fundamentalism because they are severely broken. We’re all broken, but fundamentalists are a special kind of broken. This particular woman sounds like she had a good childhood, which only goes to show how badly damaged we can become for no good reason. I think that her embracing Christian fundamentalism is incidental to the real problem. And what is that problem? Well, I don’t think anyone can ever know, because only God can see how each one of us is broken and how to fix the unique fissures in each person’s soul. She is mentally unsettled and unstable, and probably hurting badly on the inside; that pain and her brokenness drew her to fundamentalist Christianity, not the other way around. I don’t think fundamentalism necessarily cracks anybody, because I believe that people who are already cracked in a certain way tend to gravitate towards fundamentalism. Now, naturally, I believe that religious fundamentalism is a horribly toxic phenomenon, but that’s part of my point: “normal” people know this, so they tend not to drift towards it. Having a soul which is damaged in a certain way is almost a prerequisite for becoming a religious fanatic. Does this mean that “normal” people are immune to the Siren song of fundamentalism? I think so, in the same way that some people will never become obese while others with another particular type of brokenness will inevitably grow overweight. There are so many ways for people to be damaged in the soul, and one of those ways involves a predisposition to religious fundamentalism. I realize that none of this offers any help to the man who wrote the letter, but maybe it will shed some light on why people are drawn to horrible things. Or maybe I’m wrong on all of this. I mean, who’s anybody to say why people are damaged? For all I know, maybe she’s not broken and will leave on her own. Or maybe I’m right, and God will fix her so she can walk away from this kind of virulent lifestyle. The only hard advice I can give is to show her a better way. There are many theologians who offer up an alternative narrative which makes the most sense of scripture in its entirety, who can reveal the bigger picture of Creation and Covenant, from the Fall to Israel’s vocation to rescue the world, including her own stumblings, from our need for Redemption to God’s answer in Jesus, all the way to Christian mission and out the other side in New Creation. N.T. Wright in particular has a sane, brilliant and thoroughly biblical take on reality. I would ask this woman to read Simply Christian, which is an excellent primer, and challenge her to read it with a mind open to what scripture is trying desperately to say, if she’ll only just listen.

  • Pavitrasarala

    After living near my fundamentalist in-laws for 9 years, I have to say I wholeheartedly agree with you. I’m privy to a lot of things my MIL grew up with and some of the choices she made when she was very young, and that woman is indeed very broken… and quite malignantly narcissistic. We have not had anything to do with my spouse’s family in several years and it all funnels back to her. She holds the key to our having any connection with the rest of the family and as long as she paints us as evil people with weak to no faith while making up lies about why we really stay away, well…

  • BrownIydGyrl

    As a recovering fundamentalist I don’t think that I’m any less “normal” than the next person (although my kids might disagree!). For me, it was how I was raised. I didn’t even know that there were other, legitimate points of view. I accepted the way the bible was translated for me, hook, line and sinker. I attended conservative churches and had conservative friends. I stumbled across The Junia Project blog one day and a whole new world opened up for me. That blog led to other blogs, and so on. It is possible to walk away and develop more balanced, healthy beliefs.

  • CamBour

    I experienced some similar things with family and friends in my early life. It is hard. Very hard. And was my first indication that converting to so-called “Christianity” can sometimes mean turning into a very nasty, cruel, manipulative, and falsely pious person.

    I have no advice for this man, other than to offer my sympathies and to say that I am sorry he has lost his sister in this way. Perhaps one day his sister will change. It’s not impossible. But it likely won’t be because of any way in which he can intervene. Logical argument will likely only drive her further in, as she will likely see attempts at logical argument as a Satanic threat.

    My best wishes to this man and my prayers for comfort for him and for the opening of his sister’s eyes and heart.

  • NorthernJoe

    Hi there.
    I wanted to chime in on this letter, even though I suspect what I have to say will have already been said by others. :)
    Please be aware, LW, that your sister has an addiction. In this case, it’s an addiction to a mindset that allows her to trump all social rules and blood ties because She Is Right.
    And also, please be aware that allowing her to bully you (” We all walk a mine field trying not step on any of her triggers.”) is feeding her addiction. Every time she gets to lord her beliefs over someone else, she is chasing away the doubts and fears that she believes come from Satan. Which means she’s going to keep doing it.
    And she is royally ruining Christmas for everyone except herself and her husband.
    The only thing that I have found that works in a situation like this is to take care of myself first. Set boundaries. Either throw down in the arguments with no holds barred, or tell sis that you’re going to ignore her whenever she starts going down her holy road. Step on the g’damned mines or walk out of the minefield entirely, but stop tip toeing around like that will prevent an explosion.
    I don’t know if that will help her, but it will help you.
    You don’t have to hate her to do this. But you do need to love yourself.

    P.S. Whatever you decide, let mom and dad know ahead of time so they’re prepared for the crazy.

  • Michael Cash

    I believe we are called upon to bless each other. Blessing each other does not mean that I am called upon to be “right,” but it does mean that I am called upon to be “forthright.” Blessing someone means that I do not turn my back on them, but rather I turn and “face” them with all of who I am at the moment. So, in my life, I have chosen to let those who are fundies in my family, know that I do not believe what they believe. I will let them know what I believe, and I will not engage in a tit for tat argument about the meaning of bible verses or politics though I will give my opinion. I will simply state my beliefs and be myself, If they choose to argue instead of accept my right to believe differently, I will leave the conversation for the moment so as to protect myself from abuse while letting them know that I think they are being abusive. I will also let them know that I will be back, however.

  • Brent R. Orrell

    I would encourage the writer not to despair. The story isn’t over; for his sister it may not have begun yet. Family splits are painful regardless of the cause (e.g. money) but it is important to remain open to the possibility of redemption at least in principle. Writing each other off is not an option.

  • Bear Walker

    Actually, writing each other off IS an option, and it seems like this sister has already spiritually written off her relatives who do not agree with her. I am sure that every person likes to think that his or her personal spiritual path is (at least) the best FOR THEM, but to get the idea that one’s own path is the only one and true path, and that anyone who deviates from it is going to perdition, is essentially writing off everyone who disagrees with one.

    There often comes a time in a person’s life, when that person has to decide whether to continue being in a toxic environment or not. Essentially, there are three choices when in any toxic environment:
    1. Accept the toxicity and all it entails for your personal health.
    2. Change the environment so it is no longer toxic.
    3. Leave the toxic environment.

    I don’t recommend #1, any more than I would recommend continuing to live near Three Mile Island just because you “love the old home place”. Choice #2 is out of his hands–it’s hard enough to change ourselves, much less to change someone else. And as difficult as it may be to separate one’s self from the toxicity coming from the sister, in the long run choice #3 may be the best thing for all concerned. Sometimes a person who is being toxic has no idea how much they are harming those around them, and they need the shock of losing those people to open their eyes… and hearts.

  • KellyLynne

    I think there’s a fourth choice that’s a combination of 2 and 3 (with a little bit of 1, but only as much as you can tolerate). You set a boundary and enforce it, e.g., “Sis, I want to spend time with you, but I’m not willing to argue about religion or politics with you. So if you tell me I’m going to hell or bring up how awful Obama is, I’m going to leave [the conversation, the room, maybe the whole event].” I think what you said about people being toxic needing a shock to wake them up is true. But I think with religious toxicity in particular, if you take too hard a line, she’ll just feel like a martyr who’s heroically standing up for God’s truth and being persecuted by her secular family.

  • Bear Walker

    No matter how you couch it, you are choosing #3. Sure, you are setting some limits and giving a warning, but you are still making the choice that, if the environment doesn’t change, you leave the environment. That doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning her sister–it means leaving the toxic environment, as long as it remains toxic.

    Sometimes the loss to the other person can be temporary.

  • KellyLynne

    Fair enough. But I think it’s important to point out that option #3 doesn’t require writing the other person off completely or leaving permanently.

  • Bear Walker

    We have to disagree somewhat. I believe that, at times, it is absolutely vital to cut one’s self off from toxic people and have nothing to do with them, if you intend to survive. Honestly. And I don’t care if it is your sister, your father, your ex-whatever. You can NOT continue to be bombarded by slings and arrows, subjected to a toxic and poisonous environment, and survive intact. So… if you choose to stay in the toxic environment, you have chosen Option #1. If that IS your choice, then fine… but you have chosen a path that will, ultimately, probably be destructive to you.

    Let’s change the parameters here, to see if writing a toxic person off is a valid choice. Let’s say you have a friend who date raped you. He is unrepentant, and believes you “asked for it.” Would it be in your best interest to stay in this person’s company, or to allow him to associate freely with you?

    Or… maybe this is a person who harmed one of your children at one time (i.e., beat the child unmercifully), and, again, is unrepentant and blase about the whole thing. Would it be a good thing to keep taking your kids around that person? Would it be healthy for your kids, or for you?

    Whether you realize it or not… whether you ACCEPT it or not… this person’s sister is the emotional and mental equivalent of an unrepentant rapist or abusive person. They care nothing about your boundaries… she cares nothing about boundaries. They feel they are right to do hurtful things… she feels she is right to do hurtful things. They feel the damage they inflict is their right… she feels not only is it her right, but her Christian DUTY to do so. And don’t say, “She doesn’t mean to hurt anyone.” That’s what abused women say about their boyfriends or husbands who beat them.

    By the way, don’t say “By the Grace of God I can make it.” God also gave us common sense, and the ability to walk away from things or people that are destructive to us. If not, why not just stand in front of a mugger and let him beat the crap out of you? God’s grace would let you handle it, right? The family is not “sacred” in the sense that cutting one’s sister out of your life, is a sin.

  • KellyLynne

    Wow. You’re making it sound like I’m recommending putting up with any and all abuse indefinitely, when all I said was that you can establish boundaries without cutting off all contact. He might reach a point where writing her off completely is the best option, but he doesn’t have to start there, is all I’m saying.

    And no, I don’t think trying to convert someone to your religion and being a jerk about it is equivalent to raping, mugging, or beating them. Yes, they’re all hurtful things, but not all hurtful things are equal.

    I also never said anything about handling it by God’s grace, so you seem to be either conflating my comments with someone else’s or putting words in my mouth.

  • Bear Walker

    Well, we probably have no more to discuss then. You obviously have not seen the level of spiritual and emotional violence done to people, that I have seen, if you can’t see that it can be just as painful AND destructive as other forms of abuse. Since that is so, our worldviews are so different, that it’s pointless to try to debate the matter here in this forum.

    However, recall that I didn’t say that the emotional abuse is the same as rape. I was comparing letting that person who has injured you, continue to come around and act like nothing was wrong, to staying in the OPs toxic relationship. I said that they are the ” emotional and mental equivalent of an unrepentant rapist or abusive person.” You misread the post.

    As for my comment regarding grace, it’s just something that I have heard WAY too many times from people who say that staying in an abusive marriage is what God wants. Sure, God’s grace is sufficient. But even St. Paul knew when it was time to “get out of Dodge”, so to speak, and allowed his friends to let him down the city walls in the night, to escape. He didn’t rely upon God’s grace–he used his God-given wisdom and left the situation.

  • KellyLynne

    Again, you’re implying that I’m saying there’s no such thing as spiritual abuse and that the letter writer should tolerate anything and everything the sister dishes out. Please don’t assume that I’ve never seen spiritual abuse because I’m not agreeing with you on every single point.

    If I haven’t made it clear, let me be emphatic about it: If you need to cut someone off completely because they’re abusive, then DO THAT and don’t feel guilty about it for a minute. But the letter-writer says he doesn’t want to cut her off, and I think it’s important to point out that there are things he can do to maintain his emotional well-being without it necessarily getting to that point. That’s it. That’s all I wanted to say.

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

    Sometimes you can establish boundaries, sometimes you cannot. I personally know of too many people who have family in religious settings that create such a toxic environment, that complete seperation was the only option remaining. I know that several tried the maintaining boundaries option, only to have that family member continue to run all over it creating emotional heartache. Therefore complete and often permament seperation ends up being the only recourse, decisions never made lightly.

  • Bear Walker

    BTW, am I really responsible for someone else’s decision to label himself or herself as a martyr? I don’t think so. That is THEIR choice.

  • KellyLynne

    Are you responsible for it? No. Is it worth considering if you want to have a relationship with the person? Yes. Whether it’s worth having a relationship with her is a question for the letter writer to answer, not us.

  • louis

    in a.a. it’s called turning it over to a higher power.

  • HappyCat

    I would , very gently and with a ton of regret, arrange to spend an alternate time to spend the holiday without her. I would tell your sister that there is a line between witness and harassment that she has crossed time and time again. Explain that you are done and that her behavior is doing your faith no favors. You should have at least one Christmas you can spend in peace. I would recommend the book Stop Walking On Eggshells.

  • cath

    It’s your parents’ home. They should be able to insist that religious/political conversation not take place in their home. Instead of just sitting around visiting, why not think of some activity that could become the focus instead? If it’s temperate, play basketball; if it’s snowy, build snowfolks. Or have a scavenger hunt or play party games or anything to direct conversation away from her beliefs. Good luck. It’s hard to cope with fundamentalists.

  • LostGrrl

    I tend to agree with Northern Joe here, that she is broken. This statement in your letter struck me…”To be fair she has always been the sort to believe that whatever she
    thinks is the only way. When she got saved, she just applied this
    attitude to her Christianity.” Turning to extreme forms of Christianity, or any religion or cause can be an indication of someone that needs extreme structure and authority…it sounds like she has control issues and must always find a way to put herself above others…I know the mindset….I was part of it for many years (although not as extreme…I would never not do vaccinations…that’s just silly).

    Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/2014/12/the-tragedy-of-christian-fundamentalism-strikes-again/#ixzz3L4mdNraJ

  • louis

    his sister probably has it somewhere in her history that she was severly abused physically, sexually or emotionally as a child.

  • Brandon Roberts

    I think the parents should be allowed to make the rules in their home that being said I do feel bad for this person

  • Rev. David Gray

    Is there any reason you are using the image of Donna Berry taken during the Dale Farm eviction, who has nothing to do with fundamentalism of any kind – though is probably a victim of it? Does Donna know you are using her image?

  • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

    (No. It’s just something I found online. It looks so fake/Photoshopped I just assumed it was from a … bad movie somewhere.)

  • Rev. David Gray

    Thanks John. When I saw it, I knew I’d seen it before. When I shared, some folk were concerned at the use of this image in this way – not least as Donna was helping fight evictions in a notorious case of oppression here in UK.

  • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

    Oh, okay. Gotcha. So lemme go see if I can find a different image. Thanks for info!

  • Rev. David Gray

    Thanks John.

  • http://www.scrappersworkshop.com Jennifer White

    John, as an experienced blogger you should know you can’t just use images willy-nilly. If it WERE from a movie, you would be violating copyright law. As it is, you are in violation of the law anyway. There are images available without royalty through the Creative Commons license program. When I need an image for my blog, I google Flickr Creative Commons and follow links to search for the type of image I need. The Attribution license is the free-est and only requires you to provide attribution in form of a credit or link to the original copyright holder. It’s the right thing to do, to protect intellectual property much like you’d want your writing to be respected and protected.

  • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

    Jennifer: You’re right; I’m a very experienced blogger, and so of course am familiar with everything you’re saying. Thanks for the recap, though.

  • http://www.scrappersworkshop.com Jennifer White

    so…. then I’m not sure I understand why you feel the need to steal images for the blog, if you’re up to date on your copyright law? Please be careful with this, it sets a bad example for others when respected bloggers play loose with intellectual property laws.

  • Dedangelo

    I think this poor man was spot on when he said he tends to treat his sister as he would an alcoholic or drug addict. People can get drunk on religion, too, and she plainly is.

  • summers-lad

    The opposite of faith is not doubt but certainty.
    “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” This woman is clearly not free. But many people who are prisoners of totalitarian regimes (nations, sects, sin) believe that they are free. You never know until it happens what seeds of truth will grow into freedom.

  • Nathan Aldana

    Speaking as an atheist who nonetheless considers some christians very close friends of mine..and who has also lost more than one good friend to this same sort of super-fundamentalism., the only good advice I can offer the writer is to not stop loving his sister, but acknowledge that if you cant get through to her and she is constantly making life more toxic for you, it might be best to simply cut her out of your life and keep to the people who arent going to cause you undue amounts of emotional strain. near. Life’s too short to live being hurt day in and day out by someone who obviously seems to have no problem with hurting others.

  • Bones

    Pastor told gay Christian: Go kill yourself

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/63934551/Pastor-told-gay-Christian-Go-kill-yourself

    “I pray that you will commit suicide, you filthy child molesting LollyPop.”

    Says it all really.

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

    I liked it, because of your pointing out christianity at its worst, and something we are fighting so hard, but I hated it, because it points out Christianity at its worst

  • Psycho Gecko

    I’ve had the same mixed feelings with someone pointing out the islamaphobes, racists, and sexists in atheism.

    Thing is, we can’t fix the problem if we refuse to acknowledge the problem exists in the first place.

  • http://simplifiedtheology.com/ Kyle Buss

    I’ve never quite understood the need for a Christian to identify oneself as this (progressive) or that (evangelical). As the majority of the time I see it as a disassociation of brothers from sisters. Somehow, we take the unity of Christ’s message and make it exclusive to one faction or another.

    I guess for all intents and purposes of identifying myself as a Christian, I would call myself an Ecumenical Christian. Most the time I get wrongly accused of being a Fundamental Christian in conversations with non-Christians. But I think that’s because, as this article points out, Fundamentalists have made themselves the easier prey to opposing viewpoints.

  • Guy Norred

    I would love to agree with the sentiment of your comment. I do believe we SHOULD be a more unified group. When I was a kid, I remember finding the way some Christian groups disdained other Christian groups (especially those who did not see those other groups as even Christian). Despite having lost this naivety, to a great extent, I feel that is still my understanding and my intent (to hold onto that Ecumenicalism at least in an internal way), again, especially in regard to identifying as Christian. If some say they are Christian, I try to accept that no matter how much I may disagree with their understanding of what that means. All of this said, with perhaps increasing exceptions, it has not been the progressives who have been exclusive in their relations with other brothers and sisters in Christ. Also, since the understanding of Christianity by non-Christians is so colored by the things I completely disagree with, I would almost rather give up the word (as many actually have) than be included in this definition, so I see no reason to not embrace the adjective.

  • http://simplifiedtheology.com/ Kyle Buss

    Thanks, Guy. I would say you are more Ecumenical than you think.

    My comment was intended to be poignant and ironic at the same time. As the letter was from a brother about his sister’s fundamentalism. And that I never quite understood the need for using adjectives to describe what type of Christian a person is but then refer to myself as Ecumenical.

    I think you have raised some good points. I find that regardless of which adjective is used to describe what type of Christian you are, to non-Christians (or even other Christians) you are going to be lumped into beliefs that you disagree with. It’s communicating the differences of what you believe and don’t believe vs. what someone else thinks you believe that is important. Which leaves me with the question: Why use an adjective when you will still need to explain what it is you believe?

  • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

    Here is the reason I feel a need to identify myself as a Christian who is absolutely NOT a fundamentalist. It’s taken from the What We Believe page that I wrote for my group Unfundamentalist Christians:

    A question we are sometimes asked is: “Why the name Unfundamentalist Christians? Wouldn’t it be better to define yourself by what you’re for, rather than what you’re against?”

    Christian fundamentalism is defined by and vigorously promotes everywhere authoritarianism, the oppression of women, homophobia, xenophobia, the “danger” of education, corporal punishment, a literal and inerrant view of scripture, “all or nothing” thinking, and a God whose primary function is to judge and punish.

    We are Christians who are for none of those things. And we think it’s high time Christianity stopped being associated with them. Hence our name.

    Also, there is nothing wrong with defining oneself by what one opposes. Martin Luther opposed the wrongs of the Catholic Church; George Washington opposed the British occupation of America; Gandhi opposed the British occupation of India; Martin Luther King, Jr. opposed racism.

    To oppose a negative is a positive.

  • http://simplifiedtheology.com/ Kyle Buss

    You realize that you’ve provided more “anti-” than “un-” statements in your “What We Believe” section above. So the name of your group would more accurately be referred to as “anti-fundamentalists.”

    Luther wrote more about what he believed than what he “rejected regarding the Catholic Church”. Washington embraced freedom. Gandhi was an activist for civil rights and freedom. And MLK Jr. promoted civil rights and equality. These individuals are known more for what they believed than what the “opposed.” You can try and use clever wording but it won’t stand up.

    It’s one thing to define yourself based off of what you believe and quite another to oppose the beliefs of others.

  • Psycho Gecko

    Fundies are the loudest voice, and it really is the case that their views are influencing politics. They often drag lots of other Christians along with their causes with the power of “God says!”

    But the labels are important for understanding what type of Christian you’re dealing with. 7th Day Adventists believe that treating Sunday as the Sabbath is a Satanic plot. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t like organ transplants or blood transfusions. Christian Scientists have a much higher death rate for children because they believe in treating injuries and illness with prayer only. Dominionists believe in transforming the U.S. into a theocratic monarchy, and frequently join the military for training because they’re pretty sure they’ll have to make war to do that.

    Every denomination has their quirks, so knowing what you’re dealing with may help you be able to make some sort of argument toward dealing with the flaws of that particular brand of fundamentalist Christianity. In the letter above, we’re dealing with a Presuppositionalist, who are big on circular logic and who refuse to even consider evidence. They presuppose that God exists, so their understanding of facts and reality has to be bent to match that core belief. They believe that True Christians should get by just on faith, because looking for evidence means you’re probably not a True Christian. That’s important, because they think that anyone who ever deconverts was never a Christian. One of the bigger names in Presuppositionalism, Sye Ten Bruggencate, is quoted as saying that if a person who would have deconverted dies while still a Christian, they’d go to hell because they were still not a True Christian.

    Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

    Yo Joe!

  • http://simplifiedtheology.com/ Kyle Buss

    I see, you aren’t exactly arguing against fundamentalism but the beliefs that different denominations/individuals hold fundamentally. Which would mean that everyone is a Fundie, even non-Christians.

    Generally, I find when someone refers to another as a Fundie or fundamentalist it is being used as a slam against their beliefs. That they are so fundamental in their beliefs that no amount of evidence or reason will change their opinions. What I think people miss is that when we attack a persons beliefs and understanding of things that it becomes very personal to the one who holds them.

  • Psycho Gecko

    It’s hard to be a fundamentalist without some belief you’re fundamentalist about.

  • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

    “In the letter above, we’re dealing with a Presuppositionalist, who are big on circular logic and who refuse to even consider evidence. They presuppose that God exists, so their understanding of facts and reality has to be bent to match that core belief. …”

    I’m not getting this emphasis on ‘Presuppositionalist’. It just doesn’t seem like a as a category to be applied to subsets of religious personality.

    The assumption that ‘God/Enlightenment/Liberation’ exists, is the foundation of religious practice. Once you undertake a practice, you aren’t going to make any progress by second guessing the reasons for it at every turn.

    Looking for ‘evidence’ of what is a priori, is just spinning your wheels. You haven’t actually made the leap.

    However, the issue of what characteristics one attributes to ‘God/Enlightenment/Liberation’, IS open for questioning and evaluation. As we learn we adapt. This is evolution.

    Deliberate adjustment is ideally undertaken by one and all, on a daily basis. But isn’t. Mainly because people have different capacity for such things. Some orbits are more constricted and tightly bound than others. Some less so.

  • Psycho Gecko

    I’ve never been one of the most optimistic ones when it comes to the idea of changing the minds of the religious. Some of the same difficulties come up with inter-denomination problems, too. What makes it worse is that it appears the sister is a presuppositionalist.

    That’s really not a good thing. Presuppositionalism is quite fundie of a bunch. It’s all about circular logic. Because they think scientists presuppose god doesn’t exist, they presuppose he does. They also believe that evidence is useless because anyone who deconverts was never a True Christian, and anyone who is a Christian should listen to the parts of the bible that say that they shouldn’t need evidence. In fact, looking for evidence is a sign to them that a person may not be a True Christian.

    I don’t really have advice on this one. I think you’d need to talk to a deconverted presuppositionalist to best see about how you might try to convince her. Otherwise, I think the best you can hope for is that she doesn’t completely ruin her kids’ lives.

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

    I believe that changing the mind of the religious is done by the person holding that religious mindset. All the convincing tactics ever devised is not going to budge someone who’s mind is made up, and they are convinced that what they believe is what they are supposed to believe. In fact it may entrench them even more.

    Its those of us who are dissatisfied with what we’ve been taught, or insatiably curious, or just tired of living in fear and dissolution, who may be willing to hear or consider that there’s something else out there.

  • Tim

    Right. The Greek Philosopher Epictetus said; “What is the first business of one who practices philosophy? To get rid of self-conceit. For it is impossible for anyone to begin to learn that which he thinks he already knows.”
    Book II, ch. 17.

    I’m pretty sure 1st Corinthians says something very similar.

  • Tim

    For reference:

    1 Corinthians 8:1,2 “Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. 2If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; 3but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.…”

    and

    1 Corinthians 3:18
    “Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise.”

  • JCM

    … I know it’s way off topic, but …. I can’t look at your handle and not think to myself if I should change controller ports :)

  • Psycho Gecko

    You really should. And try to spend less time playing Five Nights at Freddy’s, while you’re at it.

  • JCM

    Hm? Haven’t played it. FNaF does not interest me.

  • Psycho Gecko

    You must have switched memory cards, too.

  • Drew Meyer

    Love her (as best as you can) and be there for her. Until she crashes (if she does), there is no way to get to her. She is existing in a self-fueling shell. If it comes crashing down around here, be there to help her pick up the pieces.
    -another recovering fundamentalist

  • Leslie Terrell

    Try to take it with a grain of salt. I had this problem with my brother, then he got divorced and became a human being who can laugh at his religion again. Keep in mind that in my family, getting each other’s ‘goat’ is a universal hobby. It sucks and it’s hard and all you can do is privately slip the kids your phone number and hope for the best. The next time she tells you she thinks you or your parents are going to hell, look her in the eye and tell her all your friends will be there too and she needs to stop talking about her family that way. It’s stupid, wrong, and mean and indulging it because it’s her religion isn’t helpful. Hang in there.

  • charlesmaynes

    hey John, this brings to mind directly the “red letter” movement…. one might say that Christian fundamentalism is indeed unswervingly following Jesus words-

    and Jesus said, that the Greatest Commandment was the pinnacle expression of obedience.

    so in that we must cast what we understand as “Fundamentalism” in the same manner we would look at Whabbist Islam- a sect of narrow interpretation that manipulates the the understanding of the word of God to sow everything Jesus stood against.

    Perhaps we need to simply stop giving false legitimacy to that viewpoint by using a word that implicitly grants it legitimacy.

  • Brian Hager

    John, I have largely given up that the “christian” church will ever embrace people who struggle with idea of what their Faith is and who that Relationship is with. The only place that finally helped me substantially find my Faith was a 12 Step meeting. Now I have a relationship with the God of my understanding who helped me accept my sexual orientation and move beyond the narrow judgments my church taught me to repeat in my dealings with others. My Faith has also finally freed me from the prison of my past emotional abuse. I will not return to that church ever again or go back to the “Paint by numbers Jesus I was raised with.”

  • KJB007

    I believe that if there were no religion at all, this man’s sister would be the same person with the same negative spirit and basic narcissism. She is obviously disordered as is extreme fundamentalism of every kind.

  • GodLoves People

    Why do you / does she call herself a “fundamentalist?” To me, a “fundamentalist” is someone who pursues a relationship with God based on the fundamentals of the Bible. He or she is not defined by politics, affiliations, or prejudices–only his/her adherence to the principles of the Gospel as enunciated by the Lord, and enshrined in the Scriptures.
    I do wish people would use words with their proper meaning. The letter you quote refers to someone who is a
    “cultist,” and who is “out there,” and who rejects a large part of the Scripture she says she believes in. “Being saved” is not a pejorative thing, either. It is a large part of the New Testament, but it is A-political, based on passages like Romans 10:13, which define salvation as “calling on the Lord.” What could be wrong with that?
    This person’s sister is not a fundamentalist, except in the sense that she’s fundamentally weird, prejudiced, and represents all the worst stuff in the cults.

  • BarbaraR

    *Sigh*
    You’re new here, right?

  • http://www.godlovespeople.org GodLoves People

    Well, Yes, I am. Reading through some of the comments here I find a kinship with some others, but apparently my definitions lack. That’s always the problem. How do we define someone in words…
    Back in the day, one of my profs mentioned that a “fundamentalist” was someone who could look through a keyhole with both eyes at once…
    However, I see people call Mormons “fundamentalists,” and the same with JW’s, and then people who are Bob Jones U. graduates, and American Family Association members, and that confuses me, since now people use the term for two things;
    1. The supremely prejudiced.
    2. The doctrinally confused.
    I’m ordinarily not one to argue semantics, but that particular set of usages grates on me, because most everyone does subscribe to something that he calls “fundamentals.” I’m sure you subscribe to some set of fundamental principles, and I do as well. Even if it’s a “universal respect for life,” that is fundamental to a given person.
    Anyway. I get your point, and I’ll refrain (if I respond again) from semantic rants.

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

    Fundamentalism: a movement or attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles

    Fundamental: serving as a basis supporting existence or determining essential structure or function, or a basis from which to build

    In a nutshell, Fundamentalism, insists on sticking to the basics of its principles and that everyone must adhere, regardless. A fascinating study on this was done by Karen Armstrong in her book A Battle For God.

    According to her, Fundamentalism is almost always born out of fear…fear of change, fear of loss of control, fear of being made irrelevent, fear of others, fear of loss. These fears may be justified as outside forces offer tangible threats, and religious fundamentalism was born as a means to preserve a society and way of life. Often, the fear is based on how society evolves, and the shifts in cultural and social norms that occur along the way.

    Cults are: a system of religious or spiritual beliefs, especially an informal and transient belief system regarded by others as misguided, unorthodox, extremist, or false, and directed by a charismatic, authoritarian leader. That last part, the charismatic authoritarian leader is a key to the modern cult. Without that person, the cult fails, or as in my experience, splinters as others try to pick up the slack and be as close to a representation of the former leader as possible.

    Mormonism started out as a cult. For the most part, it evolved into subsect of Christianity. The same with JW’s. The latter falls into more of the fundamentalism line, Mormonism is like most major denominations, with conservative and liberal aspects, depending on groups.

    Bob Jones. Well there is a whole other kettle of fish. They and other schools like them embody and embold Christian fundamentlism, sometimes to the point of danger. Bob Jones U was recently investigated and found woefully lacking in their history of handling rape and sexual assault on campus, and how they treated victimes. http://www.wspa.com/story/27605661/grace-releases-report-on-bju-sex-assault-response. Ive been on campus a few times, and am creeped out every time.

    AFA, are just one more garden variety fundamentalists and a very vocal and well funded hate group. They and others like them exist with the purpose of spreading lies and discord while pretending to be a Christian organization.

    For examples of cults…look up Armstrongism (the movement I grew up in), Christian Identity Movement (the aryan nation).

    for the record, Christianity itself started out as a cult, as an odd offshoot from Judiasm, and even had its charismatic leader…well sort of.

  • tom lowe

    OK folks: allegro…, John E…, Barbara…,Matt, et al. GodLoves… is properly citing semantics, as is everyone commenting on this topic.

    I, too, am new “here”. I am, however, not new to this topic. I am also progressive and LGBTQ-supportive, so it is within that collegiality I feel welcome and invited to comment as a newcomer, albeit not likely to be a “frequent flyer” to this particular message board. And, since identifying oneself seems to be abdicated to others unless one chooses to self-identify upfront, allow me to identify myself as a Liberal/Progressive Christian. I am not asking for validation by any of the commentators here. After all, any attempt to invalidate another does not play well with progressive ideology; indeed, to do so would be rather a form of fundamentalism.

    I relate very much to the insidious evil (I do beg indulgence in using this term) evidenced in the letter which is the focus of John Shore’s December 4 post! This is terrible stuff; it is a very real sickness. I do, respectfully ask for all to lighten up on GodLoves…’s definition of fundamental or fundamentalism. GodLoves…’s definition(s) of this term as “basic”, “baseline”, “minimal requirement”, etc. is (are) as valid as those, and I do include myself in this category, who define fundamentalism as “cult-like”, “strict and literal
    adherence to a set of basic principles”, “adherence without question”, etc.

    Actually, it seems to me that the term “cult” is more fluid than static. Any group can attain cult-like status with the simple application of a “we vs. them” stance; “good” and “bad”, “right” or “wrong”, “in” and “out” just simply become the inverse of each other. The benign manifestations of these groups are known as various religions, political parties, nationalities, ethnicities, races, support groups, non-profits, charities, social classes…, the list can be endless. Why is there always a noticeable disconnect with the concept of evolving culture and the understanding of cults? Is there no etymological relationship here?

    I know that I have digressed, but I do feel strongly against blasting out of the water anyone who does not conform to stated or unstated norms or inclusive opinions of comment boards especially when the purpose of such inclusivity is to advance a cause or to bring to light a past or present hurtful experience. But, by all means, blast the hell out of those posters who obviously are posting only to antagonize. I know Barbara… that you have the badge of “MOD”, but I would encourage you to be judicious in the exercising of the responsibility. After all, to do otherwise is tantamount to being simply the inverse of what your group aspires.

    Finally, John E…. I honestly do love your comeback line of: “Actually,if you jumped up my ass I would NOT shit a rainbow!” That’s a keeper and I more than likely will try to find an attempt to use it!

    Blessings. T. Lowe

  • BarbaraR

    I suspect you’re not actually confused; you do know what is meant by fundamentalist in this setting, but the point you’re making is one of semantics. As allegro says below, fundamentalism really refers to a set of beliefs that cannot be challenged, changed, or questioned, and that could apply to any number of groups, religious or otherwise.

    This is a progressive site that is LGBTQ-supportive, as well as open to multiple interpretations of scripture as well as who God may or may not be. Everyone’s experience to God is different because God meets us where we are, not where someone else thinks we ought to be.

    We’re fine with discussion and stating of opinions. We are much less fine with “This is what the Bible says and anyone who disagrees doesn’t know how to read it.” We do not see the Bible as an infallible rule book directly inspired by God; we see it as a series of writings put together by people over many years, some of whom were doing what they believed to be God’s work and some of whom had their own reasons for writing. There’s allegory, fables, poetry, parables, instruction to a specific group of people, and some really dull twaddle.

    We believe God may reveal him/herself to many people in many places at different times in many guises. While many of us here identify as Christian, we do not think non-Christians are automatically destined for hell. Some people here don’t believe there is a hell. And that’s all fine.

    This isn’t a place for everyone, and we’re OK with that too.

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

    Ok. Lets clarify things a bit just to make sure I know where you are coming from.
    1. Do you believe that the Bible is THE WORD OF GOD, is innerant and holy, and the only tool for authoritative instruction on life?
    2. Do you believe that one has to believe in the divine and risen state of Jesus to be a Christian, or to gain access to heaven?
    3. Do you believe that anyone who doesn’t fit in point number 2 will go to hell?
    4. Do you believe that a Christians’ primary duty is to recruit others into the fold with the opening purpose is to “save souls from hell”?
    5. Do you believe that God is correctly represented by only male referencing and that God is triune?
    6. Do you feel that people who do not fit your understanding of Christianity are not true Christians?
    7. Do you have any problem listening toor speaking derogatorily about the LGBT community, people who are poor, people of other faiths, people of color, the president or other political leaders.
    8. Is end-time mythicism a large part of your belief system, and think that the world is ending soon?
    9. Do you believe that anyone who doesn’t answer to the affirmative to this list is lost and doomed?
    10. Do you see the gospel, as not a collection of writings opening the New Testament, or a way of life based on the premise of loving your neighbor as yourself, but as a command to preach and recruit disiciples?

    Believe it or not, those are all things that many fundamentalists would answer not only yes to but, absolutely yes to. Ironically, the more cultish ones…and I would know, having spent more than half my life in one, would have different responses, and qualifiers to those responses.
    Fundamentalism, has cultish qualities, as it leans towards exclusivism, and is heavily laced with fear, loathing while discouraging critical thinking. But there are differences between being a fundy Christian and a member of a cult.

  • http://www.godlovespeople.org GodLoves People

    So what do YOU believe?

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

    1. That there is something/someone/s we humans call god, but we haven’t begun to understand that, even after eons of trying.

    2. That religious belief and practice is man’s attempt to address point #1

    3. That doing so in a Christian setting can apply and apply beautifully if freedom for nonconformity is allowed and welcomed.

    4. That loving neighbor (all people) is a universal and essential principal for self and society despite its near impossibility.

    5. That faith is personal, unique, yet also strongly influenced by culture, experience, learned concepts and geographical location.

    6. That being a christian is all about point #4 using the examples of a lone former Jewish carpenter as emulation, while also seeing like examples throughout human history, including out present. We show God’s love by how we treat one another

    7. That concern for an afterlife is a waste of time and energy. We do not know, we can do nothing about what happens to us after we die, much less alter the fact that we all do. It is this life that we have. We should appreciate it.

    9. That religious creeds, dogmas, rites and tradition can be beneficial and beautiful tools. They can also be weapons of destruction and sorrow. It all depends on the wielder. Too often it is the latter that is manifested upon those that do not conform

    10. Using religious beleif to hide vicious and cruel behavior, to cast blame on victims of disaster or abuse, to control the lives and decisions of others. To bebase, oppress, mock using God as justification is religion’s biggest flaw. Christianity is steeped in this flaw and has long been so, a flaw that is not fatal, unless it is quelled.

    As for the questions I asked you, that you have averted, I’d answer no to it all.

  • Matt

    So beautifully said, Allegro. I love this. (I keep wanting to call you by your given name! That’s what I get for being friends on FB with you.)

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

    You can call me by my given name. I just have this one for disqus and can’t figure how to change it

  • http://www.godlovespeople.org GodLoves People

    I find it interesting that if I DO believe the Bible, if I DO believe in Christ, if I DO believe in heaven and hell, I’m suddenly relegated to the same place the original poster’s sister is by all the comments here, even if that works out differently in my life, and includes respect for everyone–which of course is the basic point here. You want respect for others’ belief systems, but you don’t appear to accord that same respect to the belief system that you enumerated in your “list.”
    My thought is that you have the absolute right to think the way you do. I also have that right, and we can discuss things respectfully with each other, without taking up arms and promising to duel at dawn.
    I agree with you on many topics. I’m just one of those “standard Christians”(strong belief system) who happens to think everyone deserves a voice.
    I especially like your Point #10, but would modify it to remind all that Jesus did NOT teach vicious and cruel behavior as a consequence of true faith, just the opposite. Christians are defined two ways:
    What they believe (pretty basic) / their relationship with God (this presumes a God who is actually there, and one who can be known, which I do firmly believe).
    Who they really are, “really” being defined as how they fit in with passages like John 13 and the Sermon on the Mount.
    They are NOT defined by their affiliation, no matter what Catholics, Baptists, Pentecostal, or Greek Orthodox may say.
    And hopefully, they are not defined by their hatreds. But that’s more than two ways…

  • BarbaraR

    if I DO believe the Bible

    The point allegro is making is that fundies believe there is exactly ONE way to interpret scripture and that the Bible is infallible and cannot be questioned. That way is almost always what they were taught by their church. If a person does question what is taught, they are generally told that Satan and the world has got hold of them and that they must come back into the fold or risk damnation.

    You want respect for others’ belief systems, but you don’t appear to accord that same respect to the belief system that you enumerated in your “list.”

    Many of the people who frequent this blog have been damaged by the belief systems represented by questions allegro asked you (and which you avoided answering) – not just the beliefs but the actions of such churches, including public humiliation, excommunication, being told they are vile and beyond help, being send to straight camp, etc. Many people here are survivors of religious-based abuse and finding their way back very slowly to some form of faith – or none at all, if that is where they are in their journey. They are all too familiar with that type of belief system. The moderators are here to keep this a safe space for such people.

    Discussion is welcome as long as it is clear that it’s your opinion. Christians are defined two ways is a good example of your opinion presented as fact.

    Not everyone is going to fit into this place. People can believe whatever they want; we have a wide variety of opinions and people here. But continually flinging scripture around to prove a point, adhering to one mindset, and failing to grasp that we believe God appears to many people in many ways and in many places, not just as Jesus on the cross – those are issues some people get obsessed with and can’t seem to bend their minds around.

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

    But you do not define what you mean by “believe the Bible” or believe in Christian or heaven or hell. There is some significant variations in beliefs there. It is in those variations where there can be good, and beauty, or some serious fucktardedness.

    (me? The bible is a fascinating book with insight, value, and lessons. Divine is portrayed through the lenses of humanity in a time frame far distance from us, or the good, bad and the ugly of a people and their attempts at understanding God…The personage of Christ..may be real, may be divine, may be neither, but his story, his examples, how he lived his life, still point me to God…heaven and hell. on the fence on heaven, think the modern portrayals as just silly, or an afterlife, hell is just a horrible human construct with serious flaws)

    For the record, You may be able to tell, I’m a universalist/mystic, married to an old school southern baptist, living 30 miles from Bob Jones University (creepy place). Our beliefs have some stark differences, but we also agree on several things in the whole God spectrum. We attend a UMC church, me for the music and companionship, him because he enjoys the sermons and the theology fits his beliefs nicely..

    I grew up in a cult, and have a library’s worth of horror stories I could share of what religious abuse looks and feels like, from within the religious settings I’ve been in, or from people who’ve shared their stories. I’ve also seen examples of graciousness, compassion, generosity and love from people of faith, and not always Christian ones, who have taught me much about the love of God, including an atheist gay man, suffering from advanced MS, who with his spouse (not yet legal in my state) was a lifeboat during the initial stages of a hellish divorce.

    I find religion fascinating, and am always reading about different points of view. I personally don’t use a Bible passage or two to define whether or not one is a Christian or not. Its too enigmatic a defining point. Their telling me they are a practitioner of the faith serves as a satisfactory answer.

  • Astoria Shackelford

    This isn’t about you.

  • bz

    Im new here. Interesting list. Its also ironic because if you believe #1 and use it as your premise for everything, it proves #2 and #3 to be false and makes everything else moot.

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

    If you read further down the comments, then you’ll see my personal belief list. I asked if someone else believed what is a version of the conservative evangelical belief system. I do not fit that category, nor would I answer an affirmative to any point on that list.

    And yes, belief in point 2 and 3, make point one very problematic. Nice catch there. Its one of the reasons, I reject all three.

  • https://www.facebook.com/john.baker.1272 John E. Baker III

    Well, Shugah, a.k.a. GodLoves People… It has gotten to the point that it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference between a “fundamentalist” and a “cultist.”

    If it walks like an idiot and quacks like an idiot…

    I, for one, have decided that I’m just too smart to rely on a three thousand year-old game of “Telephone” to tell me how to live. That simple.

  • http://www.godlovespeople.org GodLoves People

    In other words, you disagree with her, and also with the original poster.

  • https://www.facebook.com/john.baker.1272 John E. Baker III

    Nope… With you. Unless your intent was to NOT throw excuse after excuse on top of the sister’s behavior [conscious choice behavior, I assert] and call it “Christianity”.

    RU from Ferguson?

  • http://www.godlovespeople.org GodLoves People

    No excuse for her behavior. It breaches two of the fundamental commandments (pardon the word, “commandments…”) “Love your neighbor as yourself…” and, “Love one another as I have loved you.” These are the controlling commandments. I’ve known people like her, and eventually they grow old and bitter, or harm bunches of other people, or both. For a great essay on all this, from a “fundamentalist” point of view, you might want to look at Francis Schaeffer’s book, “The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century.” This is probably his best work, and certainly defines the problem of “hate everyone who’s not like me” that seems to have defined organized religion since about the 3rd Century. It’s frustrating, since Christians are supposed to be known by their love, but so frequently are identified best by whom they hate.

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

    You do realize, or do you, that Francis Schaeffer’s son rejected the theology and faith of his father? He considers himself an atheist.

    You may think you know people like the author, but I doubt you really know what is like to be in his shoes. We do not grow old and bitter, or harm bunches of people. Most of us have seen enough of that, to know what damage it does, and so decide that is an improper way to live, even if it is outside the bounds of conservative or fundamentalist Christianity.

    Yes, Christians are supposed to be known by their love. Yes they are frequently identified by their hate. That is because for far too many, the hate is what is most evident. Maybe Christianity doesn’t have an image problem, but a behavior one.

  • Cara Drouin

    Remain as present as possible for your nieces , in whatever way can work. If they rebel after they are of age, they will be very much at sea. Somehow, I hope , they will know they can turn to you.

  • https://www.facebook.com/john.baker.1272 John E. Baker III

    Sorry, John… Got a little distracted by one of the older comments. To your correspondent I say:

    Sorry, Bud. Sis has drunk the Kool-Aid and its effects are permanent. There is nothing you can do or say to change her. From your description, it even sounds quite impossible to impart any sense of common decency or civility to her. These people don’t recognize the boundaries of others because they HAVE no boundaries of their own! [They’re the nosy aunt or cousin you would *never* allow to use your master bath cuz they’d go through your medicine cabinet to see what you take… Granted, they probably wouldn’t steal anything; just see what you’re on.] They can’t even seem to say “Please” or “Thank You” without attaching some holy-roller agenda to it all.

    Christmas? Meh. If you want to *enjoy* the day/time you spend with your parents, go when Sis/BIL aren’t there. Go to your wife’s folks’ house for the holiday. Stay home and have Christmas there. If sis asks why you’ve made yourself scarce — and believe me, she’s likely so self-absorbed that she probably won’t! — just let her know, in no uncertain terms, that she is very unpleasant to be around and you do not care to expose *your* children to HER toxic insanity! If this has been going on for 30-odd years, SHE isn’t going to change, but YOU do not have to be her doormat, either! You can always counter with, “Actually, if you jumped up my ass I would NOT shit a rainbow!” She HAS to quote the conservapricks because she obviously hasn’t the capability of formulating an original thought!

    You, on the other hand, seem to have a firm grasp on the Way The World Works and your, albeit uncomfortable, place in your “darkly conservative state.” You have learned well: Keep your head down, keep your vote private, don’t rock the boat and hang on ’til retirement. It has served many straight, white men very, very well for generations. Until the crazies enter our lives.

    I emphasize this: STAY THE HELL AWAY FROM THEM! If BIL has “started his own church,” I guar-an-damn-tee you, he’s prowling for money! Approach your parents ASAP and please, please, PLEASE impress upon them they are not to sign anything over to him/sis AND, if you can, have their attorney draw up a durable Power of Attorney naming you and you alone!! Do NOT allow Sis to know about this! They both sound like the kind of people who can do a LOT of damage to your parents’ assets, so don’t let them near them! They will, given half a chance, bleed your ‘rents dry …and then bitch about not being able to steal MORE from them! It may be all in your hands what they are able to hold onto for their dotage/nursing home. Protect it well!

    Meanwhile, send them a Christmas gift subscription to “Time” magazine… Just to eff with ’em!

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

    “Meanwhile, send them a Christmas gift subscription to “Time” magazine… Just to eff with ’em!”
    National Geographic or Rolling Stone are other choices. The kids will love them

  • https://www.facebook.com/john.baker.1272 John E. Baker III

    …Or Interview or Vanity Fair. I’d even bet ol’ Sis would have a problem with Better Homes & Gardens or Good Housekeeping!

  • Sunsett

    As an ex-fundy…be kind, tell them you’re open to talk but you really don’t want to argue or be evangelized to. And end any conversation that starts to do that. She may come around.

  • https://www.facebook.com/john.baker.1272 John E. Baker III

    Well, whaddayaknow? Samantha Field over at Defeating the Dragons has an entire post focused on “5 Early Warning Signs of Toxic People.”

    https://defeatingthedragons.wordpress.com/2014/12/05/5-early-warning-signs-of-toxic-people/

    Serendipity will out!

  • BearMaster

    A group that tells its members to limit contact with their family is a cult.

  • Betsy Murphy

    How sad. The letter writer is indeed a much more patient person than I can claim to be – I would have told her off (and called family services on her) decades ago.

  • Ellen H.

    I don’t think there is a way to reach people like that. However, be kind to your nieces. They may need you someday.

  • Kimberly Osment

    hmmmm… in a way… I WAS that person… except
    1. My mother was married 6 times. … and was the organist at the church (her father was a music minister ultra conservative for the 1940-50’s)
    2. My sister lived in a commune, had 10 sex partners, 4 pregnancies with 4 different men / 2 abortions.
    3. MY MIL drank, smoked and cussed… she bashed everyone/ called her niece’s son gay because he cut hair/ bad talked her (?other?) DIL (so who knows what she said about me)
    4. My husband did NOT ascribe to the fundamental life but we were surrounded by a community that did NOT use birth control, home schooled and had no TV’s. Did NOT go to movies or listen to rock music (including Christian rock)

    SO…. I was trying to protect my sons from a nephew who was trying to groom them when they were only 10+ and I allowed music and TV and movies but tried to protect them from vulgarity. I’m a school teacher and much of what I learned came from my experiences in public schools…

    WE ALL WANT TO PROTECT OUR CHILDREN FROM EVIL

    so they all decided to go into ministry and suddenly I was the plague… I had quite forgiven and endured their crap but having survived my sisters being sexually abused and my sister was always in therapy for emotional disorders… suddenly I’m being called WEIRD and ostracized… REALLY? I was just following what the church instructed . My nephew gets a girl pregnant that he was NOT even dating and now he is a priest… and leaves me to die on the street…. because they have to hide their pasts and don’t want the truth out there… if you “come to Jesus” you don’t pretend that you never did those things …. you confess how Jesus CHANGED your life. If you are “saved” …. what did he save you from?
    NOT ME!

    I’m thinking he saved you from YOUR CHOICES and you should be kind to those who tried to be sane without a mom or sister or in-laws because it was certainly NOT safe to live or raise my kids in the midst of my MIL asking if they allowed n*gg*rs on my 5 yr old’s T-ball team.
    My son’s comment was “THOSE ARE THE MEANEST BACK BITING PEOPLE”
    and yet, I am the one who suffers because they perceive me as this “fundamentalist”.

    I need medical attention and would like to NOT live under a bridge but they want to throw me under the bus.

  • DoubleDogDiogenes

    I remember when my niece came over for Christmas after she joined a independent fundamentalist Baptist church. Our Christmas tree was an “idol” and she refused to go into any room that had a television on because it was from Satan. Never had a real conversation with her after that. Too scary.

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

    That’s sad. Religion can be a beatiful means of expressing faith. It can also be a destroyer of worlds, at least in the worlds of family relationships.

  • lsudocster

    First this is incredibly sad. I have found individuals who are strictly regimented by biblical do’s and dont’s generally have weak faith and a small vision of God. I am a great believer in prayer. I would suggest you pray for your sister and her family every day. Simply pray that God would reveal himself to them in a very real way. Truthfully this is not a situation a mere human can change. BUT while praying and waiting for God to move … Don’t take any crap off your sister … She needs to respect your feelings and beliefs. She doesn’t have to agree just respect. Let God do the work …

  • el chicote

    These people are absolutely indistinguishable from ISIL.