Red Fence of Fundamentalism

I wish there had been a specific Point of Demarcation.

A bright red fence or something.  

One that came with a warning sign that said: Cross over this and there’s no return.

Or: Don’t cross and you’ll never move forward.

My girlfriend Susie and I had lunch last week. We had a lot of catching up to do. We haven’t really spent any time together since 2002. A lot has happened in our lives in the past 10 years. Our kids grew up, and so did we.

She told me how surprised she was to learn I wasn’t a registered Republican. (For the record, I’m not a registered Democrat either.)

When Susie knew me best I was Sarah Palin without the boob job.

I know you are howling and not about the boob joke. (Okay maybe about the boob joke). You just can’t imagine me as Sarah Palin. Let me explain what I mean by that. Back in those years — the ones in which I was raising a family — I was, as my daughter likes to say, the kind of mother who not only hovered over their lives, I would come in for landings.

Strict doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Fundamentalist comes close.

My idea of  fun was driving around town praying over places — schools, churches, pregnancy crisis centers, etc.

Okay. I think we only did that once but that was enough to convince my children to pray, “Make me a bird, Lord, so I can fly far, far away.”

Oh, I wasn’t mean. I was just convinced that the world fell into two distinct groups — us and them.

You were either Good.

Or Bad.

Right or


Republican and


Or Democrat

and a Dumbass.

Obviously, I overcame that. I never would have even whispered that last word in the former incarnation of myself. (You might just think I resorted back to my trailer park upbringing. Maybe I did.)

Leaning over her salad, Susie lifted her fork to punctuate the air and said, “Isn’t it freeing not to be held hostage to a one-issue agenda in your life anymore?”

“Yes it is,” I agreed.

Every generation has its one issue agendas, it seems. For my generation it was abortion. For my children that issue is homosexuality.

There are other issues, of course. If you are a Washed-in-the-Blood-of-the-Lamb believer, and I am, people of great intellect continue to debate the role of women in the church, or rather the lack thereof.

Bert Montgomery has taken on that issue over the Burnside Writers in an essay titled Ode to Being Unladylike. And Rachel Held Evans has written an entire book about Biblical Womanhood. Rachel is smart as a whip. If I were a man, I’d think twice before I got into a debate with Rachel about a man being the headship of the church and all that other stuff that I used to care so much about.

That’s what I  mean about that line of demarcation.

There’s enough essence of my former righteous self that makes me wonder what is wrong with me. How can I not care whether you are pro-life or pro-choice? How can I not care whether you vote for Obama or Romney? How could I not care that a Mormon might be president for that matter? How could it be that I don’t care whether women preach from the pulpit or whether Washington state passes a law allowing gay couples to marry?

I keep telling myself I ought to feel guilty about my lacking of caring.

But then I’m reminded that I can’t go back across that bright red fence because I already escaped it.

The truth of the matter is that I’ve come to realize that it’s not when we argue over our differences that we change anyone’s minds. It’s only when we are able to agree upon our similarities that we are truly able to see the Spirit of God in one another.

I feel pressed for time. Like I’ve spent a goodly portion of my life fighting the wrong battle. That’s not to say that I don’t care about the role of women in the church, or the number of unborn children aborted every year, I do. I care deeply.

I just care differently than I used to.

And I care more widely than I used to.

Whenever my kids used to ask who I loved the most I would always answer, “I love you all the same but differently.”

I feel that way about the issues of war, homelessness, poverty, crime, abortion, abuse, trafficking, politics, and, yes, the role of women in the church. I care about them all the same but differently.

I’m not sure when it happened, or even how it happened, but somewhere or another I crossed that line of demarcation from fundamentalist.

I no longer hold my faith hostage to one issue.

“So are you a liberal?” someone asked me recently.

“I don’t know,” I said. “If caring for the homeless and the brokenhearted makes me a liberal then I guess so.”

Whatever peg others attach to me, I pray God continues to enable me to love more liberally as I age.

Knowing me the way I do, I’m going to need it.







Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Tedmgossard

    I like the way you express it in terms of caring about a good number of issues. Not just one or two. I am amazed at how practically anything else is defended, as long as the position held is right on those two or three issues. Include for me the disdain against science which pooh poohs what I consider prudent measures in decreasing petroleum emissions.

    And I don’t really put much weight on Washington D.C.


  • Chris

    You too, huh. Same thing happened to me over the last 10 years. 🙂

  • You expressed many of my own thoughts about the similar walk that I’ve taken, Karen. I stood over a friend once and said, “I can’t figure out how you can be a Christian and a democrat.” Not one of my finer moments. Don’t worry, we’re still friends. Better friends than ever. It’s wonderful when we take the side of love rather than the side of good vs. bad or right vs. left. When love enters the equation, it’s much easier to open our hearts to more groups of people, more ways to love, a broader faith that casts a wider net.

    • So glad you were able to hold on to your friendship through all of that, April. It’s good to have friends to grow up with.

  • Anonymous

    Wow… I was just talking to my husband about how I’ve changed in the past 7 or 8 years… I wouldn’t say I was a fundamentalist, but I certainly had cozied up tothesky idea of becoming one.

    I hate that it’s always one issue or maybe two. I hate that Christians have wrapped themselves in politics. I wrote about it ( And do forgive that shameless plug… Lol.

    Karen, where do we go from here? We, the body of Christ?

    • All are welcome to participate in shameful plugs here anytime. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. I’m not sure we can hurry people through this process. I think it’s a leading of the Spirit — and by that I don’t mean the Spirit leads one to be a Republican and another a Democrat (those are man-made constructs) — but rather I think as we root ourselves in the Word and begin to see others through the sufferings of Christ, then and only then do we begin to recognize how very much alike one another we are, and those differences begin to fall away like a June Bug shell.

      • Anonymous

        “June Bug shell”… Your vocabulary is like a big glass of sweet sun tea. Love you!

  • Karen, great post, until the last part. Seems to imply that you believe we on the Right do not care for the homeless and heartbroken. I assure you that we do.

    • James: Where is the implication on my behalf? I was just repeating an assumption that others make about me. How did you arrive at an “us” and “them” out of this post?

      • Sorry, I should have framed that more as a question than an accusation.
        Perhaps I read too much into this?
        “If caring for the homeless and the brokenhearted makes me a liberal then I guess so.”

        • I think you might be reading too much into that. The gal was trying to peg me into the comforts of her us & them constructs. I was just saying, okay, if caring about others makes me a liberal, go ahead and attach whatever label you like. I’m over caring whether people call me a liberal or a conservative. A Jesus Freak or a misguided Christian. What I really am is a mixed bag of good and bad. Sometimes I get it right. A lot of times I get it wrong.

  • AFRoger

    The film “Lord Save Us From Your Followers” begins with the Philip Yancey quote: No one ever converted to Christianity because they lost the argument.

    Real life is very different from our efforts to compartmentalize it.

    To change the subject to the post below, I invite everyone to be in prayer this week for a family whose lives have entered the blackest of black holes: the family of the soldier involved in the murder of civilians in Afghanistan. After already enduring THREE deployments to Iraq, the fourth deployment to Afghanistan has now brought them to this. They are a family without a country, anathema to the Army. No one will say to them, “Thank you for your sacrifice and service to this nation. Thank you for fighting to keep us free.” How much harder can life become? No ideological agenda will pierce this veil. Only someone humbled by the love of Christ will come through to say, “Let us weep and pray together. I’m here for as long as it takes.”

    I just read that divorce rate for current veterans with hard combat and PTSD, TBI, etc. is running around the 90th percentile. Same as it was during Vietnam. But we probably haven’t begun to see the full fallout from current deployments. Yet.

    So next time we’re tempted to get into another culture war over things like marriage, we might consider adding a clause to the Defense of Marriage Act that prohibits deployments of married people to combat zones; for sure, multiple deployments. One of the best things we could ever do to “conserve” marriages, it seems, would be to prevent war.

    • Excellent points, Roger. Thank you for lifting the veil for us.

    • Gloria

      My family joins you in praying for this soldier and this family. My heart is breaking for them and for our troops who remain in harms way.

      • AFRoger

        Thank you, Gloria. And thanks for remembering all the others out there trying to do their jobs in circumstances that have now become so much tougher. I’m sure the knots in the guts of their waiting families have tightened several more notches. Let us pray…

  • Sherwood8028

    Lessons from 82 years of living – almost every day along the way…

    KYOO – Keep your options open

  • Karen,
    Seems all the rhetoric adds up to the same old stuff no matter the party, no matter the candidate. Disheartening. I am thoroughly hopeful at the number of youth out there who DO understand that we’re on a bridge to the edge of an abyss. I see them and talk to them at every rally for my brother-in-law. They get it! This isn’t a commercial, just my opinion of someone who wrote out his platform in a letter to me in 1974. Neither he nor his platform has changed in all that time.
    Do hope you come back to Girlfriend Weekend in Jefferson, TX soon. I loved meeting you, reading your book and appreciated your encouragement to me as a writer.

    • Donna, I absolutely agree that there are a number of youth out there who are refusing to participate in the “us” and “them” rhetoric. Good for them. As nasty as this election season has already turned out to be, it is an encouragement to see people who refuse to participate in the artificial confines.

      And I loved Girlfriend Weekend, of course. Kathy is an amazing woman, an encouragement & inspiration to so many of us. Hope to get back this coming year with the new book.

  • In Turkish we have a saying, “Bilgi sahibi olmadan fikir sahibi olmak”. It doesn’t translate all that well, but is is roughly “Having an opinion without being informed.” In many ways, that’s the problem I see at the heart of fundamentalism. People takes a certain dogma (this applies to liberals, Muslims, Darwinists, etc. just as much as it does to Christians) and they look for supporting “facts”.

    I’ve been there. Everyone has. It is tougher for people of faith because the dogma is so often presented as “sacred”.

    Today, my Christian friends think I’m too liberal, my liberal friends think I’m too conservative, my patriotic friends think I’m too critical of the ‘greatest country on the face of the earth’ and my globalist friends can’t understand my defense of constitutional government. (This comment has just demonstrated that I have too many friends!).

    The issue is that truth is not a dogma. Truth is a way of life – demonstrated perfectly by Jesus…

    • Love this Luke. Here’s another thought I’ve pondered that your last remarks reminds me of — If Jesus is as he says The Truth, then truth isn’t a dogma at all. So if we want the truth what we need to pursue is just Jesus.