Those Ignorant, Laughable Fundamentalists. Right?

Those Ignorant, Laughable Fundamentalists. Right? July 17, 2010

I just got in a comment to yesterday’s  A Christian Reader Asks: “They’re Doing Yoga At My Job. Should I Join In?” I thought so interesting I wanted to bust it out here in its own post. Its writer linked to a blog called “Pearl of the Prairie,” which I assume is his/blog.

Anyway, here’s what they wrote:

I come from a severely Baptist background; attending church four times a week, twice on Sunday, all holidays, Vacation Bible School and Church Camp. We were scared of becoming worldly, and so sermons and Sunday School discussions had topics like whether a Christian should play cards or attend movies. The consensus was those are a sin. Ditto most TV shows (unless they were ones your Dad guiltily enjoyed, like ‘Laugh-in”), magazines and music. I joined a cult group at 16 so legalistic that we had to cover our ears in a rare visit to a mall to avoid hearing the secular music from overhead speakers.

Anything new or different was suspect, and probably satanic. I was discouraged from attending college, as the devil would take over my mind with all that worldly education. My parents were shunned by some of their church friends when it was discovered they saw a chiropractor. The church members identified chiropractors as ‘Eastern’ in practice and so of course, not Christian. See a chiropractor and soon you’ll be into yoga, tantric sex, and the homeopathic section of Vitamin Cottage. After that, it’s a slide into liberal politics and voting for Obama.

That’s how it starts. There’s a demon behind every ‘Downward Dog’ pose.

Awesome, right?

It’s so easy for so many of us to hold in disdain this brand of Christianity. And there are certainly valid reasons to question the advisability of such strident seclusivness.(Obviously.) But I think we do ourselves a disservice if we fail to acknowledge the ways in which such unyielding conviction and depth of practice are also compelling to us.

This is the kind of faith that in about fifteen minutes would chew up and spit about just about any Christian I know. The people in my church start markedly fidgeting if the sermon goes three minutes too long. I know I do.

When/if we disparage the kind of fundamentalism this writer describes, what we’re in essence saying is that those who adhere to it are stupid, that they’re incapable of subtle thought, of knowledgeable discernment or reasoned analysis.

That’s the easy judgment, for sure.

But shouldn’t we also, sometimes, if only for a moment, and if only to ourselves, acknowledge the possibility that maybe they know a little something we don’t?

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  • I grew up Baptist and it was really nothing like this, thankfully. There are millions of Baptists – some conservative, some really conservative, some downright bizarre (Westboro) and others like Clinton, Gore, Carter and Britney Spears. Quite the spectrum. 🙂

  • Her religious experience stresses fear, not faith.

  • I know, Scoti. I get that.


  • The discipline does seem to indicate they're especially tune with truth, but the fact that they hide from information totally ruins that effect.

  • DonP

    I think Jesus said it best while cavorting in the grain field with the supposed sinners of the time and for such sin having to answer to the supposed good guys of the time: "The law was made for man, not man for the law". To me this little patch of Scripture is the green grass which gives me the desire to climb the hill upon which it grows. There is indeed such a thing as being "too heavenly minded to be of any worldly good"

    We must, in the end, trust that God will protect us from our folly.

  • Steve: And what information do you think they should be taking in–information that I assume you yourself take in–that would bring them closer to the truth of God?

  • Nothing specific. Keeping yourself away from music and movies and such for fear of corruption, that's the bad policy. Especially if you throw peer pressure in there. I would expect more confidence from people in tune with the truth.

  • Ben

    I began my Christian life in a legalistic church that bordered on cult-like behaviour and I rightfully look back at that time and shudder…but it wasn't all bad.

    Being in that serious "holy means separate" mindset makes you assess how you spend your time, what you spend it on and if it is really helpful (1 Cor 6:12, 10:23). You have to grapple with our your life is supposed to be a "spiritual act of worship" (Rom 12:1). And it seriously strengthens the bonds of fellowship as you "contend as one man for the faith of the gospel" (Php 1:27-28).

    Now I know that the 1 Cor verse entreats us to be discerning not excluding, and that what we considered 'the faith of the gospel' was actually off-kilter, but I'm grateful for the lessons of sacrifice, discipleship and true fellowship that my old church taught me. And I'm very grateful that I can live out those lessons in a totally different church!

  • Heh! I am gonna have to go with the easy judgement. 🙂

    The thing is, you might be able to credit them with some high level of discipline if they converted to this from a "normal" state, but as it is, they tend to simply living out the only thing they have ever known for the most part. I grew up in some pretty strong fundamentalism and, looking back, I see it being driven by massive insecurity and fear. The kids of Westboro church will, except for a few, continue on all of the nonsense the adults taught them. Not because they have weighed all of these things out in the light of truth… but simply because they believe there are no other options.

  • Tanager

    You know, it is very easy for society – and other Christians – to really deride folks that are this legalistic. Do I think it's an extreme way to live? Ya, sure, and I wouldn't choose to live my faith this way. But the scorn aimed at these folks, along with the labels – nutcases, morons, in-breds, bigots, fundies, etc. – well, you just don't see the same level of scorn heaped on, say, devout Jews who actually try to live out the 613 laws. And what is the difference? Well, somehow the difference produces some gentle head-shaking and maybe an eyeroll when considering the Jew, but vehement and condemning bile when talking about the Christian.

    Some people need tangible, visible reminders of their faith. I like my freedom in Christ, but there are still things that remind me that I am "set apart" in some way, that I am a Christian, that I believe certain things and not other things. As long as it doesn't affect your freedom in Christ, what business is it of yours (of, you know, anyone's) at how such people choose to live their faith? Even if you think its stupid. What drives me nuts in the ant-Christian movement/sentiment is the demand that we as Christians "live and let live" with every other belief system, lifestyle choice, whatever – but these same folks screaming for our acceptance and tolerance both ridicule us and won't allow us to believe what we believe and live it out, even if it *does not personally affect them at all.* I mean, if I choose to cover my ears in a mall or not go see Harry Potter, why is that anyone else's business? Why is it justifiable or acceptable to tell everyone how stupid I am?

    I don't really have any fundamentalist leanings in the way I live my faith, but some people will grasp anything. So they'll go after my opinion that Darwin's theory is still just a theory and *call* me a fundamentalist boob for something like that.

    Sigh. "Tolerate me, you backwards, deluded worshiper of some magical dude on a stick!"


  • Troy

    "But shouldn’t we sometimes take a moment to remember how possible it is that such believers have grasped, and are living, a truth we’ve barely begun to comprehend?"

    Not really, no.

    To me, this is not religion, but mind control in the name of religion. So I guess that it depends on your definitions. Religion, Truth, Freedom – all those capital letters that people fight and die for – help both good and bad people to spread their philosophies to others. Whether we think it is Truth or just an opinion depends on how well we've been indoctrinated into our own belief systems, and what we Choose To Believe.

    So I choose to believe that this outlook has nothing to to do with my version of God, or what I believe to be a truth to live by. Maybe I'm ignorant or stupid enough that a truth I can't comprehend is not a truth I can believe, and therefore can't believe in theirs either.

    I don't believe people that believe this way are automatically stupid, but ignorant and fearful. Stupid, to me, means incapable of learning. If people are not too fearful, they can overcome their ignorance and learn to believe as they wish, and not as they are told. Actually, I think someone in these cases was or is fairly intelligent, because they know that, if you control the minds of people, you control their lives. That's been true for a long, long time.

    So, for me, I do not believe that people like this have a grasp on any truth, and I do not find them compelling. I find them repulsive, and somewhat frightening. Or perhaps frightening, and therefore repulsive. I'll listen to alternatives, but I'm a hard sell. But at least I gave myself some freedom to explore the idea, and I don't believe you can have Truth without Freedom and these types of belief systems don't allow that.

    ::folds up soap box::

    Man I can get pompous sometimes…. : )

  • Bill

    ******When/if we disparage the kind of fundamentalism this writer describes, what we’re in essence saying is that those who adhere to it are stupid, that they’re incapable of subtle thought, of knowledgeable discernment or reasoned analysis.**********

    Ummm….DUH!!! That's blatantly self-evident in such situations. Sorry, John, but there really ARE some realities not subject to PC rationalization and can't-we-all-just-get-along making nice. Which is not to say that we should persecute such people, but there's no need to tender obsequious respect just because it's their "religion". Those kind of people, and yes, I mean that very condescendingly, are the kind that, if they even dare to get involved politically or socially, make life more difficult for others, me, for instance, a gay man. I wouldn't think of being aggressively nasty to them or any such thing, but I have no time for such ignorance.

    *********But shouldn’t we sometimes take a moment to remember how possible it is that such believers have grasped, and are living, a truth we’ve barely begun to comprehend?********

    In a word, NO!! What "truth" are they living and how can any thinking person, Christian or otherwise, possibly comprehend the incomprehensible incapability of "subtle thought, knowledgeable discernment or reasoned analysis"? God gave us those gifts and frankly, the greatest sin, in my not so humble opinion, is not using them.

    Live and let live, YES. Common social graces, YES. but I have no problem with disdain for such unthinking, fearful ignorance.

  • Calm down there, Bill. I'm on your side.

  • LoneWolf

    Perhaps, but Jesus Himself was not kind in addressing religious fundamentalism. Seemed to be one of the few things that really got Him angry, (i.e. "white-washed tombs," "brood of vipers," "straining out gnats to swallow camels," etc,) and since the servant is not greater than his Lord, I don't think we can claim Christian charity if we don't criticize it.

  • frank sonnek

    When I see anyone tangled up in the burden of sin, and what they are doing is as wrong as any sexed up or other sin you can think of… I take it as an opportunity to pray to God to show me that same sin within me and repent of it, that is see myself that way. Why is what they are doing sin?

    "Love is the fulfillment (ie purpose or end) of the Law. That means that anything we do needs to provide "daily bread" to someone else in some mundane practical way to be a righteousness that truly pleases God and so is righteousness and not sin. As st james says exactly….

    to think that following a set of rules (sacrifice) rather than providing "daily bread" or mercy (which is a metaphor for everything we need on earth to flourish) is why Jesus criticized the pharisees.

    So how do I see this same sinfulness in me?

    The truth is that when I or any christian becomes horrified in his conscience at the sin he sees in himself, he reaches for the "willpower" button and starts making a list of what he should do or would like to do. And he comes up pretty empty if he is honest and that terrified conscience grows more terrified, or numbs out. self-salvation becomes our aim.

    The lifelong and most difficult task of any christian is to internalize the teaching of the forgiveness of sins through trust alone in christ and in nothing at all we can do. neither to come to faith nor to preserve ourselves in that faith. period. This is not at all an easy thing. So I need to love these heavily burdened people as I love my own self and has God has loved me with his son while I was yet a sinner burdened by this same sinfulness.

    "come unto me! My yoke is light" Jesus beckons. "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life" . "simply trust in me and you will have everything you need!"

  • Bill

    *******…..but these same folks screaming for our acceptance and tolerance both ridicule us and won’t allow us to believe what we believe and live it out, even if it *does not personally affect them at all******

    If that was all there was to it, no problem, but most often, it's not. It's like I told my evangelical type sister and brother a few years ago when we were discussing my homosexuality. Yeah, they can actually discuss it….sorta and that's helpful, but I told them I couldn't care less how they lived their "faith" until they vote in a way that makes MY life more difficult say, by voting for an anti-gay blatantly hypocritical politician who works against my interests, you know, like George Bush or McCain/Palin. THEN the way they live their "faith" affects my life, whereas my being gay or even wanting to marry a man really has no affect on theirs in any way one can think of.

    They can live their faith any way they want but their right ends at the boundaries of MY life so long as I'm not doing anything harmful to them or anyone else. Ah yes, there is the argument that certain aspects of gay life are harmful to the general public by causing, at the very least, commonly shared economic costs thru taxes (the medical costs of AIDS is the boogy man there), but the same could be said for str8 smokers and drinkers who, indeed, cause far more economic and social costs than gays, so why don't we have political campaigns against those behaviors?

    My evangelical siblings have no answers to such confrontations with reality.

  • Ace

    "well, you just don’t see the same level of scorn heaped on, say, devout Jews who actually try to live out the 613 law"

    Most Orthodox Jews don't attack non-Jews for being non-Jewish verbally or otherwise. Or at least they don't typically try to push politicians into passing intolerant laws condemning people whose beliefs and practices aren't in line with their own or ban Harry Potter books or whatever the Moral Outrage of the week is.

    That's probably the reason for the different reaction. Orthodox Jews tend to mind their own business (at least in the United States), which is why most people here don't give them much thought beyond a momentary bit of head-shaking and going on their way.

    There's a bit hypocrisy involved in the anti-Christian movement, of course, but there's also hypocrisy in the Christian movement as well. Both sides have a ways to go.

  • Bill

    I know, so what was the point of your article which seemed to be favorable to theirs? You reallyl are a brilliant man, but you really do confuse me sometimes.

  • DR

    "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." Fitzgerald

    Bill, the things of God are decidedly non-formulaic. Including Fundamentalists. I think that might be the point here, or one of them at least.

  • My apologies – I was not laughing at that style of Christianity, nor the original to yoga or not yoga question. My experience in that sort of legalistic atmosphere and cult group took years to overcome. It was very damaging. It was religious abuse.

    I am blessed that the Lord rescued me from that and I was able to experience Him in a way I had not been able to under those rules. Although we yearn to become more and more in His image, following a lot of man-made rules does not accomplish that.

    [Note: this is the author of the post.]

  • DR


    I get the point you're making and I don't disagree with it. But spiritual productivity within one's interior is a very complex business, it's not unlike emotional health where we seem to grow in roller coaster spurts. It's not terribly reasonable to expect someone with a massive fear of the dark, for example, to pick up a spelunking hobby. Nor is it terribly essential. Nor would one conclude that this individual hates the outdoors as a result.

  • christy

    Sorry, trying to post via mobile in the car with 2 kiddos….

    Furthermore, if like the Amish they chose to practice their faith and keep to themselves then that would be dandy too. But this is not the case. They have grown a political arm in order to influence our government and our politics in order to bend national policy to their will…..which they believe quite literally is the will of God.

    The core tennents of Religious Fundamentalism, regardless of the flavor: Islamic, Chrisitan, etc. are dangerous. They are rooted in paternalism, absolute truth, inequality, and believe they have the only true path to God with a mission to convert all others to their interpretaion of the faith.

    Those of us who have through the grace of God lived to leave and find the love of God that we were never taught also have a responsibility to speak the truth.

  • Tanager

    Well, it kinda runs both ways…there are always going to be political or activist shoutings that affect both sides. You mention the things that affect you, but what about all the hoopla about "under God" in the Pledge, or the moment of silence, or mentioning God in your valedictory speech, or not allowing the word Christmas in school or references to it on public property? Those things do affect Christians – it seems discriminatory. Of course they have differences, but sometimes it comes down to how it feels. The gay community didn't want to settle for legal civil unions, even if all the same rights of marriage came with it. They wanted marriage so they would feel fully included. That came down to feelings for a lot of folks.

    Heh. There is plenty of political campaigning and maneuvering on smoking and, to a lesser extent, alcohol. The Obama administration already outlawed the sale of clove cigarettes in the U.S., which affected a good bunch of folks who wanted to exercise their right to smoke what they wanted. Tobacco is taxed half to death, and so is alcohol (in my state, it has an "invisible" excise tax and then a "visible" sales tax added on top.)

    A lot of people who live these strict religion-guided lives don't personally or actively *do* anything to infringe upon your life choices. The tendency is to lump them all in a group and say those who may *believe* your lifestyle is wrong with those who actively get in your face about it one way or another. Islam so vehemently believes the gay lifestyle is wrong they kill people for it. Where are all the articles condemning them as backwards, judgmental morons? You won't find them, because in their case that is insensitive to their beliefs and culture.

  • DR

    I'm confused. Are you suggesting that one can't appreciate certain aspects of something like Fundamentalism while being aware of it's more damaging impact as well?

  • Roybe

    'Legalism' as stated above sounds like it's just an PC way to say Asceticism. Asceticism has always been around and to the people living in the world has been everything from inspirational to disgusting. IMHO, if taken to an extreme does more harm than good, both to the person involved, as well as the religion espousing it.

  • DR

    This sounds like something. fundamentalist would write. Deciding the full merits of something for others, fearful of listening carefully to what's been suggested because it rattles the preformed cage of comfort of what you've already decided is true.

  • (It's weird how often I forget that I'm not writing here only for those who are already familiar with my thinking on things like legalistic fundamentalism. With this little post here I didn't mean to suggest that I'm ignorant of all the pain legalistic fundamentalism causes. Far, far from it. I'm only meaning to say that in that bathwater, which I agree must be thrown out, is a baby of … considerable weight.)

  • Tim

    Christians who practice what James describes as "pure religion" (James 1:27) might seem like bad policy, but actually it aligns quite nicely with the computer science phrase, "Garbage In, Garbage Out", or GIGO.

    Of course any scriptural text can be cherry-picked and taken to extremes. However I hope any sensible person knows that ALL secular music or film does not positively cast a lifestyle of wanton excess, sexual debauchery, and distain for people of Christian faith. Only about 65-70% of media is guilty of that.

  • DR


    One of the things I appreciate most about this blog is your decision to remain unbounded by expectations of others. And I sense that's just intuitive to you, not anything constructed.

    I lime it because you're not easily fit into one side; conservative or liberal, etc. Watching you work that out here and the fury it creates has helped me see how I've allowed myself to believe that God really is on one side (team Liberal). But you've reminded me of what I already knew but forgot in all of my attachments to lesser things: God is on the side of Liveration, in all of it's forms.

    I know it can't be easy being a catalyst for so many of us who get threatened and flip from ally to enemy so quickly, but I'm awfully thankful for you and what I'm rediscovering and becoming again as a result.

  • christy

    John, for me it's like asking what positive message can we learn from Jim Jones or the Branch Davidians or Westboro Baptist Church. Yes, keep God. Throw out the dogma bathwater.

  • DR

    LIke it. Not lime it. But now I want a margarita.

  • Reminds me of an old Baptist joke:

    Baptists are opposed to murder because there is nothing worse one human being can do to another. Murder robs another person of life; it represents to ultimate indifference to others.

    If one is capable of murder, then one is capable of rape as well, of using another person for purely selfish physical pleasure. And if one will indulge in rape, one will certainly indulge in promiscuous sex as well. And where there's promiscuous sex, there will be sexual experimentation: Homosexuality, perversions, sex in unusual positions such as standing up.

    And if you're going to have sex standing up, the next thing you know is you're dancing…

  • DR

    LiVeration! That is such an awesome typo!

  • Susan Golian

    My minister Bruce used to talk about the extreme joy the original Puritans lived in – yes, fear and trembling when they thought they were out of step with what God wanted, but the rest of the time they were delighted to be living their PURE lives. They took enormous pleasure in their faith – in their relationship with God. How that morphed into what we think we know about Puritans, and into the ugliness that frequently passes for religious discourse on both sides, defies imagination!

  • I think the difference is, there are many devout and inward religious folks who do not maintain that lifestyle through fear and intimidation. Nor do they look on everyone and everything else as demons. The Amish are very separate, but no one thinks of them like fundamentalists…. why? Because if you ever meet any, they tend to be the nicest folks around.

  • Tim

    I'm sorry, Don, but free will allows me all of the folly I can muster. God doesn't seem to protect me from any of my own bad decision making. He can certainly redeem it, but I do have to pay the piper one way or another.

    The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. The law wasn't reduced…only the pharisaical constraints that obscured God's intent to bless His children. I find it telling that Paul's second letter to the Corinthians emphasizes that the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Not that the law was void, but that without the Spirit of God imparting the knowledge of salvation by grace, we are all doomed. The Old Covenant was a standard intended to magnify our inability to achieve heaven by our own merits. With man it is impossible. With God ALL things are possible. The law stands and is satisfied. That was always God's intent.

    I've often quoted the same adage of being so heavenly minded that we're of no earthly good. But more and more, I think that's a cop-out. That mindset keeps my faith constrained in a small pen and fed milk. The world already says that the heavenly minded are of no worldly good. Why should I let their assessment of belief hobble my faith?

  • Tanager

    Point taken by both Andrew and Ace. But not *every* Christian living devoutly or "rigidly" is interested in shoving it down your throat. How about Mormons? They're nice. But they're lumped in with loopy Christians, and if they are not labeled intolerant they get plenty else.

    So we've got Amish and Jews. How about Muslims? See, no one wants to touch that. We're not supposed to label all Muslims, right? Just because some are complete, murderous lunatics? So what about the Muslims who are all "yeah, you can live your life – you're still basically an infidel, and Islam should rule the world…my wife is still my chattel and will cover herself from head to toe, I'm still the boss, we'll whack that woman with a stick if she shows her ankles one more time, those homosexuals are an unforgivable offense to Allah, but no way, I'm not getting involved in blowing people up or anything. Not that I'm coming out and condemning it, but I'd never do it myself."

    I put the Jews in there not to say "why aren't people upset about them," but "why don't people think they are total nutjobs for living that legalistic lifestyle?" I mean, whether it's being foisted on YOU or not – I understand the desire to strike back when someone tries to shove their own system down your throat or force you to live it, but I do wonder if Orthodox Jews would face the same level of vehement scorn IF they happened to bring something into the public arena.

    Just kickin' around here. There are problems on all sides, IMO. And the politics of it all is getting in the way of our ability to love others a lot of the time.

  • I don't mean it's always wrong to avoid information. Just that in this case it undermines the credibility. The guy who's afraid of the dark is committing no crime, unless he were to appoint himself an expert on the dark.

  • I don't disagree with the sentiment. Pop culture is garbage and it might even corrupt the morals. I only disagree with the fundamentalist way of dealing with it. Or actually, not dealing with it. We have a whole system for dealing with garbage involving bags and cans and trucks. Treating garbage as untouchable (after you throw it away, I suppose. I like this analogy and I'm sticking with it.) only causes it to pile up and become more harmful.

  • Ace

    Frankly I have a problem with anybody using their religion as tool to beat others down. Whether Christian, Mormon, Muslim, Athiest, or the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, it's always destructive when wielded as a social/political weapon.

    "but I do wonder if Orthodox Jews would face the same level of vehement scorn IF they happened to bring something into the public arena"

    They probably would, frankly. And they have, in fact, in Israel, where some Orthodox groups have been pressing for stricter religious laws in what is intended to be a fairly secular government, and there is plenty of opposition to them from the less devout.

    People don't like being told what to do and how to live their lives, at the end of the day. The more "evangelizing" religions like Christianity, Islam and LDS(Mormon) get more flack than less-convert-seeking ones like Hinduism or Judaism for the sole reason that the latter, for the majority, are not that vocal.

  • That's one of my favorite jokes! The spark of recognition makes things funny. Another reason Landover puts me on the floor.

  • Diana

    Also, the Amish (who are devoutly Christian and decidedly old-fashioned in their approach) usually don't get condemned too much either, mostly because they too tend to mind their own business and not try to impose their religious beliefs on others. Moreover, they're so serious about their Christianity that they actually reached out to the wife of the man who went into one of their schools and killed some of their kids. Would that all of us who call ourselves Christian were that inclined to practice our faith–we might even see God's Kingdom arrive in all its glory right within our midst.

    No, fundamentalists (and this does include Islamic Fundamentalists) get disparaged not for quietly living their lives and minding their own business but for trying to impose their values and beliefs on disinterested others–to the point of actually killing them in some cases.

    "They can live their faith any way they want but their right ends at the boundaries of MY life so long as I’m not doing anything harmful to them or anyone else." Yeah, I agree with this. My right to swing my fist ends at your face and vice versa.

  • Diana

    "People don’t like being told what to do and how to live their lives, at the end of the day. The more “evangelizing” religions like Christianity, Islam and LDS(Mormon) get more flack than less-convert-seeking ones like Hinduism or Judaism for the sole reason that the latter, for the majority, are not that vocal."

    Yes, this is true.

  • Diana

    "I know, so what was the point of your article which seemed to be favorable to theirs?"

    An attempt at balance?

  • Diana

    I agree with DR and give my thanks as well.

  • Diana


  • Diana

    I just checked it out. Too funny!

  • Diana

    "The Scarlet Letter"?

  • Bill

    There are areas of life that do not lend themselves to the PC attempt at "balance", such as FOX disingenuously attempts. This is one of them. Compassion, sure, never mind if that seems condescending, but there is no balance to be struck between brainwashed fear and ignorance against “subtle thought, knowledgeable discernment or reasoned analysis”. There just isn't.

  • A "PC" attempt at balance. Yeah, that's what I was shooting for.

  • Thanks, very much, you guys.

  • Curt Russell

    For me it boils down to being the world not not of the world (not sure if I have this worded right), just don't be seduced by what is wrong. There are many benefits to yoga, acupuncture and the like without adhering to spiritual tenants of non-Christian faiths.

  • Bill

    What a hoot. You had me going until the last sentence. Very funny.

  • DR

    Everyone is asking for credibility when we state an opinion, and none of us deserve it, Fundamentalist or not. Particularly christianity. Credibility becomes credibility when someone takes a point of view and allows it to resonate with a need in their life. Fundamentalists have no more expertise on the things of God than John, or me or any believer in Christ – or atheists, for that matter. Credibility is issued by the listener, not the speaker.

  • DR

    I'm literally having a margarita right now. I'm toasting you and Diana.

  • DonP

    Your apology, Tim, seems inappropriate unless I completely misunderstood you. Except for the “folly part nothing you said contradicts what I said. At least what I meant to convey. Perhaps I really am an idiot after all and have no idea what I said. At any rate and as far as my use of the word “our” in relation to folly, it was meant as inclusive. In other words: all of us. I do disagree with you there on a personal level too though. Our protection most importantly does extend to eternity. However. I am a fairly old man now. As such I have many years to look back on to observe God’s hand in my life. As I look back and remember some of the down right horrible decisions I have made. Bad things I have done. People I have hurt. Tim, God has protected me on more than one occasion from the wrath of man, the justice of man’s law and just plain old evil that I myself invited into my life. Tim, from the world that I am escaping (even now in my memories) (and if I am honest, my fantasies) , the odds of me having escaped all of the aforementioned consequences are astronomical. Even my career was and is even to this day an absolutely astounding miracle. I am sorry that you cannot say the same. If I had to look back on my life and not see His direction and protection I would be tempted to believe that He had already judged me to be unworthy to approach that proverbial gate on that Day. Not that I am, mind you, worthy, that is. But, I do have that boost to my faith from experience. For me Tim, love is a thing that is done……….always and without condition. That is exactly how God has shown His Love for me.

    No, the law is not void, but I know His protection on a daily basis. Not because I intentionally transgress the law but because I am, I do. There are none perfect. No not one. He forgave me on the day that He paid the price for my sin and He forgives me continuously. Additionally, He persuades me that though I feel absolutely like a hopeless failure at times His grace is indeed sufficient and I make it through another whatever the day’s evil is. Be it self inflicted or externally imposed. The operative words here being: "make through". In other words: He protects either directly or indirectly, but I make it through. If I am lucky, I learn too.

    I have read many of your replies on this site. I know you are a learned man when it comes to Christian apologetics. I am certain that you can find some fault or another with what I have said. Nevertheless……….it too is true. You know those "footsteps in the sand"? They really are there and they really are His.

  • DonP

    Tim, I see I neglected to address your response to the old adage. I really don’t know what to say to that. My experience with the world as it relates to my heavenly mindedness is not at all as you describe yours to be. Perhaps, and this not meant to be a critique of your personality or, an insult, but maybe you are too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good.

  • Diana

    Wow! What a testimony! Thank you for sharing this. I hope someday, I too will be able to look back and see God's hand as clearly as you do (not that I don't now, but it seems that your faith has been powerfully affirmed throughout your life and I hope I'm able to say the same someday.) Thanks again for sharing this.

  • Freda

    I think it's very important to realize that we need to practice charity toward the weaker of our brethren (Romans 14:1-6), and the writer from "Pearl of the Prairie" would, at one time, have qualified for that label.

    All that being said, I think it's also up to us to do our best to lovingly educate so that our brothers and sisters can grow in the faith and not remain stagnant in their ignorance. Yet when it's a gray area, we also have to learn to bite our tongues at times (which is NOT easy for me).

  • Diana

    I hear you, Freda! I've been in a position (more than once) in which I chose to bite my tongue regarding my own, somewhat liberal, interpretation of the faith because someone else I considered to be more spiritually vulnerable than me was also more conservative in his/her viewpoints. It is hard to bite our tongues at those times.

  • DonP

    Diana: Au contraire' mon ami. I am quite the late bloomer here. I have spent most of my life running from Him. Alas, I am His. He does as He wills. Though I still pick up the sword on occasion I find that I am almost too old to fight Him now.

  • Diana

    The Jonah Syndrome. I totally get it. Most of us suffer from it at one time or another. Still, your testimony shines.

  • amelia

    Tanager, that was awesome. I grew up with a Jehovah's witness mom and a very bitter-toward-the-church-almost-pagan dad (oh, the joys of childhood). I didn't become a follower of Christ until my early thirties, though, because the church, and the majority of people I saw there, seemed so hypocritical and motivated by fear and guilt on way too many levels. I agree that it's no one's business if I choose to dance like a fool for God, but at the same time I question so-called christian churches that harm women and children. That's not o.k.

  • Shaw

    Some people are willing to blow themselves up to kill people who they believe to be enemies. Shouldn’t we sometimes take a moment to remember how possible it is that such believers have grasped, and are living, a truth we’ve barely begun to comprehend?

  • Shouldn't you take a moment right now to consider what a complete dick you are?

  • Hahaha–my husband and I went to a (then) Southern Baptist college. Our joke was similar–the school had rules against sex before marriage because it could lead to dancing…

  • Brooks

    They live a comfortable religion which has nothing to do with the God of the Bible.

  • denver

    I've always looked at such severe withdrawal/denial of anything not-of-your-own as weak faith. If you are so afraid at being exposed and "corrupted" by outside forces, how strong is your faith? How strong is your faith that it can't stand up to a little Beatles music in the mall, or homeopathy, or whatever without you being "corrupted?" How strong is your faith if you can't hang out with (let alone discuss religion and other views with) people who don't share your faith because they might "corrupt" you? That's what my problem with this kind of mindset is – not that I have a problem with people trying to live lives as full of their spirituality/religion/faith as possible, and not getting distracted by the day-to-day minutae, but trying to be mindful and present at every moment; but other = devil, run away, run away! That's what I have a problem with.

  • I used to think the same thing. Apparently if it wasn't in the word or it didn't have DC Talk or Hillsong playing it was evil. It's amazing how people can get so brainwashed. That's how cults start.

    Our previous pastor was so off his nut he had one of those clearing out the house and bring all your "Not of God" stuff to church so they could burn it – This was about 10 years ago. Me being so stupid got rid of my whole CD collection except for some Christian ones like Hillsong and DC talk. The ironic thing is that one of those CD's I got rid of was Bon Jovi's "Keep the Faith" album.

    This was before iPods came onto the market. It makes me wonder what they'd do now? Try to burn Mp3 players or iPods? (I think they'd explode if you did). I didn't even think about what I was doing because I had the same mindset as you. This was like $600 worth of CD's. WHAT WAS I THINKING?

    Just because someone can mention a couple of bible verses and impress people with their understanding of the bible doesn't mean that you're one step away from being in a cult.

    It's time to get back to the basic word and not make it so complicated and legalistic.

  • P.S when I said mindset I meant 'in this post'. Love the blog, keep it up

  • Very nicely said, Mike–all of it. Thank you.

  • Sorry for calling you a complete dick.

    But that WAS a dickish thing to say.

    (Actually, though–and this is just between us—I do, of course, see your point: fundamentalism, in all too real a sense, too readily turns deadly. But I also know that you know what I meant with this post, which was hardly that.)

  • denver

    In the 90s one of my favorite songs was Epic by the band Faith No More. Played it for my uber-Christian friend (who had no problem with me listening to Guns n' Roses or any other number of bands, btw), and she thought it was great until I told her the name of the band. "But it's IN THEIR NAME. Faith No More. You shouldn't listen to them, because they are promoting loss of faith!!" I was like… seriously?

    But then, I shouldn't talk, because in those days I threw away a Marilyn Manson tape I had bought (which I years later re-bought on CD, and back then $15 spent on a cassette tape was a LOT of money for me!) because he was the "antichrist superstar"! Even though none of the songs I know and listen to by him in any way knock Jesus. Or even talk about him.

    Ah, moments of illogical fervor. 😉

  • christy

    As a recovering Fundamentalist myself I can relate to the comment you highlight above. Legalistic, judgemental, fear based, and shunned when we left the church….we lived it.

    I applaud John’s effort here to apply compassion to all people, including those with whom we may disagree.

    My caveat is that with eyes wide open and choices offered to discerning adults, for those who choose Fundamentalism: more power to them…..but that’s not how it works. For those of us who were weaned on it, we had no choice, and as a woman our choices are even fewer. Even the Amish give their children the right to leave the community and choose whether they wish to continue in the ways of their parents. Not so with Fundamentalism. It is damaging. It is spirit crushing. If you’ve never been on the inside looking out, I think it’ s very hard to understand the full impact it has on every aspect of your life. To leave is to be shunned. To leave is not unlike coming out. If you are not with them, then they perceive that you are against them. We w

  • Don Whitt

    @DR – I'll drink to all of that. And can someone explain "legalistic fundamentalism" and how it differs from "fundametalism?

    @Roybe – that was my 1st thought – that the fundamentalism described seems to border on a form of ascetcism.

  • I knew this was going to be a nest of snakes. Stepping into one on the way home from kindergarten is one of my earliest memories of real world terror, just as effective as my nightmares. Look at these ideas writhing around each other until I can't tell one from another. Jesus says "No greater love has any man than this, that he lay down his life for a friend." Frequently enough this is lived out in warfare.

  • Huh! Look how that other comment jumped in in between. Must push f5 more often.

  • What's the baby? What's the bathwater? I think the baby is the strong courageous piety. I think the bathwater is the weak faith that fears to look carefully at the Creation. Science? More knowledge of creation? Good! More understanding from the Creator. Other cultures? Good! More knowledge of God's children. Other great religions? Good! More light, more enlightenment. But if my faith falters and I fail to heed the words "God looked on all he had made and saw that it was good." then I can become terrified that my faith is nothing more than a set of beliefs that might be wrong. Perhaps I can hold them up by doing violence to other patterns of belief and those who hold them. Watch out! I think there is a lion prowling around here somewhere.

  • amelia

    @Don Rappe: Jesus was talking about himself, without a weapon. Kind of like that saying, "what if there was a war and nobody showed up." Jesus never advocated people killing people, which is what war does…

  • Ace

    That reminds me of that time I was in the 8th or 9th grade and I asked my dad to pick up a CD for me for my birthday or something and ended up getting an hour-and-a-half long lecture instead.

    The origin of his objection? The band's name was "Third Eye Blind" which he interpreted as Satanic.

    And I had just thought they played some catchy tunes…

  • Tim

    Maybe I misunderstood your point. I think most Christians opposed to secular music and film do quite a bit through consumer rejection/refusal. Burning CDs ad DVDs is a retroactive version of the same thing. I wouldn't want a mob of irate baptists burning a film or recording studio to the ground because they represent the source of garbage/smut/satanic metal. Not consuming that product is the best and most lethal form of protest available. Hit 'em where it hurts. The bottom line. Even if their numbers aren't enough to put a dent in sales, the faithful will sleep peaceful knowing that they did what was right according to their beliefs.

  • Diana

    Yes. I'm in total agreement with Tim. Vote with your pocketbook. It's much better than using violence or destruction of property to make a point.

  • No, Jesus definitely didn't advocate war. But the guy who throws himself over a grenade to save the guys in the hole with him is displaying a certain kind of love. And this idea of love is very extreme and very real.

  • StephinVegas

    What a great discussion! I enjoy reading your blog, John. It continues to demonstrate how differences of opinion CAN be observed and discussed with dignity and respect for others. The topics (and the ensuing comments) continue to educate and entertain. Thanks so much!

  • nelma e.

    *** Same here, Mike. I gave away hundreds of albums of the 'devil' rock.

  • denver

    Holy cow. It's amazing what some people decide is arbitrarily evil, without knowing anything about it! I love that part in the movie of The DaVinci Code where he is giving the lecture on symbols, and asks, "What do you think this symbol means?" and inevitably what most people think it means is actually NOT was it really means, or originally meant, before it was claimed and perverted by some other group. I prefer to ask if I don't know, rather than jump to a conclusion (not that I'm perfect, either, but I make an effort). I read some recent article about how most people think upside-down crosses = satanism, but an upside-down cross is actually the symbol of the POPE, because St. Peter asked to be crucified upside-down because he felt unworthy to die the same way Jesus did. So it's about humility, and absolutely nothing to do with Satan. Funny how that gets twisted around, no?

  • Old Stuff

    Well, StephinVegas…I shall dispose with dignity and respect here…

    Any system of belief that can lead to someone consciously avoiding hearing something that is not in line with their strict interpretations is objectively f**ked up (and I not one predisposed to dropping the <del>f-bomb</del> asterisk-bomb). If one is vocally concerned with 'Truth' (as so much of the believing community claims to be), such behavior is precisely the opposite of truth-seeking.

    Any believer who has devolved into such a knowledge-restrictive mode is, in my opinion, damage goods. It can take a lot of work to undo that damage. Moreover; any reader here that give any quarter or shows any deference to such a mindset is complicit in a type of intellectual crime.

    …but that's just me.

  • Tim

    Denver, the "devil" is far more subtle than any of us would imagine. Corruption happens in the day-to-day minutiae.

    I married a girl of solid Christian faith. So much faith that she broke up with me a year before we got married because I didn't share her burning vision to become a foreign missionary. However, she changed her mind after I took a position as a minister at a local church. We served together as High School group leaders as a newly married couple and started a family. Years later after we settled into a neighborhood, she began collecting friends whose lives were in "crisis". She began to feel her "ministry" was to support and encourage women who were unhappy in their lives, jobs, marriages, etc. But over the years, instead of her Christian faith being an agent for positive change in her friends' lives, she became increasingly critical of our marriage, our church, and her role as a stay-at-home mom (something she previously insisted on). Once our kids were in school, she launched out into a career in Human Resources with several local companies. She increased her circle of troubled friends and long-story-short— she stopped coming to church and a couple years ago divorced me after starting up a lunch-time romance with a married co-worker. No attempt at counseling, no backward glance. Suddenly I had an "at will" wife.

    Corruption doesn't come from a brief binge of worldly exposure. It is a tiny, but constant trickle that erodes the great chasm.

  • "What’s the baby? What’s the bathwater?"

    Excellent question.

    What is used as the control? What is the foundation for the litmus test to decide which is which?

    It is very easy to say this or that is the basis of Truth(tm) based on all sorts of so called 'truths.'

    Everytime I hear someone say 'God says this or that' I have to wonder; ' Says who….?'

    Who said that god says? Why, how, when do they say so? It can all be very maddening.

    At the end of the day I must rely on what sings in my heart. And that is not always easy..

  • peet

    If we're starting a 'not of God" music list: Kenny G, Michael Bolton, anything with an accordion.

    Real quick, yoga WITHOUT the spiritual philosophic angles is pointless. It's just another faddish exercise program. Yoga's central purpose is to discipline the body so that one can remain in meditation for longer periods of time. So that one can get beyond the trash and mammon of the world, and see how things truly ARE just a little more clearly. So that you can know what's good for you and what's bad for you. So you can be happier. So you can make OTHERS happier. If you aren't prepared to meditate–to come before God totally silent and without an agenda–then spinning, or aerobics, or kickboxing will be more effective exercise.

  • awwww man! That means Weird Al Yankovic is on the "Not of God" list

  • Don Whitt

    @DR, I love that quote.

  • Don Whitt

    @Frank – I think you're on to something re. the equilibrium of personal faith. It seems to me that there needs to be as much faith in one's own self as in the doctrine one follows in order to stay grounded and focused on what's right and what's real.

  • Tim

    Hi Don. I began a response this morning while working from my desk at the church but I was interrupted and never finished. I can't remember what I wrote exactly, but I had a little "shake-awake" from His Spirit, and recalled several times that I was snatched from the consequences of my foolish choices. God saved me from a fall off a 40 foot cliff onto jagged rocks, from drowning alone in a cave at high tide, from a drug bust, not once but three times.,from being knifed by a drunken Mongol at a party when I refused to share my six-pack of Miller High-Life. Most if not all of those instances occurred between the time I prayed the sinner's prayer at 17 with a fellow senior at my high school in 1972 and 10 years after when I finally began walking with God in 1982 when my nephew was dying of brain cancer. Hindsight is 20/20 and present circumstances had clouded my view of God's sovereignty. I'm sorry I came off so absolute and haughty. I'm not a very learned man, unless I get to count what little I've come to know about God.

    The dearest person to me in life divorced me… and I fear that I will lose my children as well. All I can do is hang on to Christ with all my strength and hope that will be enough in the end. I feel weaker than a drowned kitten and try to derive some strength by pretending to have more conviction that I actually have.

    God's word is lamp at our feet and a light to our eyes. What I love about that passage, is when you analyze it, it's plain to see that God intends us to focus on our feet—or more important, where they're at. Right here…right now.. No borrowing worry from the future, no dredging up misery from the past.

    Pay no attention to the pompous guy who thinks he has something to say. Hear the Master speak through my noise. One of the biggest reasons I read John's stuff. God uses it. And even if He doesn't, John's talent alone is worth the read.

    Peace, my friend.

  • Tim

    Like I said up thread, when I spout off trying to come off all "pastory" I probably am of no worldly good. In my weakness, He is made strong. Something I have to keep reminding myself of every day. Thanks for being God's reminder of that today.

    See ya around, Don.

  • Diana


  • I like this, Ben and can relate. Although I didn't grow up in a church like this, I did spend a chunk of my adult life in one. And yes, not all bad. I had some very powerful and meaningful encounters with God in that place and "place."

    And I'm thankful to have found a different balance that also weighs the meaningful experiences I had growing up as a Lutheran, and working with youth as an evangelical. All of it has worked together to bring me to the relationship I enjoy with God today– a thing that, thankfully keeps shifting and growing, expanding, and having me say more of " Oh Holy WOW!"

  • DonP

    Tim I am so sorry for your troubles. It is seems that your faith in God, like Job, is all you have left. Sounds like a good thing to me. As, I have read the next chapter in Job's story as well. I wait for that very same chapter to begin for myself. I may have to wait for a very long time though. The beginning of my story is not nearly as noble as Job's. Perhaps, when I die it will be so.

    When I hear someone else in response to a thank you or, a compliment say: "it's all God" or "credit God not me", or, some such similar thing I usually turn down the mental volume. Very often it sounds kind of "fakey " to me. But I must say I am taken aback by your "thank you". I really did not expect that at all. So if you don't mind, as you did acknowledge, I can most certainly say, in my case, "it is absolutely all Him". And for your information that is an answer to one of my prayers. That He use me, for His sake and by the way Lord, please keep me out of it.

  • Tim

    Amen, Don.

    I read Job to feel better about my own lot in life. I've got nothing on that guy. I also find guilty pleasure while lifting the many needs of my church family as I pray for the weekly prayer requests. It may seem wrong, but the contrast of their dire straits are a weekly reminder that I still have much to be thankful for. I still grieve the loss of my wife. But I cannot find words to express the comfort of having God's constant care and attention…even when I so often forget about Him.

  • Some great point Tanager. Esp: comparison with Islam…

  • Bill

    Hey John. I can't keep up with all the comment replies coming into my email. How do I stop them?

  • Tim

    Maybe I don't understand the definition of fundamentalism. Wouldn't Jesus' illustration of the two greatest commandments be the ultimate fundamentalism?

  • Diana

    The definitions used in this link:
    are the ones I've heard most often and, I believe applicable to this discussion. That said, you raise an interesting question.

    But it is true that Jesus was hard on the rule-oriented Pharisees.

  • Tim

    But were the Pharisees truly rule-oriented? I tend to think what got Jesus' tunic in a wad, was that they pretended to be lovers of the law when in reality they were lovers of themselves and haters of anything that cut into their prophet margin.

  • Diana

    I think they were rule-oriented. I think that they based their self-images on how technically correct they were in obeying the law instead of understanding that mere obedience, while important, was not the point. They used their technical correctness as a means to lord it over those who were not so technically correct instead of reaching out in loving compassion. I could be wrong, of course.

  • I think I know what you mean, that awe at their willingness to live a faith even and especially when it becomes a challenge, discomfortable, even painful, but to stand by it. I can see that in some martyrs and eremits and so. But I think I never understood that “lead us not into temptation” and “everything new is of the devil” stuff. Surely the goal must be to weather temptation, not to hide from it. And this sort of avoidance of science and anything new seems to me to be of the sort House speaks off in Ep 4.08 You Don’t Want To Know:

    “If the wonder’s gone when the truth is known, there never was any wonder.”

    But then, of course, House is a hardcore atheist…

  • connie

    Im sorry but this is WILLFUL stupidity at its finest and nothing that I want anything to do with or find anything admirable about it.

    If they exposed themselves to other thinking and theologies and maintained thier (apparently to you a good thing) their strict adherence (and Im pretty sure keeping women down and in their place is HIGH on thier agenda)….. then sure. Go on and believe what you want.

    But they WILLFULLY demand that their followers not educate themselves, not question their lives and not seek out that which will make them whole and healthy and happy in the world.

    Nothing admirable about them at all.

  • I don’t so much judge the people themselves, but this seems an abusive system. People are trained into fear of the world. It’s not that they can’t think for themselves, but have been brainwashed into denying that capacity for fear of sin. I don’t “judge” anyone, sincerity is always winsome, but this seems just like Phariseeism that could strain a gnat and swallow a camel. I distrust this mode of “behavior control.”

  • Do you have any admiration at all for the Amish?

  • I have great admiration for the Amish. They give their children the choice to stay or leave their lifestyle, their level of commitment is all encompassing, and their ability to forgive -remarkable. They also do not prosthelytize nor do they have designs on running the U.S. Government and enforcing their convictions and moral code on the rest of us. They enjoy being Amish and they leave everyone else alone. That being said…..I am not in admiration of patriarchal societies as they tend to be fertile breading ground for abuse against women.

  • The letter you shared in this post reminds me of my childhood church experience. I have been fighting to purge my life of religion for the past several years. I have thrown out everything I believed and started from scratch. In looking back, I believe the core problem with the legalistic, fear-driven model of Christianity to which we subscribed was in seeing God as an old-Testament, God-of-wrath who requires purity and perfection and will visit doom on anyone who doesn’t live a life set apart from the “world”; a God who will only suffer those who approach him according to strict standards of behavior.

    What I have discovered today is that God can be found in every diverse expression of the creativity and individualism He has endowed; in yoga to every kind of music and movie and style of hair and dress; in the freedom of choice and expression found in even the most crass of TV shows; and yes, even in the kind of misplaced dedication seen in rabid fundamentalism.

    Reading your blog has been a key part of my “recovery from religion” program and I have gained much from the freedom you enjoy and express. Thanks!