why i never talk with a fundamentalist

why i never talk with a fundamentalist August 30, 2013
bible bunker cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward

Actually, I do talk with fundamentalists. But always, at some point, they start sounding biblical, and then I know I’ve lost them. You know the feeling. It’s like you’re talking with a person when all of a sudden they start sounding like a book. So, it’s not that I don’t talk with a fundamentalist. It’s that I’m actually talking with a bible that’s taken possession of a human body and its brain.

It is a defense tactic, a bunker position, a fearful guard.

I used to have a fundamentalist mindset. I remember doing exercises where the only answer I could give to questions were bible verses. The one who could do this the longest won. Me. I won. It is based on Jesus being tempted in the wilderness where Satan challenges him and each time Jesus corrects him with a scripture. This is how one fights the enemy. With scripture.

It’s very frustrating. When the conversation is between human beings, even if we disagree, at least there’s hope of mutual understanding. But when one resorts to quoting scripture, that’s when I bail. It’s over. Sometimes, I kid you not, I think I’m talking to a troll or some kind of ingenious Biblical Answer Generator. You know what’s coming out of that cannon? You guessed it. Bibles!

If we could all just dissemble our biblical guard and disarm our scriptural cannons perhaps real conversation could take place.

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  • The Biblical Answer Generator answers with Matthew 4:4 (as predicted). 😉

  • lrfcowper

    I can remember years ago posting a question to some very erudite Christian men and women, many with seminary degrees, about the condemnation of homosexuality in the Bible. It was something along the lines of, “I’ve been doing some reading that suggests that the passages we’ve applied to homosexuality have been mistranslated or taken out of context. I’ve been unsuccessful at finding any scholarly counter-arguments and I’d like to consider both sides. Does anyone here have any support for these passages being a blanket condemnation of all same-sex relationships? Any good resources you can point me to?”

    I was expecting some book titles or authors, perhaps a few links. I knew some of these guys were quite happy to sit and break down various positions, delve into the Greek and Hebrew and the cultural climates of the periods, but I also knew that takes time, so I was hoping, but not expecting that.

    What I got instead was a lot of emails from multiple people just basically saying “The Bible/God says it’s wrong!” and quoting the passages whose translation and context I’d just asked about. Some of these guys had taken a lot of time on these emails, but not one of them answered my question.

    … Which, I suppose, in its own way, did answer my question.

  • wanderer

    You have my respect for being willing to let go of the “I won” fundamentalist approach. It seems far too few are willing/able to let go of that, for whatever reason.

  • Doug

    I was brought up in a church in which my childhood pastors had this mindset. I walked away from it years ago. Trying to talk with these people is a waste of time and a sure-fire way to raise your blood pressure. You can’t have a rational conversation with them.

  • klhayes

    What is even funnier is when you can use the Bible to argue with people as well. People like to talk about why Sodom was destroyed and Ezekiel 16:49 is pretty clear about that. When I pointed out that verse in a debate I was told that the Devil had twisted my Bible.

  • Shawn Spjut

    David: I think you had the operative phrase –
    “It is based on Jesus being tempted in the wilderness where Satan challenges him and each time Jesus corrects him with a scripture. This is how one fights the enemy. With scripture.”

    Scriptural bunkers see anything outside of their interpretation as – the enemy. Yet the only group of people Jesus ever took issue with were – the religious bunkers.

  • Interesting 😉

  • Roshan Easo

    I agree, but if the message we have is of hope, then at some point questions have to cease because the answers are emphatic.

  • Al Cruise

    Fundamentalists live in a world of right and wrong, with everything being analyzed through that lens and therefore cannot know the nature of true love and the meaning of Grace. Only love produces true change and overcomes evil.

  • Guest

    You could do your own “scholarly” study of the text. Break out the Greek/Hebrew text, dictionary, concordance, etc… There’s probably not many books on “why XYZ verses have NOT been tampered with.” It doesn’t really make sense to argue a point from that perspective; doing so means you’ve already lost ground and are on the defensive – not something many scholars will do when writing a book. But on the other hand, in my experience, most books that say “XYZ verses HAVE been tampered with” are like a fad diet… same old, same old stuff, wrapped in a different book sleeve. You gotta also think… for someone to say XYZ verses were tampered with, don’t they have to know what the original verses were, for them to know that what we have now aren’t the originals? And once you go down that slippery slope, using inter-textual references to invalidate other references (which is likely how they would first come to the conclusion that something’s amiss), you then invalidate your approach you already concluded the invalidity of various texts.

    Just a few random thoughts from a stranger…

  • Robert John Millar

    For several years I’ve been wondering about the conversation that will follow when I explain to Jesus that I had decided I would just walk away from a fearful person who had created defensive postures to protect what they felt were existential values. I had a fundamentalist cry in front of me one day at a church. She explained how terrible it felt to realize she was being rejected by someone known for his inclusiveness. Her tears and fears have followed me for years. Those tears haunt my steps, forcing me to turn back and try again to find words or ways to communicate that it might be possible that the values being so carefully protected by the latest fundamentalist to ruin my day may not be quite so existential as they currently believe. While it is still excruciatingly frustrating when they respond to my gambit with a scripture quotation I believe occasionally my persistence creates an armistice between me and the fundamentalist I am trying to have a conversation with.

  • David, your creative genius never ceases to amaze me.

    You capture so much in this cartoon — so much!

    Thousands and thousands of years of Christianity are based on a book and the battle of verses. Thus, to call anything “Christianity” that forsakes that, is false to a great [infamous] tradition. I can understand fundamentalist mentality — so secure and so afraid.

    And I understand liberal Christians’ frustrations: they realize the silliness behind scripture worship and exclusivism — but they still desire strongly to be called and recognized as “Christian”: with all the sense of belongingness, of history, Christian privilege, social status and perceived uprightness it affords. How I wish that those that see the Bible fortress could see their “Christian” fortress: their great attachment to the title “Christian”!

  • random thoughts from a stranger appreciated 🙂

  • Andy

    Your headline is incorrect and dishonest.

  • Oh boy! Another troll! 😉

  • lrfcowper

    I’m not talking about being tampered with. I’m talking being mistranslated and/or taken out of context. For instance, when “marriage” is mentioned, it’s important to keep in mind what marriage was then (often arranged with the bride having little say in the matter, often amounting to little more than sexual slavery for the woman) vs. now (usually entered into consensually by both parties on the basis of mutual love). So when you read Paul saying he thinks people shouldn’t marry, but that if that’s not possible it’s “better to marry than to burn,” you need to read that in the light of what “marriage” was to Paul. That isn’t to suggest that the text has been tampered with and the word “marriage” isn’t in there, but that when it is applied to modern marriages without thought given to the cultural differences, it can lead to a poor and inaccurate understanding of the author’s intent.

    Likewise, at some point in our Bible translations, the word “arsenokoites” stopped being applied to self-pleasuring and started being applied instead to “sodomites” and then to “homosexuals” or “homosexual offenders”. Did something happen in that timeframe to suggest to translators that they’d been translating it wrong, or did they take a problematic word they weren’t sure of and apply it to the new sin du jour?

    My investigation into it turned up that most early texts are simply quoting Paul without any further context, but at least one early text, teaching confession-taking ministers to ask a few questions to make sure there are no sins left unconfessed through forgetfulness helpfully says, “Many men commit the sin of arsenokoitia with their wives.” And, boom, that whole “homosexuals” translation becomes problematic.

    See, you’re assuming my investigation stopped with the poor answers I received to my question. It did not. My question was seeking resources and the advice of men and women more learned than I, as I do not have the advantage of multiple degrees in Biblical studies, Biblical anthropology, church history, and ministry. I was at the starting point but, as I said, this was many years ago. I did not end my investigation there, and to assume so, to imply I was being lazy to go to a group of experts to start my investigation, is uncharitable.

  • Caryn LeMur

    Great cartoon! I agree that the ‘bunker’ mentality is indeed an error. Many believers would do much better in life to spend only 1 Sunday a week in a church or home-group, and the other 3 Saturday nights in a bar with all types of people, listening, listening, and then finally sharing encouragement, comfort, and thoughts over a coffee, a coke, a beer, or a shot.

    I share so many traits with the Fundamentalists, to include a love of scripture. And, I’ve come to believe it is the only ‘living’ text within all the texts that I have read. Yet, they live within the ‘bunker mentality’, and I do not.

    In my current understanding, there are three great groupings (with overlap): the Transformation-oriented, the Creed-oriented, and the Covenant/Life-oriented. The Transformation-oriented lean towards being ‘born again’ and/or ‘transformed by follow-on process’. The Creed-oriented lean towards being ‘right or wrong’ based on their beliefs (their creed). The Covenant/Life-oriented lean towards being ‘shades of gray’ based on their actions towards others.

    I am a mix of transformation and covenant-oriented. Yet, I love the scripture, and the Book of Galatians is very much a part of my life-style and heart-style, as are the Gospels and the Book of James.

    I think our Lord has ‘given them over’ in many cases to their bunker-ism, so that they are not destroyed by the challenge of changing (Is 57). He blesses them with ‘Father, bless the Fundamentalist that lives within the bunker – may they stay there, where they can do little harm…. it is so dark inside… but like the blind leading the blind, if they memorize all the furniture, they will never fall.’ He loves all the sheep, even the ones within the bunker.

    Much love in Christ always and unconditionally; Caryn

  • lrfcowper

    But there are always new situations, new discoveries, new technologies, and a living and active word which provides us with new insights. As a parent, I’ve dealt with the curiosity of children. When questions cease, it doesn’t mean they have all the answers, but that they’ve lost confidence in my ability to answer, that they’re seeking answers elsewhere. When we as Christians batter a person with Bible quotes until they are silenced, we haven’t won; we’ve just pushed that person to seek answers elsewhere because we have lost their trust.

  • lrfcowper

    Actually, the Biblical literalism and central place the Bible holds within fundamentalism is a recent phenomenon. Most Christians throughout Christian history would find the battle of verses completely incomprehensible.

    Liberal Christians are, in fact, attempting to return Christianity to its roots– the simple and infinitely complicated commands to keep love at the center of our faith. It isn’t that we want the privilege or the status or what-have-you of the name, but that we refuse to let it be defamed by those who abuse it for less than loving purposes and who claim to speak for us, and for Christ, when they do so.

  • Pat68

    One of the things I like about Jesus is that He was real in his dealings with people. Yes, He quoted scripture to Satan, and at times that may be appropriate. But a large part of what we see of Him in the gospels is Him having real conversations with people. I love the scripture where the people marvel at Him because they had never heard anyone speak like this before and it wasn’t His speech pattern but the content of what He said. He could speak truth in a way that people had never heard before.

  • Post-Script:
    (1) I used your cartoon and this comment in my post today – thanx.
    (2) It is interesting how close the words bunker and bunk are! 🙂

  • Al Cruise

    I hear what your saying, I think the point here is, what is the intent behind the question. What goal are you trying to achieve from the question. It usually isn’t about the question anyways, it always about the preconceived answer that already exists in the mind of the fundamentalist.

  • Hello David, I can relate very well to your frustration for this is what I’m currently experiencing!

    On this morning, I created a bilingual English-German post on hell and salvation where I argue philosophically that a good God will forgive everyone and offer eternal life to everyone.

    I’m taking to task and bullied by a group of German fundamentalists who tell me “God does absolutely what he wants” and they quote lots of scripture.

    This folks are like militant atheists, no dialog is possible with them .

    Yet, it is a great opportunity to love our “enemies” as Jesus ordered us.

    Lovely greetings from Europe!

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son


  • Worthless Beast

    I’ve actually come to hate it when anyone hides behind quotes or thinks “I quoted a famous person or a great work, therefore I win” and leaves it at that. It’s not just with scripture, either.

    It seems to me that people wanting to make any point (religious, anti-religious, political, artistic, etc.) seem to think they can break out the old stray quotes from Thomas Jefferson or Ben Franklin and that settles it (probably moreso for Americans than anyone living anywhere else). Or they can quote a popular song. (I’m sorry. I don’t want to be “one” if someone is going to tell me what I can and cannot “imagine” even if they have good intentions. That’s when I start imagining random space dragons just to annoy the collective).

    Maybe next time I get into an online conversation where people think Scripture is the only answer, or Historical Quotes are the only answer, I’ll start quoting fictions I like – lobbing bits of “The Last Unicorn” at them, or break out some “Lord of the Rings” or through some “Snow Crash” their way just to show people “Here is what *I* respect, yet you’re not snapping to!” … And watch it go over like a fart in church.

  • Thanks Sabio. Honored.

  • JenellYB

    Ah, yes, and when the bible verses they throw out leave you standing there scratching your head wondering what the heck they seem to think THAT Bible verse has to do with anything we were talking about, anyway?

  • Pat68

    At times, it can come across like people that you hear spouting political talking points. You can tell they don’t real understand the issues and are just repeating what they’ve heard said that sounds good and is the result of someone else’s research.

  • Gary

    Well there is a worthless post…LOL

  • Paul Roberts

    His disciples were a people who were deeply religious, and fanatical about their traditions. Their communities were saturated with their Jewish philosophical expressions. The “religious bunkers” that you mention, Pharisees and the like, were people who had gained position and authority by using religion for personal and corporate (their sect) profit. Their focus was on self and that is what Jesus took issue with, not a devotion to tradition or ideas. “Jesus had a problem with religious people” is basically the same point, on the flip side, that this blog post is frustrated by. Lack of insight, information, and interest.

  • @Irfcowper,

    I am watching the Tudors — see my post here on how Bible literalism has created hell on Earth for millions. Bible literalism is not recent at all.

  • Cynically Inclined

    What I have come to find fascinating about people who do this is how often such a person does severe violence to the meaning of the verses he throws around. The person may prooftext to use a piece of verse which says the exact opposite or is completely different from the verse in full or in larger context. Or the person may abuse how words often have multiple meanings, and distort the verse by using a meaning that would make no sense in its original context.

    It’s really quite disturbing how good humans are at starting with a pre-conceived notion and then twisting or selectively editing the available data until it fits what we wanted it to say. We humans are far too gifted at shoving square pegs through round holes.

  • Roshan Easo

    I’m be honest. I’ve asked questions to my hearts content. I don’t hold onto bitterness though. The reason is, I know God’s not judging me whether I hold onto it or not. To be realistic, we’re gonna face brittle love when we face new situations, but happy is the person that knows God’s love is unconditional. Not a bad idea.

  • Aaron Cohen

    Nice try, but Ezekiel 16:46-48 is clear in the traditionl interpretation; “destestable” and “depraved” practices.

  • Joseph Vitug

    This will be very short answer and with love, no anger nor hatred, no sides at all.
    Homosexuality was condemned in the bible only due to its practices not of any sexual preferences.

    I know for sure that you already read the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the reason why they are not in the map anymore.

  • lrfcowper

    Attempted gang rape has nothing to do with homosexuality, and people who conflate rape with consensual sex creep me out to no end. I don’t take moral advice or biblical translational/interpretational beliefs from people who confuse rape and consensual sex.

  • Joseph Vitug

    We can not collide because I do not do that or get a great conversation when you yourself mixed your research and tried to put that into my mouth. You said it, I did not.. Sex and Rape, Consensual or Not are to different things and you mixed it., and I do not. You are more confused than I am. Ezekiel condemned the practice. Lot offered his daughters in place, but the gang of rapist rejected it and the story goes on. Period. I never advise or make suggestions it is all opinion of my own and others that I agreed on. There are no new under the SUN.

  • lrfcowper

    I’m assuming English isn’t your native language, because what you posted above makes absolutely no sense.