Monday, June 27, 2011

Good Vision

To this point in my blog, I have tried to avoid some current hot-button issues in an effort to woo my Fundamentalist readers with love and logic. I'm going to break that a little bit today.

We need to talk about Tina Anderson and Pastor Chuck Phelps.

Stay with me, Fundy readers. Please.

For those who don't know, the short version of the story is this:

Tina Anderson was raped twice by a married fellow church member named Ernie Willis. (Recently convicted of all 4 counts in a court of law.)

Tina became pregnant from the second rape.

Tina's Pastor (Chuck Phelps) became aware of the situation, counseled both of them, and called the police to report the incident. The police, for whatever reason, did not follow up appropriately.

Tina and Ernie were both put before the congregation to be disciplined as separate issues: Ernie for being unfaithful to his wife; Tina for being pregnant after "allowing a compromising situation to occur".

The decision was made for Tina to be moved to Colorado and to put her baby up for adoption. She was homeschooled and largely isolated from other teens.

Ernie was allowed to stay in the church.

Those are incontrovertible facts, without bias. Nobody, unless they're lying, tries to dispute any of these. There is much more to the story, but I'm trying to be as non-inflammatory as possible. Let us be clear, however, just those facts are appalling enough. Chuck Phelps was wrong to put a rape victim up in front of the church for discipline. He was wrong to make it appear to the congregation that the two events disciplined that night were unrelated. He was wrong to send Tina away as though *she* were the pariah. He was wrong to allow a rapist to continue to function in the church, at the very least, without strict supervision. And he continues those wrongs by refusing to admit publicly that he did anything wrong in the entire situation.

Recently at a prominent Fundamentalist conference, another very prominent Fundamentalist leader made this comment about Pastor Chuck Phelps:
”The only way you get publicity is to have somebody hate you, as brother Chuck Phelps has had, and they come up with evil reports [about you,] then you get in the papers. And by the way, thank God he [Chuck Phelps] stood right all the way through all of this and we ought to stand with him and encourage him, but I don’t suppose newspapers here in Indianapolis write a whole lot of articles about Crosspointe.” (full sermon here; quote at 21:55 mark)

I'm sorry, but I cannot believe that anyone with a heart for crime victims or who desires to do what is right rather than what is popular could say something like that about Chuck Phelps. I am angry that Fundamentalist leadership appears to be more concerned with patting each other on the back than truth and repentance.

And then I read a response to this Fundamentalist leader by Tina's husband, Tim. With his permission, I am reposting the majority of it here.

I grew up being taught in an IFB church, Christian school, Christian college for over 30 years. I have two bachelor degrees from two different IFB colleges. I'm not tooting my own horn. I just want to point out that the IFB way of life is about all I knew about church and education.

Growing up, I always admired the leaders in the IFB. I'd like to believe that the pastor I grew up under, Pastor James Singleton, a major force in the IFB, if he were alive, he'd be addressing these things. I'd like to believe that he's turning over in his grave right now with all that is going on in FBFI.

I grew up being taught that a person of character will admit when he/she has made a mistake, no matter the consequences. I was taught that a man of God should be above reproach. Over this past year, I've been having a hard time grasping the mentality of the leaders in the IFB. It's not what I was taught. It now looks like, "Do what I say, not what I do."

I don't understand Dr. Ed Nelson and his comments. I would have understood it better if he had just not said anything but to say that Chuck Phelps has "stood right through all of this" is beyond comprehension. I guess you could say that if you're looking at the situation through rose colored glasses or an IFB prism that distorts your perspective.

His comments make me realize that my wife and I made the right decision over a year ago.

Before Tina's story was made public last May, we decided to leave our IFB church, which is part of the FBFI. We were never asked to leave. We didn't make a fuss or try to cause any problems. We knew there would be enough of that when Tina's story became public. We decided to leave quietly. She gave her letter of resignation to the IFB college where she taught voice and we walked out the door.

My sisters, although they don't agree with us for leaving our church and are currently in their own IFB churches, still love and support us. Fortunately, blood is thicker than church affiliation. I know this is not always the case and I'm extremely thankful to God for that. My sister asked me if we'd ever go back to a Baptist church. Although I had not really thought about it, I told her "I doubt it." After watching everything going on in IFB land, and after watching Tina finally being vindicated through the conviction of one of her rapists, and still no admittance of wrong from the leaders inside the FBFI, I would now answer my sister and say, "No, I'll never be a member of another IFB church." Would I visit? Yes. In fact, I have friends who are pastors of IFB churches. I'm going to visit one of them this Sunday. I have not seen him for about a year and so I'm looking forward to my visit.

Ed Nelson says that the only way to get publicity is to have somebody hate you. If hate is the only way for fundamental baptist to get publicity, I feel very sorry for them. If hate is the only way that you are getting publicity, then you need to examine what you are doing. What you saw was public outrage (hate) at the injustice that was done to a 15 year old. What you saw was hate that a man who claims to serve God kept spinning the truth to try and make himself not look so bad. The only people that worked on are the people who don't want to face the fact that Chuck Phelps did wrong and has not been able to admit it.

What we, my wife and I, saw was hate from the people who claim to love God but were more concerned about their image than doing what was right. What we saw was hate from people who slandered, created false scenarios, assumed false motivations, and downright called Tina a liar and manipulator for finally standing up for herself. This is the kind of publicity that we would have chosen to avoid. In fact, publicity was one thing we never wanted. We never realized how big of a story this would turn out to be when the police asked Tina to tell them her story and what happened 14 years ago.

Hate was never our motivating factor, justice was. It was justice against Ernie Willis, the man who raped Tina twice when she was 15. We finally saw justice this past May.

Tina and I do not hate Chuck Phelps. We don't hate Ernie Willis. We don't hate the IFB or the FBFI or anyone else associated with this whole situation.

What are our feelings? We'd like to go back to living a quiet, peaceful life serving God, raising our kids, and growing old together. We'll see what God has planned for us. I'm excited about our future and looking forward to the journey that God has set before us.

This response reaffirms that Tina and her husband are interested in truth and justice. Fundamentalist leaders are not.

I cannot, in good conscience, follow leaders this corrupt. For me, this debacle is also another confirmation that my decision to leave Fundamentalism was the right one.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Denial Ain't Just A River In Egypt - Part 3

Final post in this series, I promise. It's been a long haul, I know.

Warning sign #4: Lack of Balance – Extreme Objectivism and Extreme Subjectivism.
”Extreme Objectivism […] elevates objective truth to the exclusion of valid subjective experience. This is seen in religious systems where even though the Holy Spirit’s work might be acknowledged theologically, on a practical level it would be suspect, or denied.” – pp. 69-70
This was characteristic of my Fundamentalist experience in many ways. Essentially, the only way you heard from God was through preaching or reading/memorizing Scripture. Anyone who talked a little too much about the Holy Spirit was "probably pentacostal" and dismissed. I think this might actually be a manifestation of the Fundamentalist tendency to squelch emotions that aren't acceptable for one reason or another.

”Extreme Subjectivism – What is true is decided on the basis of feelings and experiences, giving more weight to them than to what the Bible declares."
I'd say this characterizes something like fundamentalist Pentacostalism more than my Fundamentalist experience; however, sometimes my branch of Fundamentalism exemplified this as well. People spoke of random feelings as being the basis of a decision to do something. It was acceptable to say, "God laid it on my heart to speak to this person" and then relate confrontation that was Biblically questionable; random feelings and coincidences were seen as excellent basis for deciding "God's Will".

”Beware of those who put a spiritual premium on not being educated, or of being educated only at certain schools.”
Oh yes. You could only trust people who went to specific your-branch-of-fundyism-approved colleges. I remember having a conversation with a fellow camp counselor about having to wonder about the spirituality of people who go to colleges like Clearwater instead of Bob Jones or Pensacola. And not because of any theological issues, but because of different standards. And we've already talked about standards.

So there you go. Take an honest look at your Fundamentalist system and see if these signs characterize the majority of or the most important interactions. If so, it is a spiritually abusive system, and I beg you to get out.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Denial Ain't Just A River In Egypt - Part 2

Today's topic may be one of the more subtle - but infinitely more damaging - elements in a spiritually abusive system.

Warning sign #3: Unspoken Rules
”In abusive spiritual systems, people’s lives are controlled from the outside in by rules, spoken and unspoken. Unspoken rules are those that govern unhealthy churches or families but are not said out loud.” – p. 67
Many Fundamentalist systems have plenty of spoken rules; so many that you wouldn’t think there could possibly be any unspoken ones as well. But oh, there are.

A few examples of unspoken rules:
"If I am spiritual enough, things won’t affect me emotionally."
"I can never say no to those in religious authority."
"Talking about problems will make God 'look bad'."
"Unity means agreeing about everything." – p. 59
That first one is a bugaboo. I used to think that if I were spiritual enough, i would never be angry or sad or depressed or discouraged. And when I had those feelings, I thought I was in sin. We Fundamentalists treat each other that way too - if someone is sad or depressed, rather than "weeping with those who weep", we throw a Bible verse or an unhelpful aphorism at them to help them stop having that emotion and therefore become more spiritual. It's very unhealthy.

”In spiritually abusive families and churches, where people insist that they stand on the authority of Scripture, not even Scripture is as powerful as the unwritten rule.” - p. 67-68
A powerfully damning statement.

”The most powerful of all the spoken rules in the abusive system is […] the ‘can’t-talk’ rule. The ‘can’t-talk’ has this thinking behind it: ‘The real problem cannot be exposed because then it would have to be dealt with and things would have to change; so it must be protected behind walls of slience (neglect) or by assault (legalistic attack). If you speak about the problem out loud, you are the problem. In some way you must be silenced or eliminated.” - p.68
Making the speaker the problem is a very effective and easy way to deflect criticism. I can’t count the number of times that I identified a problem, came up with a solution, and on bringing it to my quasi-superior’s attention was turned on as being the problem instead. For example, I realized I wasn’t being given the appropriate tools to perform my job adequately, so I asked for them to be provided. I was told (quote), “This is the mission field, deary, get used to it,” and it was implied that I was being selfish and high-maintenance. So, I went and bought what I needed myself. Then I was told, “That’s not the way we do things around here, you can’t just do that,” and was then implied that I was naive, bumbling and somewhat rebellious. From then on, I just bought what I needed and told no one. Which was, frankly, the wrong answer. I enabled the system by doing that. I should have confronted the hidden messages and double-speak. I don't think I was healthy enough at the time to do so, however.

"The truth is, when people talk about problems out loud they don’t cause them, they simply expose them." - p.68
Say this to yourself 10 times a day if you have to. It’s key to breaking the cycle of submitting to the “don’t talk” rule.

”Because people feel they cannot talk about an unspoken rule, they learn to talk in ‘code’ to convey what they mean.” – p. 57
I wish he went more into what “talking in code” meant in this book like he does in his other excellent book “Tired of Trying to Measure Up”, so I’ll quote from that book instead.
”It very swiftly becomes clear [in a shame-based or spiritually abusive system] that needs, honest feelings, questions and opinions that differ are not okay. Therefore, people have to learn to get what they need or let out what’s inside by putting it in code. Saying things straight gets you labeled as the problem.

In shame-based families and churches, members have invisible code books that they carry in their heads, though most of them are unaware they are doing so. The code book is an absolute essential if you are to survive in a shame-based system. It helps you to code things you want to say to others with the least amount of waves possible. It helps you to understand what others are saying so you can use the necessary, shame-avoiding behavior. It teaches you very unhealthy communication patterns.” - Tired of Trying to Measure Up, p. 55

Code means that when you try to communicate something, you either do your best to couch it in inoffensive terms or you say one thing but really mean something else that the other person has to pick up on. It is, at its core, dishonest. Now, I realize that we probably all talk in code at some point in our lives. Some of us grow up in families or systems where that’s all we learn to use; in others it’s rarer. But if it characterizes the majority of interactions in a system, that system is manipulative and abusive.

”If noticing problems is labeled disloyalty, lack of submission, divisiveness, and a challenge to authority, then there is only a fa├žade of peace and unity. It is impossible for wounds to be healed, and abuse will one day escalate.” – p. 69
Can't say it any better. If you have identified a problem in your Fundamentalist system and the above paragraph was the result, YOU ARE IN AN ABUSIVE SITUATION AND NEED TO GET OUT.

Final post in the series coming soon.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Denial Ain't Just A River In Egypt - Part 1

Someday I may have some Fundamentalist readers, and I would expect at least a few of them to say, “Look, this is nice and all, but I’m in Fundamentalism and I’m fine. I’m not being abused or manipulated, and I think you’re just bitter.”

I hope you are in a good situation, I truly do. In my experience, however, many people in Fundamentalism have been in it so long they can’t recognize what’s happening and think it is normal. One of my goals for this blog is to compare and contrast normal, healthy interactions with abusive, unhealthy interactions in the hope that the kind souls still in Fundamentalism can realize just how pathologic much of it is.

Today’s post will be the start of a series on “spiritual abuse”. As I look back at my Fundamentalist experience, the vast majority of church, school, or camp interactions were spiritually abusive. That may sound shockingly extreme, and not so long ago I might have thought the same thing. But the farther away I get from Fundamentalism, the more I realize just how pervasive the spiritual abuse is.

Jeff VanVonderen’s book “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse” was an eye-opening read for me, and I highly recommend it. I found the four major signs of spiritual abuse to be appallingly familiar. Unfortunately, I was both victim and perpetrator of this abuse when I was in Fundamentalism.

First warning sign: “Power Posturing”
”Power posturing simply means that leaders spend a lot of time focused on their own authority and reminding others of it as well.” – The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, p. 63

If your pastor frequently (maybe even ever?) spends preaching time talking about his authority, his fitness to lead, his power in the church, or demanding respect, alarm bells should be ringing loud and clear. Even the secular world understands that a good leader leads by example and that respect must be earned, not demanded. II Timothy 2:24-25 says, “A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people's hearts, and they will learn the truth.” (NLT)

I remember many if not most Fundamentalist pastors, evangelists, and school administrators being amazingly unkind and quarrelsome in their teaching – and, shockingly, it was seen as a good thing. Unkindness and quarrelsomeness are not Spiritual fruit and should serve as warning signs, not badges of honor.


Second warning sign: “Performance Preoccupation”
”In abusive spiritual systems, power is postured and authority is legislated. Therefore, these systems are preoccupied with the performance of their members. Obedience and submission are two important words often used.” – p. 65
”Are obedience and submission important? Without question.” – p. 66
”To bring balance, however, we must… [c]onsider the words of Peter and the other apostles in Acts 5:29: ‘We must obey God rather than men.’ Notice that Peter is saying this to the religious leaders he was disobeying. Out of context, obedience to leaders looks like good theology. Add the larger context, and you will see that it is only appropriate to obey and submit to leadership when their authority is from God and their stance is consistent with His.” – p. 66
In Fundamentalism, I was taught to obey authority no matter what. If I just obeyed the authority in my life, no matter how much I disagreed with what they said or demanded of me, then God would bless me. I'm sorry to say I often participated in perpetuating that heterodoxy - especially when I was a camp counselor. I am ashamed to think of the number of children and teenagers I helped to beat down when they came to me for help. Fortunately, once God opened my eyes I began to be appropriately appalled at the parental attitudes that this heterodoxy created.

For example: I had more than one parent talk to me about a "wayward" child who wanted to go to a non-Fundamentalist church. In the discussion two points often emerged: 1) they thought it normal and good for them to force their child to go to their Fundamentalist church "as long as he lives in our house", and 2) this child had realized some of the theological problems within Fundamentalism and wanted to follow his conscience in worship.

In Fundamentalism, this heterodox doctrine of "authority" trumped a great deal of clear Scriptural direction about not provoking your children to anger and not violating another's conscience. The mental gymnastics needed for someone to claim Scriptural backing while ignoring Luke 17:2 is both mind-boggling and very disheartening.

”For many reasons, followers sometimes obey or follow orders to avoid being shamed, to gain someone’s approval, or to keep their spiritual status or church position intact. This is not true obedience or submission; it is compliant self-seeking (emphasis mine).” – p. 66

So very sad and so very true. This, unfortunately, enables the abuse. However, it is very difficult to stand up and confront this kind of hypocrisy, because you have everything to lose in a performance-preoccupied system and the authority has everything to gain by putting you "back in line”. You end up being a compliant self-seeking enabler in order to survive.

A performance-preoccupied system is an abusive system. Be honest and look around. If you see that the major spoken or unspoken priority is how you perform or live up to specific arbitrary rules, then please understand it is by no means spiritual or Scriptural. Our performance can *never* measure up. That’s the point. If we could do enough to please God , Christ’s atonement was superfluous. God attributes the performance of Jesus Christ to us, and we live out that truth in our lives in response, not as the source.

More on this topic soon.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wandering

I'm in the process of finding a new church to attend now that I've left Fundamentalism, and I have to say that it's a much more difficult process. In the past, all I had to do was look up the one or two Independent Fundamental Baptist churches in town, and start attending. Now I have to look at doctrinal statements, listen carefully to sermons, and actually think.

One surprising factor in the complexity of the decision is the multiple services available on Sunday morning. Many churches outside of Fundamentalism offer both a "Contemporary" and a "Traditional" worship service at different times.

Now, when I was a Fundamentalist, "contemporary" was completely out of the question. True Christians didn't worship with a drum set or a praise band. That was "worldly". And some of the evidence used to support the claim was the shallow nature of these worship services (somehow without addressing the often shallow and theologically questionable nature of the music in a Fundamentalist music service. But that's another post.).

Unfortunately, to this point, I have found that many "contemporary" services are indeed shallow. (I'm not sure if it has as much to do with the "contemporary" nature as to the general depth of the average American Christian, however.) So far, "contemporary" seems to mean "poor-quality performance of repetitive meaningless songs by people who are entirely too enamored of their abilities". However, "traditional" seems to mean "funeral dirges sung by sour-faced white-haired people who are not enamored of much of anything." I'm still trying to decide which is the lesser of two evils, and I really wish I didn't have to choose between them. It shouldn't be that way.

The thing that grieves me the most about seeing a church with both a contemporary and traditional worship service is the lack of loving communication that must have driven a church to that point. How can you split the Body into two bleeding halves over something as non-doctrinal as this? The Body needs all its parts. The young believers need the depth and rock-steady faith of the older believers. The older believers need the joy and exuberance of the younger believers. Incorporating both traditional and contemporary elements to the service brings the Body together in love and understanding. There should be co-operation and sharpening of each others talents and abilities, not just playing in our own corners so as not to ruffle any feathers.

The church I found refuge in while transitioning out of fundamentalism was very intentional about music in worship, and I miss that. We had electric bass, djembe drum, and acoustic guitar in the music portion - but they weren't there just to be there, they were used judiciously to support the message of the song. The songs were heavy with doctrine and rarely repetitive. There was usually no "special music", because our pastor wanted to emphasize that no one can stand up front and worship for you. Not that special music was wrong or sinful, it just wasn't what characterized our church because we wanted to emphasize togetherness.

So I'm looking for a meaningful worship service with depth. Not sure where to find it quite yet, but at least I know where *not* to look.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Exodus

About 2 years ago, I wrote a note on a social networking site that charted my realization of Fundamentalism's problems and declared an official theological break from it. I received a largely positive response – however, due to fear, I limited its access to people I knew who would likely be of a similar mind.

I took it down a few months later because I heard through the grapevine that it had gotten around to some people who were viewing it as an attack on them specifically rather than on the problems of Fundamentalism in general. I have since learned that this response is a common way of diverting attention away from the real problem.

I recently re-read the declaration and think it is worth discussing in this blog because it was really the genesis of my eventual exodus. I won’t re-post it entirely because wow, was it angst-ridden. Though at times painfully accurate (like the prediction I would lose my job if I were too publicly honest about my struggle), other times it rather missed the point. I still largely stand by what was written, but I’ve since fleshed out more specific underlying reasons for the issues discussed. Hence this blog.

The following excerpts are presented here with current thoughts for contrast:

"...I have been uncomfortable with some aspects of it (fundamentalism) through the years. Until lately, I didn’t think too hard about those problems, because fundamentalism was ‘right’. The only alternative was to be 'wrong'. Right?"
And there’s the rub right there, isn't it. As a Fundamentalist, I thought (and was taught) that we were the only Christians who “got it right”. Everyone else was wrong. So to even question that Fundamentalism itself might be deeply flawed is a huge paradigm-shattering step. I still get patronizing comments that I must have just come across a few bad apples, but I’ve been exposed to a broad enough section of Fundamentalism to realize that these problems are the norm, not the exception.

“…I’m ashamed that it has taken me this long to see and speak up. There are people who are where I used to be, browbeaten into a form of religion that denies the power of God. This is a burden, a sad, heavy burden for those who are trapped there still and who don’t realize that God is so much better than they’ve been led to believe. “
It’s still sad, and I'm still ashamed. I see people responding to me in ways I probably would have not so very long ago. Now, I can't believe I ever thought that way. I think the responses are large part due to this blinding core belief about the basic "rightness" of Fundamentalism.

1. By their fruit you shall know them.
Matthew 7:15-20; Galatians 5:21-22


“Upon returning to fundamentalist circles after a hiatus in the real world, I was shocked at the behavior I saw on a daily basis.”

“Honestly, I have never been treated with such disrespect in my life until I came here.”
In retrospect, I don't think it was really disrespect per se. It was actually jockeying for power. As a person in a job with authority, I had automatic power. As a woman, I also had automatic powerlessness. Frequently, I had men (especially men in leadership/preaching positions) treat me as someone without any power because of my gender despite the power of my position. Other people of either gender treated me the way they did because they were fighting for some modicum of power in their lives – because they had been maneuvered into a position of powerlessness by others. The cycle is quite vicious.

“This experience has shown that the usual fruit of fundamentalism is instead anxiety, fear, self-centeredness, obnoxiousness, willful ignorance, obsessively controlling others deemed weaker than you, lack of love, and ungratefulness, just to name a few.”
See, I did get to the power dynamics here, though obscured by other issues.

“I have seen that abuse is rampant in fundamental circles. Sexual abuse. Physical abuse. Emotional abuse. Yes, it’s real, and it happens, and it is rarely being talked about/dealt with by fundamentalists in anything approaching a reasonable manner. Again, I’m not calling out fundamentalists because they have these problems, I’m calling out condoning and covering the problem. Forgiveness and submission are twisted in a misguided fashion that ends up keeping the one being abused under the thumb of the abuser rather than helping them (or helping the abuser, for that matter). Parents provoke their children to wrath; yet only the child gets lectured about how he should honor his parents. Authority figures impose their will on those around them rather than being gentle, apt to teach, and patient; people who question their behavior are labeled as disrespectful to authority and rebellious.”
What is abuse but power used/maintained/gained inappropriately? This dysfunctional Fundamentalist power dynamic is ripe for perpetuating all types of abuse. It’s also what keeps many good people trapped in the system.

2. What fundamentalists think /say they believe vs. what beliefs their actions and words truly reveal.

"Fundamentalists say that they believe that the heart is more important than outward behavior. Yet most of the time, their actions run counter to this affirmation. As long as you exhibit a certain set of behaviors, one’s spirituality is rarely questioned. Never mind that the behaviors may be done out of a wrong motivation or solely because of an iron-fisted authority requires them."
Huge, huge issue here, and one that I plan on going into detail about in future posts. Again, this contributes significantly to keeping a lot of people in fundamentalism who should otherwise know better. They hear the words that sound right and appropriate (and sometimes may be), but miss the fact that those correct concepts are horrifically mis-applied.

3. “I will condemn you with your own words…” – Luke 19:22

If there’s one thing that seems to override much of fundamentalist behavior, it’s “being a good testimony”. We make sure our facilities and families look nice. The principle of avoiding all appearance of evil is flogged and twisted into a behavioral straightjacket - all in the name of being a testimony to the unsaved. You don’t admit to any problems you’re having in your life because, well, you know, it might give the unsaved the wrong idea. All so unsaved people can look at the sparkly shiny Christians who have it all together and want to be like that. Not to be like Christ, mind you, but to be sparkly and shiny Christians who have it all together. We’re selective on what we decide is offensive, however. Fundies are perfectly happy to hold up a sign that says “Fags go to hell”, but heaven forbid we go to the grocery store in jeans.
Fine, yes, Westboro is offensive enough to be odious even to most Fundamentalists. However, you don’t have to look very far to find a leader in Fundamentalism making statements just as offensive.

"So what does this all mean?"

"I still believe that the Bible is true; I still believe in the cardinal doctrines of the faith."

"...some may say that by rejecting fundamentalism, I have thrown out the baby with the bathwater. I counter that I have finally searched through all that dirty, mucky water and realized that there is no baby. I’m not going to argue whether it used to be there or whether it was never there before; I merely declare unequivocally that it is not there now. And I’m leaving to go find Him.”

Two and a half years after this declaration, I have finally left the world of Fundamentalism completely. I feel like I’m starting my life over again. I’ve never been more free, never loved so much, never had such a keen awareness of who God is – from His holiness to his love to his justice to his mercy. I am being completed rather than broken as I have learned orthodoxy instead of heterodoxy. God has been merciful to this self-righteous unloving servant, and I am finally in awe of His work rather than mine.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Walk the (Hard) Line

Does any of this sound familiar?
1.“…various conservative {preachers} …thunder against ‘naked’ or ‘half-naked’ women roaming the streets.”
2.“Women would be pulled aside and warned if their clothing was deemed inappropriate.”
3.(Describing men’s haircuts) “Short, neat hair is approved; ponytails are definitely not.”
4.“…what is … acceptable was … mostly clean-shaven male models sporting short hair.”
5.“The dress code crackdown is always beefed up at the beginning of summer when temperatures soar and people wear cooler clothing.”
6.(Describing cheerleaders) “They bounce and flip and throw each other around and you see so much of them. They want you to see.”

To those of us either currently or formerly in Fundamentalism, it probably does. I know I frequently heard similar ideas when I was a Fundamentalist - from preachers, teachers, books, camp counselors, school administrators, etc. In fact, #6 is quite conceptually similar to many a sermon I heard warning of the dangers of immodesty.

This list is not from American Independent Baptist Fundamentalist literature, however.

The first five are descriptions of statements from Iranian Islamic clerics and government – one of the most abusive, repressive, misogynistic regimes in our current world political system.

The last one was spoken by a character in a John Grisham novel. This person is a serial rapist and murderer.

When I realized that my cultural rhetoric had more in common with rapists and hardline Muslims than the culture of the average person I came in daily contact with, I knew I needed to get out. Something was very, very wrong.

Perhaps one more quote from that first news story would help enlighten us about the wrong:
“Dictating public behavior and enforcing the strict dress code – especially for women – have long been a way for the regime to demonstrate its control.”

Yes, that’s what it’s really about. Control. Not godliness. Let there be no mistaking the purpose.


**********************************
Bibliography:

#’s 1, 2, 3 - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10527088
#’s 4, 5 and final quotation - http://wwrn.org/articles/33791/
#6 – “The Confession” by John Grisham, p. 48