Wednesday, October 24, 2012


I ran across this blog post today: Fundamentalists and the M-Factor

By the end of it, I was shaking my head in frustration. While he does get it that Fundamentalism is bleeding young people and the attitudes of the old guard are a big reason, he still manages to miss the point completely.

In my experience, most young people aren't leaving Fundamentalism because they want to wear their hair long or use a drum onstage and would be happy to stay if the old guard would just let them.

No, the Millenials are much deeper than many give them credit for.  Among other things:

...they're leaving because they've realized the futility and even heterodoxy of rule-based Christianity.

...they're leaving because leadership is more interested in control than service and in CYA than justice.

...they're leaving because Fundamentalism consistently fails to follow Biblical commands about the poor.

...half of them are leaving because they're tired of being treated like second-class citizens.

No, they are running away without looking back because they have realized the Emperor has no clothes. And until the Emperor can see that, he's never getting them back - no matter how many standards he begrudgingly caves on.

Friday, October 12, 2012


I greatly hesitate to post this - though admittedly mostly because some people possibly involved know who I am and read this blog.  However, this blog is about the lessons I've learned on leaving Fundamentalism, and this was a big lesson, so here goes.

I've already mentioned that we are currently attending an Episcopal church, which is a pretty far cry from any Independent Fundamental Baptist church.  The church we attended before completely breaking with Fundamentalism was a halfway-house for us - still quite conservative but many Fundy hangups were absent or at least less emphasized.  (Ironically enough, the teaching at this church woke me to a great deal of fundamentalist heterodoxy and peculiarities of the services there made me more comfortable with liturgical worship.)

Shortly after starting to attend Halfway Fundy Church, the pastor preached a message on grace that was freeing.  I especially remember him saying, "Grace is messy."  The point was that if you see another Christian doing something you may not agree with necessarily that isn't in a clear-cut area, don't judge.  Dialogue with that person.  Find out how what that person is doing brings them closer to God, and understand that it is God who leads.  It was a refreshing change from the usual sermons on keeping your testimony spotless and your mint tithed.

This church also put a heavy emphasis on being involved in a local Body - not in a controlling manner such as I have seen in the past, but with the emphasis that we are so desperately interdependent on one another that we need to be attached to a local church.  When people left the church they were encouraged to find another one as soon as possible so they could be "released from the care" of Halfway Fundy Church in a members' meeting.  In my experience it had always been done graciously and possibly even with a sense of relief that the person had found another church to plug into.

So, coming from a church that emphasized grace, dialogue, and interdependence I expected at worst intense discussion over our choice to join an Episcopal church, but by no means condemnation.

Sometimes my naivete astounds even me.

After we moved we kept in contact with our "shepherding group" - a smaller church group that met together in place of a Wednesday night service.  We shared with them some of our struggle and also shared with them that we were thinking about joining this Episcopal church.  The conversation was supportive and with implied trust that we were doing our best to follow the Spirit.

We then emailed the pastor to see what needed to be done to be released from Halfway Fundy Church's care.  The initial emails were light, but just before the members' meeting they suddenly began to be a lot heavier and filled with dire warnings about the Episcopal church's stance on things such as Christology, abortion, homosexuality, and women.

I wasn't there.  I cannot relay exactly what happened.  But the pastor advised us that at the members meeting, "no one was comfortable" with our choice, and several even voted not to release us.  The eventual consensus was that they couldn't not release us, but the release came with a warning essentially that we were doing a very dangerous and probably wrong thing.  With all that consternation coupled with an emphasis on the Body's interdependence, how many people do you think discussed this with us?


No one, either before or after that meeting, has had *any* contact with us on this subject.  Only those in our shepherding group even knew anything about it ahead of time.  (I have no idea if anyone from that group was at the meeting.)  One couple questioned us about it a few months later but that was due to a social networking status, not the member's meeting.  The conversation was warm and edifying on their part (and hopefully on mine as well).  I still think of them with particular fondness for their kindness.

Now don't get me wrong.  I'm not upset that nobody kept tabs on us.  I'm an introvert myself, I understand how difficult it is to reach out.  Life is busy, and sometimes it seems like someone just left when it has really been months.  Had we needed, we could have reached back ourselves.

But what I can't get over is that this matter of conscience - not sin - resulted in such a kerfluffle with absolutely no one talking to us directly about it. If this were such a terrible choice and people were so concerned, why was there no follow up?  Honestly, my theory is that it wasn't a terrible choice, so the Spirit of God just didn't prompt anyone to seek us out.

We immediately wrote back to the church leadership expressing our hurt and dismay at how the situation was handled.  We felt accused of having no spiritual discernment, of not knowing anything about the Bible, and felt summarily dismissed.  Nearly a year later, we have had no reply of any substance.

So grace is messy - except when what the other person does is too far out of your comfort zone.

When you realize that the best part of Fundamentalism is still Fundamentalism - well, it's a heartbreaking lesson.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Parenting as Life

I'm currently reading a book on parenting called "Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child" by John Gottman, Ph.D., in which I found some very interesting parallels to fundamentalism.  One of the four parenting styles Dr. Gottman discovered in his research he calls the "Disapproving Parent".  The following description and effects are taken (with slight editing) from pages 50 and 51 of the book:

  • judges and criticizes the child's emotional expression
  • is overaware of the need to set limits on their children
  • emphasizes conformity to good standards or behavior
  • reprimands, disciplines, or punishes the child for emotional expression, whether the child is misbehaving or not
  • believes expression of negative emotions should be time-limited
  • believes negative emotions need to be controlled
  • believes negative emotions reflect bad character traits
  • believes the child uses negative emotions to manipulate; this belief results in power struggles
  • believes emotions make people weak; children must be emotionally tough for survival
  • believes negative emotions are unproductive, a waste of time
  • is concerned with the child's obedience to authority
Effects of this style on children: They learn that their feelings are wrong, inappropriate, not valid.  They may learn that there is something inherently wrong with them because of the way they feel.  They may have difficulty regulating their own emotions.

You want to understand the problems of Fundamentalism in a nutshell? Here it is, right here. An entire subculture where feelings and negative emotions are "ungodly"; where "conformity to standards", obedience, and excessive criticism are strongly encouraged.

In my opinion, this philosophy engenders much of the rampant emotional, spiritual, physical and sexual abuse in Fundamentalism.  Abusers take the role of the judgmental enforcer; abusees are unable to listen to trust their own feelings - feelings like fear or anger that could help them leave.  This is also why confronting an institution or a person in authority results in explosive anger or completely shutting down discourse - the authority cannot regulate their own emotions because they are not allowed to have emotions either.

It still never ceases to amaze me how many times I come across something that so clearly describes Fundamentalism that wasn't written about Fundamentalism.  There were times I experienced such flashbulb moments before I left, but buried it under the heading of "surely it must mean something else".  Once I learned to trust my own inner voice and stop making excuses for Fundamentalism's bad behavior, it became much clearer and leaving became possible.  Just like any abusive situation.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Least of These

In my research about infant baptism, I ran across some interesting information that is diametrically opposed to most of what I heard in Fundamentalism about children.

In Fundamentalism, children are viewed as especially active sinners, even as newborns.  Everything they do is sin, or to rebel, or to manipulate you into getting what they want.

Now I'm not saying that kids never do that.  They're human.  But having a child of my own has woken me up to the fact that children can be the most beautiful and loving humans I've ever run across.  And wow am I thankful that I didn't have a child until I was on my way out of Fundamentalism, because a lot of what is in Fundyland can really really screw up a kid.

In "Jesus Loves The Little Children: Why We Baptize Children", Rev.  Daniel Hyde makes a stunning statement after a quote from one of the church fathers.  On page 66, he states "What these words show is the understanding in the early church that the children of Christians were viewed as Christian children, and not little unbelievers outside the covenant people." (This statement may be more difficult for some to swallow without reading the foundation he laid in the previous 65 pages to get to that point, but I can't retype those 65 pages here.)

Even in my reasonably decent last-church-before-breaking-with-Fundyland, a big deal was made of how we should be trying to reach our own children for Christ.  And there were a *lot* of children in that church too.  On the one hand I see where they were coming from; on the other, it never really did sit quite right with me.

So when I read Rev. Hyde's statement, the light came on.  These kids weren't on the outside, they were on the inside.  Yes, I still believe everyone needs to come to a personal conscious relationship with God.  But there are some pretty clear Scriptures and church history examples that indicate that children of believers are specially favored.  And Scripture is very clear that we were saved before the foundation of the world, not once we walked the aisle. This article helps explain how American Christianity in particular got off-track on this concept.

I've heard some people say that this belief that children are especially sinful is one of the reasons child abuse is so rampant in Fundamentalism.  If you believe your child is initially destined for hell and your actions have a very large bearing on whether that stays that way, then you'll stop at nothing to correct this child.  There's no room for grace.

So instead of holding your baby when she cries, you make her learn that she can't get what she wants all the time - but in reality she learns she can't trust and that her needs aren't being met. Babies can't manipulate.  Their wants are their needs.  My son is 2 and I honestly think he's just barely learning to express wants that aren't really needs. I made a special point of trying to meet his needs as best I could when he was younger, and I like to think that has helped him stay the sweet trusting child that he is - and often when I tell him no now, he's fairly likely to be ok with it.  And if he's not, I don't take it as a personal challenge to my authority, it's just a teaching moment.  Sometimes, for both of us.

I wonder sometimes why Fundamentalists don't realize that parents are sinners too.  If children were taught to think of their parents the way their parents are taught to think of children - sinners who need constant punishment - how would that relationship function?

It wouldn't.  And I'm learning it doesn't the first way, either.

If this child is also a precious child of God, a fellow member of the covenant, that changes everything.  My attitude towards my son is not one of continual opposition, but love and nurture.  It's so much better than I was ever led to believe parenting could be.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Peds and Creeds Part 4

I hope this is the last installment in this series.  I expected it to be the most painful one, because I had originally intended to go through the Biblical examples of baptism and just what Scripture says it does, as well as early church father statements and then make a conclusion based on that.

Very quickly, however, I realized that is *way* out of my league.  I'm not a theologian or an Hebrew/Greek scholar.  (Yet.)

I just finished this book.  It started off mediocre, but got better by the end.  A lot of it was framed with Reformed Covenant theology and the Heidelberg Catechism; to be expected given it's from Westminster Press, but I was hoping to get a relatively unbiased view.  It did go through the majority of what I had intended this post to be - and reaffirmed that it was out of my league. 

I also read a book on early church history, and that was actually even more helpful, despite its coverage of many topics other than baptism. It really opened my eyes as to how much theology was unspecified very early on, and how some pretty smart Spirit-led people tried to hash things out.  And maybe got some things wrong along the way and got corrected later. (For example, Augustine had some really nasty things to say about women.)  As someone who comes from a background of perfectionism, to be confronted with the fact that a lot of scripture isn't clear, uses metaphorical language, and doesn't lay out all the rules as neatly as my rational culture demands is a lot disconcerting.

Suffice to say that there are several episodes in Acts of entire households being baptized when the head of the household converts.  Were there babies involved?  Highly likely.  It doesn't say there were, but there's no reason to think there weren't - birth control didn't exist then.  Babies happened all the time.  Even more interesting - adult servants who were part of the household and maybe didn't really have a choice got baptized.  I think that's even more striking than the possibility of infant baptism.  Nobody says at the time or later that baptizing either the children or the possibly non-compliant servants was a bad idea or shouldn't be done.

In Colossians, baptism in the New Covenant seems to be presented as the replacement for circumcision from the Old, and the Reformed crowd especially pushes that. Comparing baptism to circumcision makes a lot of sense about what it means, what it does, and whether one should do it.

And then there's the confusing passages on baptism - the ones I'm allowing myself to just read for their face value instead of mentally rewriting what they say.  Like the end of I Peter 3 - it clearly says "baptism saves you [...] through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."  And Mark 16 says, "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned."  Peter in Acts 2 says, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins".   Acts 22 has Saul (Paul) being told to "Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name."

These are strange statements to me. Some of them I can make sense of, but not all.  The context isn't as helpful as I would like.  Are some of these statements partially in response to ideas of the day I don't know about?  What's the original Greek say?   This is why I'm a little lost right now. 

Overall, I've read some fascinating eye-opening things.  And they keep leading me to thinking I need to get my kid baptized.

This is going to get interesting real quick.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Peds and Creeds Part 3

So, Sacraments.

Again, Sacraments seem fairly consistently defined as a "means of grace", though some definitions do include that they can be considered an outward sign of inward grace as well.  Or possibly instead. 

The Protestant Sacraments are Baptism and Communion.

(You know you're getting deeply theological when that many words in one sentence need to be capitalized.)

I've already mentioned that my very young son participates in Communion now.  Our decision to have him participate was a very natural one, not nearly as agonizing and deep as this one is turning out to be.  The church we are in makes it clear that Communion is open to anyone, even young children, so we just took him with us one time - I don't even remember exactly why.  Probably because we loved it so much.  I had no qualms about it, no reservations; my conscience didn't make a peep - and in fact, now cringes at the thought of *not* letting him.  But now that I look back, I realize it was a shockingly uncharacteristic thing for a former Fundamentalist to do.

The way he responds to Communion is really a bit unnerving.  Both my husband and I noticed it immediately.  He's very solemn, and it's clearly a holy time for him. I can't begin to describe how eerie it is to see a barely- two-year-old child have an innate sense of the awe and wonder of Christ at Communion.

Now, if Communion is a Sacrament, and my child participates freely and intelligently in that, why should Baptism be any different?

I honestly can't think of a very good answer.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Peds and Creeds Part 2

I think the disagreement about infant baptism's meaning hinges largely on the fact that it is an expression of pretty basic theology about original sin, soteriology, grace, etc. - and definitions for those concepts can change depending on the denomination as well. Gets difficult real fast.

Anyway, according to wikipedia again, here are the basic views of several major denominations:

Infant baptism is seen as showing very clearly that salvation is an unmerited favour from God, not the fruit of human effort. "Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God, to which all men are called..."
I was honestly quite surprised by that first sentence.  Catholics talking about salvation not being the fruit of human effort?  That sounds pretty Reformed to me - and the opposite of what I've been taught about Catholicism.  As far as the second sentence goes, I started reading up on original sin and discovered that how you define it also depends on the denomination...  *sigh*

Eastern Orthodox:
For them too baptism is not merely a symbol but actually conveys grace.
So, it would appear that to the Eastern Orthodox, baptism is what I hear my Reformed friends calling a "means of grace", perhaps?  However, when I looked up the definition of "sacrament", it's defined as a means of grace as well, and Protestant sacraments are baptism and communion.  So, are all "means of grace" ultimately sacraments to the Reformed crowd?  Because if so, they beat out the Catholics' seven Sacraments by a long shot. I'm a bit confused on this point and am suddenly suspicious of using the term "means of grace" so loosely. 

Because it is faith alone that receives these divine gifts, Lutherans confess that baptism "works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare."
So, Luther, who was the sola fide guy, says a work (baptism) gives salvation, because faith alone receives the gift of salvation.


Moving on then. 

Wesley and the Methodists would agree with the Reformed or Presbyterian denominations that infant baptism is symbolic.
Wesley was an Anglican, I've learned, and apparently never wanted to break from the Anglican church.  For whatever that's worth.

Presbyterian and Reformed:
Presbyterian and Reformed Christians believe that baptism, whether of infants or adults, is a "sign and seal of the covenant of grace," and that baptism admits the party baptized into the visible church.
Now this I'm really comfortable with, because it's not far from the tradition in which I was raised.  Baptism marks you, but does nothing else.  That's not so dangerously different.  But then why is it a Sacrament if that's all it does?  Hmm....

Unfortunately, the Wikipedia article doesn't talk about the Anglican/Episcopalian views on baptism (so no cute Wikipedia soundbite) - though it's probably the view I should focus most on since we're currently in an Episcopal church.  Fortunately, I have a Book of Common Prayer in my possession:
"Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ's Body the Church.  The bond which God establishes in baptism is indissoluble."
That's uncomfortably strong to me.  But a lot of the above denominational statements as well as what I'm reading on infant baptism (or baptism in general) from early on in church history pretty much agrees with this.

This is getting really heavy, so I'll wrap up for now by saying that I remember being taught that people who baptize infants believe that it saves them, and that was contrary to Scripture. However, reading through the various approaches seem much more nuanced than that simplistic view allows for.  And honestly? Evaluating the various approaches leaves me with the vague impression that everyone is overthinking this entirely too much. Am I allowed to blithely say, "Christians baptized their kids from the beginning, the Church Fathers also thought it was a good idea, I'm not sure exactly what it does but I think I should just do it"?

Yeah, didn't think so.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Peds and Creeds Part 1

Shortly after we started attending the local Episcopal church, there was a baptism.  A baby baptism.

Now, in Fundamentalism, baptizing babies was heresy.  Even more mainstream Baptists, ironically, refuse to baptize infants.  I was always taught that it was ridiculous, unbiblical, and the height of unorthodoxy.

However, I found the baptismal service interesting - and extremely similar to the few baby "dedication services" I remember from my Fundamentalist background. The part that made me the most uncomfortable was where the parents reply for the child, but a great deal was nearly identical to my own child's dedication service.

Recently, I've been thinking more about this issue, so I decided I needed to start reading up on infant baptism.

Imagine my surprise when, on reading the wikipedia article (hey, I figured it would be one of the least biased sources out there), I discovered that the vast majority of Christianity for the vast majority of Christian history has baptized infants.  It's quite probable that it was standard practice from the very beginning, as evidenced by New Testament head-of-household conversions being followed by baptizing the entire household - presumably including small children and infants.  There was certainly no injunction to avoid baptizing them.

Well. Infant baptism has been a longstanding widespread practice of the Church. I honestly never knew that.  And since it's a sacrament-level practice, not just a custom, I'm having a very difficult time dismissing it without exquisitely clear reasons to do so.

Continuing the historical information, how about the people who don't baptize infants?  Baptists, Pentecostals, Church of Christ, Mennonites, Amish, and a few others.  A relatively small and inconsequential segment of Christianity.  Most of whom are denominations I want nothing to do with and who seem to be particularly good at spiritual abuse.  Also many of whom are strongly Arminian - and as someone who now leans rather Reformed, that in and of itself makes me a little fussy.

Unfortunately, denominations who do baptize infants don't seem to agree much on just why it should be done and just what it means, largely because of varying views on deeper issues such as soteriology, grace, original sin, etc.  But it does seem pretty clear that it is at least acceptable to do, and it's been done for a long time - early church fathers seemed to accept it as standard practice, even desirable, and certainly nothing innovative or controversial.

So I'm still reading up on it.  I really want to read more of what the earliest church fathers had to say about it, but their complete writings are a little harder to find offhand than say, Wesley's or Luther's.   Not that I'm pooh-poohing later writers, but I figure the closer to the source, the better on something like this.

And honestly, the main reason for thinking about this so thoroughly is because I'm going to have to be really really well-versed on this issue.  Because if I choose to have the next child - or even the current child - baptized, a great deal of heck is going to be unleashed. 

(Minced oaths.  I know.  Silly. That part of me is still Fundy... least in print.)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Lent Followup

In the interest of full disclosure, I figured I should probably update how Lent finished (besides Easter, which was lovely.)

Halfway through Lent, the medical issue over meat disappeared, so I started eating meat again.  Figured the medical issue was enough to deal with. 

The prayer beads didn't stick either, though I still look at them fondly and it's still the most real praying I've done in years.  (Told you my ADD was bad.)  I think perhaps the bigggest barrier to continuing is finding more prayers to go with the beads than what I can find for free online, and I'm apparently too cheap to just buy a book of them.  Though I haven't checked the library yet...

I didn't mention one of the traditions regarding Lent is that the word "Alleluia" is not spoken during the liturgy.  "Alleluia" means "Praise God"; not that we're not praising God during Lent, but it's an indicator that  Lent is a more solemn time, a less boisterous time. 

I hadn't realized how much of the parts of the liturgy that I love contained alleluias, and missing alleluias also became a part of my Lenten fast this year.

For example: just before the bread and wine is served at Communion, we sing the following song:

The tune is beautiful and simple. When we first started attending and  I learned it, I would find myself humming it through the week and deriving a great deal of comfort from the song.  For me it's still a highlight of the service - especially because as soon as it finishes, we are told that the bread and wine are "the gifts of God for the people of God". And we all know how much I love Communion.

Outside of the Lenten season, the deacon also closes the service saying, "Alleluia, go in peace to love and serve the Lord!" - to which the congregation replies, "Thanks be to God; alleluia, alleluia!"  During Lent, basically the same exchange occurs, except the "alleluia" is omitted.

So joyful and soul-nourishing, these alleluias.  I missed them.

But on Easter, alleluias abounded, and there are more alleluias in the Easter season liturgy than even before Lent.  As proclaimed on Easter, "We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song."  The Resurrection is our joy.  Alleluia!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

First Palm Sunday Part 2

So the first difference in Palm Sunday was a truer reading of Scripture.

The second difference was the focus on how worthy Christ was of being honored in that way.  In order to illustrate that, this video clip was played:

I gotta admit, I was very uncomfortable when this first started.  All kinds of triggers from Fundyland were hitting me - the subtle Southern accent, the incessant alliteration, the way he says "glory" and "love", the hyperbole (though I blush at saying there could be hyperbole about the incomparable Christ)...  I was starting to tense up, sweat, and palpitate a bit.

Fortunately, the video lasted long enough for me to settle down. 

About halfway through, I began to see that despite all these outward cultural similarities to Fundamentalism, he actually wasn't using any guilt at all.  He simply asked if I knew this wonderful, amazing Person.  He didn't stop to press me for the answer, he was too busy telling me about the beautiful Christ.  I saw his sermon as poetry or performance art in a way - it's not intended as a deep theological treatise, it's a celebration. There's a place for that.

And I finally understood how to be happy for someone preaching Christ in a way that I didn't agree with (Philippians 1:18).  It has been so hard sometimes to describe this break from Fundamentalism, to convey the utter wasteland that Fundamentalism is. Frequently I read comments from those still in Fundamentalism saying that objectors should just be happy that Christ is being preached and stop fussing.  But there is a difference between standing against Fundamentalism and standing against something you just dislike, and I can see it better now.  This preaching style I don't personally like all that much.  Some of it is baggage from Fundamentalism, some is just my personality. I might not willingly sit under this style every week  - but I can certainly be ok with someone else who is willing.  Based on this clip, this man loves Christ.  He loves showing who Christ is.  He's not tainting the Gospel with legalism and heterodoxy.  He might be engaging in some social contrivances that I'm not a fan of, but he is preaching Christ.

And for that, I can honestly rejoice.

Monday, April 2, 2012

First Palm Sunday

Yesterday was my first Palm Sunday with real palms.  I didn't quite know what to do with my little piece of palm, but nobody seemed to mind.  That wasn't the truly different part, however.

The really different part was how the Triumphal Entry passage was approached.

Usually, in Fundamentalism, Palm Sunday was a time to talk about the treacherous people of Israel at the time of Christ.  Oh sure, they may have waved their palms and welcomed Christ into Jerusalem, but they didn't really mean it.  Why, just the next week they were yelling to crucify Him.  How fickle those sinners were! Usually, this was accompanied by some sort of guilt trip about how each of us sitting in the pew would have done the same thing given the chance, and we all humbly and maybe sincerely believed that and felt guilty some more.  I don't remember ever spending much time on the beauty and glory of Christ that engendered such an outspoken response from His people.

Yesterday though, it was approached partly from a historical context - the "king" (Caesar) didn't like anybody threatening his authority, and so anybody who did so was eliminated - in this case, the Jewish religious leaders did it for him.

I sat and thought about that for a while.

Ok, the religious leaders did Caesar's dirty work.  Why is that?  They weren't exactly happy about being under Roman rule.  However, under Roman rule, there was no dissent tolerated.  You didn't make a scene, you didn't riot, and you certainly didn't openly proclaim someone else as king. (See Acts 19 for another example.)  You did that, and you had a phalanx of Roman soldiers on your doorstep and your little party was over in a very messy way.

And let's face it, the Romans probably didn't care who started it either.  They would take out whomever was closest, and the Jewish leaders were probably on the "closest" list.  I mean, if those leaders couldn't keep their people under control, they weren't fit to be leaders and should be dispatched along with the rabble as an example, right?

Don't you think the religious leaders took that and ran with it to get rid of Christ?

And don't you think the people maybe went home on Palm Sunday night and had a bit of a panic attack?  I mean, what they had just done was treason. It was the culmination of seeing Christ's ministry, yes.  If they had not done it, the very rocks would have, yes.  But it was still rebellion against a very real and a very powerful enemy.  After the crowd disperses, the realization of just how vulnerable the individual is becomes strong.  And fear drives people to do interesting things.

So I can see the Pharisees whispering around to those people, fanning the flames of fear.  They themselves were afraid.  Afraid of what Caesar would do, afraid of losing their privileged position in society.

Clearly the crowd did mean it.  Christ was worthy of that praise.  But the reality of what they meant made it easy to turn quickly in fear and cry out for this man's crucifixion - better the Romans kill him than a whole lot of us, they reasoned.  It's not a story of guilt, it's a story of human nature. How fear is the opposite of God.

And it's interesting - on the one hand, here Fundamentalism pooh-poohs a clear expression of joy and worship as insincere and shameful.  Yet I remember numerous sermons berating a person for not being joyful and worshipful.  You can't win.  You can't win when you twist scripture.

Hosanna, it wasn't twisted this year.  Blessed is He who comes in the name of Jehovah.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

First Lent

So, Lent.

Guess it's a pretty big deal in most of Christendom. Shame that I've never known much of anything about it until this year.

No, it's not a biblically mandated practice. (How much of modern Christian practice is, I ask you?)  It's an ancient tradition.  The Old Testament Law proscribed similar seasons of solemnity, so there appears to be precedent, however.

So what is Lent?  It's a time of reflection and penitence.  At our church, it was suggested to consider adding an act of devotion as well as subtracting a vice or a luxury.  According to Wikipedia, some traditions advocate "prayer (justice towards God), fasting (justice towards self), and almsgiving (justice towards neighbour)". 

What isn't Lent? Lent isn't a way to "be more spiritual", at least in my experience so far. Instead, it is an opportunity to practice something you normally wouldn't do; to practice self-denial as an exercise, not as a way to make God happy.  It's for God to teach me, not for me to be superior.  And you're advised *not* to participate in that part of Lent if you're going through a difficult time in your life.

And that's one big difference right there from my old Fundamentalist past.  When I was in Fundamentalism, I was told many things that I should do to "be more spiritual".  Usually, there were subtle accompanying messages that the spiritual thing itself made God happier with me, earned God's favor, and made me spiritually superior.  Certain fads like having a "life verse" (a single Bible verse that you claimed as your own and quoted at every opportunity) or having your devotions in the morning rather than at other times of the day fell in this category.  Checking the boxes on these lists somehow made me a truly spiritual Christian.  The more I think about it, the sillier it gets.

Anyway, so what did I give up?  I gave up meat.  Pretty traditional, that.  Ok, fine, I have to be honest - I was already temporarily avoiding meat for a medical reason.  Cut me some slack, it's my first Lent.

And what did I add on?

I added on prayer beads.  (*gasp!!*)

I almost feel guilty admitting it, though I have secretly wanted to ever since I saw a treatise on Anglican Prayer Beads.  I won't repeat their excellent explanation here; you all are adults and can read it yourself.

I think the attraction for me was that I've never really been good at praying for any length of time.  No matter how guilted I was into forcing myself to do it, I'm just too distractable.  It isn't enjoyable in the least for me - probably largely in part because "praying" in Fundamentalism usually meant "asking for a list of things".  It never really felt right - though I thought it was just my sinfulness and rebellion.  In the halfway-house church I was last in, there was at least an emphasis on including praising God, thanking God, and adoring God just as much if not more than asking God for things.  But still, asking for things was the part most felt comfortable with and ended up being the largest participated-in part of prayer meeting.

I finally found some beads that I liked (ie, didn't look like an old person's rosary) and tried them last night.

And you know, I actually enjoyed it.   It wasn't pretty - I was still largely focused on memorizing the words, and still trying to find a series of prayers that fits. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the recommendation to pray around the circle 3 times wasn't as onerous as I thought it would be. I found the rhythm relaxing and found the prayers over almost too quickly.  I tried two different prayers and discovered that I much preferred a different phrase for each "week" bead rather than the same one 7 times in a row, repeated x 3 more times to complete the circle, and then repeat that circle 2 more times... still too much Fundy in me to find that comfortable or useful. 

It's a good mental discipline, but not a painful one, and it helps me focus  - not on trying to make myself more "spiritual" - but on God.  To get beyond myself to contemplate the Divine. 

I continue to be struck by how often that particular concept repeats outside of Fundamentalism: the focus is truly God.  Not what I need to do, be, or say.  It's a dramatic contrast, and I love it. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

More Masculinity

Another posting that may shed some more light on this post:

"John Piper on Men in Ministry, and the Masculinity of Christianity"

Everyone keeps blogging way better than I can on this point, but hopefully I'll have the chance to post some original content soon.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Still Stealing

Found this today, and it was worth a guffaw or two given this post - and it may help clarify better just what I'm fussing about:

"The Kitchen Has a Feminine Feel in the Bible"

As one of the comments accurately observed, "Nothing shows up absurdity about our prejudices and presumptions than putting the shoe on the other foot!"

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Into the Mouth of Babes

For no particular reason, I pulled my son out of the nursery to celebrate Communion with us for the last two Sundays.

He is such a joy to watch take the Bread.  The celebrants learned to give his piece to him first - otherwise he  steals what is handed to my husband with the faintest hint of righteous indignation.  He reaches for the Bread, smiles at the Bread, and enjoys every second of the Bread... and yet, he is somehow a little bit solemn at the same time. 

It gives me a catch in my throat.  Oh, my sweet boy, may you always be so eager to partake of Christ.   May He always feed your soul and your childlike faith.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Easy Way Out

You know, sometimes I wonder why I even bother blogging when there are people out there who do such an incredible job already.  Oh, right -  I do it for my own sanity.


"God is Not Ashamed: Our Brothers Speak Out"

I hadn't read Dr. Piper's initial comments before I read Ms. Evans' blog post, but the encouragement I received from the multiple contributions to her blog was amazing.

My favorite quote?
What are you are saying to women when you say God is a man? You are telling them that they are not, truly imagio dei. You are telling them they are a tacked on afterthought, a dim, imperfect thing that is destined to always fall short of the full light of God’s glory. You are telling them they are not fully human, because they do not fully reflect who God is.
 Amen, and amen.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Feminine Mystique

This article crossed my radar this week: The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood's "Homemaking Internship".

It's a real gem.  And some of it is even borderline heretical. Go ahead, read it through, and then we'll discuss it.

Done?  Ok.

The first three paragraphs I take personally, because I am familiar with the American medical system.  You don't go to med school for 8 years - you go to college for 4 years, then medical school for 4 years, then anywhere from 3-5 (or more) years of residency/fellowship training depending upon your chosen specialty.  After making it through this rigorous agenda you're not going to wake up a few years into private practice and suddenly realize you should have gone into El Ed. Promise.

Paragraph 4 highlights the apparent tragedy of not knowing exactly what your future holds and therefore being caught untrained for it.  Because we all know exactly where life will take us when we're in high school/college and can take exactly the right classes for what lies ahead.

Paragraphs 6-8 would make me laugh if the author weren't so serious.  First, she quotes one of her own books saying, "Isn't it telling that our culture requires training and certification for so many vocations of lesser importance, but hands us marriage and motherhood without instruction?" - and then she quotes another author who echos her sentiment.  EXCEPT THIS AUTHOR WAS WRITING FROM THE EARLY 1800's.*

Let's have a reality check.  In the early 1800's (and to be honest, for the vast majority of human history), there were no temperature-controlled cooking appliance. No refrigeration.  No electricity. Very little modern medicine to speak of.  No central heating or air conditioning.  No fresh fruit or vegetables outside of the growing season.  No department stores with cheap ready-made clothing.  Life in general, and especially for a woman, was difficult, and probably short.  "Homemaking" was an entirely different set of skills than it is today (and to be fair, so was a man's required skill-set).  You made your own clothes, put up food for the entire winter for the family, washed clothing with back-breaking labor, cranked out babies, lost babies, and died yourself pretty easily.  These skills weren't "homemaking", they were "survival". To even begin to compare the skills required for "homemaking" today to the skills required in the early 1800's is ridiculous; to quote someone from the 1800's as an authority on homemaking is disingenuous.

Paragraph 9 finally gives a bit of what the author defines as "homemaking": to "love, follow, and help a husband; to raise children for the glory of God; and to manage a home..." Later on, she indicates it begins with marriage and ends when you die.

I don't understand this definition at all, especially when comparing it to reality.  Although only 1/3 of her definition includes "home management", nearly all of the article's examples fall in that category.  Given that, I would probably define "homemaking" as "life management", and  I don't see this only starting once you're married. These are life-skills, not wife-skills. You can be a single woman (or man!) living in an apartment and you still need to know how to balance a budget, cook for yourself, clean your living quarters, do your laundry, and interact with your co-workers/fellow students/roommates maturely.  Both genders need this skill-set.   A spouse and children may intensify the need, but it was present long before the "home" began.  And what if you never get married?  What if you can't have children?  What happens if your husband dies?    What if your husband leaves you?  Are you suddenly bereft of 2/3 of your "homemaking" responsibilities even though you're not dead? Really? 

Required to accomplish the author's definition of "homemaking":
  • "management abilities" (wow, you're right, no college degree will help with this)
  • "knowledge of health and nutrition" (guess that MD is reasonable after all)
  • "interior decorating capabilities" (eh??)
  • "childhood development expertise" (ooh, MD wins again!)
And then to cap off this arbitrary list, she states, "If you are to become an effective homemaker, then you must study these subjects and many more."

Talk about making even the most capable woman feel inappropriately inadequate.  A broad variety of life-experiences outside the home sharpens management abilities pretty well.  And if you don't know the basics of health and nutrition, you apparently didn't go to school, don't watch TV, can't read, and have no internet access.  Seriously, "interior decorating capabilities"?  So if I don't have a well-decorated house** I fail as a "homemaker"?  Plus, I have to be an "expert" in childhood development?  Sure, the more you know about what makes kids tick at various ages, the easier it will be, but again - nobody has a doctor?  can read?  has internet access?  Interacted with a child at any point in their lives prior to busting one out?

Ah, finally, the spiritual guilt-trip in paragraphs 11 & 12. Homemaking is commanded by God - though, Jezebel that I am, I don't remember reading the interior decorating verse nor the child development expertise passage.     
"...homemaking is a career that demands considerable expertise, may encompass decades of our lives, and has the potential to spread the gospel to our families, churches, communities, and future generations."  
So once again referring to the skills required for "homemaking", if I don't decorate my house well then I may be obstructing the spread of the gospel.  And read this description again - isn't what she just described essentially life as a Christian?  Male or female, young or old, married or not, children or none: a Christian's life is God working out the Gospel. Homemaking isn't a means of grace.

Paragraph 13 reassures us that she wouldn't be so extreme as to say that homemaking is all that a woman should prepare for.  Thank goodness for that.  Those people who believe that are so out there, aren't they?  But of course, the really spiritual girls will make sure their hopes and dreams don't get in the way of making sure they've gotten the necessary homemaking skills down first.  I just hope that Interior Design 101 isn't offered at the same time as Biochemistry...

Paragraph 14 & 15: "God did not assign this vital training to educational institutions."  Is there any training that God assigned to educational institutions? Have there even been educational institutions for the majority of human history? She emphasizes that the mother should be the primary one instructing, and uses Titus 2:3-5 as prooftext.  (Never mind where the Scripture says "older women", it clearly meant "mother".) Watch what really happens in the next few paragraphs, however.

Paragraph 16 was where I just about lost it.

Mothers, we must begin by recognizing the full-time nature of our training. Remember Deut 6:7: "[You] shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." We must incorporate domestic training into the fabric of our daily lives. We must seize every opportunity to prepare our daughters for their mission.

Hold up now. What was Deuteronomy referencing? The Law of God!  She puts her artificial homemaker idea on par with the Law of God itself in order to guilt the reader into constantly striving to meet her ideal.  I honestly gasped when I read this. This is heterodoxy and borderline heresy.

The next three paragraphs tell the mother how to accomplish this training - the first of which is to essentially "talk up" being a homemaker.  Not only does this seem artificial - the daughter isn't stupid; she can see both the rewards and the challenges of her mother's responsibilities - it also smacks a bit of protesting too much.  Implementing a specific plan in the training is mentioned, as well as making sure the daughters stay at home often enough that they'll be used to it.  Also making sure that they get a "steady diet of God's Word" - because of course, that will lead to making the same choices her mother did.


"Think of your daughter as your homemaking intern. She needs both practical training and instruction. You can provide hands-on training by delegating portions of the household responsibilities to her for short periods of time. For example, you may assign your daughter to buy all the groceries and plan and cook all the meals for a week, or you may have her prepare dinner once a week on a consistent basis. Actually you could rotate through each section of your daily tasks in order to furnish your daughter with a well-rounded experience of the homemaker's world."

Then she launches into a list of things her daughters did that were taught not by her, but by educational institutions, books or other people.  Despite all the earlier emphasis on mother doing it all, there's a surprising amount of "other" performing the job.  And the really ironic part?  She talks about taking classes to learn homemaking skills with her daughters despite insisting up to this point that one should prepare for all of this ahead of time.

You know, practical training in life-skills is great.  But I don't understand why this only needs to be daughters involved.  This is the kind of thing *everyone* needs to have experience with.  These are basic life skills.  I plan on doing this sort of thing with my son - and if I have a daughter, with her too.  

If you can ignore the sexism and heterodoxy, there are some good ideas here.  I love the idea of taking a personal enrichment class with my child and being intentional about passing on knowledge.  However, I have no idea why I would limit that to my daughter only.  Parents should teach their children life-skills.  End of story.  In today's world, there's little difference between basic life-skills that men and women need.  In fact, men need just as many "homemaking" skills as women.  My dear husband recently took on the majority of the household management when I was nearly incapacitated from illness for 3 months.  If his mother had followed this nonsense and declined to teach him basic "homemaker" life-skills, he could not have fulfilled this incredibly godly role that he did, and did well.

The deeper I get into this nonsense, the less sense it makes.  But I guess that's why I left fundamentalism in the first place.

* It's a little unclear exactly when, however, as the author states in the following paragraph that it was written in 1828 while her own footnote dates it 1832.  Maybe she missed that class.

** Regardless of budgets, personal artistic abilities, and by whose standard, pray tell?? 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

General Authority

One of the things I was taught often in Fundamentalism, whether explicitly or implicitly, was that authority cannot and should not be challenged.  Authority is never wrong.  And if the authority is wrong, you are not the authority, therefore you do not have the authority to challenge it.

Sometimes it was blatant; others it was couched in more "reasonable" terms, such as, "Well, you placed yourself under this authority, so you should follow their rules while under it."

Sorry, I don't buy it anymore, and there are two main reasons why.

The first is because I'm starting to read the Bible for what it says, and not through the filter of what I've been told it says.  For example, a few Sundays ago at church, we read I Samuel 3.  This is the chapter where God calls Samuel at night to deliver a very disturbing message to the High Priest, Eli.   God uses a very young child - someone with no power at all - to rebuke and confront the biggest human authority in the nation of Israel.

Now, when I was in Fundamentalism, I heard this story often, but the emphasis was on Samuel's obedience.  The second half of the chapter was usually ignored; or if it was included, the judgment of God upon Eli was emphasized.

However, reading this passage again, taking in the entire chapter at once, I awoke to the real ethos of the story.

The chapter opens saying "...the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision."  God wasn't speaking much, to anyone.  Of anyone, the High Priest would have been God's go-to guy for a vision or a word.  He was The Authority in religious and civic matters.

Yet to whom does God choose to speak here?  A young boy.  A nobody.  An anti-authority figure, if you will.

It takes Eli three times to even realize it was God speaking to the boy.  Perhaps I'm over-analyzing, but one would think the High Priest should be a little quicker on the uptake about recognizing God's voice.  No wonder God's word was rare.  Even the High Priest wasn't listening.

And then?  God tells poor Samuel that Eli will be the recipient of unavoidable, unimaginable judgment.  Why?  Because of Eli's sins.  The High Priest!  Full of gross sin?

Just think of it - a young child, a servant, a nobody - was tasked with confronting The High Priest of sin and judgment!  No wonder the poor boy was afraid.

I have to credit Eli at this point.  Once he finally figured out God was speaking, he wanted to hear.  He didn't seem to care who the vision came through - nor did he believe that only authority could receive a vision.  He even used his authority to prod Samuel to do the right thing - to tell him those hard pronouncements of judgment.   He didn't use his authority to quash Samuel's message at all; he actually used it to make sure the message was heard as intended.

How different from my experience in Fundamentalism!  Picture a young fundamentalist lad confronting The Preacher or The Administrator regarding wrong.  What is he first told?  Certainly not that he should be truthful and tell his heart.  He is told *he* is the problem for pointing out the problem.  He is told he doesn't have the authority to do that.  He is told he is not respecting authority by doing so.  He is labeled as rebellious, bitter, and a troublemaker with a wicked, carnal heart.  And if the young Fundamentalist happens to be a lass rather than a lad... well, she is an unsubmissive Jezebel to boot.

God *doesn't* have an "umbrella of authority" or a "chain of command".  He speaks to the one who listens, whomever that may be.  And He delights in speaking to the weak to confound the wise and powerful.  *That* is God.  And if the "authorities" in your life demand you toe a line that God does not, then they are not of God - in fact, they are trying to BE God.

Secondly, I don't buy into the "following authority because they're the authority" because it's illogical that any judge, The Almighty or otherwise, would find that a valid defense in a case of wrongdoing. What do you think?  Do you think God would accept an excuse that you didn't do the right thing because your authority told you not to?   Or that you did something wrong because your authority said you had to?  Even the authorities in Fundamentalism *say* they oppose such behavior - I remember constantly being told to "do right 'till the stars fall" and to stand up for what is right no matter who was on the other side.

Unless, of course, the one whom I opposed was a leader in Fundamentalism.  Then you either shut up or leave. 

When your leaders refuse to play by the same rules they demand of you, they are dishonest, abusive, and liars.   I promise.  Been there, done that, have the healed scars.

Praise God He speaks to anyone who listens.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Honestly Listening

Well, I'm glad to discover that I still love classical music.

I know, I know, who cares, right?  But when you start being objective and honest after years of dishonesty, there's a lot of baggage to unpack.  And sometimes you aren't sure what to throw away and what to repack.

I discovered another layer in the process of recovering from Fundamentalism this past Christmas.  It had been a year since I had heard some of the things on my holiday playlist; within that year I also had several months of practice listening to whatever I personally found good rather than filtering it through what was expected of me first.  So when Christmas selections from my previous life were brought to my attention again, I was struck very clearly with an important realization.

I have a great deal of no-better-than-mediocre music in my collection that is there for no other reason than that it was acceptable to someone else.

How is that even appropriate? For anything?  To make choices, even about inconsequential things, not because it's what I feel is right - but because if some unnamed person out there happened to know about it, they would be ok with it?  Seriously?  Is that not the very definition of "the fear of man"?

Anyway, back to classical music.  I was getting tired of the local country music station (while fun, it can be repetitive and have too many dysfunctional relationships for daily consumption) and the rock station (too many songs I either don't know or know so well I'm tired of them. Also dysfunction.).  So I wandered over to the classical station, which used to be my old standby.

And why was it the standby?

Because every preacher at every teen camp and college revival/opening service meetings harped on what your car radio presets said about you.  The unspoken (or sometimes blatant) intimation was that the preacher or someone from church wouldn't approve, though the ostensible reason was that someone unsaved would find it a "bad testimony". 

(Like someone unsaved would care a lick about what music you listen to. I promise you, my dear Fundy readers, nobody worries about what music you listen to outside of your very narrow segment of Christianity.  NOBODY.  It's not even on the radar.)

So, my conscience being weak, I kept it on a station that someone else approved of.  For years.

This is what Fundamentalism does to you.  You are taught that innocent choices are not innocent.  You are taught to live by what The Group thinks is right about a great many very minor things.  And before you know it, you cannot differentiate between right and wrong anymore, there is only "acceptable" and "unacceptable" to The Group.  You clearly cannot trust your own conscience because it has failed you before - for how could your conscience condemn you on something innocent?  It's a cleverly diabolical system.

Now, where was I?  Oh yes, the classical music station.  I almost rolled my eyes at myself when I went back to it.  But once I assured my eye-rolling self that I was doing it because I wanted to listen rather than because of some nameless Group decision, I was free to be honest again.

My honesty was rewarded by Vaughn Williams' "The Lark Ascending".  Played by Hillary Hahn.  If that doesn't move your soul, I am afraid that you're dead.  I listened with ears unfettered by anyone's expectations but mine; I re-awoke to the sublime. And it was glorious.

Ironically, I now usually leave the radio on the classical station.  Because it's just good music.  It feeds my soul.  It isn't the only music that does, but it's what I need right now.  And that's the honest truth. 

Though I just heard about a new rock station in town that I might have to try...