Church Incognito; An intergenerational, literal and KJV only church; my experience at an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church

A few Sundays ago my friend Rameel and I attended the church of a woman we met at the Open Mosque. We both arrived a little late, but we were greeted warmly nonetheless, and we found our way to our mutual friend’s pew.

During the time we stood and sang hymns, I took time to get a feed on who made up Valley Baptist Church; a somewhat diverse group ethnically speaking, but there were multi-generational families gathered as well. Most of the hymns I recognized, so I followed along while those gathered sang.

During the meet-and-greet portion of the service, I ran into a guy I have known for a very long time. I talked to him about how long he had been going to that church (as I know him from a church we once attended together). He told me he had been attending there for close to 3 years, and he liked it better than the church we used to attend together because he much preferred reading the KJV only and he liked hymn books over Powerpoint slides.

The message Pastor Hemphill gave that Sunday was on contrition, that is repentance. It was a good message in and of itself, but at times the language found in the KJV threw me off; not that it was off-putting, it’s just not my lingua franca and consequently I got lost in a sea of thee’s and thou’s.

After the service, my friend Rameel met with the pastor because he had some questions. While I don’t know the full nature of their discussion, I was greatly encouraged by pastor Hemphill taking time out to talk to my friend. During this time I talked to Rameel and my mutual friend, and she filled me in on some addition in’s-and-outs of the church, I was encouraged to find out more from her.

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While my views differ from what’s presented at Valley Baptist Church, I was greatly pleased by the hospitality of those my friend and I met, especially by pastor Hemphill. It’s one thing to have doctrines, theological perspectives, and beliefs, but it’s entirely a different thing to put them into practice. What I observed and experienced firsthand was practice over doctrine, and that has made all the difference to me.

Onward and upward,
Nathanael

I am fearful of fundamentalism, but not fundamentalists (and so can you!)

 

Recently I and a friend were invited to a fundamentalist church to attend for my church incognito project, but as I was finding out about the church I was cautioned about some of its practices and corporate beliefs. Now it’s not that often I am warned about a church and honestly I find it interesting when this happens.

I had the opportunity to attend this past weekend, and as it closer and closer to the time for the service to begin I thought less and less of attending. I gave thought to contacting my friend to join me, but I chickened out in extending the invitation. As I backed out in going I started thinking of the reasons why.

First off, I was worried about what my friend would think; he heard the caveats but he didn’t understand it to the extent that I did, and so I was worried he might not get it until we were in the midst of the service and then the “a ha” moment might kick in. Secondly, I was worried about my interaction with the members of this church; I attend a spiritually and emotionally healthy church, and I “forget” (suppress perhaps?) that fundamentalist churches are still out there.

I do realize that Christian fundamentalism hasn’t always been the anti-science, anti-thinking, anti-Bible questioning, anti-smoking, anti-drinking, infallible / inerrant bible believing, substitutionary atonement, homophobic, misogynistic, patriarchal authority figure it appears to be nowadays (and granted, more or less of what I’ve just posted). It was once about the fundamentals of what following Jesus looks like, but as technology advanced and science explained more about the world and its origins, beliefs that were once held with an open hand became closed.

Instead of engaging in science and technology, walls were fortified and fundamentalism became a system of security responding out of fear rather than love. And over the years, more things have caused the typical fundamentalist Christian to build more walls. At times I wonder if the walls are built to keep them in or to keep others out, and I’m left thinking it’s a both/and answer.

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It’s out of this framework that I am fearful of Christian fundamentalism on a personal level, but at the same time I intentionally try to see the humanity and divinity of those who align themselves accordingly. I’m told I need to engage structures more, but personally speaking if I’m to do this I bound to make assumptions and lose sight of what actually matters.
I am also fearful of Christian fundamentalism and it’s marginalization of “the other” and I am someone who has LGBTQ+ friends, Muslim friends, Atheist and Agnostic friends. There isn’t a place for them at the table of Christian fundamentalism, and that’s why I bring it back to me; to widen my doors, to set more tables, because I am fundamentally inclusive to ALL.

This system exists, but I am glad it will not always exist. It sustainability depends on naivete, gullibility, fear, and power. When people pull back the curtain and see the wizard for all he is, there’s no need to pay attention to the man behind the curtain, and thus the fire of Christian fundamentalism will be snuffed out. Thanks be to God!

Onward and upward,
Nathanael