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

Theological arguments [are no longer part of my framework]

I was raised to believe that you have to know what you believe in order to believe.

I was raised to think that the answers mattered, and if one was lacking answers you better out those answers QUICK, or else (although I never found out what the “or else” scenario presented, “back sliding” perhaps?)

And I was good at learning about God, about the bible, about church history, et al. I could present sound arguments as to why I believed what I believed, and consequently I built this wall around myself- whether it was to keep myself in or others out, I think the answer to this is yes.

I knew the songs, I knew the bible verses, I was the Babe Ruth of bible baseball (questions ranged from easy / single to hard / home run).

The thing is, at that time in my life I equated knowing with believing, and thus my faith was secure as I thought it had to be.

But the funny thing is,
life happened.

Life happened to me in general, but the more definitive marks on my mortal coil were and have been the friendships and relationships I have invested my time and energy into. As my bro Ben says; “it’s not about stepping out of your comfort zone, it’s about expanding it” and I realize that’s what did it for me.

I also realized that arguments, and a “locking down” of one’s beliefs to assert what you believe can be a futile endeavor. Sure you can speak of God, but you can’t speak on God’s behalf. If anything, the more you learn about God the less you know (a beautiful paradox I find to be true). Mere words are drops of water in the ocean, no one has an upper hand in the God market.

I realize that when people are faced with new twists and turns in life, we can either resist or embrace what comes our way, mainly people who are different than ourselves. Living in our day and age, I don’t think it is possible to be completely closed off from whomever is the “other”, and so we will face the crossroads of resist/embrace.

So what does this look like to my system of faith? I’d say that when it comes to matters of God, theology, and everything in between, I hold it all with open hands. I am adaptable, I allow myself to be challenged, I allow myself to think for myself, I allow questions and doubts to swim about in my mind, I allow myself to take things in and leave things out.
Admittedly I’ve been accused of changing my mind and perspective on a variety of things, and I’m not worried in the slightest because I hold to the notion that the close I am in touch with my humanity and divinity, the humanity and divinity of others, the closer I am to God. “Closer” but nowhere close, and still I partake in learning and doing what I can to be the best possible follower of Christ I can be.

We as the human race are all trying to get through this life together, so please be kind and be loving to each other in this journey.

Onward and upward,
Nathanael

Faith is inclusive

Sometimes I think that matters of faith, Christian-wise or otherwise, are perceived as being exclusive to whomever is in that particular insert-belief-system-here. When I read the accounts of what Jesus said and did, it’s interesting to whom Jesus perceives as having faith outside of the realm of those who are “supposed” to have faith (perceptively, not actually);
– The friends of the paralyzed man who was lowered from the ceiling to the floor (Mark 2:5)
– The Centurion (Matthew 8:5-13)
The faith of friends and the faith of an agent of the government oppressing the Jews are recognized as individuals of faith, for their hope that Jesus is capable and willing to help out. I find it amazing as to the words that are said to be of Jesus’ interaction with the centurion; “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith”. Jesus found great faith in someone who was “the other” and it is something he wasn’t able to find amongst his own people!

I think we need to recognize the wisdom and subsequently people of faith outside of our own traditions, and I also think that people who align themselves with atheism have insight and wisdom as well. In the words of Thomas Aquinas; “beware the man of one book”, my faith comes from God and what I have read about God in the Bible, a God who is loving and full of grace. Yet even though I have read portions of the Torah, the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, there is truth to be found, and God is found within truth because God is truth.

Search, doubt, and wrestle with your faith, but recognize this; all truth is God’s truth.

~Nathanael~