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

Red Letter Christ-centric Universalism 101: An Open-handed System of Faith

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My views aren’t solely my own, I am not the only Red Letter Christ-centric Universalist out there, but on this blog/platform I speak for myself and myself alone.

My beliefs that I hold are held in open hands. I operate from a nuanced stance of an open-handed system of faith. If you’re in community with me in real life you will probably hear before or during my time of unpacking Red Letter Christ-centric Universalism “I might be wrong” because what I have learned and gleaned from others, what I have found out on my own, has to be put up for examination; I am not above reproach nor do I turn it away, it’s why when it comes to my faith system I very well could be wrong and so that’s why my faith is open-handed.

Disclaimer: I don’t consider my years spent as an Evangelical to be years wasted, for they served as the building blocks of what I know and hold in an open hand these days. They were never a stepping stone, that is, I was never in one place looking to hop off to the next place and then on to the next and so on. They gave me the tools and the basis for what I believe in now, and I look back upon those years fondly and I send them my light and love.
I am not devoid of having self-identified Evangelicals friends and family members, and if anything I have much love for them. Do I cut them down for their views? Absolutely not! It works for them in this season of life, and something shifts in their lives and their belief system, I will be there with them all the while, in solidarity and fidelity.

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I grew up in a Christian home, was homeschooled, went to church on Sundays and youth group and/or AWANA on Wednesdays. And what I learned in the time in each of those settings was a “you have to know what you believe.” And with that in mind I learned all the songs, learned a lot of Bible verses, had answers to questions or sought out answers if none were given in a timely fashion. I learned a lot, I grew to know a lot, I had a lot of faith, and I also had a lot of beliefs, but so much of it was whittled down to either orthodoxy (right beliefs) or orthopraxis (right practices).
It’s why there was a slight discord amongst me (WASP-in-training) and my Catholic friends. Because I held the Truth with a capital T, they weren’t Christian they were Catholic, and subsequently they didn’t have it right and that’s what it’s all about…right?
I thought it was, and given my microcosm Evangelical-centric universe, I was led to believe that I was as well. But what shifted me, and subsequently shifted my views, was one big thing: relationships.

Relationships have the capacity to unravel or provide ground to reexamine what we think / what we believe and I for one think that’s a great thing. In my own life I think the unraveling / reexamining first occurred when I was attending community college. I was involved with a diversity group, Circles Of Understanding, and while there weren’t a lot of us in attendance we all did collectively come from different backgrounds.

I remember clearly the day we decided to discuss religion as a group, and instead of making it a “this is what I believe” discussion we brought up stereotypes other people think about our religions. I pointed out that people might assume that I am bigoted and prone to bash people over the head with the Bible. One of my peers brought up the issues she faced as a Muslim in a post-911 world, and how people assumed the worst, as if she had an explosive vest strapped to her chest with the intention to blow others up. Because we put out there what we experienced and what people thought they knew about us, putting out a bit of vulnerability to others, it led to a friendship that still exists to this day.

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I have many stories about encounters with others that have shifted and broadened my thoughts about life and faith and everything in between. I know some people operate under the premise that you have to lock down what you think and believe when it comes to matters of faith, and honestly I think that’s what leads to extremism in any faith system, because you do not allow room for anything to upset your way of thinking, and consequently your way of living. Faith should be open to critique, to questioning, and also to doubting.
I know my views aren’t solely my own, and I know others may have a difficult time stepping out in faith as to broadening their views on faith and God, but to those of you who find yourself at a crossroads with all this I find that it is ultimately worth it to do so. The bottom won’t fall out, the sky won’t crash, you might find yourself in new circles and new communities, but through it all God is there and present. There’s no need to build up stronger walls when your faith is challenged, just let go and enjoy the ride!

~Nathanael~