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Fundamentalisms Treacherous Path


Javelin
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I haven’t posted anything in quite awhile. I managed to extricate myself from fundamental extremism in 2005. I’d been associated with fundamentalist believers for 40+ years. Much of that thinking stopped resonating with me about ten years before I officially walked away from it. I quickly found out that walking away from it was one thing getting it out of my mind was a different matter altogether.

 

In my search to find believable meaning in religion I stumbled across this site. I made a few post but I wasn’t able to buy into all the thinking that’s associated with this movement. At that time I knew more about what I didn’t believe than what I did and much of the thinking I encountered here was outside my comfort zone.

 

Fundamentalism is like a mind altering drug. The power it can have over people is almost unbelievable. People with graduate level college degrees can be made to believe things that they would normally reject as absolute nonsense. Somebody, I think it may have been Mike, pointed me in the direction of Marcus Borg and suggested I look into his writings. I did and I’ve read, and reread, five of his books since then and three books written by Garry Wills. I would now classify myself as a recovering fundamentalist. I’ve found Borg to be an incredible writer. He presents the Bible in a way that it makes perfect sense. He has been instrumental in restoring both my sanity and my faith. I would highly recommend any book he has authored or co-authored. My favorite books thus far are The Heart of Christianty,The Meaning of Jesus, and The First Paul.

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Thanks for sharing this with us, Javelin. I suspect that many of us can relate to parts of your journey.

 

One of the most damaging control mechanisms found in fundamentalist Christianity, at least for me, is the notion that if you don't believe all of the Bible, then you can't believe any of it. Or, if you don't believe everything that was said about Jesus (or everything that Jesus supposedly said), then you must completely discard Jesus. What this dualistic thinking (if you want to call it that) comes down to is sacrificing our God-given sense of reason and discernment upon the altars of ancient superstition and modern traditions.

 

Freedom for me began to come when, as you are discovering, you can find fresh ways to interpret things that don't have to adhere to the "letter of the law." That, and realizing that no one can tell what or what not to believe. If there is a God, and I believe there is, then I am not accountable to God for what someone else believes and how they act, only for myself.

 

One of the benefits of progressive Christianity is giving us the freedom to explore for ourselves what we believe. This is, IMO, a strong plus to PC. The only downside is that it can sometimes present a stance that beliefs aren't harmful, that we should never criticize the beliefs of others. Those of us who have come out of strong "belief systems" know how harmful they can be. I respect everyone's right to believe as they want, but I don't respect all beliefs as being equally good for us or beneficial for our world. And, unfortunately, we live in a time when fundamentalist Christian beliefs not only influence our military policies, but could well lead us deeper into human and global destruction, especially when, as fundamentalists do, the Bible and the notion of God is used to sanction violence.

 

I'm looking forward to hearing more about your journey, Javelin.

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My journey required someone like Marcus Borg to deprogram me. Even then I had to read several of his books, and then read them again, before my mind would let go of it’s programmed way of thinking.

 

The first book of Borg’s that I read I threw away twice before I finished the third chapter. The title of that book was Reading the Bible again for the first time, taking the Bible seriously but not literally. It was difficult for me, a 40 year fundamentalist, to accept Borg’s statement that the Bible is a fully human product. I believe that now because the evidence to support that premise is substantial and the evidence that supports it being Divine is virtually nonexistent. Once I cleared that hurtle I was more willing to consider other suppositions he presented. It took a few months, and reading several of his books as I previously noted, before I was able to fully accept the wisdom of this teaching and buy into all of it.

 

I’m still learning and rethinking a few things, but I’ve evolved into a theological moderate in most of my thinking and I’ve even embraced a few theologically liberal beliefs. I’m still a work in progress.

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I’m still a work in progress.

 

Aren't we all? :lol:

 

People like Borg, Crossan, and Spong helped me to see beyond the literalness of the texts and gave me the "freedom" to incorporate what I like about Christianity into my philosophy while rejecting what I didn't like or what made little sense to me. Ultimately though, IMO, they are trying to put lipstick on a pig. :D Like it or not, Christianity is a historical religion, rooted in the ancient understandings of the Jews and the early Christians. These understandings are, yes, Jesus was born of a virgin, did walk on water, raise people from the grave, cast out demons, and fly through the air on his way back "up." It won't do for Borg and Co. to say that the early Christians didn't mean or believe what they wrote. What Borg and Co. (especially Spong) are calling for is a "new kind of Christianity." They're not recapturing historical, first century Christianity, but, rather, putting a new spin on an old story.

 

No doubt this will be helpful to many people who want to hold onto the label "Christian." They will, hopefully, be able to breath new life into this old word.

 

But, I, am not convinced that this is really the way forward. I think we do need a new label.

 

It is sort of like finding a preserved 2000 year old orange. The church says, "Look at this orange. It is round, it is pimply, it is orange, it is semifirm." Modern liberal Christianity "reinterprets" the orange to say, "It is not round, it is not pimply, it is not orange, it is not semifirm...but it is still an orange." :P Modern liberal Christianity doesn't hold to the doctrines that were the defining characteristics of historic Christianity, but it still claims that it is Christianity. It leaves me somewhat puzzled.

 

Anyway, not that labels are all that important (but they are summaries), but there are groups out there such as "Spiritual But Not Religious" who don't really want to use the term "Christian" because of everything that it implies. Like you, I'm a work in progress. Somedays I want to proudly say that I am still a Christian. Other days I want nothing to do with the label because of all the baggage. But I still appreciate the freedom that these folks try to give us.

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  • 5 months later...

Anyway, not that labels are all that important (but they are summaries), but there are groups out there such as "Spiritual But Not Religious" who don't really want to use the term "Christian" because of everything that it implies. Like you, I'm a work in progress. Somedays I want to proudly say that I am still a Christian. Other days I want nothing to do with the label because of all the baggage. But I still appreciate the freedom that these folks try to give us.

 

I call it Christy-ness.

 

Javelin, a book that helped cure me of fundamentalitis was James Carroll's Constantine's Sword. This is a book that I threw in the garbage can several times before finishing. I had just discovered that my grandfather was Jewish (long story I shall share some day), so it was particularly troubling to me.

 

NORM

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fundamentalitis

 

:lol: Haven't heard that term before! But it sounds like an accurate diagnosis, doctor! :lol:

 

...Now if only there were a pill to take in order to effect a cure.

 

I was having a conversation yesterday with a new friend who is, shall I say, a "progressive Jew." He's Jewish in his heritage, was raised rather strict in Judaism, but no longer attends synagogue. We're new friends so we didn't get too deep into our religious past. But when I mentioned that I had been raised fundamentalist, he said, "Fundamentalism is found in almost all religions. It's the attitude of thinking that, for whatever reason, we are God's chosen and others are not." Whew! I thought he pretty well nailed it!

 

My new friend has some keen insight into the treacherous path of fundamentalism, the worldview that God is not to be found in "the other" unless the other believes as we do or belongs to "our group." He and I both agree that however we might define God's kingdom, it is planted in every human heart regardless of race, creed, religion, etc. It isn't always nutured, but it is there. To me, fundamentalism nutures a selfish religion, having a "personal" savior that rescues us from "personal" sin in order to take us to a "personal" heaven. And it often does this in the context of portraying others as the enemy.

 

I'm not saying that everything within fundamentalism is bad. There are some good people there. And I believe in a few fundamentals, but my list would be more along the lines of love as found 1 Cor 13 than along the lines of the creeds. But when religion fosters selfishness and trains people to see others as either our or God's enemies, it does become toxic, harmful, a treacherous path - not just for us "personally", but for humanity and our world.

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This topic was split off at this point to the debate and dialog section today under Fundamentalism and tolerance as this section here is more of a supportive area for the original poster concerning his story or journey and not for general discussion and views concerning fundamentalism between other members. Topic can be continued here.

 

 

JosephM (as Moderator)

 

P.S. Anyone having supporting comments or advice for Javelin may continue posting in this thread.

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