Tag Archives: Fundamentalist

It was bound to happen

downloadJust about every time I go out and talk, I invite people to come heckle. I’m mostly joking, but yesterday, someone took me up on it.

Well, he didn’t precisely heckle. He waited until after I’d spoken, and then he called me jaded — three times — and said that he was a fundamentalist and his church isn’t like my old church. He wasn’t from my particular branch of fundamentalism, and he’d felt I’d been too hard on the group as a whole.

It was a fair critique. I am hard on fundamentalism and I reiterated that my exposure to fundamentalism comes through one very peculiar portal, but then he wouldn’t quit talking and I could feel my hackles go up, and when he fake-quoted a scripture to prove a point, I asked him for book, chapter, and verse, which he did not provide. That, as a champeen fundamentalist debater, means you’re making shit up. (I believe he was trying to prove that Jesus was anti-homosexuality, but that’s not possible because Jesus didn’t say one single word about homosexuality; instead, my sparring partner misquoted Paul). He interjected a couple more times, and at one point said that women in his church (he said the name of it, but I forgot) can be anything they want, everything but a senior pastor, at which point I asked if any one else had something to say, because if he couldn’t see the issue with “everything but a senior pastor,” I couldn’t help him.

I did tell him I thought he was proselytizing, and that no one had come for that, but that I very much wanted to talk to him and that we should talk after.

Sadly, when I was finished, I looked around and he was gone.

Brother? I am sorry. I’m sorry you didn’t feel welcome to talk face-to-face, and if there was something in my tone or my language that sent you out the door, I wish I’d been a better person and answered you with at least a little love. I believe, in reviewing the tape, I mostly just waited for you to stop talking so that I could start. Mostly, I wanted you to stay behind so we could argue. I love to argue. But in the end, we accomplished precisely nothing, you and I. You can go back to your corner secure in the notion that I’m a jaded non-Christian, and I can tuck myself in at night having had you reaffirm for me the stiff-necked nature of my people.

I am not happy with that. Are you? I’d still really like to talk and I’ll make you this promise: I will try like anything to listen.

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Let’s call Sweden. Or something.

telephoneI love the idea of a Swedish tourism agency creating a phone number where you can call a random Swede (who has volunteered to answer such calls) and chat and, well, anything.

What if we set that up for fundamentalists, or other groups that are maybe misunderstood? Imagine how cool it would be to, say, talk to a hillbilly. Or an Oklahoman, or a Valley Girl.

In last weeks’ reading of the Hebrew scriptures:

download(As a reminder, I, the fundamentalist with Mad Bible Skills, have started re-reading the Bible, from Gen. 1, using a guide I loaded onto my phone. Obviously, people read the Bible and find different things. Here’s what I found last week:)

I’m in the book of Exodus, where God has come down to tell Moses, Aaron and their people what’s what through what we know as the Ten Commandments, though those Big 10 in now way encompass all the laws. Although  most people would skip over the rules as they would the long and exhaustive list of begats, I, a fundamentalist, was intrigued by them — though I must admit to skimming the specifics of Aaron’s breastplate.

Though this is in no way an exhaustive recount, here are some rules to live by, if you’re an ancient Israelite following Moses:

  1. Slavery’s OK, but there are rules in how to deal with your slaves.
  2. The rules are better if you’re a male slave, with multiple ways of getting out of servitude. If you’re a woman, not so much although there is an odd provision in Exodus 21:26 that follows the whole eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth that says if a slave owner knocks out the tooth of a slave — male or female — that slave can go free.
  3. If you’re a child born into slavery, forget about it. You’re pretty much screwed.
  4. Capital punishment appears to be the punishment of choice, with death the end result of everything from killing someone else, to allow your ox to kill someone else (if it happens over the course of time, and your ox goes after more than one person) to kidnappers to cursers-of-parents.

And then there was this one (RSV): “You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” That might have something in there for people today. In the midst of all this carnage — stoning, goring, putting people to death — is a reminder from God that strangers who live among us are to be treated well.

Before we were fundamentalists

For a few years, before my mother divorced my father and married her second husband, we were garden-variety Christians who celebrated the birth of Jesus on Dec. 25, along with the rest of Christendom. I was too young to understand the particulars of our theology, but it seemed pleasant. Sunday school was awesome. We made church buildings out of sticks. We ate those vanilla sandwich cookies. In one of the most stunning acts of grace I ever witnessed, one Sunday my teacher spilled her juice because one of the students had already just so, and was crying.

I never forgot that, how the teacher’s spill took the focus off that crying child, who thought he was about to be punished for being clumsy. He was not. He was hugged.

My parents had been married in that church, with its basement dinners and Friday night weddings. Because I showed an early love of microphones, I once gave a recitation at the Christmas pageant. The spotlight blinded me and the only way I could get through it was to pretend I was talking directly to Baby Jesus. As practiced, I ended with “Did I say my speech alright?” and a tilt of my  head, and then did the equivalent of a mic drop.

Afterward, my Sunday school teacher cried and my mother might have also.

And then my mother divorced and the man she re-married was a Christian fundamentalist, and we were thrust onto the cold landscape of that hard-shell theology, with no pianos at church, no Christmas, and no Easter, either. Christmas, after all, was foisted upon the rest of the world (Christ-mass…get it?)  by Roman Catholics intent on stealing our babies and our souls.

Or something like that.

We were just kids, and we mostly did as we were told, though I believe my mother knew that if in our new-found faith she took away the tree and presents along with everything else, she’d be swept up in a full-blown rebellion launched by three children willing to torch the house to get what they wanted.

So we had secular Christmas — no mangers, but lots of glitter. A few families at my church didn’t even have that — cleaving, instead, to the notion that all religious holidays were from the devil and we should be blessed to be celebrating Jesus every Lord’s Day (Sunday).

So we’d gather on or around Christmas and sing not a single carol. We’d gather on Easter Sunday, and sing nothing about the resurrection.

I know. Go figure. A fundamentalist can split a hair, and then split it four more times. I know. I’ve done it.

Jesus was not born in December, and a lot of the rituals we enjoy were gathered/stolen from other faiths and cultures, but the songs and the manger sometimes make me long for my pretend life, the one in my head, the one I had before we became fundamentalists. In that life, I don’t struggle with my faith. It just is. In that life, I am comfortable in a pew and my prayer life isn’t spotty. I am wise. I Think Deep Thoughts. God talks directly to me, and not in code.

And then I remember that I am the creator of my faith, and blaming a childhood for where I am is pretty intellectually lazy on my part.

And I also remember the wonderful things I learned from Angry Fundamentalist Jesus (mostly, that things should be fair, and that Christians who read their Book know they must work to make things so). And I remember that after crawling through the desert that is fundamentalism, things turned out incredibly well, and not just “considering.”

Tonight, I will spend time with my husband’s family, who have become my family and I don’t say that lightly.

Tomorrow, I will go to my son’s house and be enfolded there.

I am stepping away from the blog for a few days. I’ll be back on Dec. 31, when I hope we can get together and share New Year’s resolutions we have no intention of keeping.

In the meantime: Merry Christmas. However you celebrate, whether you celebrate, may you be surrounded by light and love. Those are, after all, the best gifts of all.

 

I have an idea for Jeb’s “Christian Only Refugee Program”

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush reacts to a question at the Mountain Shadows Community Center in Las Vegas Monday, March 2, 2015. Bush distanced himself from his family on Monday as he courted senior citizens in Nevada, the first stop in a national tour aimed at key states on the presidential primary calendar. (AP Photo/Las Vegas Sun, Steve Marcus)

Jeb! Bush! mentioned on CNN earlier this week that the U.S. should strictly focus its aid on refugees who are Christian.

If Jeb! gets into office, I think he should give priority to Fundamentalist Christians, the One True Christians® We can have a Bible quiz and if the refugee gets less than 95 percent, that refugee must go to the rear of the line. I’m not sure how we’ll handle children. Make them sing, “Jesus Loves Me?”

Honest to God. You can’t make this stuff up. In fact, this suggestion is about as far from Christian as you can get. Here’s Pres. Obama’s response.

Jeb!? Stop talking. You embarrass you.

 

If you’ve nothing better to do…

images (1)I am speaking at the Unitarian Universalist Society: East at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Sunday.

The topic will be growing up fundamentalist, but don’t worry: I’ll only talk for 20 minutes each time. Come! Heckle!

Fear works

the_scary_truth_about_politicians._1411932059This Slate article says that conservative politicians play on fear, and historically, that’s a successful tactic. (I get that this article was in advance of Halloween, but even though my local CVS aisles have moved on to the next holiday, the topic bears a little exploration, I think.)

Fear is a successful motivator in theology, as well. I would know these things. I grew up a Christian fundamentalist with one eye on the horizon for that day when Jesus returned and send most of us to hell.

I was under no delusion that I would make the cut and be among the chosen. I sinned. Only perfection would be allowed in heaven, and all the reassurances about Jesus’ forgiveness never made me second-guess the inevitability of my own berth in the fiery flames of hell.

I was a True Believer®. I taught Sunday school, and tried  to convert others to this scary way of thinking (all the while feeling no small amount of guilt that I was introducing them into such a frightening world). But I believed, and I worked on helping others believe the same way so that I could save their souls, and mine, as well.

Fear worked, and for me, it worked for years until I got tired of worshipping out of fear. I got tired of putting my head on my pillow and dreaming awful dreams of everlasting punishment. (Do all fundamentalists suffer this? I do not know. I never talked about it, because if I had, I would have been forced to admit, over and over, that I was a sinner. That didn’t seem a good way to stay in the good graces of my Christian brothers and sisters.)

I got tired, mostly, and so I walked Scary Jesus walked off the porch.

So my heart goes out to those who are ruled by fear in the political arena, who worry that too many immigrants steal jobs (that those fear-mongers didn’t want to work, anyway), that too many women have control over their own bodies (when really, it’s a conservative’s dream to own a vagina). I feel for people who  worry that there’s just not enough of that good old-fashioned way of doing things (that wholly and completely served the white power structure).

And I will also say this, which I’ve said before: It ain’t over until you’re knocking on the Pearly Gates. If there’s hope for a True Believer® like myself, there is most likely hope for you, as well.