Friday, October 22, 2010

Fundamentalism kills Fundamentalists

I just finished watching the film Born Again, a documentary by lesbian and ex-evangelical / ex-Christian Markie Hancock.


What a reminder how, even when it's full of love, laughter, and commitment, fundamentalist Christianity is also full of pain, grief, and death not just for Gay people caught up in it, but for the straight people there, as well.

Which is just like Jesus and the New Testament writers said it would be.

The documentary also reminded of my own journey out of fundamentalism. While Markie and I grew up far apart in distance (she in the eastern USA, me in the west), class (she in upper middle class, me in working class), and family situation (she with mother and father both still in the home, me raised by a single mother and my grandparents), the actual experience and practice of growing up devoutly evangelical was so similar it was spooky.

Worse, though, was the sameness of the spiritual and psychological disease that infected and laid waste to both our families and the individuals in them.

It's easy enough to recognize the damage from fundamentalism we're conditioned to see. The scenes of Markie's brother (who also came to reject God) and his no-food-but-lots-of-beer apartment after his divorce, and his feeling that he had had to waste half his life trying (still not successfully) to heal from his fundamentalism-infused childhood certainly brought to my heart and mind my own God-rejecting family members who live within alcoholism, or who've otherwise lived lives of broken bitterness and pain born of the fundamentalist "family values" they were made to grow up under.

I wonder, though, how often we see the other damage fundamentalism causes? The damage we're conditioned not to see?

Markie's parents and other brother remain fundamentalists. This documentary presents their insistence that it's Markie's homosexuality that antagonizes God. What the film misses is that fact that the only thing antagonizing God in this setting is the fundamentalists. 

Fundamentalists are among those counted as modern-day Pharisees. But they are more than that. They are also the builders of the modern-day Tower of Babel, imagining they can prove themselves by their own works. They are also the modern-day Eve and Adam, some tricked into believing Satan while some prefer outright Satan's ways over God's. And they are the modern-day fallen Hebrews, honoring God only superficially in ways that please their own psychological needs and teaching and clinging to human ways as if they were God's.

Fundamentalists live lives of the flesh, and the damage done to them (and their families) by their lives is so obvious to those who can or will see.

Despite their white-washed tombs exterior, for example, legalistic Christians are rank with:
  • Immoral behavior (like sexually abusing children and spouses)
  • Sensually loving things (like praying for cars and living with more wealth than they need)
  • Worshiping human power and place (like setting up, adoring, and always-excusing-the-abuses-of  hierarchy in families, churches, and society)
  • Glorifying death (like blessing, adoring, and living the torture, rape, and destruction of war)
  • Creating enemies to fight/hate (like bearing false witness against Gay people)
  • Remaking God into their own image (like pretending that God supports their most beloved sins)
  • and more.
 These are all deeds of the flesh, and Paul and others in the Bible warn clearly that:
...those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:21b)
Unfortunately, though, while it takes very, very little to unmask the God-rejection of fundamentalism, it's an incredibly aggressive spiritual disorder that only screams louder when you try to discuss anything healthier with it. Talking to someone still trapped in fundamentalism is like trying to tell a drug-user high on methamphetamine, and who lives surrounded by others who also live and breath and take meth, about the real world.

Fundamentalism really is an addiction. And just like meth and other drugs kill the body, fundamentalism kills the mind. It makes people think and do crazy things. Things like:
  • Believing it's "love" to treat someone like filth (even though Jesus said to treat everyone like you'd like to be treated, and I'm doubting that fundamentalists want protections for their jobs, families, and homes to be legally denied them), and 
  • Believing they are Jesus' disciples when they do the opposite of almost everything He taught (even though Jesus said those who love Him do what He says, not what they would have preferred He have said).
  • and more.
All of which means that the people most deeply in danger of hellfire in this film were Markie's fundamentalist parents and brother. 

See, God understands people like Markie and her other ex-Christian brother. He understands and will do something about sheep like this being hurt and chased away from Him. When we know to look for it, His assurance about this is all over the Bible. Here's just one place we can find it:
"Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!" declares the LORD. Therefore this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: "Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done," declares the LORD. "I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing," declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:1-4)
Here's another:
(Jesus said:) Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie -- I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you. (Revelation 3:9)
And I myself am just one of millions upon millions of proofs that one can be raised in a fundamentalist church, infected with the spirit of fundamentalism, and to escape that wander for many years far into hating and rejecting God because of confusing Him with those in my life and culture who blasphemously claimed to represent Him -- and still be completely healed of fundamentalism and its siblings through the still and always present love of the real Jesus Christ. I am also proof that one can make that journey and return to Him as a Lesbian, and remain a Lesbian.

God understands stumbling blocks. God understood why I went so far away. And He actually even used my time away from Him to burn off fundamentalism from my soul, like burning away a cancer. And then He helped me to see that He'd never been far from me at all.

But what does God think of those who put the stumbling blocks out there? 
(Jesus said:) Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ (Matthew 7:15-23)
(Jesus said:) But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes! (Matthew 18:6-7)
(Jesus said:) So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:40-42)
As long as any human being remains within fundamentalism, they are in danger of hellfire. Because they are fundamentalist? No. They are in danger of hellfire because fundamentalism is Jesus-hating, despite its false belief otherwise.

God doesn't hate fundamentalists. Fundamentalists hate God. And they treat Him with the same false-"love" they treat us: pretending good; delivering bad.

There are too many people still needing to release and heal from fundamentalism and its siblings. So, which fundamentalists can you pray for in your life? Not in the self-righteous, self-lifting way that fundamentalists pray, but in the Jesus-way. Who needs help - not to become or start thinking like you, but to start opening more and more to the real Holy Spirit and the real Savior who wants more than anything for them to find and invite Him in?

To whom in your life is Jesus saying:
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. (John 5:39-40)
A final note:

Fundamentalism is insidious. Its warping of our hearts and minds is stealthy. Treacherous. Subtle. And those of us who were raised or otherwise immersed in it can think we've moved beyond it -- yet still carry it like germs to infect and kill other parts of our lives.

If we have fundamentalism anywhere in our past, we have to recognize that it marked us then and probably in some ways marks us even now. Makes us think in black-or-white ways, for example, and to think that's "smart". Makes us think domination and control is a good thing, so that hurting people is "Ok". Or makes us believe even that dysfunctional families and churches and jobs and schools and governments are "normal". And so on.

All of which means that if we aren't noticing, we can still be very hurtful - in our families, in our churches, to the spread of the true Gospel, and more - and not even realize it. We should all to spend a lot of time with the Lord, allowing Him to continue healing us of this spiritual disease so that we don't continue to spread it, even as we think we are rejecting it.

There's nothing sweeter and more healing, than the true Gospel of Jesus Christ!
(Jesus said:) Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

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