what Christian fundamentalism means to us


I started my series on Christian fundamentalism (definitions and a history lesson) for a variety of reasons. First, one of my very good friends was worried that my definition of fundamentalism might be different from the definition of my readers. Handsome likes making sure everyone is on the same page, just on principle, so he agreed.

Then, I began an interesting interaction with a reader who goes by the handle “fundamentalist pastor.” My conversation with him, which has been polite and illuminating, combined with the advice of people I care about, prompted me to start explaining what I thought Christian fundamentalism was. One of the questions that this pastor asked me had to do with the abusive and cult-like nature of the fundamentalist church I was raised in:

“Based upon what you know of me & my ministry from our brief dialogue, if you had grown up in my Fundamental church – as opposed to the other Fundamental churches that you experienced – would you have left my church? Would you have entirely abandoned Fundamentalism in that case?”

My answer is yes– I would have left fundamentalism, even if the church I’d been raised in hadn’t been an abusive cult. The primary reason is that, as I matured into adulthood, I realized that fundamentalism, at least in my opinion, is unnecessary. There’s conservative evangelical culture, there’s Protestant orthodoxy, there’s rigorous theological debate among scholars and thinkers and critics and church-goers. Fundamentalism doesn’t bring anything to this table except a sword– a sword of biblical literalism, isolationism, and absolute certainty.

However, these types of questions also led me to asking what fundamentalism means to you, my readers. I wanted a discussion, I wanted stories. And I got both of those in abundance. So, to wrap up this series, I wanted to solidify many of the ideas that were brought up– to identify the common themes, the common narratives. I still highly encourage you to read the entire discussion, as that will be more nuanced and complicated than this summary.

For those who identified, to varying degrees, with fundamentalism, one of the common elements in their response was to distance themselves from what they saw as more extreme fundamentalists. They emphasized that they disliked the legalism and the lack of tolerance to different ideas that frequently crops up in fundamentalist circles. What they valued about fundamentalism also shared some common elements: they liked that their experiences with fundamentalism encouraged them to a deeper study of the Bible,  theology, or apologetics.

I can personally attest to this. If anything about my experience in fundamentalism could be considered at all valuable, is that I was given an overwhelming amount of information. From my observations, this is motivated by a few problematic ideas. Fundamentalists encourage this heavy absorption in order to create “soldiers of God,” who can put on the “full armor.” The full armor metaphor is pulled from Ephesians 6, where knowledge of the Bible and how to defend the faith are seen as crucial elements to being a Christian. So, I disagree with the reason— as well as the method. I was taught to be familiar with words like sanctification and justification and substitutionary atonement and transubstantiation and baptismal regeneration and unlimited inspiration– sure. I could hold my own in a conversation with most seminary students, absolutely. But I was taught these things from a very narrow, very limited perspective. A perspective where we had all the right answers.

I believe, with all my heart, that most fundamentalists aren’t anything like the leader of my church-cult. I believe that most fundamentalists, including fundamentalist pastors, are only doing what they think is the best thing– the right thing. I consider fundamentalists to be my brothers and sisters in Christ, because I believe in finding common ground among the essentials, and we have that.

For those who felt attracted to fundamentalism, the most common response was they were drawn to the sureness and the certainty. This “certainty” looked different, depending on the person. For Vyckie at No Longer Quivering, what she saw was a “lovely vision of godly families.” She wanted to have the ability to make sure her life, and her family, followed biblical principles. This led her to absorbing more and more fundamentalist teachings and practices– because they guaranteed her a godly family. Reta, in the comments there, pointed out the black and white nature of fundamentalism– and that this approach is “simple.” I’ve been there, personally– fundamentalism is easy. You can have sureness and confidence, without any doubt. This is an incredibly comfortable place to be. Lana Hobbs (who commented here) echoed these ideas, saying that fundamentalism meant “safety” and “security.” Nearly everyone who’d been a fundamentalist at some point resonated with this: there was God’s side, and then there was the wrong side, and being a fundamentalist was being positive you were on God’s side.

For those who had been burned by fundamentalism, there were still common patterns, although the experiences could have huge differences. But, almost unanimously, if we were burned by fundamentalism, it all had to do with questions. Asking a question was seen as “doubting” and doubting was vilified. They were ostracized, they were reprimanded, they were disciplined, they were excommunicated. Not toeing the line resulted in some kind of harm for them– and it didn’t have to be an important line. Or, if we left, it was because of sentiments like revulsion, disgust, shock, horror . . . and none of those words are exaggerations. At some point, it all just got to be too much– and what was “too much” was different for every person. For some, it was that they couldn’t find a fundamentalist church truly willing to engage with social concerns or help the needy– which is not universal in fundamentalism, but this attitude is common.

But, for those of us who grew up and left our fundamentalist nests, it was caused by our engagement with reality– for most of us, for the very first time. We befriended people in the LGBTQ community, and realized that everything we’d been taught about homosexuality (the BTQ part was completely dismissed) was either deeply misguided or just plain wrong. We encountered science for the first time, and for many of us who were taught that Genesis 1-11 was the bedrock of the entire Bible, finding out that AiG and ICR had misrepresented evolutionary theory when we were younger was the first nail in our theological coffins. For many of us, it was simply meeting people. We made friends with Christians who weren’t fundamentalists– we made friends with people who weren’t Christians, and it shook us profoundly. We met atheists and agnostics for the very first time, and suddenly, all our “right answers” couldn’t make sense. For many of us, the psychological dissonance was so bad we abandoned Christianity completely.

Sometimes, we abandoned Christianity for a time, but then we came back– and our Christianity looked utterly different. Some of us are Unitarian now. Some of us are Progressive. Some are Universalist. Some of us are Catholic, or just liturgical. Some of us hold the basic truth that God loves us, and we are trying to see the world through that love and nothing else.

Which gives us another core problem to face in fundamentalism: the absolute certainty, the absolute necessity of possessing “all the right answers” is coupled with another concept known as foundationalism. It’s the notion that there are “bedrock” ideas (like inerrancy and young earth creationism) and that, if those fall, everything else falls with it. And this has held true in many of our lives– our faith, when we took it out into the real world, was nothing more than a house of cards. And it wasn’t because we didn’t believe enough, or weren’t taught correctly enough, or hadn’t been instructed enough, or that we were secretly never believers and just couldn’t wait to “get out.”  It was because of what were taught, it was because of what we believed– that Christ was not really enough.

Previous Post Next Post

You Might Also Like

  • Thank you for this post (and for linking to me). I relate to the foundationalist problem you describe – I was told it was fundamentalism or atheism, and once Biblical inerrancy tottered, I had nowhere to go. I’m now interested in the views of other Christians, even though I don’t believe myself, so I’ll be following what you have to say.

    • It was a huge relief to me the day I finally figured out that being a Christian didn’t have to mean being a fundamentalist. There’s a lot more doubt and struggle in my life, but I’d rather have questions with no answers than the kind of life I had before.

  • “I realized that fundamentalism, at least in my opinion, is unnecessary.”

    “The absolute certainty, the absolute necessity of possessing ‘all the right answers’ is coupled with another concept known as foundationalism. It’s the notion that there are ‘bedrock’ ideas (like inerrancy and young earth creationism) and that, if those fall, everything else falls with it. It was because of what were taught, it was because of what we believed– that Christ was not really enough.”

    This is fantastic. Fundamentalism really IS unnecessary. You don’t need it, so why insist on it?

  • Reblogged this on An Open-Minded Journey and commented:
    Excellent. Fundamentalism isn’t necessary, as she said, and it isn’t healthy. I have come to a position somewhat close to Unitarian Universalist myself.

  • As someone who primarily experienced “good” fundamentalism, I appreciated this post. You are correct that the attraction is being positive, certain, that you are on “God’s side.” That you have the answers.

    My experience also matches your statement that it comes apart when one fails to toe a line. And not even an important line. YES! My wife and I have lived our lives *mostly* the way the fundamentalists in my family would prefer. But oh, that one percent!

    I agree with you as well, that actually making friends with people outside the bubble, including *gasp* atheists and homosexuals, tends to change one’s perspective. It isn’t all exactly as we were taught, is it?

    • I’m really enjoying the freedom of a flexible theological system… I can believe something right now that I may not believe the exact same way in six months, a year, five years from now. It can bend and grow with my life.

  • Reblogged this on Science and Other Drugs and commented:
    “I realized that fundamentalism…is unnecessary.” YES.

  • Pingback: random bits | Lana Hobbs the Brave()

  • I used to date a guy who told me just that. He wanted a rule book for every decision. He was frusted that life didn’t come that way. And I was like, nope, not me. My home was very fundamental, but I didn’t put up with it at church like you did. Regardless it was inevitable that I would have left.

  • I identify so strongly with what you write about Christian fundamentalism. Learning about what evolutionary theory actually said really was the first nail in the theological coffin for me, and meeting atheists and agnostics in college who didn’t seem to be terribly conflicted about life was a completely unexpected experience for me. It took a good 10 years in atheism/agnosticism for me to believe in God again, and if I identify with any Christian tradition right now it’s progressive Episcopalianism. About a year ago I tried to explain to my fundamentalist friends and family why I needed to leave; you can read what I wrote at my blog: I think you do a much better job of explaining it though.

  • Hey, found your blog by randomly poking around. This probably isn’t really relevent, but I had some questions and I figured “Hey, that’s what the comment box is for, right?”

    Anyway, I come from a very conservative evangelical culture. We never self identified as fundamentalist, but I do remember something my dad said to me once. He told me that he was really upset with the way the word fundamentalist had been turned into such a bad thing. He said (and he may be totally off base on this, the man wasn’t a linguist to be sure) that the orginal meaning of the word was to refer to one who held to the fundamentals of the faith. For some reason that definition has stuck with me, even though I know I only hold onto it because of stubborness.

    I’m rambling a bit so I’ll get to the point. I am a Young Earth Creationist. You mention (and so does Elizibeth in the comments) that “finding out that AiG and ICR misrepresented evolutionary theory was the first nail in our theological coffins.” Well I have always been a big fan of AiG and the ICR. They’re not perfect to be sure, but I appreciate the work they’re doing. I’ve considered working for them as a possible career. It’s a subject I’m passionate about (though I tell myself I’m open to being wrong. I hope that’s true). So I really want to know (honestly, I’m not about to start a fight or anything, I’m just curious): how does AiG and ICR misrepresent evolutionary theory?

    • The_L

      Fellow commenter. I used to be a YEC, and owned a copy of AiG’s Answers Book, so I can certainly answer that.

      Darwin’s theory of evolution has to do with one and only one thing: natural selection as a means for gradual genetic drift, which can occasionally lead to speciation (the forming of a new, distinct species). That’s it.

      Darwin said nothing about how the first life form got here–but YECs insist he did, and that “random chance” is somehow worshiped as a god by scientists.

      Darwin said nothing about how stars or planets, including the Earth, god here–but YECs insist that he did.

      Darwin said nothing about man evolving from anything else–but YECs tend to treat him as this horrible person who somehow put men down by saying we came from monkeys. (We evolved from apes, not monkeys, and I fail to see how this is insulting to us–we rose above the other primates!)

      Also, while the stuff in the Answers Book makes sense to someone who’s taken high-school science classes, they omit a TON of evidence that they can’t reconcile with their literalism. The Deluge is especially problematic, as physicists have done the math and every single scenario described as a possible source of the water from the Flood would have given off enough heat to completely vaporize the planet. But AiG and other YEC folks completely ignore that, because it doesn’t fit the conclusions they’ve already drawn.

      • Brooke

        If we evolved through apes why aren’t apes still evolving into humans? Why does it make more sense that we’d have evolved from apes rather than being this way always? Where would apes have come from? What’s the difference of them being always as they are, and us being as we are? Or if you think they evolved from other things, same questions? What’s the difference from the original piece we “evolved from” being made as it was and us being made as we are? Same questions apply, where did the original mechanism come from? If it had ability to evolve, why don’t we still see these things evolving?
        And I believe the “Ice age” is proof of the worldly flood. Why would there suddenly be an ice age? Wouldn’t every animal and mechanism have been destroyed? Then where did the apes come from? If God wanted a flood, do you think he didn’t have the power to lighten the sun to not have the effects these scientists say would have been? Also, look into science. Anything can be proven and disproven through it. You can find science proving something and find science disproving the same thing.

      • While these ARE definitely all things that YECs say, they aren’t what AiG or ICR says. AiG in particular has always been extremely proactive about getting rid of bad arguments and making sure they are up to date on the latest trends.

        Some of the really old AiG/ICR/CMI material has outdating information, but they’ve been careful to change it as scientific thought has adjusted over time.

      • L,

        I am not a YEC, and you are right that Darwin did not say those things, but he did say a lot of things that are problematic for Dogmatic Evolutionists. Nonetheless, the people who hold Darwin out there as the father of modern evolution tag Darwin along with them on their crusade to force a “fact” of evolution on everyone.

        If anyone within the scientific ranks strays off course (Goldschmidt’s hopeful monster, Gould’s punctuated equilibrium, and the flap at the British Museum of Natural History, to name a few) they are ridiculed and accused of being no better than creationists.

        The older I get, the more I see this type of dogma at play all over. The “fact” of evolutionists believe if they admit that not everything is as perfect as it seems with their theory then the creationists will take over the scientific community just like fundamentalist Christians believe if they allow for different interpretations of the Bible that allow for a REALLY old earth, then their entire faith crumbles and the world will go to hell in a handbasket.

        In the meantime, those of us with beliefs falling everywhere in the middle of these two extremes are persecuted by the fundamentalists at either end. Dogmatic Evolutionists call us dumb, deluded, and unscientific. Fundamentalists Christians call us heretics, dumb, bad Christians, and sometimes accuse us of not being Christians at all. Notice both sides think we are dumb. It is infuriating.

    • Hi Mark,

      I like pretty much any question at any time, and I don’t think yours is irrelevant.

      Your first question– about the word “fundamentalism”– is part of what this series has been about. You’re right in that “fundamentalism” used to mean something entirely different. When it first started in the early days of the 20th century, there were lots of elements I could agree with. However, the fundamentalist movement quickly devolved from “people who agree on the fundamentals” to “people fighting everyone about the fundamentals” (i.e., “defending the faith”). And what they’ve defined as “fundamental” has grown exponentially larger over the years. If you have the time, you can read back through my “definitions and a history lesson” series, which covers all of this ground.

      Words change their meanings over time. Today, there’s other words, like “Protestant orthodoxy,” now, that take the place of what fundamentalism used to be, and fundamentalism, today, means something entirely different, and yes, the connotation is negative. I like “Protestant orthodoxy,” because there’s no one right answer inside of orthodoxy– just a few essentials and people talking about the rest.

      As for evolution… I grew up staunchly YEC. I’m 99% sure I read every single book published on the subject before 2005. Every. Single. Book. AiG was my home page on my browser, and I read everything on the ICR website, too. I was aware of the entire intelligent design movement, and I could muddle my way through books like Darwin’s Black Box (which was written for chemists, not lay people). I loved everything about Creation Studies.

      However, after all of that… I never once studied Neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory. And when I did… what AiG and ICR told me… just didn’t stack up anymore. For me, it started with endogenous retrovirus, which you can read about in my post “walking through the woods in wonder.” Today, I’m a theistic evolutionist.

      • Thanks, I’ll take a look at the post. Maybe next time I’m at the library I’ll pick up a book on evolutionary theory, see what I’m missing.

        • I highly recommend “Rocks of Ages” by Stephen Jay Gould. It’s not the best as far as argumentation goes, but it’s a good place to start.

  • Brooke

    I have a lot to say about this. Firstly, none of us are going to be saved by the law, we can only be saved by Jesus because we can’t be perfect. This statement agrees and disagrees with yours. We can’t be perfect, but we can try to follow the statutes/customs. But you say Christ isn’t enough? Maybe ur saying Christ is enough? If not What for? What is lacking? we can’t add or take from Him.
    The customs such as only surrounding ourselves with believers, is for our benefit. Once we have the spirit, and the simplicity of Jesus that saves us, we can be easily corrupted. Once having the spirit we don’t like the same things we did or think the same way, just as children, we are less corrupt. But like beer is an acquired taste, we can get used to and develop that acquired taste for corruption. I am not against homosexuals or atheist, bc they need us the most. But we aren’t to dwell in their homes or them in ours, bc no matter how good we are, if you put good with evil some evil will rub off on us. We don’t have to be isolated. We can be with our family through Christ. If we don’t have them, we can pray for those friends family the right church, God will answer in His timing. If you put a white glove in dirt or anything, some of it sticks. And is very hard to clean off. The “little things” can effect us largely. There are reasons for all of them. The reason our answers don’t seem enough are: sometimes we seem to say the wrong things, but if we ask God to use us and speak through us, if that’s our gift in serving, He will say things that touch the person the way they need, not what seems right to us, but is right for them
    I don’t understand the house of cards metaphor. Are u saying our beliefs and customs Jesus taught weren’t stable? We’re to take these customs to heart through the spirit of Jesus, not just carry as disposable, if we aren’t corrupted and take them to heart, they will be carved into us, not carried in our pockets, but hearts and minds. God loves us, but our job is to love him back, to yearn to know Him, pray (talk to Him) wait for His answers through the bible or music or life however He chooses and whenever. We get closest to Him when we think of Him always, always seek Him for every question. Every question we have big or small the answer is in the bible. One week, Any problem doubt confusion with anything at all, every choice, I sought the bible. Prayed for advice, (ask forgiveness for any sins pending to have clearest line of communication, sins are not instantly forgiven after we accept Christ, we still must admit these sins individually and feel our shame and be willing to repent, daily process for any sins including our lack to follow customs or have enough faith anything and be willing to repent but know we can’t without Jesus) and open the bible expecting to find an answer through faith of grace. Sometimes what we read hits hard and we want to stop, but we need to feel that shame to repent. Sometimes it’s all good. It’s always different according the circumstance. But the one week I did that always, as we always should seek the right way through The Lord and will be led, being willing to follow, that week I felt happier than I ever could imagine, almost too happy as if I was drunk on love. I cried each day at a point, saw a sin or lack, felt shame cried repented and was renewed stronger than ever.
    Another reason we get confusion is satan blocking our mind flow or doing things to cause us confusion. Both sides fighting each other with us in the middle, we are often blinded and confused. This is when we should seek a pastor or fellowship open up confess and pray. Always helps!! Instantly, but not continually, bc satan will not give up on trying to stop our growth and take control of us. He wants control, God wants us to submit to His will his customs, make our choices, including our mistakes, and learn from them. I could continue on but I don’t want to make anyone grow weary in reading if anyone does read this. I love talking about anything Godly more than anything, the spirit has changed me strongly. Every second I try to do it on my own strength I fall, but I ask and God picks me up even higher. If anyone enjoys talking of these subjects, or has any interest in anything I said email me I’d love to keep going or go further into what I’ve said.

    • Brooke,

      First, let me clarify my last sentence: I believe that Jesus is enough. I believe in that fervently. My point was that, as a fundamentalist, I grew up believing that Jesus wasn’t really enough for me to be a Christian. We would certainly say that Jesus was enough, but then we’d turn right around and say you needed creationism and inerrancy, too. That was my point. I apologize for the misunderstanding, and my lack of clarity.

      As for cutting ourselves off from non-believers, I respect your point of view– after all, it’s the point of view I grew up in, and actually practice right now. My community is my church and my small group for the moment, since I just moved to a new place and I’m not employed.

      However, I disagree with you about this. I believe that, as a believer, I am called to be the “salt of the world.” This metaphor is describing how salt was used to preserve meat– and it wouldn’t work if the salt was just a coating on top. The salt had to be forced deep into the meat in order to work.

      Also, my example is Jesus– who everyone criticized for associating himself with “publicans and sinners.” He was judged by the religious establishment for engaging with people who weren’t Jews, who were “below him,” who didn’t believe as he did, for praising Samaritans… I believe in loving my neighbor. To me, that cannot look like cutting myself off and refusing to be “corrupted” by my neighbor.

      My house of cards metaphor wasn’t referring to the Bible, or to what Jesus taught. It was referring to the foundationalist approach to fundamentalist teachings. In the fundamentalist mindset, every single last “doctrine” they teach is absolutely fundamental for faith and practice– and they teach that if we lose one of these “doctrines,” that everything else will collapse.

      For example: very frequently, fundamentalists hold to the literal 6-day young earth creation (YEC). I was taught, from a very early age, that if YEC wasn’t true, that there was no hope for us (1 Cor. 15:19). That without it, we can’t have the doctrine of original sin, that Christ’s death on the cross means nothing. I disagree, but that’s a discussion for another day.

      I also very much appreciate your tone and compassion that you’ve expressed here. I just wanted to make sure that we were on the same page.

      • Brooke

        I agree with your response. I don’t believe it was your lack to clarify but my anxiety, I read through too fast. I agree we aren’t to follow the old doctrines bc we are under a new covenant, through Jesus. The old covenant is old, not applicable to us.
        Regarding who we surround ourselves with, it depends. The corrupted are the ones who need our example of faith through speech life love purity the most. But depends what’s in our hearts when we are with them. I’ve been led to not dwell with them maybe bc I’m at a point where I can be corrupted easier. We are to be with them if its in our hearts to teach them for the right reasons by heart, not intentions of mind. I am at the point where I can talk with them and such, but it must be kept at that. Not to dwell with them or them with me. When I received the spirit I no longer even thought of profane words and after dwelling with them against Gods will I now have some profanity in my speech of mind. And so forth, any of satan in them will try to force himself into us if there is any room.
        Jesus was strong enough of himself to not be corrupted. Also I agree we Cannot look down on them, we need to pray for them and help them! It’s our job. Our duty, if we don’t try their blood is on us, we are responsible. But if we try and they don’t listen, we aren’t responsible for their choices. I feel we stand on the same ground, but worry some will take some of this the way I did when I read through seeking anything to respond to, as many may read seeking something to clarify their injustices. I respect you, and know you are part of my family. With love, Brooke

    • Hey Brooke! I’m responding to your later comment above using this one, since the other one doesn’t have any reply option.

      I understand your questions. Not only did I use to be YEC, but I used to guest write for Answers In Genesis a long time ago. So please understand, I get where you’re coming from. I just wanted to respond to a few of your concerns.

      If we evolved through apes why aren’t apes still evolving into humans?

      Evolutionary theory doesn’t say that humans evolved “through” or “from” apes. Not apes as we know them, anyway. Evolutionary theory says that when a population of animals splits, both groups end up looking different from the original group. And this happens over and over.

      There was a group of early simians. These split into two groups (probably due to environmental factors that forced them apart). Over millenia, one group became early monkeys, and one group became early apes.

      Later, the early monkeys split into groups like Rhesus monkeys and baboons and macaques. The early apes split into groups like chimpanzees and gibbons and humans and gorillas. So all species are constantly changing and evolving and splitting into subgroups; it just takes a while for differences to show. Humans probably won’t split into any more groups, because we can now travel and mix our genes globally….but we’ll definitely continue to evolve little by little.

      What’s the difference from the original piece we “evolved from” being made as it was and us being made as we are? Same questions apply, where did the original mechanism come from?

      It does seem quite possible that prehistoric creatures were created separately from us. But when we look at creatures which appear similar to us (like chimpanzees), we find that we share the same sections of DNA. Not only do we share the same sections of DNA, but we share the same random errors in our DNA. Now, either God created chimpanzees and humans with exactly matching mistakes (which seems rather misleading), or the exact same mistakes happened to all humans and all chimpanzees (which is rather unlikely), or we came from a common ancestor.

      The theory of evolution itself doesn’t say where the first living cell came from. It just explains how living cells change once they exist. Maybe God created the first cells, or maybe they developed naturally. We may never know. But it doesn’t matter, because we know God through the life of Jesus Christ here on this earth. That’s not prehistoric. 🙂

      Why would there suddenly be an ice age?

      Gradual changes in the carbon cycle can build up and cause sudden “dumps” of carbon, rapidly increasing or decreasing the greenhouse effect. Asteroid impacts can kick up dust into the upper atmosphere, blocking the sun’s rays and lowering global temperature. A supervolcano can do the same thing. After Krakatoa exploded in 1883, scattering sulfate aerosols through the stratosphere, global temperatures dropped by as much as 2.2 degrees for several years. Imagine the same thing, but with a volcano tens of thousands of times larger.

      Wouldn’t every animal and mechanism have been destroyed?

      Not at all. An ice age just makes the polar icecaps extend much further down. Tropical regions are still warm, thanks to the Earth’s tilt and rotation around the sun. But there’s much less usable land.

      Like I said, I used to be a YEC. But science wasn’t what convinced me. Instead, I realized that it just doesn’t matter. We know about God because God became a man in Jesus Christ, not because we can “prove” evolution false.

  • kbeanz

    “Fundamentalism is unnecessary.”

    I can’t believe someone else has said that. It’s exactly the conclusion I have come to, after years of struggling to figure out what exactly is the conversation I can have with my parents, who I know will have rebuttals to any other arguments I may come up with (and I already know those rebuttals).

    It is unnecessary. While I think there are some very dangerous fundamentalist groups out there who are ultimately harming the world, for the most part my parents’ group is not that, so if they want to live under those rules, I have no business trying to shake them from it in their golden years. Yes, there is a certain peace of mind that comes from “having all the answers.” There is comfort in having a community of built-in friends simply because you share doctrine. But what’s replaced it is even more wonderful. To see that “the world” is not filled with dangerous creeps out to get you at every turn, but instead with mostly wonderful, beautiful and flawed human beings, just trying to do the best they can, mostly good in so many surprising ways. To understand that everyone thinks differently, and has a unique perspective to add, helps me understand the world more fully. I see beauty where there once was fear.

    And above all, my love and appreciation of God, as loving and good, rather than a big bully, replaces the constant insecurity of simply being human, the fear of losing love. Amazing that it took an atheist to open my eyes to what “unconditional love” really is.

    • Brooke

      I love most of your views. Our paths are very different. I once believed everyone has good-as they all do have some of God in them- but I didn’t see the bad in people, or justified it or reasoned for them. I still do in a way. They just don’t understand or know better! Lol. But, God is showing my that there are creeps all around who do just seek to hurt me or use me, as they have and are trying very hard. They took everything I love that is good, and are fighting with lies and slander. I still made excuses for their actions. But now I’m seeing their evil intents and that some of these individuals do know better and just seek my harm. But they will be punished and its not my job to worry or fight, but to endure and trust 🙂 the spirit and God are teaching me intuition as some would call, when people get close I often can feel their intentions. Even when they are helping me I can feel when their thoughts of me are corrupt or to corrupt. Not always though. I’m still slightly blinded by my seeing only the good knowing they don’t know better reasoning for their ill actions. It’s hard for me to dislike people even when they hurt me. Only if they hurt people I love, and even then I still struggle to not reason, maybe sometimes they deserve the reasoning, but I am learning. I love these talks and hope I’m not a burden 🙂 I have known unconditional love once while I was backsliding, bc of my additional sins I lost that lover best friend fiancé as we saw we were already married, and my family because of my love and reasoning and excuses for others constantly putting them before me, which we are to do but I’m learning the difference of the wrong way and right way. I lost it all because I added sins to sins, and backslid from The Lord it’s my job to spread the truth so others may know what’s at risk with things that seem so small and justified. I appreciate that your path is opposite, in the way we see/saw the world. I love how we are all pieces of this puzzle each our own all so different needing different lessons and having dif paths and sins, and gifts, but all working together through these differences we fit together in life perfectly together when we are in the right spots 🙂 with love brooke

  • Thank you for this beautiful and insightful post. I feel like the principle of being drawn to fundamentalism played out in a small scale in my own family. I experienced traumatic events in my family that my brother didn’t. As a teenager I threw myself into fundamentalism whereas he didn’t. Our approach to faith was very different and my departure from fundamentalism coincided with my healing from trauma.

    • This is what happened to my mother, as well. She grew up in an abusive environment, and now she talks about fundamentalism as if it was like riding a familiar bike. She wasn’t able to recognize that what felt familiar was the mental and emotional abuse.

  • I really think that so much of the ugliness in this worldview has to do with an assumption that God is an infinitely exacting cruel perfectionist. This view seems to come mostly from two places: an 11th century monk named Anselm’s theory about the cross and a misinterpretation of Romans 3. Here’s something I wrote about how to remove the linchpin of Christian hate in case you’re interested:

  • CaseyR

    For Mark Hamilton and anyone else interested in a book about evolution, I highly recommend Kenneth Miller’s book Only a Theory. The author is a Christian who is also a scientist and the scientific information is presented in a form that is easy to understand for someone who does not have much knowledge of evolution.

    • I own that book, and I have to admit I didn’t really care for the presentation of the material. Maybe it’s just me, but it felt overly simplified– very similar to how it had been treated in other books I read, as if it were easily defeatable. But that could just be my impression. At the time, it was probably a good introduction.

      • CaseyR

        I think it is somewhat simplified. I read it at the same time as Why Evolution is True by Jerry Coyne and The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins, and reading all three together probably gives a much better overall picture of the evidence for evolution. However, Coyne and Dawkins are both atheists and Miller is a Christian, so I think he is perceived as being less likely to distort the evidence.

  • Korrine

    That’s it! That’s it exactly. We were taught (always implicitly) that Christ, alone, is not enough.

    It was always stated, yes, Christ is enough, but then we’d hear the LGBT community slammed, or churches with social outreaches mocked, or theistic evolution condemned, or see individuals with tattoos or different styles of dress completely sidelined.

    The Fundamentalist gospel is Christ + “our standards.”

    Thank you for your words. <3

  • Thank you for writing this post. Very fundamental, legalistic churches often forget there’s a whole world outside themselves. There are people who love and think and breath WHO DON’T THINK LIKE THEM. If you are brought up to only love people like yourself, then when you are confronted with different opinions, your worlds will crash and burn. No wonder so many young people are leaving the church nowadays.
    I hope to someday raise my kids to be open-minded and to love people who are different. Yes, I believe in the God of Christianity. And I hope my kids do, too. But I want them to see people who are different and treat them with love and respect, not judgment and hatred. Jesus came to show broken, despairing, shattered people LOVE. Not just judgment. Why has the church so often neglected this?

  • TracyL

    “I consider fundamentalists to be my brothers and sisters in Christ, because I believe in finding common ground among the essentials, and we have that.”

    Can you comment on what you would see as “the essentials”? Also, how do you see that as differing from sharing “fundamentals of faith”? (Recognizing things that you don’t share as in young earth etc)

    • The “fundamentals of the faith” were defined in the first two decades of the 20th century. There are five basic “fundamentals,” and they are they following:

      Biblical inspiration and the inerrancy
      Virgin birth of Jesus
      Substitutionary atonement
      Bodily resurrection
      Historical reality of the miracles

      The “fundamentals of the faith” went on to be described quite extensively in The Fundamentals. Of those five fundamentals, I don’t think that any of them are essential. I don’t even agree with some of them (inspiration/inerrancy, the substitution atonement theory). As for what’s in The Fundamentals… yeah, I agree with very little of them, especially since they were so culturally reactive and have little relevance to the issues of today.

      The essentials, also known as the regula fidei or “the faith held everywhere and by all” could be explained as being “what is necessary for salvation.”

      To me that would be, most basically: you believe that Jesus was God, that he lived and he died for us, and that he rose again, and you try to follow his teachings.

      If you have that, then yep– to me you’re a Christian.

  • TracyL

    Thanks for the response. 🙂