Theology

things you should say to a recovering fundamentalist

listening

If you look at the top of this page, you’ll see a single line: “an ongoing journey in overcoming a fundamentalist indoctrination.” That is still a good summation of why I write here, why I write for you all. Because of that, I spend a lot of time critiquing. Criticizing. Rage-stomping. I do everything within my power to stand up for the oppressed, the abused, the silenced. However, although these are some of the reasons why I write, they’re not the only reasons why I write. I do my best to bring a more positive perspective when I can. Anger is healthy, and productive– there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being angry at the way things are some times. However, anger can’t be the end-all, be-all, or I’m going to burn myself out.

So that is what today is about. I got amazing comments yesterday— many of you left behind things you’ve heard that were infuriating, or heartbreaking. Some made me laugh and shake my head, others made me want to throw things. And that, my friends, is good for all of us.

However, there’s something that comes next. What are the things that we desperately want to hear from our friends and our family instead? We get a lot of flack, no matter where we stand as ex-fundamentalists. So, what are some things you’ve always wished people would actually say?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For me, it starts here:

”                                             .”
sincerely, everyone

That’s where it absolutely must begin, and I think most (if not all) of you would agree with me. It starts with quietness. It starts with listening. Most ex-fundamentalists have spent a lifetime–or most of it– being silenced. Being told to lock away and hide all of our feelings, all the rage at the wrongness of it all, everything. We were told, over and over again, nearly by everyone we knew, that the only option for us was our silence.

And, for many of us, when we finally did start talking, we were told, again, that we should really just remain quiet for all the reasons we talked about yesterday. One reader commented that most of the 15 things from yesterday were really just variations of “shut up,” and he was right. Being told to stay quiet–however I’m told– really makes me want to scream. What I need from you, if you care about me, is to listen. Really listen. It’s more than just hearing my words while simultaneously coming up with all the possible things you could say as either affirmation or rebuttal. At first, I don’t think I need you to say anything. Make me a cup of tea. Offer me a hug. Cuddle with me in a fuzzy blanket. Look me in my eyes. Cry with me. Do everything you can to understand that what I’m coming out of was deeply horrific. It’s left me with serious triggers. It’s left me with scars so bad that sometimes it takes everything I have not to run out of a church auditorium to go vomit.

I’m not making shit up. I’m not crazy. I’m not exaggerating.

And what I really need is for you to believe me.

Believe me when I say that I believe in Jesus– but I have trouble sometimes believing in God. Believe me when I say that I’m desperately searching for answers, but that I have no idea where they’ll take me. And this darkness, the shadows, the not-knowing, the gray, the uncertainty– it’s uncomfortable. It’s hard. It makes me curl up on my bed and weep, sometimes. I’m working through things– and I need to you enter this space with me. To leave your confidence, your unflappability, at the door, and ask the same questions. Maybe you’ll get to a different answer– and that’s ok. But the questions– the quest— is what matters.

“What things could I be looking for in my own church?”

Dear mother in heaven if there’s a question I want asked, it’s this one. Because I’ve been in a lot of churches since I’ve left my fundamentalist one behind, and if there’s one thing that’s been consistent everywhere I’ve gone, it’s that all churches have something about them that could “grow,” in Christian parlance. Maybe it’s no big deal. Maybe it’s a big, big deal. And you don’t have to mimic me– you don’t have to adopt all of my concerns, worries, the things I’m wary or suspicious of. Yesterday, I was talking to a friend and he sent me the doctrinal statement of the church he attends– and they affirm the stance of The Gospel Coalition (of #gagreflex fame, most recently). Which, personally, frightens me. I wouldn’t go anywhere near that church because of it. But, he’s comfortable there, and that’s ok. One of my best, most wonderful friends is much more conservative than I am on pretty much every measurable spectrum, but we love each other because of those differences.

I’m not asking you to be my clone. I’m asking you to take my concerns seriously.

Not every single last church is a hotbed for abusive activity or fundamentalist approaches to faith. But the attitude of “that doesn’t happen at my church“– it’s so common, and you could be wrong. It very well could be happening at your church. And, a lot of the time, it’s not glaringly obvious if it’s there. It could start out as something really small– something so insignificant a lot of people wouldn’t even bother commenting. But then . . . slowly . . . over time . . . it could get worse. The only way to make sure it doesn’t happen at your church is to be aware of what could happen if “good men do nothing.”

“Do you think there are some things in this theology that are harmful?”

This, heads up, will probably not be an easy conversation to have, but it’s a necessary one if the Church universal is going to have any chance of moving forward. My approach to theology is heavily influenced by my background in literary theory. Critical theories are essentially frameworks, ways of approaching and interacting with a text. You can do a Marxist reading of Oliver Twist, analyzing the power struggles and the class warfare in Dickens’ material. Or, you could do a feminist reading of Little Women— how did the patriarchal culture of Alcott’s time influence how she constructed her characters– was a feminist struggle the reason why she gave the principle romantic interest a feminine name? Why is the father absent?

I think there’s similarities between literary theory and systematic theologies. For a simplified example, a Reformed/Calvinist theology searches for God’s sovereignty in the text of the Bible. Because of my training, I’m capable of switching theological “caps”– I can think inside of the different frameworks with help from scholars and commentaries. And something I’ve learned through all of this is that all critical theories– literary or theological– have flaws. There are weaknesses in every argument; that doesn’t automatically make the argument wrong, but the point should be not to eliminate weaknesses but acknowledge the fact that they exist. This week is a syncroblog for queer theology (hint: check it out, it’s awesome)– and there’s other theologies, too. There’s feminist theology. And liberation theology. And all of them– even the neo-Reformed perspective, which makes me itch– have something to offer. Theology, like most things, isn’t a monolith. There isn’t one Supreme, Correct Theory of Everything about God.

And, being willing to admit that there are some things about your average evangelical/Protestant theology that can be incredibly harmful is a really good first step.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Now I’m turning it over to you. What are some things you’d like to hear?

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  • Elmo

    Unlike you, I have fewer doubts about Jesus than I do about God. My God is very similar to that described by Iris Dement in her song “Keep Me God” because when I look around me I see the signs of something that is bigger than me but I’m pretty sure that it doesn’t know my name and that it doesn’t give a rat’s patoot about me or what happens to me. But I can still agree with Jesus when he says to the Pharisees that there are only 2 rules: 1) Love God with every fiber of your being and 2) Love other people even if they happen to be Samaritans or bigots because they are still part of that greatness that shows what God hath wrought.

    • How do you love something that doesnt give a rats patoot about you at all?

  • “If I went through that, I’d probably feel the same way as you.” This, I think, is the best thing that someone can say in acknowledgement of someone’s difficulties without necessarily having to agree with that person’s point of view. When I tell people of my problems with religion or fundamentalism or homeschooling or any number of other things, I don’t expect them to change their minds to reflect my views. After all, they’ve had their own experiences that have led them to their own beliefs. That is totally okay.

    But, too often, when people hear a negative story about something they associate with, they become defensive and uncomfortable. They want to explain to me how “not all Christians are like that” or “you are so blind to the Truth” or “I’m sorry you’ve been hurt, but leaving the church is not the right reaction” or “you are just trading one sort of oppression for another” or even an outright “that’s not how it happened” as if anyone else knows my story better than I do. All of these things simply serve to discredit my story and feelings as false, exaggerated, or unmerited. That is hurtful and unproductive.

    Instead, I want to hear a validation and acceptance of how I feel and what happened, even if the person still disagrees with my beliefs or actions. Just saying “I’d probably do the same in your shoes” is the most healing phrase I can think of. It’s an acknowledgement that they haven’t walked in my shoes and that they consider me enough of my own, independent person to believe that I probably acted reasonably given my circumstances. That is so validating. I have religious friends of many stripes and we may not always agree with each other on everything, but that is OK. All I want is for them to acknowledge that my feelings and decisions are valid, just as I acknowledge the same thing of theirs. After all, if I’d walked in their shoes, I would probably be religious still too.

  • “I’m sorry that people treated you (or others) this way. That must have been really hard.” FULL STOP. No, ‘but’.

  • First of all, I don’t self-identify as a recovering fundamentalist or survivor of spirtual abuse. Mostly I do that out of respect to those who really have gone through (or are going through) the tremendous hurt, pain, and difficulty that are these things. A caveat to keep in mind. That being said, there have been some pretty dramatic and angst-filled transitions in my spiritual life. I’ve been very resentful towards some of my previous spiritual mentors, who I would describe as fundamentalists. Most of all, I would say that I was spiritually manipulated.

    So, with that background, this is what has been most helpful for me:

    Silence. Samantha, I’m so glad you started this post with that as your first response. My “mentor” in college – a professor, and a dear friend – was the one who showed me the benefit of silently listening. I felt comfortable going to him and “throwing” all of these angry questions and doubts at him. And he would mostly be quiet. And agree, that I was right to be confused. Agree that it was a hard thing. Primarily, he was a companion to me. He just listened, and refused to “fix me”, refused to be shocked that I could ask these questions. Rather, he was consistently gracious and compassionate. And this was the best thing for me, I think.

    The problem with the “It’s okay to doubt; we all go through struggles in our faith” line (though it’s usually really well-intended) is that it validates the person you’re talking to only in terms of your own perspective. If I say that to someone, I’m basically saying, “Oh, don’t worry, where you are right now is just a stage on the way to being like me, so I accept you since you will agree with me soon.” Uh, nope. We need to validate others as “other” – validate the other in her “otherness”, to get sort of philosophical. We need to say, “You may never agree with me. I may never agree with you. I still accept you. I still seek to understand you; please help me do so.”

    Oosha. Sorry, long comment. : )

  • Liz

    I am a person that has difficulty being at odds with my environment. My two common reactions is to try to persuade my environment to agree with me (my go-to) and the second stems from the abuse I lived through as a child and that is to keep my head down. I may have a different opinion, but once it seems I cannot persuade, I try not to get noticed for getting noticed means a smack-down is due. I still DO what I want, just try to do it in a way that wont get me in trouble. If I do get noticed, I run.

    Me in fundamentalism… I kept TRYING to fix my crazy church. Kept trying to BE the change I wanted to see in my environment, kept thinking it could be different. Once I realized change was not in the cards, I tried to just live my life the best I knew, teach my girls the best I knew, but that’s not possible in an abusive church. My living reasonably, got me noticed, then I wanted to RUN.

    My husband is a fixer. If it’s broke he’s POSITIVE he can fix it. He’s also stubborn, and was being manipulated by the very trait that makes him such a wonderful husband and provider.

    To my girls who were raised in fundamentalism.

    We are so VERY sorry.
    Mom

    • Disillusioned Mummy

      Liz, I hear you loud and clear. We raised our children fundamentalist. We have apologized. But truthfully, they are not very forgiving. They have since taken our 14 year old from us, and she is living with her 18 year old sister. Not attending school (she hasn’t been a full week since she left in March – we are in Australia, so not summer holidays either). A lot of what they blame us for is things we never did or believed. Yes we were fundamentalists, but not very good ones!

      We spent most of our parenting years battling the guilt that comes with not being good enough. Putting myself through numerous pregnancies (not that I would be without any of them) despite poor health, and the resentment of having been born female (read – unworthy of ever finding Gods full favour – always being punished for the fact that Eve took the first bite). Homeschooling went from something to avoid the pitfalls we had both encountered in the school system, and became a means of indoctrination instead. The love of learning together as a family gave way to continuing in the homeschool journey because to give up was to fail the girls and God.

      Back in the early days, we felt so blessed to have found all the answers we needed to bring up children who were strong in The Lord. We looked forward to their teenage years. We looked forward to becoming grandparents. Instead we have children who resent us. Our only grandchild has a totally awesome mummy. But she is only 16. We keep in touch, but she has fallen victim to a predatory family, and does not trust us enough to know we have changed.

      Despite their academic achievements, they blame us for not educating them. Truthfully, my health ended up so bad we should have out them in school. But our faith would not allow us to send them out to the Devil to raise. Sheltering them was more important than all else. We gave them the tools to learn. And they are all doing remarkably well in their studies. But we did not give them the confidence or study skills to believe in themselves.

      Our 14 year old is being destroyed. She has no supervision and does what she wants when she wants. She still loves us, but has no intentions of returning home. And the police simply don’t care. We escaped the fundamentalist trap several years ago. But her sisters have been pretty strong in their accusations, and that includes the things that get worse with each retelling.

      Something that doesn’t get told in all of this story, is that we are victims too. The general opinion is we had a choice, our kids didn’t. But, the thing with brainwashing is, did we? The only alternative we knew was to destroy our kids by not doing things Gods way. We did not have a good life. We sacrificed everything. We are desperately sorry. But we also need to be seen for who we truly are. Victims, who are still scared by the voices that hound us when we question things. Scared that Hell awaits us and our children. Not sure how to be a Christian without being a fundamentalist. Struggling to discern what is good and right vs. what is man made doctrine. Trying to figure out, if God is so good, why, when we were so genuinely asking for a his help, why, oh why did He not lift us out of the muck while our children were so little. Finding it hard to pray. Because I struggle with that concept. Wanting to return to my child-like faith. Just accepting and loving, without having to figure the rightness or wrongness of every little thing. Being too scared to walk away. But wanting to find that love so that I am not too scared to stay.

      Wanting my children to know God. The real God. Not the one of their childhoods. Wanting them to have faith. Not for me. Not because I expect them to recognise my “rightness” (whatever that is). But, for the same reason I am scared for me. Because what I want more than anything is to be in Heaven with them forever. And I just don’t know if I have messed that up for them. I have only just started hearing stuff about Hell not being as I have always believed. But I am scared to believe that even though I want to. I would have to read the whole Bible to figure that out. Can no longer trust others to teach me on this. And quite frankly, I do not find the Bible riveting. I have to force myself to read it. I even find myself skipping over Biblical quotes these days because they irritate me. Because they have always been about control in my past.

      I don’t know how to move on from here. My life has been devastated. If it wasn’t for my last remaining child at home, my sweet 5 year old who has Down Syndrome, I really don’t think I could go on. The pain is indescribable. Please remember, parents can be victims of spiritual abuse too. But we have the added burden of guilt.

      • Me

        Thanks for these remarks. My parents are still insanely fundimentalist in many ways, and sometimes I need to be reminded of their side of it.

        • Disillusioned Mummy

          One thing that helped me to see the fact that we had gotten caught up in a cult (something we could not see we were in, because you don’t have to be indoctrinated and watched over ever single day. Instead, the danger of fundamentalism is you are actually trained to self-brainwash and that is even more dangerous, because how do you escape your own mind?) was moving overseas. (We are from New Zealand). At first, we were around a lot of “like-minded” people. But our experiences around the birth of our last daughter (she was 9 weeks early, then diagnosed with Down Syndrome at 4 weeks of age) opened our eyes to a different world. Suddenly we were seeking advice from people who were not homeschooling Christian fundamentalists. In fact, some of the people who we had been friends of ours really started annoying me. Looking for answers as to why she had been born that way. One guy (the most chauvinist man I know, and someone who we have always been wary of), told us we needed to pray God would give us the faith for her to be healed. My then 17 year old said “why? We love her just the way she is!” Of course, the control in his statement was that if she wasn’t healed, it was because we did not have enough faith! Someone else we had only just met when she was one, made the comment to our friends that they wondered what was wrong with our spiritual lives that made Samara this way. Idiots didnt think about the fact that our friends have a daughter with intellectual disabilities so saying that to them got them promptly kicked out!
          I think sometimes the battle has to get personal to break through to our hearts. I don’t know what that means for your parents, but I do know that they have convinced themselves that it is their fault you have “gone astray”. Because fundamentalism says that ifnTHEY had trained you up in the ways of The Lord, then YOU would be the arrow in their quiver, ready for battle, that they had always believed you would be. On top of the guilt that you aren’t out there doing the Lords work, there is a much deeper and painful hurt. They are scared that you are doomed to Hell if they don’t bring you back into the fold. That is a horrifically scary thought for any parent to have regarding their child. It was always my greatest fear. It still is.
          So if they spend frustratingly huge amounts of time trying to convert you, don’t think it’s that they love their religion more than you. Because that is not the case. They are just desperately trying to save you. It is hard for them to accept your choices not because you made them, but because they believe it is their fault you made them. That if they had got everything right like God had asked, then this would never have happened. And because it is their fault, they believe it is their job to fix it.
          I know that makes it hard for you. But I just want you to know, that as frustrating as it is for you, they do love you. And to show that, they have to save your soul. Don’t try to argue your point with them. You can never win. In fact, arguing with them will cause them to fight harder to keep their faith. I know that the urge is that if you just point out where they are wrong on an issue, that they will see the light. But it won’t happen. They have trained themselves to not allow anything contrary to what they believe the Bible says, to enter their thoughts.
          I don’t know what you can do to draw them out. I just know the more you say or do to reinforce their guilt, the more they will fight to hold on to their ideals. Because if they lose their faith, they lose everything. Their friends, their support, their grip on what they see as reality. All they have lived for can come crashing down around them. And sadly, from seeing some of my friends, it is too big a risk to take. Questioning is simply not allowed.
          One website that did speak to me was Why Not Train a Child. They took apart the “spanking” verses, and did a full I depth study on them. Looking at the original languages etc. Now, fundies are really big on that sort of Bible study. And while I had long since moved away from that type of discipline, my husband was not convinced. That study was the turning point for him. He is still more fundamentalist than me. But he definitely is anti fundamentalism now.
          I hope this helps in some way. Until they reach the point where they can say it for themselves, on behalf of your parents, I am sorry.

      • And it is for such reasons that religion should be legislated against, especially where children are concerned.

        Religion is poison.
        Accept this and learning to be human becomes a lot easier.

  • notleia

    My latent English major is extraordinarily happy at the talk of literary readings transferred into theology. I find it frustrating how people see “examining the Bible as a piece of literature” to mean “find every reason and invent a lot more to disprove it as a bunch of fairy tales.”

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  • I love your ending reference to the correct theory of everything about God.

    In fact, I believe there IS a Grand Unified Theology of Everything. But no one has yet discovered it, and I don’t think we will until we are with the Father.

  • Some things it is healing and helpful to hear:
    ‘I’m so sorry that happened to you’
    ‘I hope you find peace’ (not god, not Jesus, don’t push me back before I’m ready, just wish me peace, healing, and happiness)

  • How about, “Crap, that really sucked. I’m glad you’re out of there, and be gentle with yourself as you work your way through this.”

    I’ve no background or personal experience in fundamentalism, but that is what I would say. No references to other religious options, this isn’t the time to comparison shop. Oh, and a hug, and a copy of “Dance of Anger” by Harriet Lerner.

  • Gakeat

    I want to thank you for the thoughtful two part series here, to understand what others go through. I was never a fundamentalist myself, for I went from conservative mainline to moderate mainline to where I am now on the boundary between liberal mainline Christianity and atheism, I hope to understand the other better.

  • I hope this isn’t an offensive comment. If someone’s ‘fundamentals’ don’t include love,respect for others,a celebration of reason and intellectual honesty and living according to the example of Christ,then their man-made creed merits nothing more than wiping your shoes on the way out and letting your soul guide you to something healthier and more authentic.

  • gnbar

    Samantha pleads for greater understanding and validation, but it is hard to see how she can get such when she herself deliberately misrepresents who supposed “fundamentalists” are. She says:

    “I use the words fundamentalist and fundamentalism to talk about a specific Christian movement..” and “There is a difference between traditionalism, religious conservatism, and adhering to “fundamentals,” which is really just Protestant orthodoxy, and fundamentalism. ”

    But she never goes on to describe exactly what this “movement” is. From whence? Bible “thumpers” of the south? What south? Amish or Mennonite folk from the Midwest? Black Pentecostal preachers in the inner city preaching against drugs, promiscuity and violence? White Pentecostal preachers in a rural area preaching the same? A pastor of the growing number of Hispanic Protestant churches preaching the same thing in Texas or Mexico? The straight-laced Korean pastor in LA sternly warning the youth of his flock against cultural decadence? Who is in this fearsome fundie “movement”?

    And does a Catholic who strongly holds the fundamental doctrine of his or her church qualify as a “fundie” for example? ANd what exactly is the difference between traditionalism, religious conservatism and fundamentalism? The article writer again doesn’t really say. All we get is a nebulous set of strawmen. Is a Catholic who opposes pornography for example a “traditionalist”, “conservative” or “fundie”? If said Catholic isnt a “fundie”, what would separate said Catholic from the dreaded, beyond the pale “fundy”? Why would the Protestant guy be a dreaded “fundie” but the Catholic guy a kinder, gentler “traditionalist” when they may both hold the same identical or essential views on a topic?

    —————————————–
    Samantha says:
    “they take the hard-edged stance that they’re the only true Christians..”

    ^^Sure there are SOME people like this, but they come from all sides of the spectrum. There are Catholics who are exceedingly fierce in defending their church and Pope, and will brook no criticism of either, and who consider non-Catholics beyond the pale. Are they “fundies”? ANd there are liberal church goers can be just as judgmental, preachy and intolerant of others. I have run into liberal types that rail against corporations, capitalism, global financial cabals, etc etc.. with as much Messianic fervor as any stereotypical “Bible-thumper.” During WW2 there were a number of dogmatic religious based pacifists who thought they were better than everyone else because only they- a purer, special people- were opposed to fighting the Japanese or Germans.
    ——————————————-

    Samantha;s heartfelt plea for understanding is touching but in some respects she has painted herself into a corner of her own making, and has not taken the time to actually understand why people on the other side of the aisle may feel differently from her, and why they think certain things take priority over others. In addition, her own admitted approach does not lend itself to understanding the deep faith of Christianity. That faith is not the head knowledge of literary theory comparisons but living faith- worked out every day, with an affirmed understanding and respect for the scared scriptures that INFORM THAT daily walk. If you are busily “deconstructing” or chopping up that word of faith, you may be creating a basis for your own alienation and unhappiness.

    Quote Samantha:
    ” My approach to theology is heavily influenced by my background in literary theory.” Because of my training, I’m capable of switching theological “caps”– I can think inside of the different frameworks with help from scholars and commentaries…”

    ^There are plenty of people into said literary theories including “post-modernism” that are just as dogmatic as any “fundie” as they “deconstruct” this and that.. And her claim that she is so capable of switching theological caps and able to think inside different frameworks certainly makes her look good, but only compared to the “fundie” strawmen she erects (look at me- I’m so smart and special- I can think ‘outside the box’ unlike these benighted fundies). Once the strawmen are exposed its a different ball game.

    And using a “literary theory” approach can be a highly skewed way of understanding the faith some people hold. Detractors of so-called “critical theory” for example hold that it too often chops up and “deconstructs” texts into artificial categories (often reflecting certain white Western presumptions) while falling to grasp the holistic context, scope or sensibility of a particular set of work, or people.

    Hence does a set of African poems on women who market their produce and give husbands a share of the proceeds represent “patriarchal hegemony” (said women having to harvest their own fields without male help?) Or represent the “lingering influence of capitalism” or something altogether different? Does the “deconstruction” of a particular Wicca text or belief really reflect what the deconstructor claims it does? Is the horned god recognized by some Wiccans reflective of “the patriarchy” or something altogether different? Would a “critical theory” approach and its artificial slicing and dicing, or application of Marxism or some other “ism” even begin to scratch the surface, or the deep understanding of things Wiccans hold dear? This is a fundamental (pun intended) weakness in Samantha’s approach.

    The above are only examples and yes ANYONE can SPIN or CLAIM ANYTHING they want on a particular belief. Sure. But if anyone can spin anything on a text where are the borders and parameters that make up the unique belief system? If a belief system has no fundamental boundaries or core understandings then why is it a system? There is a reason “fundamentalists” hold certain core beliefs on a topic- in fact they may demand those core fundamentals, because those fundamental understandings or bottom lines define the boundaries of the playing field. Why is this a “bad” thing? Why would nebulous “non fundamental” boundaries necessarily be anything better? In short, what makes Samantha’s claims or notions any more special or right that that of the “fundie” bogeymen she opposes, using her own relativistic “critical theory” approach?

    —————-
    From WIki: “Martin Jay has stated that the first generation of critical theory is best understood as not promoting a specific philosophical agenda or a specific ideology, but as “a gadfly of other systems”.” OK, but how does being a continual “gadfly” promote the deep understanding, solidarity and appreciation that is essential to faith systems? How are people affirmed in their particular faiths if everything is on a permanently “deconstructed” or “gadfly” basis? If Christ is to be “deconstructed” what makes Samantha’s brand of Christianity any better than the latest “critical” approach or fad coming down the pike? Samanthas “critical theory” approach is antithetical to the fundamental cores that foster stable appreciation and affirmation of faith.

    She pleads for greater understanding and affirmation. Fine, but she fails to see the deep flaws in her own approach. If you are going about being a “gadfly” or “deconstructing” this and that, why should people give you any affirmation? You are busy “deconstructing” their core beliefs. Why then do you expect any affirmation of your demolition project? Its the equivalent of telling a devout Catholic the Pope is a fraud, but then going back and pleading with said Catholic for affirmation and acceptance. And how can she expect greater understanding when she appears to be deliberately misrepresenting and negatively stereotyping people?

    • The fundamentalist approach is a bad thing because what they teach is seriously harming people. I have no problem with setting ground rules, but those rules had better not be used to abuse people.
      Also the Bible encourages us to study its texts. (This study is particularly important now because translation is not as much art as science- much can be lost in the process.) Using literary theory is just another tool for study; it is mostly intentionally looking at a text through someone elses eyes to try to learn more.

    • Rachel

      I see that I am late in coming to this conversation, so it may not be noticed. But the tone of this comment really bothers me. It me that you have missed the point of this post and possibly this whole blog entirely. This is not about attacking a certain group of people. It is about helping people who feel attacked and injured. People don’t talk about “recovering” from an experience as a means of criticizing, they do it in an attempt to find a healing and wholeness that the experience has robbed from them.

      As evangelicals we don’t need to feel defensive about this kind of information. We should feel grateful that someone who is in a vulnerable position has had the courage to share her experiences. Which is what she has done in the posts I have read. I haven’t read them all, and I am still a little confused about which groups of Christians she is referring to as “fundamentalists.” But it doesn’t matter to me in terms of my ability to learn from what she is sharing. I can see from what she has shared ways in which my experiences in the church have shaped me – and hurt me. I can consider how my current actions and words as a Christian might be affecting others.

      I have, by the way, known someone who classifies herself as a “recovering Catholic.” I don’t think that Samantha is implying that other groups of believers are doing things perfectly. (Why don’t you address the author directly, by the way? It’s her blog. She reads the comments.) She speaks powerfully from her own experience and clearly touches the hearts of people who have had similar experiences.

      So I just want to say thank you, Samantha, for having the courage to share and for being open and authentic. I think that what I wish people would say more often to anyone who struggles with questions concerning faith (including myself) is “I love you and will support you any way that I can. I don’t have the answers to your questions or the healing for your pain but I’d like to walk beside you on your journey. Please help me figure out what that looks like for you.”

  • Thank you for this wonderful blog. I’m a psychotherapist, and I work with people who are recovering from fundamentalism, so I will be recommending your writing to my clients. Rachael Vaughan, MFT http://www.smallgreensprouts.com

  • Really enjoyed this. Recovering from fundamentalist/Christianity is a long, difficult process. But lots of us are going through it, and can be great resources for each other.

  • JP

    Well i guess i didn’t enjoy the first post first one i read (things not to say…..), but i like this one. I replied to the first one too fast. I agree…..there is much that is cult-like in evangelicalism with all the potential damage thereto appertaining. But how do you respond without just creating more straw-man (person) stereotypes? I was “discussing” current urban strife (Ferfuson, Baltimore) with a black friend who reacted violently to something I said. I was surprised. Then she said—–“that’s just white male code speak for…..” and proceeded to tell me what she knew i was trying to imply. It’s a helpless feeling when someone sticks you into a category in a dismissive way. . But we probably need categories! I wonder how you stay open to the individual when it’s so easy to portray the evangelical type—–like Homer Simpsons neighbors, the Flanders. Well….sorry if my comments offend. And Blessings on the journey.

  • Pebbs

    “How can I learn more about this?”

    Instead of a polite nod, a rebuttal, a raised eyebrow and walking away, it would be nice if people listened and said something like, “I don’t understand, can you explain more so I at least know where you’re coming from?” I have NEVER had a conversation where this is asked. If I want to introduce progressive interpretations, I have to start and maintain the conversation. Fundamentalists are only interested in getting me to shut up, either through knee-jerk rebuttals or shrugs. But I would expect this, because Fundamentalism is driven by fear. Fear means clinging to what you were taught, and running away from different ideas. Given that “Perfect love drives out fear” I am hoping that more Christians will learn to listen and be more interested in how their brothers and sisters think.