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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

How Did We Get Here? Part 2

Yesterday I gave a brief definition of “Fundamentalism.” To give a better idea of what this looks like, here are a few well known Fundamentalists:

Dr. Jerry Falwell
Jerry Vines
Pat Robertson (yes, you can be weird and insensitive but still be a fundamentalist)
Dr. James Dobson
Dr. Charles Stanley
Chuck Swindoll
John McArthur
Jim Bakker
Chuck Smith

These are a few but they are recognizable. If you are familiar with these men, you are familiar with Fundamentalism.

You know who and what a Fundamentalist is. What is a “Fundie?”

A Fundie is the preacher in “Footloose.”
Fundies embrace a particularly legalistic and stifling version of the Gospel. Where Fundamentalists embrace Biblical principles, and not individual actions as “righteous,” Fundies do the opposite. For example, the Bible is crystal clear about being drunk. Drunkenness is absolutely a sin, no question. Fundamentalists will largely abstain from alcohol, but will admit that the Biblical mandate is against being drunk, not merely taking one sip of alcohol. (There is some disagreement about this, but it’s not something that divides) They will observe and practice the Biblical principle of modest dress, but will not define modesty as an absolute, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in the believers heart.
The will go to decent movies to show Hollywood that we support good in any art-form.
They believe in having unsaved friends, and living lives that witness to the power of Jesus Christ, but not being prudes and attacking the unsaved for being so darned...unsaved.
The Fundie does none of this.
Fundies believe that even letting a drop of alcohol touch your lips is the same sin as being a drunken lout, lying in your own puke in a gutter.
Fundies believe that almost all clothing is “worldly”. Worldly is a non-specific, undefined criterion that basically means the Pastor and his deacons don’t approve of it, but they can’t find a specific Biblical principle to support them.
Movies...they’re worldly. So they are all evil.
Women wearing pants? Worldly.
Bono? He’s no Christian...he’s too worldly, regardless of his amazing life of Christ- likeness.
They decide that a man’s hair must be a certain length. They dislike all contemporary forms of worship music and go one step further...they find things about contemporary worship that they dislike and call them sin.
They demand rigid adherence to an ever changing, ever increasing list of rules and regulations.
Under all of this...they are trapped on a performance treadmill. They never quite understood that Jesus was wildly in love with them and chose to die for them as they are. So they spend their lives making up for the horror of the cross by self-flagellating,  by placing themselves under the bondage of ever tightening rules and regulations and bylaws. They preach that you can’t earn your salvation. Then they spend their entire lives trying to earn it anyway.
They saw the target, but wound up shooting themselves, and each other, instead.
They hide their insecurities and –sadly- their personal demons and wickedness behind a thin veneer of self-defined righteousness. Most of them have been hiding evil in their hearts that is greater, by far, than the evil they preached against.
Some famous Fundies would be:
Jack Hyles. Hyles probably retired the crown. There was never a Fundie so Fundie as this clown. He shackled thousands of congregants while he was having an affair with his married secretary for decades. He ruled like a tyrant and made up extra-biblical rules like a despot.
Jack Schaap. Son in Law to the guy mentioned above. Doing 15 years for raping a minor he was “counseling”. He took her across state lines to do it, so it was a Federal offense.
Bob Jones. Separate sidewalks for men and women? No explanation needed
These are the  big three. There are a lot of lesser lights in Fundie-ism but these three guys lead the charge. All three are out of the pulpit now.

So...I gave you a brief explanation of Fundamentalism and Fundie-ism. You see the contrasts. Here’s what they have to do with each other. And how it got us to this sad state of affairs in modern Evangelical life.

I grew up in the grip of Fundie-ism. My then-church came to it late. The first several years I attended, it was a wonderful place. Friendly, loving, caring, very Fundamentalist, but not Fundie. Then 1979 came. An itinerant evangelist came along and began preaching a very harsh, burdensome, legalism. The worst part was he tied it all together with “if you love’ll do...” and then he pronounced his list of do’s and don’ts that defined Christianity. They weren’t options. They were mandates. If you disagreed with his teachings (which were all the result of his personal convictions, matched to random Bible verses, taken drastically out of context) you were rebellious. And rebellion, he reminded us, was the same as the sin of witchcraft.
He divided a heretofore loving and familial church. After he left, rules dominated the scene. It became necessary to “prove” your love for God. It was a quantitative thing. If I loved God, I would read my Bible as much as I watched TV. Because I should never love TV more, and you show God your love for Him by the amount of time you spend in His word. Well that was good. But what was better was the people who decided that if they watched one hour of TV a night, they had to read TWO hours of the Bible. (An adult, reading at a ninth grade level, can read the entire Bible in 80 hours...just so you know)
Then it became the trend to simply throw your TV out the door. TV was evil. Not TV shows...TV. Rock records were evil too and so we burned them regularly. I myself burned the same ones many times.
Girls who loved Jesus wore skirts to their knee. But girls who REALLY loved Jesus wore them THREE inches below the knee. Girls who Really REALLY loved Jesus wore floor length dresses. It was a constant contest and the stakes were high. The last thing you wanted was to be labeled as someone who didn’t demonstrate your love for Jesus by the ever increasing strictness of your lifestyle.
What it really did was redefine God’s love for us. It turns out it wasn’t unconditional. It turns out it wasn’t the gift of God and not due to my performance. Sure they still preached that...but they demonstrated a very earned, works related, legalistic salvation. If you really were saved, you’d live your life like this...”
It damaged a generation to it’s core. I grew up waiting daily for God to drop his other shoe. I was a teenaged boy. I had lustful thoughts about a variety of girls from the checker in the grocery store, to Cheryl Tiegs on the cover of Sports Illustrated. I loved music...loved it. Not just Christian music. I cursed once in a while.
I spent my entire teen years in a perpetual state of repentance, because I just couldn’t out-live the endless rules and regulations. They never taught us how to think...they taught us what to think. I wrestled with a God who I felt could never love me, because I could never be good enough. But that never stopped me from trying. I worried that one day I’d be killed in a car crash or a lightening strike because I was so evil. In my heart I loved God deeply. But I was also in dread fear of Him. I literally would pause in fear before taking communion, because the thoughts of a random, stray sin that I’d somehow missed in my ritual of repentance, might render me unworthy and I might keel over dead during the service.
It wasn’t just my church. Fundie-ism was rampant. It was everywhere. It dominated the scene in the 70’s and 80’s. It ruined millions of lives. It ruined a generation.
The pendulum had swung so far to the right that it was threatening to jump off the rail.
The problem is, the pendulum always swings back. And it did in Evangelical circles. When it did what it usually does: It overcorrected and swung too far.

We’ll pick it up there tomorrow. 

1 comment:

Dave Lewis said...

Pharisee Theology 101: Find the line Scripture draws and draw one tighter so that you are more spiritual than the Scripture.