Finding truth in fundamentalism

There’s an inherent difficulty in walking away from organised Christianity and still trying to remain true to the essence of its spirituality. One can be open minded enough to find the truths of other religious traditions, especially when those traditions are foreign to you like Taoism or Buddhism. But what happens when the “other belief” is not some far flung religion from the other side of the globe, but the truth you left behind?

It is hard not to ice up inside when I hear evangelicals talking about the need to protect the definition of marriage or congratulating themselves over getting “adult entertainment” knocked off of my tv screen. When you’ve left creationism, literalism and the notion of exclusive truth behind you it is hard to feel accepted as an equal in the presence of someone who wants you pull you right back into that world view. It is even harder when that someone thinks that you are not “saved” because you hold your beliefs differently to them.

The community many of us walked away from is easy to criticise because they stand for something that can be criticised. But there’s a hypocrisy in throwing stones at stonethrowers.

It is childish to define oneself only in terms of the opposition to the “other”. You can define your post-fundamentalist life as “I hope to one day become a Christian” but if you silently add the words “but not like those Christians” you undo yourself.

But how do you avoid that hypocrisy when the starting assumption of the other is that you are backslidden and under deception?

“I wanna know who are these people
blaming their sins on the fall?
Who are these people?

If I’m honest with myself at all
these are my people”

~ David Bazan


  1. Robert — you’ve written my experience: My root denomination is evangelical-fundamentalist, and while I do still hold membership I’ve got a very different relationship with it than my Folks are comfortable with. For some, this and other things makes me devil-influenced. (Somehow I imagine that if I were really devil-influenced I’d be having more fun! But what do I know.)

    Whereas they approach me with fear and/or dismissal, I do literally every 9 months or so write a list of the things that I value from the church that birthed me. Writing the list helps me to remember. And seeing how I still use some of those things in my current path puts me in a mode of appreciation for the denomination and the people who fear for me. My relationships with some are difficult while they are unable to see me as a whole person (and for now they are).

    But another thing I do is to respect the fact that they are absolutely following the script they were given and signed up for. I’m the one who is bucking their script, and I take responsibility for that because I strongly believe I’m following my own script! I don’t expect them to follow mine and I give them no indication that I will follow theirs. I would hope we have that mutual understanding.

    I know what it’s like to be doing what you believe is right: I do that every day. I’m guessing my Folks also do that: I don’t know any one who gets up planning to do what they believe is wrong. So that commonality, small as it may be, is a third basis on which to honor where my Folks are at. While I do that, I can also see how where they are adds to them/has added to them, and why they would rightly fear its loss. I try not to add to that fear.

    Finally, I have learned that the silliest thing I can do with someone who believes I am backslidden (and this is Very Bad) or deceived (and this is Worse) is to argue back “I’m not deceived!!” Because my resistance reinforces their closed system. It doesn’t open up any crack for dialogue whatsoever. If that’s what’s up, the only power I see I have is to put my argument energy back into my path and take my next steps as they’re revealed to me. If my Folks can come along, I’m all for that. Until then I have to do and not discuss.

    I would love to hear what has worked for you. I know it’s not easy.

  2. I’m not sure to be honest. I think avoiding anything that seems condescending is important. But sometimes the impression I get is that people are being “tolerant” so that they can get me back to being a “Christian”. I’m trying really hard not to be offended by that, but I don’t have answer on it. I did a post on here about love the sinner, hate the sin and how I think that is quite an excuse for bigotry. I got a lot of poison and vitriol back at me from some of the fundamentalist sites and that was it for me. I had to set foot out the door. It’s just not worth having a conversation with someone who thinks you are speaking for the devil.

  3. I can totally empathize. A friend once said to me that it wasn’t kind to allow certain relatives to keep wreaking havoc at or around me. It made my head spin a bit when he said that but then again no one had ever told me I wasn’t required to endorse my own abuse. Even and especially when the people conducting the abuse would have sworn to good intentions.

    Since then I’ve been learning where the lines are, and am finding that the lines aren’t the same in every situation.

    Certainly, conversations that are mangled into demon-speech are unlikely to do either party much good. So in some cases I’ve stopped offering accounts of myself, even if I still talk with people on other subjects (albeit in a limited way because I’m a whole person. I don’t come in installments). It sounds a bit like that’s where you’re at.

    I will look for your LTSHTS post; thanks for mentioning it.

  4. Actually fundamentalism has a dual character for me and I don’t think that we can talk about finding a true having in mind that we need to assume from everyone’s different perceptions which as a matter of fact is adding one quite distorting point of view.

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