Fundamentalism Is Not Christlike
Fundamentalism is not Christianity. No, it is not. I do not believe that fundamentalism truly reflects Christianity.
This last Fourth of July, I watched as members of fundamentalism marched by with their float, carrying picket-like signs emblazoned with scriptures of condemnation with hopes that the onlooker would be affected—and maybe, just maybe, turn their hearts to Jesus, or Jesus as they view him. But far from it. Because, what I noticed, as they marched through, was that there was no showcasing of joy to reflect the love of Christ. They merely walked by out of mere obligation and duty.
It took my mind back to 2004, when I was first attending Calvary Chapel. This was the honeymoon phase of my relationship and tenure with this church. It was all still rosy, new, and exciting. Any doubts or insecurities I had about my newfound faith was squelched and pushed deep down inside, out of the fear that I’d lose my footing.
So, at that very same parade in 2004, I proudly waved from the curbside as my friends floated by on a truck bed adorned with pleasant decorative scriptures proclaiming the love of Christ. In addition, they played sweet worship songs on various instruments and sang, spreading the love of Christ by demonstrating it within themselves. From time to time, a few of them would get down and pass water bottles with the Gospel of John taped to them. It was never about forcing the truth down an unwilling throat or beating them over the head with the foreign Bible verses, just demonstrating love and service.
It made a lasting effect.
So, I look at this year’s parade float and know that it only caused a further rift between the public and the church. I shake my head at this.
I recall at one of the churches I attended in California where I mentioned doing something at a parade down there like my faithful friends in 2004 did. These church leaders look at me with questions in their eyes. How will they receive the message? I look back at them in equal wonderment. How would they not? That parade float never happened.
I would watch other denominations participate in public town cleaning, going about to various places in the town, cleaning, picking up garbage, re-painting, and just doing whatever needed to be done to make the city better. Calvary Chapel never participated. How does that proclaim the message of Jesus? And what happens if we serve alongside a church that doesn’t practice and believe the way we do?
I am fairly certain Calvary Chapel is not the only fundamentalist denomination that behaves in this fashion, so I do not mean to slander them. However, they epitomize what I’ve personally seen: a church that behaves in a fashion that does not appear Christlike, but rather, judgmental and condemning.
I believe now that the conservative Christian right (namely, fundamentalists) is cult-like, at best. The leading pastor of the church or denomination uses tactics such as mind control, corruption, and submission to keep his flock under his dominance. Alternate viewpoints of the news and other information is turned off, books that have other worldviews are left unread, and friends outside the church are quickly abandoned, all to be in the good graces of this pastor and his church. In addition, they are regularly taught that “the world hates Jesus” and that the world hates them because of “Jesus in them.” This circular reasoning produces one very dangerous effect on the listener: “The world hates them.” Hate. They are hated. Can you imagine what this does to a person’s emotional well-being?
Thus, they go forth into the world armed with this belief that they will only be accepted if they obediently follow the doctrine of what they are taught to believe and complete the requirements therein. If not, they are made to feel increasingly uncomfortable and uninvited unless they change the error of their ways. Then, the only option is to leave the church that loves them and enter a world that hates them.
But, from what I can see, the world does not hate Jesus. Jesus, however you see him, is pretty nifty—and his message is thought of highly. Thus, Christians are not hated.
So, what do we, the “outsiders,” do with this message? Take this to heart: Next time, a fundamentalist approaches you with a determined glint in their eyes to convert you, don’t run away too quickly. Reassure them that the world loves them and that, truthfully, the world loves Jesus. Most often, they won’t appear to hear or they will try to silence you with their rhetoric. Do not be deterred. Perhaps deep down, a change will occur and questions will form in their minds that will eventually lead to their freedom.
This is how I find peace when I look at these parading Christians and when I look back at who I was when I attended Calvary Chapel. I think about the pain of losing people I care about, and I dedicate myself to shining the light of love into the world for all to see. Because real love, the good unconditional stuff, truly saves. To leave a positive Bible-thumping message: Love one another.