Monday, November 17, 2008

What Good Can Come Out of Fundamentalism?

I get irritated many times with Fundamentalists, mainly because their legalistic view of the world excludes so many people. However, unlike some progressive folk, I do have a soft spot for them. Mainly because I am related to so many here in the buckle of the Bible Belt. Most of them are good, kind, honest folk who would give you the shirt off their back and ask if you needed pants to go with it.

I have been reading Bishop Gene Robinson's "In the Eye of the Storm". He too grew up in what I would call a rural "Bible believing" church. While some people I know would find this oppressive, Bishop Robinson found just the opposite. He discovered God's unending love for all people, which allowed him to eventually accept who he is. Those roots, which extend all the way back to that Disciples of Christ church in Kentucky, nourished him and to this day give him the strength to move forward in his life and ministry.

In the same way, my own upbringing in a rural Full Gospel church gave me a firm base upon which to build. The words that I heard shouted from the pulpit every Sunday and the reading I did as a child introduced me to a God whose love extends beyond legalism. After years of running from Christianity, I learned the greatest lesson of my life so far: God loves me and everyone else. And all he asks in return is that we love him back, and share that love with each other. What we believe beyond that is not as important. That lesson goes all the way back to my first experience with God so many years ago in that small Full Gospel Lighthouse, and from the people who lived that message, people who I am proud to call kin.

There are those who take advantage of people like my kinfolk. Many of them use my kin's lack of education as a means to inject their own messages of hate and intolerance into the churches for the sake of the Almighty Dollar. It's why the conservative party had become the powerhouse it was. In reality, most Conservatives in government don't care about the little guy. They create a smokescreen of "stopping the [insert unpopular group] agenda" or speaking against certain "hot button" issues as "abortion", "gun control", "gay rights", etc., to take attention off the fact that they are picking the pockets of the very people they say they say they are for. By playing on these emotional issues, they line their own pockets. This is not the Gospel, and yet many churches fall in line with this. It is what I call the Fundangelical that I have problems with, and the ones that I would take my religion back from.

In the Gospels, Jesus tells a story of two houses, one built on sand, and one built on a solid rock. That solid rock is a relationship with Him, based in prayer. The scriptures and, in the Anglican Communion, the Book of Common Prayer give us a guide, but they are just that. When we try to understand them without that relationship, we get lost. When we try to treat the scriptures as something else, a rule book for life, we cheapen their meaning.

I love am proud of my upbringing. In so many ways it shaped who I am today. I would not have the knowledge of the Bible I do today if it weren't for that small church in Summit. That knowledge gives me today the strength and courage to continue on my journey, because it isn't the ending that is important, but the walk itself that matters. That's what I was taught so many years ago, and have finally come back to.


Anonymous said...

My dear brother, having been raised in the opposite corner of our fair state, and with many years separating us, I was moved by your description of your "kin". My religious upbringing mirrored yours so does my wonderful family, and somehow by the grace of God, we arrived at a very similar place. I hope you continue to blog. I will be following your musing. You might want to know that The Mad Priest has added you to his list of interesting blogs.

The Vicar in the Wheatfields

Arkansas Hillbilly said...

Thanks. It's good to hear from other people who have lived similar lives.

I didn't know I had been added to Mad Priest's list. I hope that's a good thing :).

Anonymous said...

The Mad Priest has a world wide following (only slightly exaggerated)of loyal subjects. Most of us are "a half a bubble off plumb" as my daddy used to say. You can find him here; He is sometimes inappropriate for the "faint of heart" or the underage.

The Vicar in the Wheat Fields