Tag Archives: baptist life

after fundamentalism: where do you go from here?

This is a cross post (that has been updated) from Unsettled Christianity

Dear friend,

I have heard about your dilemma. Trust me, I have. You’re sick and tired of hearing about how you can’t criticize your senior pastor, because “Touch not my annointed.” Every Sunday you feel like you want to leave, but you can’t. Once you make the decision to leave, this open letter will be for you. So, here’s a few pieces of (unsolicited) advice for when you make the drastic move.

1. Fundamentalist churches rely on closed cultures. Not only do fundamentalists believe that their religious beliefs are absolutely true, they believe that the surrounding culture is evidence of those beliefs, for better or worse. Cultural hegemony is a part of fundamentalist religions, whether they be Christianity or atheism. The best way to resist the idolization of culture, say the dominant cultural norms in the U.S., for example is to learn to appreciate diversity. Many seekers who desire to leave evangelicalism/fundamentalism will begin to see a whole new world open to them, but unfortunately it will not be from a cross-cultural perspective. My advice would be to seek out friendships not just with persons who look like you, but also persons who you probably despised as a fundamentalist. Take risks, reject the cultural boundaries and the racist stereotypes you heard about from congregants, and not only become friends with Persons of Color. Listen to our concerns, fellowship with us in our communities. Consider perhaps the more nuanced perspective that the problem with fundamentalism was not just about much of the legalism that goes on, but also the promoting of American empire that goes with it.

2. As an aspiring pastor someday, I understand the need for both self-care and pastoral care in people’s lives. So I am not going to take it lightly when I say this: if you feel that you need to take a break from attending institutional church services, then do it. A number of persons who leave fundamentalism is because of the spiritual and sexual abuse found within the culture of fundamentalist churches. If the local churches in your surrounding area are not likely to be safe places for you to seek the LORD, I would suggest going the organic church route. Be sure that you stay in a spiritual community, because we can’t do it alone. No one can. I also realize there will be situations where people will choose the valid alternative of rejecting religion and the idea of a higher power altogether. We need to give persons their own space and converse with them on their own terms.  Either way, if you are an expat of fundamentalism, it’s very important that you find at least one person you believe you can confide in. If this is a case of abuse, I would recommend contacting the local authorities.

3. The thing to remember is that if you are a person searching for an escape out of fundamentalist bondage, is that you are never alone. There are thousands of persons like you with a similar story. That being said, be discerning in who you read after you have “officially” arrived in PostEvangelical Land. When it comes to millenials especially, there is not ONE person who represents or speaks for us. Not. One. A number of postevangelical leaders see themselves as the future of Christianity. Having a blog and a couple of book deals, or speaking at a few conferences does not entitle anyone to having a monopoly on what it means to be an ex-fundamentalist. There are many ways to be in community with others without having to adopt labels like “missional” or “emergent” etc. Evaluate all of your options, but don’t pat yourself on the back for it. Learn. Grow. Move on.

4. There are a number of toxic communities that hate-watch Christianity. Do not be a part of them. Your healing does not need to rely on hating the very person you once were. The key is to accept a nuanced and critical view of yourself in the past, and not to live there. You don’t want to be shamed into hating your former life, and therefore shaming your probable family members/friends who are still caught up in fundamentalist culture.

5. Fifth, I would ask that you give peace a chance. Given the fact that fundamentalism requires a culture of violence, and sometimes even pronounced admiration for warfare, the traditional nonviolent ethics first embraced by the early Church and on through the centuries is a valid alternative to fundamentalism’s violence, epistemological, or other.

6. Lastly, go to a library. Google. Research. Study the early church. Learn Hebrew or Greek. Know that your story of leaving fundamentalism is more than about you. It’s about recognizing that Christianity is a centuries old tradition that was birthed out of Judaism. The story of Christ and his work is much larger than we can ever express or imagine. God is bigger than our idols.

Amen.

original post: here

Baptists are the Reavers: my thoughts on #protfuture

Image from fireflyfans.net

A while back, I reviewed a book on science fiction and social theory. Surprisingly, this little book had a lot to teach me about how we view eschatology. Essentially, our views of the futures are often times shaped by notions of exclusion. Which ever tribe (usually tribe, in the case of First Nations persons) we see as not being able to make it is based usually on historical circumstances, like for instance, genocide and war to continue on with my example.

Recently, I watched the conversation held at BIOLA University on The Future of Protestantism sponsored by First Things magazine. Dr. Peter Leithart, who originally wrote the provocative essay The End of Protestantism re-introduced us to his idea of Reformational Catholicism, going back to the Reformers and their Catholic view of theology, the sacraments, honoring the Church Fathers. Protestantism is a movement and a theology that doth protest too much, a project that was found to be susceptible to tribalism, nationalism and anti-intellectualism.

The responses offered by Evangelical Wesleyan theologian Fred Sanders and Reformational theologian Carl Trueman were concise and highly critical of Leithart’s project. What I found interesting is that there was this over-arching theme fretting that the culture wars, for a particular band of Christians, had been lost. I will leave you to read up and believe why that was the case, and the cultural biases behind that belief.

What I want to talk about is the BoogeyMen, who are the Reavers to this Brave New World called the Conservative Evangelical Protestantism of the Future. First Things and this conversation are running a first-class Firefly spaceship, and they are trying to avoid the cannibals we call The Baptists. The notion of a Reformational Catholicism precludes any adherence to traditional Free Church ecclessiology. Autonomous, local congregations are derided as “cults of personality.” Word-Centered worship services being replaced by the Table-Centered/Eucharist traditions. I think that in and of itself is something that cannot be called being faithful to the Reformation, or the Old and New Testaments.

I also found it odd that both parties were willing to give our Catholic sisters and brothers grace, but aren’t willing to extend it to mainline Protestantism. This I find absolutely hypocritical. Forget about the leadership and direction of mainline Protestant denominations; there are many persons with conservative, evangelical beliefs in these churches. The Unity that #ProtFuture is in search for is a political hegemony, one where Conservativism is the same as preaching the Gospel. I’ll reserve my comments concerning the cultural hegemony of where the conversation went, and where it usually goes, but suffice to say that it takes a similar approach to “Third-World Pentecostalism” as “progressive” emergent church leaders.  Maybe rather than asking how can we teach the new Christian majority, Charismatics from Global South to accept how we see things, how about asking, “what can these Christians teach us about the faith?”

I like that this discussion started an important conversation.  It’s a conversation that Dietrich Bonhoeffer commented on, that American Protestantism is a Protestantism without reformation.  This is primarily due to the particular cultural milieu the U.S. finds itself in, the national culture wars among other things. I guess what I envision as a possible future of Protestant Christianity is a commitment to  A) the Theology of the Cross that Martin Luther first built the movement on with the 95 theses,  B) The Three Baptisms of the Radical Reformation– Immersed in Water, Immersed by the Holy Spirit, Immersed in Bodily Existence within the World (baptism of blood), and lastly  C) Word-Centered woship services where the Word is preached through sermons and prayers by the priesthood of all believers, women and men alike; where the Bible is the norming norm where we affirm and interpret the creeds and historic Christian writings and statements in light of the testimony of the Holy Scriptures, and where the story of God and humanity is seen as begotten by YHWH at the Exodus in the election of Israel, and begins anew with its inclusion of the Gentiles, and rightfully towards its TELOS in the Death and Resurrection of Christ Jesus.   

The Future of Protestantism conversation has helped me gain a little clarity in what I see as my hopes for the future of Christianity.  I am known to joke on occasion that here in Texas, everyone is a Baptist.  We wear our faith on our sleeve, we go to retail centers bragging about our congregations, and we’re just deeply stubborn to protest anything.  From the fifth grade students in a classroom, to your grocery shopper contending for what he believes is the right price of an item, we are all Baptists, even the Catholics.  I kinda think that’s what the future of Christianity could look like.  Not as a religion that hijacks notions of marginality and de-historicizes the real experience of exiles and refuges, but as a pure and undefiled religion that reveals the Holiness of God in the creative dis-location of our very bodies to be present-with the least of these, the Reavers of the world, a Church free to serve God and set the prisoners free.

Glen Stassen has passed away

stassen2010

Image from Consistent Life News.org circa 2010

It’s with a heavy heart that I share what I learned via a friend’s facebook post.  Glen Stassen, Baptist  ethicist and scholar went to be with our LORD on Saturday. It was in 2008, at the Joint Meeting of the Society of Pentecostal Scholars and Wesleyan Theological Society on Duke University’s campus that I first met Glen.  We met in between sessions, late in the afternoon, and we talked about my interest in peacemaking, and possibly doing a PhD in the future.  It was a pleasant chat.  The second time I was able to meet Dr. Stassen was at the 2009 National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion. Stassen, as I reported back then, said that I had a good grasp of the theology of his friend, the late Stanley Grenz. We were also able to talk about the theology of the Cross in John Howard Yoder’s work.

I am grateful for the Christian witness of Staussen and was blessed to have met him.

David Gushee wrote: A Tribute to Glen Stassen

Fuller Alum JR Kirk posted: Glen Stassen Has Died

From Christianity Today: Died: Glen H. Stassen, Baptist Ethicist Who Pioneered ‘Just Peacemaking’

Stassen’s author’s page on Amazon.com, with selected titles.