Tag Archives: fundamentalism

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

Dispatches from Campus Ministries: Anti-Black Racism & Cru

 

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So recently, I’ve been catching wind of various cult-like tendencies of Cru – in terms of theological assimilation- this is especially problematic and hypocritical considering their aim to be an INTERDENOMINATIONAL campus ministry. You wouldn’t know of their (apparently forsaken) goal from their wholesale endorsements of their “holy” trinity – Piper, Platt, and (insert any number of young , reformed Calvinistas)

Cru, in all its attempts to function like theological gate-keepers, ends up having rather terrifying implications for race. What one will find in looking at the type of Christians that Cru draws – they tend to have this passionate, missional (uggh), relentless zeal to reach the lost and spread the gospel according to John Calvin. If you aren’t already that way upon entry to the ministry, then prepare to be whipped into theological shape! They tend to have this really youthful, politically naive spirit about them. Well, imagine a black student trying to join a theoretically interdenominational campus ministry. The leadership at CRU teaches that in the black community [and for other communities of Color], the Christian faith is more likely to be a religion that is “handed down” from generation to generation- it’s more like an inheritance or an ethno-religious community- part of their cultural heritage. This is may seem  especially true given the history of black churches in America ( and I know this being a part of the community and some facts and figures) and its heroic legacy and connotations it has in the black community and even the U.S. at large.[1] Now contrast this with the fresh, young, “on the verge of something new” , “being missional”, atmosphere that tends to engender Cru.

The narrative of Cru members tends to be one that ignores the institutional outcomes of Cru as a ministry or even the historical context of Christianity and instead would like to think that what they’re doing is somehow outside of history, politics, etc. and instead they’re commissioned by God to spread the gospel throughout the campus. This of course does not allow much room for  historic black American churches. While Cru-ites have a zeal not only on campus but globally ( Spring Break trips to the Dominican Repub, etc.) , the black churches are more focused on saving the black community and its burdens. But to the mostly white Cru, this looks like a lack of zeal and passion/focus for “the things of God”.

Many people in Cru ( at least the Blue Ridge region) tend to be more or less recent converts to Christianity who likely grew up in the church all their lives and so it did not mean anything to them . They’ll next tell you, in their testimonies, that they had what is essentially an existential crisis with the meaning of Christianity and its use to society and the purpose of church. So their “salvation experience” tends to be these really individualistic, “I prayed the sinner’s prayer and Jesus saved me from hell” sort of stories and so their resolve is to do the same for other people – spread this message of escaping hell fire. They behave as if they’re on to something new and revolutionary and even “radical!” (hint David Platt) and it essentially can be reduced to spiritual hedonism – again, contrast this to the historic black American church.

Additionally, I must note that in all my four years in Cru ( I stopped attending around last semester, but I still attend men’s bible studies every now and then), in all of the authors we’ve read and church pastors we’ve invited to come speak, not ONE has been black. And there is not at ALL a shortage of black churches in the Asheville area. Cru doesn’t realize how their problematic approach to theological assimilation is not only hypocritical but ends up being anti-black given the nature of the black church in America.

Additionally, a friend of mine at Cru notified me that they are launching a ministry (requiring more money and resources/staff) for the specific purpose of drawing black people- I think it’s called something like “Impact” or some similar type name…. It would be a whole branch dedicated to black student ministry – talk about separate but equal!  The fact that you aren’t drawing black students in is telling in and of itself. Have they ever stopped to think that the fact that they aren’t drawing in the number of black students that they want into the MAIN Cru ministry is indicative of a shortcoming in their approach to ministry – instead of spending all this effort to making this ludicrous extra black student ministry? 

Have you worked in a campus ministry setting and experienced racism? Are parachurch organizations located at colleges and universities speaking out against institutional racism at their schools? Are these groups working towards racial reconciliation? 

[1] EDITOR’S NOTE:  The false racist mythology that the religious habits of people of color are remnants of things passed down rather than a “genuine” conversionist form of Christianity is part of the colonial legacy that is Orientalism. People of Color are categorized as *naturally religious* and therefore more like to be submissive in a national economy.  When white evangelicalism teaches that Christianities from African-American, Asian- and Pacific American American, and First Nations contexts are not “real” Christianities, that is part of the White Supremacist gaze. It is one of the major reasons why racism blocks good evangelical organizations like the Gospel Coalition from recognizing that religious revival is going on in the North East, particularly Boston.