When friends are delivered from sin into fundamentalism

I’m hoping to write this in a vague enough way so as not to call out anyone specifically, but several people I care about have been delivered from sin into fundamentalism. It seems like certain types of sin, addictions like pornography and alcoholism, lend themselves to fundamentalist recoveries. Sometimes I wonder if the God whom I have experienced and gotten to know would be enough of a hardass to rescue me from a serious addiction if I ever fell into one. Can God be a hardass to some people and not to others according to what we need in our discipleship journey?

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Why Al Mohler doesn’t get Rachel Held Evans

So Rachel Held Evans is apparently becoming this year’s Rob Bell. She’s written a book called A Year of Biblical Womanhood in which she documents a year of taking absolutely literally a bunch of things that the Bible tells ancient Israelite and 1st century Palestinian women to do. I haven’t yet received my review copy, but from what I hear, it’s mischievous in a Tina Fey kind of way, which has predictably rankled the Southern Baptist “bishop” Al Mohler and his crew who made a video about Biblical inerrancy in which they called Rachel’s book a “mockery” of the Bible among other things. I think the reason Al Mohler and people of his mold don’t get Christians like Rachel is because they don’t speak irony, which is the first language of a large chunk of my generation and younger who inhabit the postmodern world outside the gated communities of suburban megachurchianity. Christians today who want to share the gospel with any credibility in postmodern culture must learn how to talk like Tina Fey, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, et all. Otherwise our evangelism is about as effective as a black and white Reefer Madness video in a junior high health class. Continue reading

The conflation of two fears

Several Mondays ago, when I went to the basilica in Washington, DC, and sat in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, I read Psalm 19:9 which says, “The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.” You cannot understand this verse unless you understand that there are two kinds of fear that are the opposite of one another even though both kinds use the word yore in Hebrew and phobos in Greek.What we are used to understanding as “fear” when it relates to God is the kind of fear that 1 John 4:18 describes: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” One of American Christianity’s basic problems is a widespread conflation of these two fears: the fear that is awed reverence and the fear that is cowardly fright. Continue reading

My Twelve Fundamentals

Between 1910 and 1915, the Bible Institute of Los Angeles published a twelve volume series of essays entitled The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth, which would become the basis for the fundamentalist Christian movement. These essays were published in a polemical context in which Christians battled the scientism and historical critical Bible scholarship that seemed to threaten the very existence of our faith. Today’s polemical context is different. Today’s Christianity has turned into a triumphalist political voting bloc that enshrines middle-class social propriety as the entire content of Christian morality. Today’s Christianity uses megachurches to smother smaller churches the way that Walmart did twenty years ago to the mom and pop general stores that used to exist. Today’s Christianity has uncritically embraced celebrity culture and become just another niche market defined by the same capitalist forces as the secular world. Today’s Christianity takes the side of those who crucify over those who are being crucified. Today’s Christianity does not think in terms of bearing witness, but protecting its own interests. So it’s against these and other heresies of our day that I define my twelve fundamentals, which I hope to develop into full-length essays of their own and refine according to your critique and feedback. So please read and tell me what redundancies and heresies you see. Continue reading