The Hand of God

I have spoken often about fundamentalism. It is, in my opinion, a deeply dangerous and destructive methodology. It has been my opportunity to visit a number of blogs devoted to those who have come through the dark night of fundamentalism.

It is not a pretty picture. Never have I seen people so pained, so wounded, so mistrustful. They feel, and quite legitimately I might say, betrayed.

Some are so locked in pain and betrayal, that they are no longer seeking, as they claim; they are defending their newly discovered errancy of the bible. Those, I have had to release, because my offerings are not helpful, they trust only their own conclusions and that is probably correct at this point in time.

It is said, “to be a fundamentalist,  you have to have a book.  And then you have to forget that book has a history.” R. Joseph Hoffmann [h/t to Do You Ever Think About. . .]

What is ironic is that in discarding the inerrancy doctrine of fundamentalism, most ex-fundies don’t discard the rest of the ideology. They now “prove” errancy by the same literalistic interpretations that they just discarded. They buy into the fundamentalist claim that if the one thing is errant, then the whole book is suspect and worthless, and  “your faith is a sham.”

One would think that once you have faced the betrayal, you would throw out every  single tenet propounded by such practitioners. But for whatever reason, as I said, this is not the case.

I came across a poem, written by one who is truly seeking for a new way. She is intelligent, well read, and I think past the searing pain of her past. I have found many of her posts deeply moving and thoughtful. She asks good questions. She listens carefully. She wrote this poem, that bespeaks some of the things I have mentioned. I reprint it here. Do go and see her blog and offer her support.

My field of view within Christianity is littered with weeds.

Where some see God’s grace, I grieve for the un-elect.

Where some praise God’s sovereignty, I shudder at eternal conscious suffering.

Where some shun apostates, I resonate with their questions.

Where some obtain solace in their Bibles, I find confusion.

Where some worship with joy, I am riddled with anxiety.

Will I be able to see a flower where I once saw a weed? [Like A Child]

The first two lines especially bespeak a reliance on “old fundamentalist” teaching. At least to me. For there is nothing in the bible from which one must conclude that there is any “elect”, nor is there any reason to conclude that there is any “eternal conscious suffering” imposed at least from outside one’s own mind. One can argue from literal readings I suppose that this is the case in both instances, but the more reasoned and exegetical majority opinions don’t suggest these severe conclusions.

If I may, let me write a response:

Where some grieve for the unelect, I see God’s creation as Good where all are welcomed.

Where some shudder at eternal conscious suffering, I see God’s loving embrace, wiping away  every tear.

Where some are plagued with questions, I welcome each one as searching to probe deeper into the mystery.

Where some find confusion in the Bible, I find an unending fount of insights being refined and   yet to be refined, awaiting.

Where some are riddled with anxiety, I take comfort in the mystery to which we are invited.

Please understand, I respond, not to cast down the heart-felt feelings of another, but to offer how I view the world. I can but pray that those who are in pain, find solace, and hear again God’s voice,  for I promise, it is there, in the very places it has always been–everywhere.

Amen.

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tim
    Apr 05, 2011 @ 15:50:34

    Wow, Sherry, I’ve just come from lunch with another ex-Fundie (like myself) and we commiserated greatly about how long a journey it is to extract ourselves from (as you so astutely say) the mindset and methodology.

    We came to this conclusion–hardly a revelation, but one worth noting, I think: Fundamentalism clings (or gravitates) to certainty which, it turns out, doesn’t facilitate faith. Going back to last Sunday’s Gospel, the man born blind expresses his faith by saying, “I don’t know.” Yet a Fundamentalist would have said, “I know without a shadow of a doubt.”

    But knowing is a far cry from believing and when those of us who’ve been steeped in this process depart it–usually because we’ve been deeply wounded by it–we don’t know what to know. Impulsively, we try to carve a new path to faith by looking for a similar type of knowledge and panic when one can’t be found. The gap between “knowing” and believing is too great for many of us to span and we tumble into the bitter canyon of unbelief.

    This is a very complicated issue, one that demands patience all around. And those of us–ex-Fundies and we who’ve been blessed to be grounded in faith’s work in uncertainty–can do much good by helping others find hope in faith. But, as I say, it’s a tough nut to crack, because the inevitable question comes back: How do you know you’re right? And saying, “I don’t know” or “We can never know” is apt to send shivers up and down the struggling believer’s spine!

    Your rewrite is magnificent, simply because it illuminates this contrast with kindness and understanding. On behalf of ex-Fundies everywhere, I thank you.

    Blessings,
    Tim

    Reply

    • Sherry
      Apr 06, 2011 @ 14:38:45

      Oh Tim, my issues with fundamentalism are huge. And I never was one, but I account it as the major factor in my refusal to consider God for many years. I was intuitively against what Fundamentalism claimed as its ‘theology”. I think where people get caught is that fundamentalism does offer a “sure thing” and people are so desireous of something to cling to in safety. Faith is faith, never a sure thing, just what it says, faith. It is why it is impossible most of the time to pry a fundamentalist from their beliefs…they are psychologically so very necessary.

      I can but hope that some can come to see God in a light of love and forgiveness and not the constant judging and being “orthodox”. I’m not sure God is orthodox! lol Blessings,

      Reply

  2. like a child
    Apr 05, 2011 @ 19:49:57

    Thanks Sherry – It is comforting to be understood. You are correct that I am starting to come out of the darkest part of this journey (I hope). It has been helpful to let go, so to speak, of faith, with the hope that it might find me again soon. I have been humbled and gained greater empathy through this experience. I appreciate your willingness to take part in my journey as it unfolds. What has been most helpful is what you have done-come alongside and offer support and love. Thank you again.

    Reply

    • Sherry
      Apr 06, 2011 @ 14:42:46

      I’m so glad you weren’t unhappy with what I said…I do wish you the best and believe that if you continue as you have been to be open, you will find your way to a faith that is more than you could believe possible. I continue to visit and read what you have to say and I’m encouraged. That is not true with some others I confess, but we each have to travel our journey our way. Blessings,

      Reply

  3. Rand
    Apr 09, 2011 @ 18:35:10

    Excellent points, Sherry. I am struck by the irony of some Fudamentalists who turn from it to just another form of Fundamentalism, as Bart Ehrman does in his total trashing of the Bible and turn to what I call Fundamentalist atheism.

    Oh, I know he officially denies he is an atheist, but thats is what he is pushing.

    Its just another agenda.

    Reply

    • Sherry
      Apr 10, 2011 @ 12:33:26

      Really? I don’t see Professor Ehrman in that light at all. I’ve read a number of his books and reviewed them here. Hope to review his latest. I find his exegetical work exactly in line with most mainstream biblical scholars.

      I think he is an agnostic, that to me is utterly defendable. Being an atheist is only a belief that that there is no God, no stronger a platform I would argue that faith in God. Both are situated in belief rather than proof.. Anosticism is an honest claim to not know.

      But I do agree, and that is why it is most useful to approach the fundamentalist from the standpoint of a psychological perspective. This explains much.

      Reply

  4. Rand
    Apr 09, 2011 @ 18:39:10

    I am not sure what you mean by “faith” though. Many atheists and anti Christians (not the same thing) claim faith is belief for no reason.

    I see Faith as Trust in God, and consistent with reason, though not dependent on it.

    After all, the scientists has faith, they will call it assumptions, that the human mind is capable of understanding the rational order of the universe, without even trying to explain why it should have a rational order of why a supposedly mindlessly evolved human brain should be able to understand that order…they just take it as a given.

    Reply

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