Fundamentalism causes trauma and pain. All one has to do is look at a situation in Elverson, Pennsylvania; Memphis, Tennessee as well as a former Sovereign Grace Ministries church here in the D.C. area that I was unsuccessfully recruited. Fundamentalism destroys and tears people and lives apart. As Christians we need to confront and deal with this plague. Likewise when atheists point out the harm that religion can cause we need to admit that they are right especially in cases of spiritual abuse. The reality is that it shouldn’t take cancer or a medical crisis to put life in perspective. This post is inspired by someone I knew who had a massive stroke and brain bleed who passed away at 38.
“I am at peace with God my conflict is with man.”
“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”
John 10:10 NLT
I want to tell you about someone who I will call Todd. Todd is a pseudonym, but he is a very real person who hails from Kansas. When I was in my faith crisis from 2009 to 2013 he was one of the people who witnessed it. He was a co-worker. I would rant as to how the world would be better off had Christianity not existed. One day in the hallway at work Todd stopped me and said that he saw my Facebook posts. He explained why he could not stand Christians. He proceeded to talk about their arrogance and fundamentalism. He talked about some of the Christians he knew in Kansas and why he moved away. My posts resonated with him, and he just stopped to say thanks. Todd eventually left the office and I kept in touch with him by Facebook. In a rather unsuspecting turn of events my life took me back to the Christian faith, yet today I look at things from a very different perspective.
Recently I walked into work and opened up my email. Todd I learned was brain dead. I learned the story of what happened. You see Todd had met someone and had a commitment ceremony. Shorty thereafter he had a stroke and was in the hospital. He was recovering when he had a brain bleed and in the course of 24 hours things changed for the worse. Todd was 38 when all this happened to him. The email informed those who knew him. I was shocked and pushed back from my desk and walked around the floor. I spoke with another person who knew him and he was stunned by the news. After work I checked his Facebook page and I saw one of the most heartbreaking pictures I have ever seen. It was a picture of Todd in his hospital bed, with his wife wearing her commitment dress and holding flowers standing next to him. Was this supposed to happen? Is life supposed to go in that direction? Not only that but I reflect on what Todd once told me of how arrogant Christians are and how that helped push him away. His reaction is normal and to be honest expected in many ways. I would have done the same thing in his shoes. And let’s be honest, many people reading would have done so as well.
What Makes Fundamentalism So Cruel
This is a hard blog to write, and its not because of the time and effort I put into it. Its hard because of the subject matter and what people say. I have learned dark, and disturbing information about domestic abuse, the legal system, child pornography, sexual crimes such as voyeurism, and more. This blog has taken me places that I never dreamed nor imagined I would. It takes a lot of courage to check my email because I wonder what I am going to hear next. Am I complaining about this? No I am not, instead I am being upfront and honest. I chose to get involved and thrust myself into these situations in an effort to try and get them resolved. Its my goal to make this blog much more aggressive that The Wartburg Watch. By aggressive I don’t mean argumentative I mean to roll up my sleeves and get to work. I do this because I am stuck and a former Sovereign Grace church denied me peace. I feel the drive within me to keep the pace, drive myself and work hard at this blog.
There is one thing I want to say and I want to use this post to say it. What makes fundamentalism so exceptionally cruel is how it destroys lives and denies people peace. It gets into your life and plays havoc with your emotions and well being. How does it interfere? It gets into your life and you can feel so guilty about sex that you have problems with your spouse. It gets into your life to where it turns parents against their children. Fundamentalism divides and tears families apart. Fundamentalism creates psychological issues and mental health problems. I very firmly believe that some of that is due to the intense damage fundamentalism can cause. Today there are many people who are walking away from the faith and to be honest I think that is normal. I think there are people who are getting so burned, so fried, that the natural and best thing for them to do is to leave the Christian faith. When I hear such stories I don’t blame them, instead I empathize and think upon my own faith crisis and I can relate and understand. Remember if Jesus wept over Jerusalem he’s probably sobbing over what places like Community Evangelical Free Church and so many others are doing.
We all need peace…human beings need peace to function and live. You need peace to live your life. You need peace to change a diaper. You need peace to pick up your kids at school. You need peace to pay attention and participate in an office meeting. You need peace to go to the gym and interact with other people. Peace is essential and its a needed component of life. You’ve heard of PTSD in Iraq and Afghanistan vets and I am quite certain that many survivors of some churches and movements have that same PTSD that military vets do. I know I do, and I have interacted with enough people behind the scenes to know they are dealing with it as well. The fact that people are stuck and hurting and denied peace is what makes fundamentalism exceptionally cruel. Jesus taught that the enemy came to steal, kill and destroy. I think that’s what we see in fundamentalism. People being destroyed and families torn apart.
There is one thing I would suggest that we as Christians should consider and listen to when it comes from the atheist community. Often times atheists have spoken up and talked about the pain and problems religion creates. Its why many atheists are opposed to religion. They see the pain and trauma that it causes. There is one atheist blogger and speaker who has talked about this well. Her name is Greta Christina and I would challenge you to listen to her speech which she gave at the Reason Rally in 2012. All we have to do is look at situations like Steve Estes Community Evangelical Free Church, Acts 29 Fellowship Memphis, or even the situation I deal with from Eric Simmons and Jordan Kauflin’s Redeemer Arlington here in the Washington, D.C. area. We need to acknowledge and admit that in these situations many atheists are correct. There are times and circumstances where religion causes pain and trauma. The people reading this from Elverson, Pennsylvania understand this well. They know what religious trauma and pain is. After all they have to do is run into people at the local Wal Mart and see the effects of the division and pain.
It Shouldn’t Take Cancer, Illness or Death to Put Life in Perspective
I am going to walk through several situations and pose some questions that I feel need to be addressed. Life is short. Its actually shorter than we think it is. All I have to do is point to a guy I know who had a massive stroke at 38, followed by a brain bleed whose life was cut short.
In my story from Redeemer Arlington does Andrew realize and comprehend what he did when he taught me why rape and sexual assault are a problem in the military? When he gave birth to that false accusation as a military officer did he realize what he did? The sad part is this perspective…when he realizes or comes to terms with it, will it be too late? For example I am 41 he is 34 I think. Twenty years from now if I am diagnosed with something like pancreatic cancer and my demise comes quick, will my life on earth be over before this is resolved? Will he realize that but at that point it is too late? Is that how Christianity is supposed to be?
The same holds true for Steve Estes Community Evangelical Free Church. Steve is an old man and the reality is that his life is short also. Will Steve go to his death with this issue hanging over him? Does Steve Estes or Merle and David Stoltzfus want to be in end of life hospice care one day and still have this haunt them? It shouldn’t take cancer or some other disease in order for Steve Estes to say “I was wrong for how I treated my former daughter-in-law.” Again I ask is this how Christianity supposed to be?
This also applies to Acts 29 Fellowship Memphis. I think of how some victims of an alleged sex crime were treated. How they were bullied, intimidated and allegedly handled. Meanwhile you have the Senior Pastor John Bryson denying he knew, while Bryan Loritts is acting like Jonah in how he is fleeing. It shouldn’t take disease or illness for either Bryan Loritts or John Bryson to admit their error and mistake. To step back and say, “we were wrong” shouldn’t be this hard. For the third time I ask…is this how Christianity supposed to be?
Fundamentalism is incredibly cruel. It destroys and it creates harm. And that is what we are often seeing today. None of this has to happen, yet it does. The real tragedy of it is that it all can be avoided, handled, wrapped and cleaned up. The fact that this behavior is being done by either pastors who preached regularly, or teach at a place like Westminster Theological Seminary, or boast about how strong their faith is and speak for the Navigators like Andrew does; I find that particularly disturbing. Jesus promised a rich and satisfying life. What we are seeing is just the opposite when this behavior carries on. These are just some thoughts that I wanted to get down that were bouncing around in my mind. Again guys know that I love you!