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I Have a Life Again!

The play is over! That frees up about 15 hours per week for me, so maybe I will start working ahead on homework, or I could think about entering the social sphere again. No matter - the play went well. Friday was by far the best performance. We had a bigger audience, bigger reaction, and more energy.

Since my last post, I've finished Tale of Two Cities. I had a hard time getting through the book (maybe because of my time limit I felt rushed) without considerable pain, but it provided a lot of discussion material, and in retrospect, I enjoyed it immensely. Last week, then, I read Tess, of the D'Urbervilles, which was tragic and deliciously cynical towards society and religion. Both great books. Of course, they are classics, so you already know that they are worth your attention.

For Human Social Context, we finished Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches, a fascinating book about why cultures do weird things (like worship cows). Marvin Harris tries to find a sociological underpinning reason for these behaviors that are usually explained by religion or primitive thinking. Although I think he tends to simplify things sometimes, I think he brings out a lot of important information about cultural practices.

Anonymous posted a comment on my last post, which was: "What exactly is it about fundamentalism that makes you want to run from it? Are you sure this isn't a reaction to any events in your life?"

Obviously, Anonymous believes that my behavior is reactionary. We know that by how the question was worded. The question also implicitly assumes that reactions are invalid reasons for running from an ideological system. I would first like to question the second point.

Our reactions can and often do communicate truth in some way. Today in chapel, the IJM group on campus (of which I am a part) presented some startling facts about sex trafficking, police brutality, human slavery, and more human rights injustices. I had (and I hope others had) a strong reaction to these statistics. My reaction was that I felt repugnance at the violators of these human rights, and I felt a need to contribute to the solution. These are strong reactions, and if an offering plate were passed around right then, I would have put some money into it (I am going to contribute later this week when IJM starts gathering money). Now, my actions could (if the plate were passed around at chapel) rightly be called reactionary. But you see, my reactions in this instance communicated truth and led me to correct action. We should be startled at human rights violations, and we should be moved to contribute to the solution.

Similarly, if I am walking along after dark, and a shady looking man comes out of his house and starts shouting at me in a drunken rage, my reaction is to walk briskly away. If he starts following me, my reaction is to run away. Again, reactions = good.

Obviously, reactions can be bad too. This applies usually to cases in which the status quo is being challenged; our reaction is to not change, and thus to resist the new information. Anything that challenges long-held beliefs is met with strong reaction. Case in point: Fundamentalists almost always have unreasonable reactions towards anything Catholic. Remember the movie The Passion of the Christ? Fundamentalists were thrown into a tizzy because the movie was produced from a Catholic point of view. It had some scenes which made Mary look like a good mother (for shame!) and a good Christian (extra for shame!), and Fundamentalists raised up a lot of ruckus over it.

Once, a man from my old church (after I had become Reformed) became very concerned about my spiritual state (I started accepting infant baptism, real presence in the communion, and other heresies) and took me to Wendy's to talk.

"Deric," he said, "I have to ask you something: Do you believe Catholics can go to heaven?"

"Are you talking about everybody belonging to the Catholic church?" I asked, already dreading where the conversation was headed.

"Now," he continued, "I have to say this: I have to say that it is possible, okay, that somebody in the Catholic church could be saved, but what I am asking you is do you believe that somebody who believes in Catholic doctrine can be saved?"

"Well, I believe that anybody who is orthodox in their beliefs - in other words, anyone who roughly subscribes to the Nicene Creed - is a part of God's kingdom. That would include most all Catholics and most Protestant sects." After I said this, the man just silently shook his head and said, "Okay." I imagine he went home that day and prayed for my salvation.

So we've established that reactions can be good or bad. Now let us look at some of the reasons I have left Fundamentalism. I think it will be clear a) whether these are reactions and b) if they are, whether they are acceptable or unacceptable reactions.

My first (chronologically speaking)reason for leaving had to do with King James Only theology (KJVo). For those who do not understand what that means, my church taught that the only true translation of the Bible was the King James Version. I was a pretty big advocate of it for a while, until I found out that it was rationally unjustifiable. It took me a good long time to come around on that issue, too. I had to break down a lot of barriers that the Fundies had built up in my brain. Now, of course, the doctrine seems ridiculous.

Secondly, I started reasoning with myself about the acceptability of Contemporary Christian Music. In Fundie circles, CCM comes straight from Satan's rock band.

Thirdly, I started reading Catholic literature. By that I mean literature written by actual Catholics. I found that their beliefs were backed up by reasons ("Oh! So they aren't just completely ignorant of the Bible!"), and so I backed off of the exclusiveness of heaven.

These first three steps were only the scant beginnings of the many steps I had to take out of the Fundamentalist ideology. One by one, I found that Fundamentalist thinking was not rationally justifiable, by biblical standards or otherwise. The NIV is a sin. CCM is a sin. Catholicism is sin. Dancing, alcohol, smoking, PG-13 movies - all sin. Yeah, right.

Yeah, these were reactions. My reactions were, "Holy crap, these guys are loaded with non sequiturs and straw men!" Or, "Good grief! They have obviously never heard of the Early Church!"

My beliefs about the bizarre quality of the Fundamentalist ideology have been further strengthened as I have learned more about theology and history. In addition, I have talked with a lot of Fundamentalists (duh - I grew up with them), and I find that they are almost always simply ignorant of the larger scope of the issues. Only a select few (usually leaders in Fundamentalist circles) actually consciously reject evidence that may prove damnable to their beliefs.

So yeah, my movement is reactionary, and justifiably so. Fundamentalism is intellectually dishonest to the core.

That's it for today. Look forward to more rantings and ravings in the coming days.
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