Coming to Terms with Fundamentalism I
A few weeks ago, a The Wall Street Journal reporter interviewed me. Yes, you heard me right: a reporter from, ladies and gentlemen,
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
I am not at liberty to disclose the details and nature of the interview other than to advise you of the prudence of being nice to people who may be on the verge of fame and wealth. Leaving complimentary comments is an excellent start which may increase the chance of being remembered when I find myself sitting in the VIP section as a guest of honor at a Katherine Jenkins concert.
Okay, so where were we.....?
Oh yes, my interview with the THE WALL STREET JOURNAL reporter. She asked me what my religious affiliation was, and without giving much thought, I called myself an “ex-fundamentalist.”
“That is interesting,” she responded, “I have run into a lot of people who call themselves that. What makes you call yourself that? What's your story?”
That is when I found myself dumbstruck, followed by an awkward silence. And that is also when my dream of the VIP section at the Katherine Jenkins concert evaporated without a trace.
Hence ensued my decision to start a series of blog entries on coming to terms with my Christian fundamentalist past. When I typically find myself assaulted by brewing thoughts in my head, articulating them out in the open in this little corner of the blogdom has helped me not just sort things out, but has served as an invaluable theraputic tool as well.
I have a lot to say about my fundamentalist past. But there is one big reason that has kept me from going forward.
I really dislike theological discourse.
People who know me well may find that a bit puzzling since one sure way to resonate with me is by tapping into my intellectual side. I find it highly stimulating to debate various issues of the day and to engage people in friendly as well as heated discussion as long as it does not degenerate into personal attack.
However there is something very different about theology. Built into the very nature of theology is the lack of "tangibility.”
Let me try to explain by throwing out a few examples. Most issues of the day are based on some concrete data we can point to and debate over. For example, let's take the debate raging over the war in Iraq. People from both sides can point to some "tangible" results from the war such as casualties, the economic progress, costs and other factors, many of which are quantifiable in some fashion to argue over. Of course all data are subject to widely varying interpretations as seen in the polarization of opinions over the war.
The same cannot be said about theology. Nobody recently has clinically died for a substantial period of time (I say that to leave out "near death experiences") and come back alive to tell us if there is life after death and what it's like if there is one. In contrast, many have physically gone to Iraq and come back with not just harrowing stories, but scars as well.
This lack of tangibility opens up doors to useless debates mired in nebulous semantics in which people in disagreement can't even spell out what they disagree on, and to this day, I have yet to see a productive discussion taking place between two parties with opposing views. Most degenerate into name calling and charges of heresy.
The lack of tangibility also gives way to a breeding ground for Mr. Know-It-Alls that I have had the misfortune of encountering way too many times, having embraced the fundamentalist brand of Christianity in the mold of John MacArthur for over 20 years. At various points, I was one as well.
My commitment is to write in plain English with some semblance of tangibility. One of my blogging friends who calls herself an atheist (and boy, is she a fiery one at that :-)) has agreed to proofread my drafts to help me search and destroy the Christian "lingo" so as not to alienate my readership for which I am deeply grateful. Forget you Katherine.
* Part II: Biblical Inerrancy