Friday, November 03, 2006

Fleeing Fundamentalism

Don't worry, I'm not. But Carlene Cross has. She wrote a book of the above title to tell the world of her exodus from the Christian faith. I picked up Fleeing Fundamentalism, published just this year, expecting to encounter all kinds of rants and raves about the evils of biblical Christianity. There's a little bit of that sort of thing in the book, but there is a much more disturbing issue at the book's core, one that cannot be written off with the use of labels, true as labels can be.

The issue is this: Cross's husband was a conservative Baptist minister who had a healthy church, a growing family, and every reason to be happy. There was just one problem with this man, named David. He had fallen into sexual sin early in his marriage. He habitually attended strip clubs in order to "relax" and ease the pressure he felt due to his burgeoning ministry and family. This terrible secret did not surface until the Crosses had been married for many years. When it hit, however, it blew the family apart.

Carlene Cross spiraled into pagan spirituality after this discovery and her eventual divorce. Though this is tragic, she will be held accountable for her sin when she dies. So I do not solely sympathize with her. However, this story, a true one, does show what happens what Christian men abdicate their responsibility to lead their families with virtue and moral courage. The results are especially terrible when a pastor, a leader of Christian husbands and fathers, slips into sexual sin. Children are disullisioned, families are destroyed, careers are ruined. Far from leading me to angry disgust, Fleeing Fundamentalism made me deeply sad as it shows the unraveling of one Christian family due to sexual sin. The stakes are so high for men of God. When we fail, we plunge ourselves into chaos and judgment. But more than this, we take our families, and even our churches, with us.


Anonymous jed said...

Maybe you should flee fundamentalism.

8:03 AM  
Anonymous BC said...

May I ask, Owen (and Jed) what you consider fundamentalism to be? I've thought for a while that it was just an impolite way to refer to evangelical Prostantism, but I've seen it recently used in a way that seems simply descriptive. But descriptive of what, I'm wondering. It is a more specific term than sola scriptura, no?


9:49 AM  
Blogger Dad said...

Owen, I wondered the same thing as BC. 'Fleeing from what'?

I consider myself as having fled from fundamentalism, in this case fundamentalism being a shallow theology glorifying man, while at the same time asking the believer to close one's mind to logical, and Biblical, thinking, and thus not glorifying man.

Maybe to explain. Fundamentalism that makes man's decisions the focus point for salvation. Thus glorifying man over Christ'w work. While at the same time teaching a form of Bible teaching that ignores man's responsibility and, in the Lord, man's ability to handle the word's of the Text so that truth is taught, and God glorified, within a Biblical, logical and consistant theology. It is only within such a setting does man have his true glory and hope in Christ.

While I agree wholeheartedly with the direction of your comments I see also another matter of grave concern: was the wife really a child of God all those years?

The parable of the sower sewing the seed points out that it is not just the temptation of the world and flesh, in this case - sexual - but also the pressure put on one through tribulation - a husband acting so as to destroy his family that leads to the revelation that one's faith is empty. Can not one see the husband also fleeing fundamentalism, meaning in this case the basic teaching of the Word regarding his own sexual position as a man and as a husband?

So how many others like them are in the visible church? How did they get in? How are they made to feel so a home?

Paul also wrote: Demas has forsaken . . . I don't see Paul at fault for Demas' error, so I am not trying to place all of the blame upon the Church for having people who are not sheep in it's midst, but I think to some extent a church that glorifies man is prone to get people saved by 'man' rather than the Lord.

This I think offers a lot of room for thought and discussion or blogging: from what has she fled?

Al (a former fighting foundamentalist)

4:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good question, BC. The popularization of that term "Fundamentalism" in Protestant circles comes out of the turn-of-the-century "Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy," in which some Protestants took a stand against the sour fruit of Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment theology--that is, against theological "Modernism." The Modernists denied, and the "Fundamentalists" affirmed, the following: the inerrancy of the Bible, the virgin birth of Christ, the doctrine of substitutionary atonement, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and the imminent return of Jesus Christ. These became known as the "fundamentals"--hence, the Fundamentalists.

I embrace those fundamentals joyfully. The far-far-less important question of whether the term Fundamentalism is helpful any more is up for grabs.


8:25 PM  
Anonymous Jed said...

Tell the rest of the story, KC: The anti-intellectualism, the confusion of a particular culture with scriptural norms, the isolationism, the anti-creedalism, the tendancy to define Christianity more narrowly than the historic creeds of the church, the teetotling...these are all integral parts of the fundamentalist movement and were cited by Professor Machen as reasons why the OPC would not join the fundamentalist movement.

5:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just finished reading this remarkable book. What I find sad is that the posts so far don't even address the central poins in Cross's book--the dangerous consequences of women in fundamentalist churches told to be submissive to their husbands. This book tells in a very personal way how the emphasis on being submissive led her husband to be more controlling and then blame his wife for his addictions. The author states that her husband's "sexual sins" were not so much about desire, as about control.

It fits in with John Dean's book, Conservatives without Conscience. Her husband would be described by Dean as a double authoritarian, like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and others in power who have use religion to gain political power, using that power to create death, violence, destruction, poverty, cronyism, torture, inequity, etc.--the very opposite of spiritual values they profess.

THe author has grown to see the Bible, like most Biblical scholars, as a human product: inspired, but still reflecting the biases and limitations of the communities that produced the disparate books in the Bible. I would hardly call this pagan. In fact, fundamentalism has been rightly accused by many of Biblio-idolatry--literalism is a false idol that blinds one from divine truth that cannot be pinned down in rigid belief systems.

She ends the book by saying that the the spiritual path is a path of discovery, rather than one of blind obedience to a rule book. This is the path away from fundamentalism into spirituality.

7:08 PM  
Blogger J.R. said...

There is "being fundamental regarding the faith of the Bible," and there is "Fundamentalism." They are not the same, nor are they necessarily linked to each other.

I am a conservative, traditional minded Christian. I have some experience with "fundamental" Baptist churches, and I can see very clearly what Carlene Cross experienced being so caught up in that system. People who are "fundamentalists" have a very narrow and rigid association with a system of church government, social pressure, and religious fervor.

I liken "fundamentalism" to modern-day Phariseeism, and believe the two are spiritually identical. The Pharisees believed they were children of Abraham, and had no need of repentance towards God or faith towards the Lord Jesus Christ. However, Jesus rebukes them for their misplaced ideals, religious hypocrisy, and systemic satanic values.

Matthew 23:15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

I would say this verse encompasses modern fundamentalism quite well. It is a trap, a snare, and a system designed to deceive, distort, and ultimately destroy its adherents via unforgiveness, intolerance, and misplaced spiritual values.

An intrinsic plank in the fundamentalist platform is the erroneous teaching of "Once Saved, Always Saved," otherwise known as Unconditional Eternal Security. By falling into this heretical notion, erstwhile believers will forfeit their salvation by engaging in damning activities, such as divorce, remarriage, fornication, lewdness, uncleanness, covetousness, and a host of other condemned actions. Many of which Carlene Cross documents in her book.

Luke 3:8 Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to [our] father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

This verse will not see much real acceptance in fundamentalist churches because they do not believe it applies to them, (which, ironically, is the identical spiritual attitude of the Pharisees themselves.) Christ Jesus consistently warns of them having ears to hear and eyes to see, not obeying what their senses plainly tell them. These shall receive the greater damnation.

Now, for them which have beliefs that are "fundamental" in nature, but do not subscribe to the system of Fundamentalism, are not automatically ensnared in its apostasy. Believing you can never lose your salvation is an excellent way to lose your position on the straight and narrow path. (BTW - did you know that Dispensationalism - the underlying theological system that utterly supports and informs fundamentalism - is primarily responsible for the great falling away now in evidence?)

Friend, Jesus' words are just as applicable today as they've ever been. That's not "judging" someone, its stating a fact. Christ condemns no one today, but is soon coming to judge the world in righteousness.

Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
(Psalms 24:3-5)

10:04 PM  
Anonymous Fundamentally Misguided said...

Oh, just wait till my book "Fundamentally Misguided" comes out! Like her I followed all the rules, and was betrayed. There's no other way to say it. I've read her book and can totally relate. Thanks to Carlene Cross for having the courage to speak out against a so-called Christian movement that does not even begin to represent the true intentions of of its founder.

5:06 PM  
Blogger scooterwes said...

As an ex-fundamentalist (and the mainstream evangelical in America now fits that description), I find it sad that Owen failed to see the core of Carlene Cross's dilemma (with or without her husband's hypocrisy she still would have left the faith) as she studies the many many contradictions and problems within evangelical theology and belief.

Owen's crass comment ("Carlene Cross spiraled into pagan spirituality after this discovery and her eventual divorce. Though this is tragic, she will be held accountable for her sin when she dies.") is the very reason countless people like her and myself and left this narrow-minded, judgemental "faith"!

The evangelical God - who is supposed to be infinitely loving and forgiving - does something to 95% of his children that none of us would ever do to our own children: condemns them to burn in infinite and eternal torture, for a failure to believe a certain way! Remember when we thought it was so horrible when the Catholic church burned, tortured and murdered people who didn't believe a certain way? And yet evangelicals belief in a God who is many times worse than that medieval church. People who still choose to believe in such a deity are deluded and afraid to ask honest questions.

9:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It always amazes me that anyone would believe such vile filth. Good for her that she got out and dumped the SOB.

7:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great book. Engaging and compelling. Study after study has revealed that religiosity is correlated with low IQ and low educational levels. Think how stupid then that fundamentalists are. She has shown her high IQ by realizing what a crock of shit Christianity is. I mean come on. There are people who think the earth is less than 10,000 years old...can you say mommomoron?

7:40 PM  
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7:26 PM  

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