Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The View From Fundastan

Having just made a brief and admittedly ill-considered excursion into Fundastan, courtesy of Beliefnet, I have just two things to say:

1. If I thought about sex half as much as the fundamentalists I encounter online, I wouldn't have time to do anything else. They're like weasels in heat. And the really sick thing is...they seem to want to mostly think about my sex. (The feeling is not mutual.)

2. Dan Erlander, in his excellent booklet Baptized, We Live: Lutheranism As a Way of Life, in speaking about Jesus' absolute trust in God, notes:
We live by trust and not by certitude. Not knowing if our actions will produce the best results, we boldly act and then boldly trust God's forgiveness if we are wrong...we trust that God is good, that God means us well. We even face death, the end of our striving, clinging only to the promise we believe -- God is good. Until death we obey, even if we see no results. We trust that God will bring the shalom.
My interactions with fundamentalists and their theological kinfolk lead me to think that they don't trust that God is good and means them well. I don't think they trust that at all. Their attitude -- toward God, toward other people, toward their own enfleshed existence -- leads me to believe that they believe God's default attitude toward creation in general and human beings in particular is one of contempt and disgust. Their belief that God afflicts human beings with pain and suffering either as punishment or in order to somehow spin the situation into a means for self-promotion creates an image of what someone on a Beliefnet forum described as a "de Sade God."

If anyone ever needed to be evangelized it's these folks, because the news they perceive in the witness of Scripture isn't good news at all -- they've twisted it into very bad news. But I don't have either the temperment or the vocabulary to engage with fundamentalists. I just can't do it. They make me crazy. Keeping my distance from them feels like a defeat for me, but I don't have a better solution for dealing with them.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lutheran Chick, you've hit the theological issue on the head.

I grew up in a congregation on the very conservative end of the Missouri Synod. I went to (Missouri) Lutheran school in the 1960s from the age of five. From that tender age, the main concern was to teach us "God hates sin and you are a sinner" (a five year old hears "therefore God hates you").

I always characterise "the Gospel" (sic) that I learned as a kid as being: "Jesus died on the cross to pay the price that the wrathful father demanded for your sin. So now the Father has to let you into heaven, because that we the agreement with Jesus. But the Father is furiously angry at being hoodwinked. He would dearly love to see you burn in hell for all eternity."

I can't even being to describe the journey out of that place. Mainly because it was long, slow and gradual.

Disclaimer: I know that the LCMS does not represent mainstream Lutheranism and I do not mean to "diss" Lutherans in general. I know the Lutheran tradition of preaching grace and sin in equal measure. Here's a great example of what happens when one preaches 90% sin and 10% grace.

So, I think you've got it in one about people's view of God. Most are scared of God and probably hate themselves and are, unfortunately, taking it out on a scapegoat group. However within this "system" (and all congregations are systems) there will be those narcissists who genuinely believe that they *are* gods. Those are the really dangerous individuals!

Anonymous said...

The other valley of Fundastan is the vending machine God, as I call it.

"God really wants you to be rich and powerful, you're just too weak and afraid to ask for it. If you really believed, if you really had faith, you wouldn't be worrying about how to pay off your mortgage."

First, if this message is preached to people who have mortgages, they are better off than much of the world already. They need to count their blessings and shut up.

Second, if it's preached to people who don't have mortgages and probably never will, it puts the onus of their scarcity on them and their own lack of faith, not on the forces that they can't control.

If I hear the prayer of Jabez one more time, I will...I don't know what. But it won't be pretty.

P.S. (an after-thought) said...

LC, my pastor asked me, why are you reading "those" blogs? And that was the LCMS blogs. I know that some of the more conservative ones are even more, well, somehow steeped in sin. The link you provided recently to the person in eastern Wisconsin who critiqed music as stirring up our fleshy nature was appalling.

RP makes a really good point! There does seem to be a message in some circles that we just aren't faithful enough...if so we'd be cured of everything, financial, physical, etc. Well, Lazarus isn't still alive.

Due to my family member listening to a conservative "Christian" radio station, I've had to hear lots of talks and discussions lately. There does seem to be a wallowing in sin. Sometimes there are good suggestions to put Biblical principles into life, as well. But I do wonder if there is some projection of inner sinful feelings unto other people, especially the "unsaved" [their definition..]

But unlike pambg, the message I've received from the Lutheran Church is that I was saved 2000 years ago, before I was even born or did any sins. And, yes, I still sin, but I know that the slate is wiped clean as soon as any sins are recorded, if I am open to that action from God, because of Jesus' action, not mine.

Reverend Dona Quixote said...

Hey LC ...

Just where is it on the vast beliefnet site that you encounter these folks? I might want to venture in there someday ... and take a few friends with me.

That phrase "deSade God" is a useful one, although I would probably say "god deSade" instead. Don't know why ...

Here's a quote for you, but I don't know who said it. It is from a T-shirt I have:

"I am created in the image of God, not your image of the image of God."

Evelyn said...

I need to see if I can find that "Baptized, We Live:" booklet. The quote was ABSOLUTELY just what I needed to read today.

Also, as a FORMER fundamentalist (actually, as I look back, a cult member -- back in the 70's), I can just imagine how difficult it would be to try and carry on a reasonable discussion. They have this intense need to be RIGHT, and in their minds they ARE right, and they live in fear that they will displease God. It's much easier to look at the mote in someone else's eye, so they don't have to think about the huge beam in their own eye. Every once in a while (even though I've been away from fundamentalism for 26 years now) the thought creeps back into my mine "what if they are right, and I am doomed to hell because I knew the way of life, and chose another way?" Now I just chase that thought away by remembering that I was indeed saved 2000 years ago, and it was certainly not by anything I did!
Who knows, LC, you may have planted a seed or two in Beliefnet, and someone else will water that seed, and one day that seed will bear fruit! Just don't go there expecting someone to say you might be right ----- that's just not gonna happen.

Anonymous said...

LC

Thanks for your insight. I think you're right about the trust thing. I also think they see God as fundamentally weak and in need of protection. They guard "the Truth" as though it is somehow fragile and always in jeopardy, rather than seeing the awesome energy of a God whose name is Love and who is dynamic and calling us to change and grow.

I also hear your pain underneath the insight. Though I may be stating the obvious, I'll say it anyway: their god is not the God who made you and loves you (and me).

Peace,
Milton

Anonymous said...

I understand the pain too. I went to a fundie university and that belief system used to hold a lot of power for me.

But the Christian-to-Christian Debate board has actually been a liberating experience for me. I finally see that the emperor has no clothes. I finally see how that kind of Biblical literalism greats a very sick picture of God which then enslaves people by fear of punishment and damnation. It took me a long time to believe that if God were really like the fundie God, hell is the better place to be.

So I don't take the online hate as seriously as I used to, but worry about the growing influence of it in politics and public life. And I pray that the apparent shift away from this in the U.S. is a permanent one.

Anonymous said...

There was an inetresting study done by Baylor University with the Gallup Poll people...it is about piety and views of God in America -- worth a looksee. I have a blog entry about it with links here. The differences are "fundamental"..so to speak. The basic way we percieve God differs and seems to break down into 4 groups..the articles linked in my blog have MUCH more detail.

Grace said...

LC,

Can you share where this site is on beliefnet? I want to have conversation with these people myself. I find it extremely confusing to try and navigate around beliefnet!!

Anonymous said...

I have also had experience dealing with fundamentalists over the years. We truly live in different worlds, or at least inhabit different world views.

I remember when I was about 12 or 13, my great uncle Clint expressed the belief that God created the universe about 6,000 years ago, but that God created the world 'with age,' so that carbon dating, fossils, geologic age, the expanding universe etc., were all placed there by God (6,000 years ago) to make the universe 'look' old. So, it's all a practical joke on evolutionists, etc., and a test of 'faith' in biblical literalism.

Even at 12 or 13, I lived in a completely different world than my great uncle. His perspective was nuts from my perspective, and (though I could not pin it down at the time) completely undermined God's truthful witness in creation.

But my uncle and I simply lived in a completely different world of thought, with different presuppositions and foundations. It would take a lot of time with someone like that to come to the point at which we understand our different world views. It's like entering a completely foreign culture.

Inheritor of Heaven said...

Rainbow Pastor: I agree with your comments regarding a vending machine God. I don't however blame the "Prayer of Jabez" book regarding that notion. I blame poor reading skills. That book, when read carefully and thoughtfully, is a book regarding evangelism and sharing the Good News with an ever widening circle of persons who the Lord brings into ones life. Take for example this quote (which most the prosperity gospel folks must have missed when/if they read the book): "Do we really understand how far the American Dream is from God's dream for us? We're steeped in a culture that worships freedom, independence, personal rights, and the pursuit of pleasure. We respect people who sacrifice to get what they want. But to be a living sacrifice? To be crucified to self?" This is not what the prosperity folks want to hear.

Anonymous said...

LC: Along with Erlander's fantastic work, may I recommend the article "Caught In the Act" by Gerhard Forde? It's a brief article on atonement theory that completely transformed how I view the cross and the life of Jesus. Granted, I'm biased because Forde was my Lutheran Confessions professor at seminary, but for lots of us his work and writing were both intellectually challenging and deeply inspirational.

Anonymous said...

LC: Along with Erlander's fantastic work, may I recommend the article "Caught In the Act" by Gerhard Forde? It's a brief article on atonement theory that completely transformed how I view the cross and the life of Jesus. Granted, I'm biased because Forde was my Lutheran Confessions professor at seminary, but for lots of us his work and writing were both intellectually challenging and deeply inspirational.

Donna said...

Fundastan--I love it! This is great stuff. I don't really get the religious right's fascination with sex either. And you're right--they're absolutely enthralled by, shall we say "how the other half lives?"

The last thing on earth I'd ever want to think about is James Dobson having sex. Or even Mary Cheney for that matter (though that would be a little more interesting).

Someday Dan Erlander will be president and the world will be a better place.

:)
Donna
The peacepastor

Anonymous said...

"And the really sick thing is...they seem to want to mostly think about my sex."

I think you would like to think this is true - mostly, I think you either flatter yourself or have a chip on your shoulder. Truth is, most people just don't care. few might have opinions about it, but there are immoderates everywhere.