Five Cool Things Fundies Should Know About Christianity.

Brett Gallaher —  October 3, 2013 — 28 Comments

snake-handlers-1

If you know anything about Christianity, you know that beliefs vary. We use terms like left-wing and right-wing, conservative evangelical and liberal protestant, Calvinist and Arminian, Orthodox and progressive, and the list goes on. Oh, I guess there’s a few “Catholics” out there too.

If you felt the urge to correct me by saying “Catholics aren’t Christian!” then you’re one of those special folks who will hopefully benefit greatly from this post. There exists a vocal faction within many religions, especially Christianity, known as “Fundamentalists.” These people tend to gravitate to extreme positions on religious issues, usually without the college courses to make them sound all smart-like. But deciphering exactly who is a fundamentalist (or fundie) is tricky. I have known progressive folks who just love them some homophobia and some racism. I have also known some elderly “give me that old time religion” types who are vocal about how Pro-Choice they are. Obviously the 700 Club sprinkles some magic hallelujah powder in all of our cereal once in a while. Some of us are just more bullshit intolerant than others.

Oh by the way, some fundies are easy to spot.

DavidWoronieckiWithSign

The purpose of this post is not to lump you or anything else into a neat little (crazy) box by describing what a fundamentalist always believes or does not believe. I simply have the blessing (and fiscal curse) of 3/4ths of a Masters Degree in Theology. I have witnessed fundies shaken to their core, not knowing if God’s lack of male genitalia was a game-changer for their lives or not. I’ve often wondered what would happen if average people (and by average I mean mere mortals who aren’t as educated as us superior grad school drop outs who now work in warranty sales) knew all this cool stuff about Church history and theology that we had learned. For your benefit (if you’re a fundie) and/or your entertainment, I thought a list of some of the more awesome-er contemplative issues I’ve come across would make for a smashing good time.

5. GOD IS NOT A MALE.

Jesus spelled backwards sounds like sausage.

Jesus spelled backwards sounds like sausage.

~

Despite how much we may want to see God as a dude, he just isn’t. (And for all you lovely atheists reading along, of course I mean “the God of Christian Tradition” is not nor should have ever been thought to be a dude, in theory). God is described throughout the scriptures and church history to be a spirit, to be wholly (holy) other than us (i.e., God doesn’t have a body). Both Thomas Aquinas (part 1, question 3, article 1) and Saint Augustine (Confessions, book 7) will back me up on that one. The use of masculine verbiage is often allegorical. Feminine, or motherly traits are also attributed to God in Scripture. Psalms 123 uses the term mistress, Luke 15 describes God like a housewife, Hosea like a mother, and so on.

If your knee-jerk reaction is to say “Well, the feminine references are just symbolic, but the masculine ones are literal” then you might want to re-examine your relationship with your father… or mother… or whoever made you think invisible giant shapeshifting penises are somehow essential to your faith.

4. THE BIBLE IS NOT TO BE TAKEN LITERALLY.

Some people just "literally" don't read it.

Some people just “literally” don’t read it.

~

Now here is a tricky one. So many Christians, and fundies especially, have a real difficulty understanding the difference between the words “literal” and “true”. (I’d suspect a few atheists share this tendency as well). If anyone reading this has such a difficulty and you come away from this post with even a slither more reflection on the topic than before, I will be ecstatic.

When we say the word “literal” we are speaking from a Western philosophical perspective. When we think of things literally, we are talking about “what actually happened”. When people ask us if a tree makes a noise when it falls in the forest, a Western view is, “Of course.” But then some Eastern wise-guy would say, “But sound can’t exist unless you’re there to hear it!” Both views can be considered “true” yet only one view is considered “literal”.

There’s nothing wrong with a Western view, but when applied to the Bible there is a HUGE problem. I think it would help fundies if they knew how Rabbis (you know… people like Jesus) interpret scripture. Judaism was an Eastern religion that focuses on the theological point of the story, not so much the scientific conditions surrounding the events. For them, verses should be interpreted on four different levels, not merely face value.

First is p’shat which means simple. (All you “average” people pay attention). This method is easiest for Westerners because it’s the plain saying of a verse. Sometimes when God says don’t eat rancid camel meat, that’s just him looking out for you.

Second is remez, which means hint. Jesus or other authors would use the remez technique to hint at an Old Testament reference to give a statement a deeper meaning. The deeper meaning may not be literal, like when Jesus was like “Hey, Peter! You. are. the. DEVIL!” That’d just be confusing for everyone, especially that new Pope we all like so much.

Third is midrash, which mean to search. This is the highly allegorical or homiletical application where we read our own thoughts into the text. Remember Pslams? Proverbs? Yeah, all of those. If you hate on midrash, rip out the middle of your Bible. Jesus used this method in Matthew when he said “you shall not kill” but expanded the commandment, saying to not be angry with anyone because this is still a form of spiritual violence.

Last is sod, which means secret. This is the idea that hidden in scripture are meanings placed by God only attainable by revelation, and this revelation is obviously on a personal level.

If you think to yourself, “Either believe all of the Bible or none of it at all,” then you are “literally” insane if you mean “believe all of the Bible literally.” But honestly, most fundies don’t actually think the Bible is to be taken in such a way; they only see the parts they want to see as literal. For example, they may be fine thinking God created the Earth in six literal days, but they interpret “Gog and Magog” in the Book of Revelations metaphorically as “China and Russia.” They may say homosexuals should literally be put to death (or at least be banned from their Applebees after church), but Song of Solomon is just a metaphor for Christ’s love for his church (and not about how awesome premarital oral sex can be).

The propaganda of Biblical inerrancy (fancy way of saying camels go through needle eyes whenever rich people go to heaven) is much more a political/social ideological phenomenon than anything else. If you fight for the bible to be literal only when you want it to be literal, you most likely are looking for an excuse to do, not do, like, or not like something or someone (e.g. science, women, other races, evolution, pre-marital oral sex).

~

3. THE BIBLE ISN’T ANTI-GAY.

That reminds me. I need to catch up on Project Runway.

That reminds me. I need to catch up on Project Runway.

~

For number 3, I’d love to expound on my own thoughts, but Matthew Vines from reformationproject.org has a video that verbalized this position perfectly. PERFECTLY. “Literally”. Watch it if you want to become a better human being. If you watch it and you have any doubts remaining, only God (or violent re-education camps) could change your mind.

2. GOD MIGHT NOT KNOW THE FUTURE.

angry-jesus

“I don’t know, Peter! Leave me alone!”

~

If this makes you uncomfortable, GOOD! I HOPE YOU’RE IN A CRAPPY CHAIR TOO! Just kidding. Where was I? Oh yeah! The blog post!

If you cannot fathom that your newly de-penis’d God also has no idea who you are going to marry, when you’re going to get a promotion, or exactly when then next tsunami is going to kill half a million people, then number 2 is for you!

DISCLAIMER: I’m not saying God doesn’t know the future. I’d never take that away from God. God hates it when my own beliefs mess with his abilities.

If you think God’s omniscience (all knowing-ness) is obviously a power God has, I’d venture to say you didn’t get that belief from your Bible. You most likely heard that from general church chatter over the years. Maybe it just makes sense to you. Why wouldn’t God know everything? He wouldn’t be very God-like if he only knew everything up to this second. He needs to know more than everything! Right?

Well, there’s this awkward thing we Seminary students learned about called “over-Hellenization”. Basically, Christianity got really Greek, really fast. Like, “omni-greek” (all Greek). So naturally, God got greek as well. We upgraded him to super knowledge (omniscience), super teleportation (omnipresence), and super… um… ability to do anything he wants (omnipotence).

We upgraded God.

God-Jesus-Robot

~

And now we’ve upgraded him so much that we’re scared to piss him off by… under-Hellenizing him. Christians have grown accustomed to kissing God’s ass. (You just got a little nervous I pissed off his omnipotence, didn’t you?) Those super powers we gave God actually contradict each other, rather blatantly actually. To question them is not heresy. In fact, it’s polite to actually think for ourselves. Let’s try it!

If God knows everything, he can’t change his mind. He “literally” can’t! But don’t worry! Moses changes God’s mind in Exodus 32. (Look it up. Moses schools that guy).

If God knows everything, he’s responsible for not using his omnipotence to stop disasters from occurring (like those tsunamis we were talking about). If you think God has to let tsunamis kill us, I wonder if Heaven has to have tornados made out of snakes for some equally logical reason of yours.

Basically, if you have a perfect God, you have no “relationship”. There is zero room for a personality, for a back and forth, for a give and take, for a… God who says “That didn’t work, I guess I’ll become a human now.”

Yeah… the Jesus thing doesn’t work well under that model.

It’s a good thing we have other theologies like Open Theism. (Sounds all liberal and hippie, doesn’t it?) I know you’re going to do a Wikipedia search, so I’ll save you the trouble.

In a word, open theism is the view that since the fact of human freedom means the future is partly a realm of possibilities, and God’s sovereignty means the future is partly a realm of determined facts, God knows the possibilities as possibilities and the determined facts as determined facts. While several versions of traditional classical theism could model the future as a singular linear necessity, open theism would do so as a plurality of branching possibilities. Thus, the future is pictured as open. -Wikipedia.org.

Now, if this idea makes you think any less of God, just ponder the benefits of a God who is just as bummed out about evil in the world as you are, a God who doesn’t have your future determined without your own free will, a God who is much more approachable than Omni-douche.

1. BEING “SAVED” ISN’T JUST FOR CHRISTIANS.

univerrainbow

~

If you’ve ever heard the following verse, raise your hand.

     “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men           by which we must be saved.” -Acts 4:12.

(Now put your hand down. You look silly).

Sounds pretty straight-forward huh? Want some more?

     Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” –                 John 14:6.

Okay, without even delving into any academic mumbo jumbo, you should notice a couple problems if you take these verses to mean you must know of Jesus to be saved. If this is what you believe then you must consider the following.

Babies? Damned.

Everyone who has never heard of Jesus? Damned.

All followers of Judaism? You know, Jesus’ own religion? Damned.

The Good Samaritan? Screw that guy!

You get the idea.

When backed into a corner on this issue, fundies seem to pull out a bunch of exceptions. Babies get a free pass because they are innocent, even though in the next breath they resort to language of original sin and how we are all enemies of God until we accept Jesus.

Those people who never heard of Jesus? They might (keyword: might) get into Heaven because they are ignorant of the truth, therefore they are only judged by what they know. This creates the awkward issue where it’s actually beneficial to shut up and not tell them anything at all about Jesus. It might send them to Hell if they reject him. Even more awkward is that If you take away this exception then you admit Jesus’ very existence is an excuse for God to fry most of the world. Either that or God made the greatest logistical error of all time.

I don't wanna...

I don’t wanna…

~

People of other religions? Forget about it. Under this logic, God sure expects a lot out of people. Imagine if you were born in Iran. Guess what religion you’d be? You’d be a Muslim. I’m sorry. It’s true. But what if a pamphlet about Christianity falls from a plane and winds up in your front yard one day? You’d better convert to Christianity or you’re done for, pal! You just encountered the truth!

But besides all those… logical reasons to dismiss such a belief, there are several different ways to interpret those verses. And this isn’t cherry-picking. It’s just straight up theological precision, bro. I’m about to throw out some big words, so hold on.

The Eastern Orthodox Church holds to a theology of theosis, which basically means salvation has nothing to do with that whole “asking Jesus into your heart” business. Salvation is about God becoming human, healing our nature through the birth and life of Jesus, and offering the same healing and union with God that Jesus has attained. Salvation is a healing of the whole cosmos, not just us. We just happen to be apart of the cosmos, so we’re along for the ride. Some would say this theology hints at universalism (the belief that all be will saved).

I mean… at the end of time, do you really think God wouldn’t win?

Other views include Jesus saving us through his example of love which wakes us from our sinful sleep and shows us how to love each other. Just ask that medieval French scholar, philosopher, theologian, and preeminent logician, Peter Abelard.

“Our redemption through the suffering of Christ is that deeper love within us which not only frees us from slavery to sin, but also secures for us the true liberty of the children of God, in order that we might do all things out of love rather than out of fear – love for him that has shown us such grace that no greater can be found.”

Sounds like some religious asshole, right?

If you wanna get back to what the bible has to say about the matter, Romans lends some insight.

“For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves.” -Romans 2:14.

Basically, any potential complications about “knowing” the right thing, or the truth of Jesus, are ironed out nicely here. So, if God can save you without you knowing about Jesus… maybe Jesus isn’t such an egocentric power-hungry control freak after all!

IN CLOSING: Whether or not you believe in God, Jesus, or any religiosity whatsoever, I hope this post has given you motivation to look beyond the face value of the world around you. There is much beauty to be found. Be aware that your beliefs about religion or non-religion say a lot more about you than anything else. We’re all on this journey together. Just try to lay off of the fundie-juice when you can.

—-

brettttttBrett Gallaher is founder of We Occupy Jesus, pretty much the best blog like ever. He resides in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the place they wrote that train song about. Once he shot a squirrel, but he felt really bad about it afterwards. When he’s not changing the world, Brett also enjoys paying way too much for coffee.

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Brett Gallaher

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Founder of We Occupy Jesus and Huffington Post blogger. Also, I enjoy paying too much for coffee.

28 responses to Five Cool Things Fundies Should Know About Christianity.

  1. 

    The Christian Dilemma:

    The greatest threat to America, and indeed to the rest of world, at this point in history, comes from the staunch advocates of right wing ideology, and I must submit this warning to you: There is a grave problem with the right wing movement, in that; they seem to possess a distorted sense of entitlement. They’ve set themselves apart, and seem to think that their faith gives them the right to view the world from a platitude of conceit, through condescending eyes, and with a false sense of superiority. They actually believe themselves to be superior beings, with a manifest destiny and some strange notion that God is on their side. A people with a desire to conquer, under the false guise of Christianity, seeking to dominate in the name of Christ, their view of humanity being reduced to nothing more than a matter of “us” and “them”.

    What they fail to realize is; if the Christ you believe in leads you to view other humans as lesser beings, then you are a follower of the anti-Christ. The plain truth is; God doesn’t have a religion and God doesn’t discriminate. Any religion that professes to be the only true religion, or that they‘re special in the eyes of God preaches false doctrine. If the Spirit of God is truly with you, it will only be known by acts of “unconditional” love and charity. No religion can claim exclusive rights to God. He belongs to all that He has created, and to foster a belief in “us” and “them” is to divide humanity, not unite it.

    And so it will be, in The End, that those who have set themselves apart from their fellow man will find that they have set themselves apart from God. The worth of a soul will only be measured by how much it has loved, nothing more, nothing less. Woe to those who have taken the widow’s mite and built castles and empires in His name. They have incurred a great accountability, their suffering will be unending.

    Even Jesus will not claim to be Christian, but will only proclaim the glory of the Father. And when He returns they will shout: “Here we are Lord!” And He will respond: “I never knew you”. They have forsaken the Word and have become prisoners of the Numbers.

    Those who have put themselves first will be last.
    ~

    • 

      However, one problem is that there are Fundamentalist Atheists out there…and everytime they have obtained political control of a country the result has been mass murder of Christians.

  2. 

    I think you read some Karl Barth into scripture.

  3. 
    Bill Englebreth October 4, 2013 at 2:01 AM

    Not to be overly fundamentalist about it, but the Book of Revelation is singular in the title. To say or write “the Book of Revelations” make it seem as though you’ve never really read the title. Picky, I know, but I’d hate for that slip to detract from the coolness of everything else in the article!

  4. 

    Very awesome! Having taken much theology in college, I often find I look at my Christianity through scholarly eyes. This upsets most of my fundi friends, and then we debate. Soon, I think I’ll make a drinking game of how often they change the subject or skirt the issue. Come to think of it, that might level the playing field. ;p

    In all seriousness, I love this! Thanks!

  5. 

    brilliant. folds well with my current belief that god never changed. the jesus event didnt change god any more than the abraham or moses events. what changed was our understanding. jesus said “ok, look, we are all grown up now and in this life together. quit worshipping god as though god is a bloodthirsty anthropomorphized king or molech2 or zeus3. worship god by your kindness and service to others.” we are not animal or slaves. we are welcome at god’s table because we are part of the family.

  6. 

    Wonderful, thank you. Reminds me of Rob Bell’s ‘Love Wins’. Some of you may enjoy my blog too, you never know. Here’s my last post: http://rojnut.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/the-source/

  7. 

    This is superb. Clever and articulate.
    As a former hard-core, Jesus-only Pentecostal; now full-on, completely-uncertain-about-what-is-true-and-likes-it-that-way progressive Christian, I’m delighted to have stumbled across this post.
    (And, being from the Canadian left coast where this thinking is considered mainstream, hearing viewpoints such as this coming from The South is quite refreshing.)

  8. 

    (applauseclapclapclapwhistleXenayellclapclap)

    THIS, thank you. Once in awhile our Pagan group pours a libation (or adds some nice chocolate or flowers) to our honorific ritual bonfires for Yahweh and Yeshua out of sheer sympathy for what they have to put up with. It’s got to be a major bummer to go to all this trouble to help your people and then have your rep and your work get pimped out by centuries of people more given to power-grabbing, fear-mongering, money-making, and spiritual bullying than any dedication to a revealed, inspired relationship with deity.

    You qualify for an official Snoozepossum Beer & Cookies Award; may your critical thinking and will to educate come back to reward you tenfold.

    (bows)
    Snooze Hamilton

  9. 

    You rock. You have some great things in there for us all to think about. I love being challenged! You have a marvelous way to conveying ideas that are ironic, funny, in-your-face, yet you do it in a very Jesus kinda way. I love that. Lots of ideas and self-questioning for the reader to think about. I’d LOVE to be on a group discussion with you and a bunch of fundamentals of all faiths. My idea of a good time. :)

  10. 

    Great article, tho I think there’s ample evidence God knows the future (at least in the human sense of the term).

    God is a transcendental being, existing outside of Time and Space as we humans comprehend it. Just as human beings can walk all around a sculpture in 3 dimensions, squatting or standing on tiptoe to get a better view, so can God perceive all aspects of the 4th dimension of time.

    Being infinite, God has an infinite amount of time to spend in attention to detail.

    Why then doesn’t He do something about the pain and suffering of this world? Because as many religious leaders have taught, from Buddha to Christ, this world is transient, impermanent, a mist. It is a preparation (or perhaps a refining pot would be a better analogy) for the eternal existence to come.

    God is not indifferent to suffering. The reason we humans have a spiritual sense is that we are God’s primary means of dealing with human suffering (altho as often as not we cause it instead)

  11. 

    This was a great article. If my father, also a masters in theology, understood theology like you do, I might still be a Christian. Unfortunately, I was raised on that “literal” bible and so, when I got older and the literal bible just didn’t work, I studied it and realized, yeah, as literal it is a load of crap. Unfortunately, I am too left brained and frankly too old, although not very old, but old enough to have other things I would rather be doing, to go back and try and learn the dang thing in a non-literal way. So, I am an “other.” But I have to say, kudos. I shared it on FB cuz I still have a lot of fundies in my life. I am sure you meet with a lot of resistance. If you aren’t, you aren’t talking to the right groups. And if you are, hang in there. Once my generation kicks the bucket, humanity will hopefully be home free of religious extremism. Hopefully.

  12. 

    Thank you for this. Slightly off topic but fun is that Dr Who is also outside of time and space, can change certain events but cannot act when a point is fixed in time….. As my Rasta friend says thay is the influence of western theology on all our minds, even those who no longer believe.

  13. 

    Thanks for a marvelous posting! I truly enjoyed reading it,
    you are a great author. I will be sure to bookmark your blog and definitely will come
    back at some point. I want to encourage one to continue
    your great writing, have a nice morning!

    louboutin clouté homme

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