For those that follow this blog only through WordPress, you may have seen the guest post yesterday–a beautiful meditation on spiritual realities that Autumn brings to our minds–and didn’t think much of it. It was pretty and all, but not controversial, right?
Not so, on Facebook.
A good friend, and Atheist (that we here at the blog know quite well), made a comment taking issue with references to the “Fall” and “first parents” (and even the Resurrection) on the grounds that these do not jive with evolutionary science. (Although I don’t think he clicked on the link to a similar post I wrote last year in which I used the same terminologies in the same way, but whatever.) He was surprised that I would have let a seemingly “young earth creationist” (someone who thinks the world was created in six literal days) post on my blog.
Though I assured him that this guest poster was not, in fact, a young earth creationist, and was merely speaking using the common poetic language shared by all of Christian theology and not at all trying to speak in scientific terms, he doubled down. Then, Christians and Atheists all jumped into this thread. Sarcasm, insults, and “who-said-what when” arguments began, all having little to do with the post, and more to do with who was condescending first, who understands genre theory, and who were the more aggressive and defensive parties in the discussion.
This morning, I deleted the thread. It had gotten ridiculous and, frankly, was a stain on my Facebook wall. I don’t mean to rehash that argument here, or even contribute my own “side” to it, but there was one thing that I was reminded of in the course of that discussion:
I really need to find a fundamentalist, hug them, call them “brother” or “sister”, thank them, and tell them I love them.
On the thread yesterday, someone said it would be more “puzzling” for me to let a Young Earth Creationist post on my blog than an Atheist (which I did for a few weeks). The commenter felt that, due to my own opinion in favor of evolution and my continued critique and frustration with Evangelical Fundamentalism, I somehow experienced a greater camaraderie with him than to other Christians that don’t think that’s the case. In other words, it would be weird to let a fundamentalist write on this blog, but not an atheist.
(On a side note, I wonder if he’d find it odd that a couple of years back, I gave space to a faith healer to write on this blog in a series of debates I had with him. Is that equally “puzzling”?)
In response to this, I really feel I need to make something clear. And I think it’s something all of us “cool, Christian twentysomethings” need to hear:
In every way that is most meaningful, our hearts and minds should find more solidarity, unity, fellowship, and camaraderie with the Fundamentalist than with the Atheist and Skeptic.
I’m serious. At the end of the 19th century, modernism–and all of its anti-supernatural, overly-rational assumptions–was taking the world by storm. Religious faith was facing more of an onslaught than perhaps any other point in its history. The church had two options in in how to respond to these global pressures: accommodate or isolate.
The European churches accommodated much of what they did and believed, trying to maintain their places of cultural power and influence. The American churches isolated themselves, withdrawing from the institutions of power and influence, instead opting to create their own versions of culture, academia, media, and yes, even their own “version” of science. They defined themselves by and rallied around a series of conservative “fundamentals” they would cling to no matter what–hence the term “Fundamentalist”. (You can read more about all this in this amazing, classic book.)
So what happened? The European churches died. Europe is almost entirely secular now, largely because of these choices. The American Church, however immature, messed up, broken, legalistic, and anti-intellectual it has been, has survived. A huge majority of Americans still claim religious faith, and it’s still very much in our institutions, politics, and culture.
Yes, this isolation brought with it terrible–wicked, even—consequences into American society; consequences we are perhaps only just now starting to do something about. And yet, for any Christian reading this, you need to know this one fact: historically speaking, if the Fundamentalists had not done with they did, you would probably not be here as a Christian.
This is why they, ultimately, deserve our thanks. They held onto Christian belief no matter what, and we are here because of it. They are still strange and wrong and unhelpful and embarrassing in a million ways and yet they are still our spiritual church grandparents and parents. They deserve our honor more than our derision.
I wrote a series of widely-read posts on homosexuality just over a year ago where I spent a lot of time criticizing both “sides” of the ideological spectrum on the issue. I held a unique level of frustration for the conservatives, though (even though I eventually agreed more with them). In my last post in the series, I explained why this was the case, and found comfort in the example of Jesus:
Many would be surprised to know that of the four or five “denominations” of Judaism in existence at the time of Jesus, the group with which Jesus would have theologically agreed the most was the Pharisees–the very group he is most well-known for challenging, mocking, insulting, and attacking. But this was also the group that trained him, that gave him space to flourish and teach–even from a young age. Who gave him the wisdom and love of the Scripture that equipped him to obey and fulfill his Son-ly duties and be their Messiah. And this was the group that most-defined the religious establishment of Israel when Jesus–eyes wet with tears–longed that they would but repent and turn back to their “mother hen” who wanted to cradle them beneath her wings, all while he set his face against their opposition and boldly went to die at their hands–that they might be saved.
And so with all of our disagreements with the uber-conservatives, the Fundamentalists, and the Young Earth Creationists, may we be reminded that we share Resurrection Life with them and they are family. As much as we might love the Atheists in our lives, they are not. So be encouraged and reminded that in the ways that are most essential, we share our identity, our accent, and our family name with those that are Christians.
Even the weird ones.
So please, hug a fundamentalist. And buy them a beer.