When I first meet people, or sometimes after we’ve gotten acquainted and questions arise about upbringing, I find myself trying to explain what fundamentalism is.
It’s usually connected to the “oh, where did you go to college?” inquiry — what ought to be an innocent question for my friend or colleague and an easy answer for me instead makes me cringe. Though I actually got a lot out of my education, saying “I went to Bob Jones University” requires several minutes of followup explanation: But I’m not racist…. But I’m not a legalist (anymore)(like that, anyway)… But don’t hold it against me…. But I met a lot of good people there despite the school’s twisted and unblblical views on sin, righteousness, and grace.
It’s never easy to explain fundamentalism to someone who didn’t grow up in it. I guess all of us “recovering fundys” are members of a secret club we didn’t ask to join. Most of us were inducted when we were kids, and what we can now see as abusive was, at the time, simply normal. And sometimes good.
At least for me. I was never physically abused by a pedophilic pastor; I wasn’t emotionally abused by spiritual leaders; I wan’t driven to mental illness by a system that punishes people for being people.
But I have friends and acquaintances who were. And I think the difference between the fundamentalist’s understanding of the Gospel and the actual meaning of the Gospel are qualitatively different. Not gradations on the same continuum, but a radical difference between the two. (I’ve written about this extensively on my blog – hit the Theology category for plenty of examples.)
So I was pleased to find Samantha Field’s excellent post on her blog about what makes the fundamentalist system too sick to be patched up. Her article numbers the reasons. If you’re straight-out puzzled, perhaps this is a place to start: