Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Memoirs of a Recovering Fundamentalist

I have been doing a lot of thinking these past few weeks. I have had a great opportunity to as I have been in NC, and without a job since January...long story...but anyway, it has afforded me a lot of time to think - a lot of time to study - to do some "house-cleaning" in my brain...

I have long feared making decisions - perhaps that's why the last year has been so loopy for us - I could never make a final decision about what was right or wrong in regards to where to live, work, etc. But, that's another blog, because this one is about the fear of decisions...

Now, I'm not like my friend, who has the hardest time in the world deciding what to eat when we go out; no, my problem is much more serious. I have a hard time with big decisions, with important decisions...and even when I make a decision, I end up second guessing it to death...ever heard the phrase "beating a dead horse"? Yeah, I am out there still kicking the skeleton as it turns to dust most of the time...

So, where did this problem originate? As best as I can tell, besides some family issues that I faced - being incredibly independent with a super-strict mom - most of it came from being immersed in the Independent Fundamental Baptist church from the time I was about 14 until my early 20s...the church I attended as a teen wasn't always like that - but for several years, when some people split with another church in town - over I think the wearing of a bedroom shoe to their Christian school instead of a uniform shoe - they came and basically took over our church...and BOY, did things change...

They started teaching things like women can't wear pants, all music is wrong unless it's 'old-timey' Gospel music accompanied by a piano, the KJV 1611 is the ONLY version of the Bible in English that is "God-inspired," and on and on...I was immediately picked out by these people - and I never really understood why until I was older - as being a sinner - a "bad girl" - a slut... I wasn't, but they sure believed I was... and as I said, it wasn't until years later that it finally registered that they didn't like how outspoken and independent I was...I was a threat to their very way of church...what do I mean?

Well, see, a church like that counts on ONE thing to keep going - the submission of its members and the absolute authority of its leaders - and when you have one like me, who thinks for herself, who questions everything, who wants to know the truth - that is a threat...I wasn't "submissive" enough; I wasn't "quiet" enough; I wasn't "compliant" enough...so, in these peoples' minds, I MUST have been of Satan...

I eventually fell into that line of thinking, that there WAS something wrong with me...that I was somehow flawed - more than others - and not just with "sin" as all people are, but with something Devilish, horrible, and evil...so, what did I try to do? I tried to "fix" it - I changed who I was entirely...started wearing dresses all the time, started carrying my KJV Bible to school, changed my music, my readings, and on and on...and eventually, of course, wanting to be accepted and loved, decided to go to the "best" Baptist college there was (according to these people) - and I went to Hyles-Anderson College in Crown Point, Indiana...it was there the real damage was done...

We were told from the beginning how insignificant and horrible we were - how useless our Christian testimony was - (at least until we were in our 40s, then they MIGHT consider us to have some measure of success)...we were told that we had to do everything the leaders told us to do. We were told NOT to EVER think for ourselves, for if we did, we would just be tricked by Satan - since our hearts are desperately wicked...so, how were we to think? We were to gather a group of counselors - Fundamental Independent Baptist counselors - and always run what we were thinking or deciding by them, and only do as they said...we were worked for hours and hours every day. We attended classes; we went soul-winning, we worked in the bus ministry (bringing in the poor kids from the ghettos of Chicago to church), we had chapel five times a week, church three times a week, dorm devotions seven times a week, bus ministry meetings four times a week, and more...we were lucky to get 4-5 hours sleep a night. The cafeteria didn't cook or serve food on the weekends, (although NO ONE went home from the college), they figured they didn't need to since 98% of the student were working in a ministry - they made bag lunches that we could grab, but inevitably, we ended up giving out food to the bus kids who were poorer and hungrier than we..many of us got physically sick from all of that...and if one tried to leave? HA! Every chapel service, every church service, every dorm devotion, every bus meeting, every time there was ANY kind of group meeting for the month before Christmas break, the leaders either played a recording or read a letter from someone who had "left Hyles-Anderson" and it had ruined their life...if you knew someone was planning on leaving, you were encouraged to "turn them in" to the proper leaders so they could be "talked to." And I was turned in - and I was talked to - told that if I left Hyles-Anderson that I would be forever sorry, that it would ruin my life...that it was all Satan...I left anyway - had no choice due to money - Thank-God! (There's so much more to this, but we'll call this "part ONE" for now...)

I didn't realize it at the time, but that was brainwashing...it was a cult...

After years and years of removal from that situation (Thank-God he got me out), and after therapy, and after much soul-searching, Bible reading, and just observation - I realize that I was robbed of something in those years - I was robbed of ME...and it has taken me years to get even part of "me" back...I left Hyles-Anderson when I was 18; I am 44 now; and I am still recovering from it...

Many of my friends have laughed at me, teased me, said, Come on, Tammy, all that was stupid, get over it." But they didn't understand...I had honestly begun to wonder if anyone would ever understand...and while counseling with a dear friend, she said to me, "Tammy, have you looked at the horror stories from that place?" I hadn't in several years, so I did last night...and I was up until three a.m. - and started reading again this morning when I got up...

SO many people have been damaged not only by Hyles-Anderson, but by similar churches...so much pain, so much destruction...people who can't think on their own, people who can't function on their own, people who are broken - all because their very sense of identity was taken away...their very relationship with God was taken away...

Then the really horrible stories appear - the girls and boys who were molested, who were raped, who were taken advantage of because of these people...the pastor of the church from Hyles-Anderson, Jack Schaap - a man whom I admired, who was my Bible teacher while I was in college there - was sentenced to 12 years in Federal Prison for having sexual relations (and crossing state lines) with a sixteen-year-old girl...that's bad enough...but the part that makes me the sickest is HOW he did it...when she questioned him about it, he told her it was "God's will" that she be with him...that "Jesus Christ wanted them to be together sexually." He used his complete authority over her to convince her that he was "God's spokesman" and that she couldn't and shouldn't think for herself...that is sick...

And that is where I find myself...no, I was never physically molested by these people, thank-God for that, but my mind and soul was raped, I was brainwashed from a person into a shell - and it has taken 25 years to get to the point where I can even say that publicly. I wrote a memoir about it in 2006, but have shared it with precious few... Why so long? Fear...fear that Satan was tricking me, fear that God would kill me - give me cancer or something - that God would kill my children (that's the kinds of threats they use constantly)...fear of repercussions from these people, fear of losing people as "friends" that I have known my whole life...and truthfully, this post might "run off" some people - for I still know quite a few who adhere to that religion - they follow its leaders as if they were God himself...their leaders have had affairs, have been divorced and remarried, have been hateful and liars and arrogant...but yet, they still follow them blindly...truly believing these men are right...are God's spokesmen...and it's pathetic...

I am a recovering fundamentalist...it is still very difficult at times for me, but I will make it...and I will tell my story to help others out of that mind-prison, that brainwashing that steals your very self...

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Christmas Parable - Well, Kind Of...

I want to tell you a story...

When I was four or five, my mother tried to get me to leave up an old, holey sock on the fireplace (yes, for a few years, when Daddy was healthy, we had enough money to have a house with a fireplace, but I digress)...she tried and tried to talk me into putting this old, holey sock up instead of a real Christmas stocking...but I would not have ANY of it. I was petrified...(Yes, I remember it very clearly)...I was terrified that Santa would see that old, holey sock and NOT leave me anything...I was sure he would take it as a sign of meanness that I would dare leave such a thing hanging up for him...and try as she might, my mother could not convince me otherwise...so, she finally gave up and gave me the brand new stocking she had bought and said, "Here! I was going to surprise you and replace the old, holey sock with this beautiful new stocking after you went to bed so Santa could fill it up and so you'd wake up to a nice surprise. But, since you couldn't trust me, here."

I was devastated. Even in my 4-5 year old mind, I realized what I had done. I had mistrusted my parents...I had freaked out that they were letting me down with this silly idea...and I had missed one of the most amazing, magical surprises that I could have gotten at such an age...I begged my mom to take the stocking back and hang up the old sock, but she said, "What's the use now? There would be no surprise, you ruined it." I knew she was right. I knew I had pitched a fit and had ruined a perfectly delightful surprise...and I was so mad at myself...(yes, I've always been this self-aware, be glad you're not in my brain! It's a jungle in here!)

I have thought of that occurrence over and over throughout the years, and am always reminded of it especially at Christmas...When I'm shopping and see Christmas stockings; when I'm hanging up our stockings; when I hear Christmas carols that mention stockings...I am reminded of that selfish, mistrusting little girl that couldn't see past her own view of things to believe in magic...to have faith...to believe in something bigger than myself...and every year, I think....

How often are we like that with God? How often do we pitch a royal fit over things that don't go our way or over things that don't look like they're going our way? (Yes, I'm preaching to myself.) How often do we see nothing but an old, holey sock, and we scream and fight and wallow in self-pity...all the while, God is standing there with an AMAZING, beautiful, fluffy, packed Christmas stocking behind his back, just waiting for us to let go...to trust him...to say, "OK, Father....Daddy...your will be done." But half the time, we never do...and maybe God puts the stocking away and says, "OK, I'll try again later when your faith in me is a little more...when your trust in my goodness is more...when you choose to believe My Word and My promises..."

How often do we quote the the words of Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, do not lean to your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths"; but fail to live by it? How often do we only see what is currently in our view and think, "Yeah, God's left me on this one...He's not going to help...He's not going to answer...He doesn't care..." Reminds me of the song from the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir - "How many times must I prove how much I love you? How many times must my love for you I show? How many times, must I rescue you from danger, for you to know how much I love you?" ........ How many times...and why do we continually mistrust Him?

I think I've missed a lot of blessings in my life because of an attitude like this.....have you? How often do you see a holey sock and freak out? Does God ever ask you to use the holey sock for a night...for a week...and you lose it...you think, "HOW could YOU do this to me, God???" And all the while, God's biding his time to see if we will trust him...wanting to pour out blessings, but being stopped by us?

No, not every prayer will be answered the way we want...the Bible clearly says that "This is the confidence which we have before him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we ask of Him." I John 14-15 -- but the Bible also says, "Without faith it's impossible to please Him." - how often are we without faith? How often do we miss the blessing?

I have been needing to share this with you for a few days, and in the quiet of this evening, it was time...I hope a lot of you read it and share it with friends...because I think we can all use a little more faith...a little more trust in God's goodness...a little more magic...


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Girls Today...Women Today...We're Failing...


I have a growing burden; I have had it for a while, and I want to share it with my Christian friends, particularly the ladies. I hope that you will take time to read this and say a prayer about how you might get involved.

Here’s the problem:

Many of today’s young people, even many who are Christians – have no idea how to be adults – they don’t understand what true love is; they don’t know how to be spouses; they don’t know how to be parents. Every day I teach college and high school-aged young people, and while they are not expected to be more than young adults right now, it only takes a few minutes of watching them to see that many of them are not anywhere near the point in their lives where they should be in regards to reality and maturity – in other words, they don’t act like young adults. Or worse yet, our adult generation is so immature that the young people are acting like younger versions of them. How do I know this? Am I just cynical? Am I just crotchety? Am I like every middle-aged person throughout history, bemoaning our youth? No, I am not. I love my students. I love spending time with them. I love teaching them. I have been doing it for nearly twenty years now (on and off) – And, every day in my life, I see the same thing; I see a generation lost. They have been raised mostly by the television, movies, and music. They have been far more influenced by friends than by family. They have learned what they know of relationships from reality TV and teenage “love novels.” They have basically been taught exactly the opposite of what God, in his Holy Word teaches. After all, who is trying to steal them? The Devil is – and the Devil is the master counterfeiter. He takes everything God has and makes a broken, wretched replica of it – then convinces people – sometimes even the believer – that his replica is the “real thing.”

At this point, some of you may be giving a few arguments to my claim. I imagine there are those of you who are saying, “Now, wait a minute, MY kids are NOT like that, I TAUGHT them…” Yes, I’m sure you did. I did not say every young person in the world is suffering from this problem – I said “many.” I imagine there are those of you who are saying, “Aw, come on, today’s kids are no worse than any other generation; throughout the ages, all older people have complained about the youth.” Yes, you’re right, but I contend this generation is in a much more precarious position than any generation of American teens have ever been. For the sake of argument, I am not going any deeper into history than the past two hundred years; because this is not an argument of comparison – of which time era or society is “worse,” but rather an argument of where this current generation is - period.

I do not want this to be an indictment of this generation. In fact, if I want to indict anyone, it is us – the adults – who have failed to do the things we should according to God’s Word. This is where I shift to my true burden – the girls of this generation – as an elder woman, I have a heavy burden for our  young women.

“…the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things—that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.” Titus 2:3-5

It is necessary, in order to show my burden, to be more specific in what is lacking, what is misunderstood, what I see as a problem.

Today:

Love is misunderstood. Girls have accepted that love is merely a feeling, an emotion that one cannot control. Every day you will hear someone say, “Well, I can’t help who I fall in love with.” Or perhaps, “We just fell out of love.” That is a fallacy – a lie of Satan. Love is not a feeling – it is a choice. Infatuation is a feeling; attraction is a feeling; butterflies in your stomach and goose bumps are feelings that often accompany emotions tied to infatuation and attraction – but none of those things are love. Love, as defined in the Word of God is deliberate…in short, it is a choice. Tell someone that today, and not only will you be looked at like you have two heads, but you might get slapped. The idea of love as a choice is mocked.

Forgiveness is nearly non-existent – Girls have accepted the world’s view that forgiveness is weakness. They have accepted the feminist notion that a woman who forgives a man for something he did wrong is welcoming abuse or disempowering oneself.

“Fairness” is misinterpreted – Girls today have the idea that, “If he did it; I get to do it too.”  “If he says this to me, I have to say it to him.” While in one way, we are all like this in regards to “fairness” – the current definition of “fair” is not Godly. Besides, God is not about “fair”; he’s about justice. Fairness and justice are two distinctly different things in God’s book. In fact, I would contend that as far as today’s definition of fairness is concerned, God doesn’t care about it very much.

Run away is the norm – When things get touch, our first instinct is to run away, and that is so true of today’s girls. If things don’t go their way – they talk about leaving. If something difficult happens, they throw out the word ‘divorce.’ While it’s true that women have done this for decades, the fact remains that today; more women mean it than ever before. The divorce rate is America is over 50%, and more shockingly, the divorce rate among American self-professed Christians is nearly 75%.

Pleasure is the ultimate goal – Whether it’s spending too much money to buy things for oneself; whether it’s seeking sexual satisfaction in nearly any place possible; whether it’s drugs or alcohol; whether it’s laziness – pleasure and comfort is the ultimate goal of today’s world. Again, while that may have been true of other generations, today it manifests itself in neglected children, neglected homes, neglected marriages, and more. It’s easier to sit a child in front of hours of children’s TV than it is to make crafts with them, to play with them, to read to them.

Beauty is misjudged – Today’s idea of beauty or attractiveness is completely twisted. It is based on Hollywood, on magazine covers, on the music industry. The thinner a girl is the better. The fewer clothes she wears, the sexier she is. Girls look at magazine covers and photos and compare themselves to those pictures and hate themselves, more than ever are dealing with eating disorders. One of the biggest things the girls never realize – or even if they realize it, it doesn’t seem to affect them – is that the photos they see are heavily photo shopped. The pictures are not anywhere near a realistic depiction of the model – it has been retouched, her skin-tone fixed, her curves cut the way the editor wants, the flaws erased, the faces thinned, the butts and breasts made larger…there have been so many changes, the pictures are not realistic, yet we allow these photos to set the standard for our reality? And I might as well not even mention ‘inner beauty’ – today that is literally a phrase that is used to tell a girl she’s really ugly.

I plan on writing much more about this in the coming weeks. In fact, this is actually my next major writing project. I’m not sure where it will go, and I ask your prayers for that, but I am going to stop here because I want this to be a readable blog post and not a dissertation.

The point is – look around you, women. Look at the girls, the teens, the young women that God has placed in your life – not just your daughters, but your daughter-in-laws, your nieces, your friends children, young women at your church, young woman with which you work, etc. What is their idea of love? What is their idea of forgiveness? What is their idea of “fairness”? How much pleasure and comfort do they seek? Is their first instinct in the face of tribulation to run? Do they have a realistic view of the hard work and sacrifice that real love takes – not only with husbands, but with children? What is their idea of real beauty?

Will you share my burden for this generation? Will you pray? Will you become a small group leader? Will you take up the slack in your church and step in to create a ministry for these women? I am not sure what God will put on your heart in regards to this, but I can tell you one thing – if we do not “stand in the gap” – no one will, and even our Christian homes – are doomed.

“I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one.” – Ezekiel 22:30.

 

 

 

 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

My Kind of Mother's Day

As I sit here tonight in my big, comfy rocking chair, watching reruns of Big Bang Theory, sipping a cold Mello Yello, and surrounded by part of my family, I have to laugh about the irony and the reality.

The past few months have been very stressful for me.  Not only was "racism," "class-ism," and "bigotry" our major topics in Comp and Rhetoric (which, if you remember, I teach); it was also the topic of the latest class I just finished for this Master's Degree, and it became quite the talking point in my circle of friends on Facebook. While it should have been a merely interesting topic to explore, for me, it became quite painful at times.  I realized some things that I never had, and I felt so angry and conflicted.

As most of you know, I am a Libertarian with conservative leanings. What I never realized was that because of my political leanings - and ONLY because of my political leanings - about half of the country believes that I (people who hold my philosophy) am a racist and a bigot. "The conservatives are the party of hate," or so I keep being told.  That really bothered me!  Still, because I knew my life and because I realized it was just a sweeping generalization, I could dismiss it fairly well, and I moved on....But, then, as I delved deeper into the subject, I read more detail. I learned that - again that same half of the country - believes if one is white they must feel "guilty" for being white and they must acknowledge the "white privilege" they have had their entire life and "feel sorry" for minorities - the they must give minorities special treatment just to "make things equal" - (you know, Affirmative Action, extra points on SATs, etc.) - in order NOT to be racist.  It doesn't matter to this "half of the country" what personal things one has in their lives - whether they are married to a black person or whether they "don't see color" - if whites don't believe in the things mentioned earlier, they are racist.  That floored me! I also learned that - again that same half of the country - believes that if a person belives that Christians and other religous people should legally have the right to say, "homosexuality is a sin," or "people are sinners" then they are bigots - even if that Christian or religous person also believes in equal rights for gays - that is that gays hould be allowed to marry and have all the privileges thereof. The mere fact that a person doesn't believe that "homosexuality is a sin" is hate speech makes them a horrid bigot...

Oh, I could go on and on about all of this - but you guys get it - So, here's my point...

They say (even though they don't know me personally) that because I'm a Christian and because I lean Conservative that I am a bigot and a racist.

THEN...

I look around my living room tonight - - - my gay ex-husband is sitting beside me in the other rocking chair - our adopted, bi-racial (African American/White) son is sitting on the couch next to the ex. My current husband is sitting on the other end of the couch beside our son. We are watching Castle and waiting on dinner to be done - my ex-husband bought it for me - my new husband is cooking it for me - and we are all going to eat together tonight and watch TV and talk. We went to church earlier together...and will hang out tomorrow together....

And...

I laugh again and realize - people are idiots...if that "half of the country" honestly believes that one's political beliefs alone make one a bigot and racist - and it doesn't matter what that one's personal life is about - then that "half of the country" are absolutely, ridiculiously stupid.

My life swims in diversity - diversity sits in my living room, it sleeps in my beds, it eats on my plates and with my silverware, it rides in my car, it is what I live and breathe 24/7/365 ~ and I AM NOT racist or bigoted - I AM diversity - I AM open-mindedness - and I LOVE IT!!!!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Seeing Yourself Realistically

As I've been working on the second master's degree, I have been asked to - and have taken - a long, honest look at myself, and I see so many things I don't like.  As I look back over my life and see how much stupidity I excused in myself, and how much irreponsibility I embodied, I have a hard time believing it.  I have to wonder how someone who wanted to be such a good Christian, someone who wanted to please God so badly, could have been so bad at it. It's sad that it took me until I was nearly forty to start growing up, and until I was forty-three to take a honest, long look at myself.

I never did drugs, or "sexed it up," or partied, or drank, but I had a myriad of problems that I ignored, or at least pretended "weren't that bad."  I was irresponsible with money.  I cared too much what people tought of me and tried too much to please them instead of God.  I thought I was a "great Christian" with "so much to offer" people, when realistically, I was a walking disaster and bad testimony.  No, I wasn't all bad - I had good qualities, but the utter self-blindness to my faults - the tendency to underrate things I did wrong and pretend they were someone else's fault bothers me.

It's no wonder we fail to look at ourselves for what and who we really are sometimes - it's too ugly...it's too painful...most of us DON'T want to be the "screw-ups" that we actually are or have been...but, looking at that truthfully, taking inventory, and moving forward with God's help is the only way to remedy it.  Have you taken a good look in the mirror lately?

I don't need to say much more, except this - If you have known me for a long time - I'm sorry for who I was - I'm sorry for being utterly blind to my own faults and problems.  I am sorry.  Most of you who read this are my friends, and you have been my friend for a very long time, and you will always be...and to know you loved me, even when I was a big ball of stupidity and irresponsibility, humbles me.  Thank-you for not giving up on me...I am growing up...and I moving forward...I am a work in progress...please keep praying for me. 

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Curtain Was Torn in Half!!

Most non-Christians do not like the idea that humanity is "fallen" or "evil" and therefore in need of a savior.  When presented with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, many scoff, saying, "Well, a LOVING God wouldn't send anyone to hell," or "A LOVING God wouldn't put some system like that into place - a system where man is a unwilling sinner and therefore must go to hell and must be saved to avoid it...he would just let people in Heaven if he were real."  And the arguments go on...but, hear me out here...

Imagine a situation - a place - a universe where there are definite boundaries - where there is good and evil - good and evil with clear boundaries - imagine that universe ruled by that absolute - then there is God - he is 100% good, there is no evil in him - in fact, he can't be touched by evil...and he has created man so he won't be alone - so he will have someone who chooses to worship him - someone who wants to be with him...we all understand that, don't we?  We don't want someone to be with us because they are forced to be or because they are brainwashed to be...so, God creates man...and God tries to keep his creation away from the evil side of the universe...but, man uses his free will, and he walks into sin...and God knows, that because of the absolutes of the universe, because he can't fellowship with sin - because sin damns a soul to the evil side and to hell, that a price must be paid for redemption - there is no other way - so, he does the only thing that can be done - that is if he wants to save his creation - he comes in human flesh - Jesus Christ - and he lives among us, and he dies on the cross - not just dying, but taking the punishment of the sins of the entire world - of everyone who ever has or does or would exist - and he pays the price for us...and on the third day, he rises again...victorious over sin and death...God has made a way where there seemed to be no way...

And one of the most important verses in that story is Matthew 27:51 " At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split."  ......The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom....what's that?  The curtain in the temple was an eight inch thick drape that hid the temple from the "Holy of Holies" - see, before Jesus' death, no one was allowed in the presence of God due to sin and holiness except the high priest who went into the Holy of Holies once a year to offer up a blood sacrifice for the sins of God's people...and it was such a nerve-wracking experience, so dangerous, (for if the priest had sinned or hadn't done his duties right, he would die the minute he went in there) that they put a bell on one foot of the priest to listen and make sure he was still alive, and a rope on the other foot to pull him out in case he died in there...BUT, the minute Jesus died...things changed - the curtain was torn in half - and not from the bottom to the top as men could have tried to do, but from the top to the bottom - God did it...Why? Because Jesus made the way - he paid the price - THROUGH HIM, we are no longer sinners, but we are holy - we have HIS holiness as ours...and we are reconciled with God and we can enter the Holy of Holies at any time - we can be in God's presence at any time...high priests, sacrifices, and fear is no longer necessary...why?  Because God loved us and came FOR us...

THAT'S a love story - not a story of hate or exclusion...

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever would believe in him would not die, but have eternal life."

Amazing that we have the most loving story of redemption ever written, that we have the ONLY God who came for his people instead of making them work their way toward him...yet, ours is condemned as the most "hateful, dangerous" religion out there...

Where ever you stand on faith - Christianity - atheism - agnosticism - whatever - it is something worth pondering about, is it not?

He is Risen, just as he said!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Moral Relativism and Christianity

Here are a few questions I received in response to yesterday's blog:

"How do you reconcile Evangelical Christianity with moral relativism? Are you suggesting there are no moral absolutes such as those set forth in the Bible? If there is no definition for abuse then how is anyone taken to court?"

First, let me define moral relativism - "Metaethical Moral Relativism - The truth or falsity of moral judgments, or their justification, is not absolute or universal, but is relative to the traditions, convictions, or practices of a group of persons" (Stanford).
 
As a Christian myself, I cannot reconcile Evangelical Christianity with moral relativism. I don't think it's possible. Let me define one essential part of Evangelical Christianity so I can address this better.  One of the paramount hallmarks of Evangelicals is "Biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible" (Eskridge). In layman's terms, Evangelicals believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, inerrant and infalliable in its original manuscripts, and kept together supernaturally in its current 66 books by God himself.  

Obviously if Evangelicals believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God - inerrant and infalliable - then Evangelicals believe that there are moral absolutes, and that those moral absolutes come from the Bible, and therefore straight from God.  That is, God is the one and only, absolute basis of morality. Yet, there are still "gray areas" in Christiainity - there are deeds/actions that the Bible does not mention specifically, and therefore a person is left to pray and work that out with God themselves.  For instance, smoking - some believe smoking is a sin because it "defiles" the body. However, many others do not believe that smoking is a sin because it is not mentioned specifically in the Bible.  With areas such as these, where there is no specific Biblical mandate, one might be able to argue that there is some "moral relativism" inside Christianity. But, whether or not one accepts that these gray areas are actually a form of "moral relativism," that one must still admit that there are, other, definite moral absolutes in the Bible.

Now, if my friend is asking, can Evangelical Christianity be reconciled with moral relativism outside the Christian faith...of course it can! If everything "is relative to the traditions, convictions, or practices of a group of persons," then anyone who does not believe the Bible, while they may believe in some of the same "morals" that a Christian does, are not going to believe that those morals originate with God...they are not going to see God as any sort of absolute...Christianity - to a non-Christian, is completely relative.

I have spent a lot of time today wondering why these questions were asked of me...I know that I never intended to imply that Christians believe in moral relativism, nor did I intend to imply that everyone believes as I (or other Christians do) in moral absolutes - and after re-reading my post, I don't think I did. My post was about progressives who claim that their "tolerance" is the same as the word "tolerance" as defined in the dictionary...and I didn't even mention Christians in that regard......So, I wondered still; why was I asked this?  Then, I thought perhaps the question was asked because my friend was thinking something like this - - - "Tammy claims constantly to be 'tolerant,' yet she is an Evangelical Christian...and since Evangelical Christians believe in absolute morality, they cannot be 'objective' and therefore they, and she, cannot truly be tolerant..."

If that is why the question was asked - let me say this.  While I do believe that many things are definitely defined as "sin" in the Bible, and if someone were to ask me, I'd tell them what I believe...I do not believe God gives me the right to tell people, uninvited, that they need to "stop" doing what they are doing.  I do not believe God gives me the right to try and push my religious beliefs upon others beyond just sharing the Gospel with them. I believe that God tells me very cleary NOT to be judgemental of others.......But, still, since I do believe in moral absolutes, do I truly fit the definition of "tolerent" as given in the meme in question?  No, I admit, I do not...however, in thinking about it...I realize what I do fit...or at least what I strive passionately, every single day to live, is "agape love" - that is pure, unconditional love for others - and that, I think, is far better than tolerance.

Some may ask, "Why do you write this blog or FB posts, then?  You tell people they are wrong; and unconditional love wouldn't do that."  To that I would answer - Wrong...Love - true love - has an obligation to point out wrong...to point out mistakes...to point out problems...for if one really cares about another, that one is going to want the best for the other...and I do want the best for our world...for the people around me...for the people I love.  And, since I am passionate about justice...I always have been...I usually write about it.  Whenever I see anything I perceive as injustice, hypocrisy, or unfairness; I address that - usually not from a Biblical standpoint, either (for I know many people in my circle of acquaintances and friends do not believe the Bible), but rather from a personal "we need to be fair" standpoint...and I try to show why we truly "need" to be fair - logically - rather than just offering personal, emotional appeals...I do that so hopefully, I can help enlighten people and persuade them that certain roads are perilous, and that they are not looking at things logically or in the long-term.

It all comes back to this very basic analogy of the dichotemy I see every day - A person says, "We MUST be tolerant!  We MUST accept people...NO...MATTER...WHAT if we want to be loving, open-minded, and non-abusive!!  We MUST be tolerant....and, just so you know, I will NOT TOLERATE you not being tolerant!"  And...................my brain explodes...

I hope I've sufficiently answered the question...but, if not, feel free to leave a comment or another question here or on Facebook...

Peace, Love, and Mello Yello!