Pilgrim’s Further Progress
(nod to LeoPardus for the suggestion) :-)
There once was a girl who was looking for love. She was tired of the same old surface relationships; ones that never truly satisfied her heart as well as her intellect. She tried dating off and on. She found a lovely peaceful man named Buddha, but to her, he was too passive. She ended up always having to make the decisions or sit calmly watching him meditate. She needed more excitement than that. She dated a guy named Aristotle and even his best friend Plato, but they were too much “into hanging out with the guys” and didn’t want to commit to romance. Her friends kept trying to set her up with a new guy named Jesus. He was perfect for her and would love her until the end of time. He was manly and heroic. His relationship with his Mother wasn’t so hot, but his dad and he were very close. He sounded wonderful, almost too wonderful, but after a series of failed dating experiences, she agreed to go on a blind date and see for herself.
She was enraptured! Never before had she felt like someone knew her very soul. He would gaze into her eyes, listen to her conversation for hours, and she just KNEW that he was the one. Apparently, he did too, because instantly he professed his love for her and wooed her with all his might. Sure, there were some warning signals. He wanted her to completely renounce all her old friends and even her family…
Disclaimer: This article is my opinion only, based on my own literary and theoretical research (M.A. in Lit.) and is not intended as “scientific research.”
The more I interact with Christian fundamentalists, either in church or on the Internet, the more I become convinced it is a disease of the mind, or at least a self-replicating meme or “mind virus.” Having been a Christian fundamentalist myself, I can honestly say that you aren’t in your right mind when you are caught in the throes of religious fundamentalism. As a fundamentalist you close your mind to anything but what ancient texts say. You only listen to certain things and filter everything through the lens of your chosen religion. How can this be normal when we are born without filters of any kind (except pain and pleasure)? Being a fundamentalist is like confining all your thought to the works of Archimedes or to Shakespeare (that might not be a bad idea) and refusing to accept information past that point. It’s like insisting that Greek culture is the only true culture and channeling all of your efforts to seeing that it becomes our culture now.
That being said, there is a certain thrill in suddenly “waking up” and realizing you’ve been deluding yourself for many years. What I once did to become a fundamentalist, I have now done in freeing myself from it’s grasp. You slowly begin to grasp that the fundamentalist rituals you are using are designed solely to keep those delusions fresh and ever present in your mind so that you will quickly fall into line if you have doubts…
When I was a fundie Christian the hardest thing that was required of me was to forgive people for being perverts and assholes. A Christian is told repeatedly that if we don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive us. We are also taught that we had to forgive people EVEN when these people were not repentant or did not ask for your forgiveness. If we didn’t, we could not expect forgiveness form the Almighty. In other words, if my step-father beat, tortured, and raped me repeatedly from the ages of 9 through 14, I had the duty to forgive him even though he was an unrepentant asshole even on his deathbed.
For some reason, that never sat well with me. I was furious, but taught myself to ignore the fury to be a good Christian. Nowadays there are numerous stories of child abusers, killers, rapists, and evil Christians of the Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist variety and evil Muslims such as the 9/11 hijackers and those who kill their wives, daughters, and sisters for their own “honor.” We are told again and again that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We are supposed to realize that these people are also God’s creatures and to think evilly of them and wish them harm is not a good thing to do. Yet, when the likes of Fred Phelps and his band of psychotic cult followers picketed a fallen soldier’s funeral in my small Midwestern town, I was furious. Forgive them? Are you crazy? I couldn’t do it. I cheered when the Iron Sleds, a Harley-riding motorcycle group who supports military veterans, decided to step in and guard the family from whackos like Phelps at the funeral. I secretly hoped there would be an “incident” and that Phelps would get his face smashed in, that violence would ensue…
In the bible we read:
2Pe 1:5-7 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, (6) and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, (7) and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love….and with love, humor……….
(broken record scratch)
Wait……what? Humor? Is that in the bible?? No, absolutely not. I added that last bit. To me, the mark of a truly ethical and moral person is the ability to laugh with others and chiefly, to laugh at yourself. The inability to laugh at yourself is a true mark of hubris in my humble opinion.
One thing that has always bothered me about the bible and biblical history is that there are no examples of people laughing and having fun except in a derogatory manner. Sarah laughed, but it was more like a “Sure, I’m going to have a baby!” type of chortle I’m sure. I’m sure she wasn’t having any fun at that point! Later on Jesus himself said,
Luk 6:25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep…
There’s nothing I hate more than manipulative bait and switch preachers….. except for manipulative bait and switch videos:
Not only are you responsible for failing to be ready to die a martyr, you’re responsible for other peoples’ manipulative tactics as well. The only thing cheesier, and the twist I was expecting, was to make the guy with the gun become an angel or Jesus. Now THAT would have been sweet and a double smack on the knuckles! (sigh)
Painting courtesy of Christine Vaillancourt
I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Christianity for the last 20 years. It’s been a long, long time since I fully, truly believed in its tenets or its “authority.” At one time I would have defended it to the death if I had to. But, things started going downhill for me when I first discovered that there were hundreds and thousands of different beliefs and doctrines and sects. Most of the differences were within the Christian church alone. I should have taken my first clue from the fact that no two churches believed 100% alike, even the Catholic Church which claimed to be the ULTIMATE truth. I think when I first realized that there was no unity of belief or doctrine, it set the stage for everything that followed.
The next sacred cow to be murdered was the doctrine of the inerrancy of the bible. Once that stranglehold of “faith” was broken, I could think clearly for the first time. It’s as if a breath of fresh air descended upon me…
I’ve been making my way slowly through the book Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman and am more and more convinced that there is no such thing as a “true” text of scripture, let alone an inerrant scripture or a “verbally inspired” scripture. There ain’t no such animal. It’s all verbal and doctrinal gymnastics to keep the faithful ignorant. I think that’s precisely the dirty, little secret of textual critics or anyone else who’s been to a university not tainted by religious bias and committed to honest inquiry. There is no “text” of scripture at all, but several letters, treatises, gospels, and other bits and pieces that were chosen randomly by a bishop here or another teacher there according to their whims at the time. No women were allowed to choose the texts, even though women were apostles and prophets as well. God no more orchestrated the gathering of these bits and pieces together than Zeus orchestrated the gathering of all of his children from several different mothers for a family reunion of the gods in ancient Greece. Of course, I always knew this from my own studies. Ehrman just solidified it for me.
Ehrman began his career as a conservative Moody Bible College graduate who, after working his way to a Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary, realized that what he was taught as an ultra-conservative fundamentalist Christian just didn’t jibe with the facts. In fact, the tossing about of texts, the castigating of those of differing opinions, and the fighting over words went on from the very beginning of Christianity…