Next to my bedside — with the cough drops, an inhaler, the Tivo remote, and several sets of ear plugs — is a small resin lion protecting a resting lamb. My mother’s favorite saying stands behind — a more contemporary reminder of Luther’s idea of vocation. And there’s a small Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast — a memorial to Elise’s 9th birthday in Heaven.
The scene reminds me of the Kingdom. That already-not-yet state of Shalom which God builds and calls us to join. This is what God intended from the beginning. He didn’t make us for violence. He didn’t make us for pain and sorrow. He made us for peace and that architectonic working-together. He made us for justice. He made us for action. He made us not for war, but for love.
That doesn’t mean, of course, that we won’t hurt and we won’t ever need to fight.
In the last year and half, I’ve determined to study the real history of my religious tradition. The final product will come in time. But for now, I realize that fundamentalism — what many call the Independent Fundamental Baptist cult or “IFB,” for short — is a scam. A fraud. Another gospel.
It’s not just a variation on orthodoxy. It’s not just an “extreme” conservative Protestantism. It’s a cult. And even worse.
It hurts to say that. Because I was pretty intimately connected to it. Bob Jones University and all its variations was my life and my ministry. But Jesus isn’t there. God wrote Ichabod over its door long ago.
I now realize that everything that was good from my first 40 years was good because of God’s loud and generous gift, not because of any fundamentalist ideology. My family naturally was a large part of that gift. They taught me what love is. They taught me what Truth is. They taught me what justice is. They taught me what giving your whole self to God’s work is.
I recently found a blog that highlights Bob Jones III’s chapel sayings. Ugh. I remember hearing all those, and promptly ignoring them as the raving nuttiness of a stupid man. Thing is? We thought the same thing about Bob Jones Jr. And now I know that people thought the same thing about Bob Jones Sr.
What’s the deal? Why have we ignored the crazy? I used to wonder at my Mormon friends and how they could ignore the crazy of Joseph Smith. . . . Duh!
We ignore the still small Voice of the Spirit trying to call us away from the crazy because it’s so much easier to listen to the powerful people. But they are wrong.
We’re not supposed to stand without apology, but stand in God’s promise.
We’re not supposed to be beautiful. Jesus is beautiful enough for us.
We’re not supposed work at being separated. He has sanctified us and is sanctifying us.
Sin isn’t contagious. Holiness is.
The prophetic books are not for someday. They are for now.
It’s not about our sacrifice. It’s about Jesus’ victory.
It’s not about identifying the sin and the sinner. It’s not about our obedience. It’s about acting in love toward other Image Bearers.
It’s not about achieving a pristine perfection. Jesus did that. Jesus fulfilled that.
It’s not about mincing between bicycle shorts and regular shorts or dicing time up into discrete promissory categories or trying to fetishize any possible reason a child could be culpable as a victim of a crime. “Personal responsibility” for them means blaming the weakest and the quietest because they are so easy to blame. A great big angry mob-boss God versus little ol’ me. The fundamentalists are the ones “sitting in the seat of the scornful.”
But God’s not angry at me. At all. Jesus took care of that. But the IFB can’t accept that. They can’t let go of that anger. Their arms are so full of condemnation, their backpacks are so full of rocks, their fingers are so busy pointing at the weak ones, that they can’t embrace Jesus.
That doesn’t mean Jesus doesn’t have them. I can’t say that. That’s not my call. Even Luther acknowledged that God could cut through the spiritual aristocracy of the medieval Catholic church and redeem those trapped in that system.
But those trapped in the IFB aren’t building the Kingdom. I know that much.
My family tells the story about my grandmother who, when she and my grandpa visited Poland to make a killing in the whip business in 1928, went to a government office to file some paperwork. Another woman was sitting there weeping. Grandma asked her why she was crying. The lady explained that her husband had died, and she needed to get the title for her farm transferred to her name or she’d lose everything. Her crop was dying because she had spent every day sitting in that office waiting for one of those clerks to wait on her. But they wouldn’t. She had no power and they had no reason to pay attention to her. That was the last day before time ran out and her farm would be gone.
You can guess what Grandma did, can’t you? Of course you can. She marched over to the counter and yelled at the two men sitting there. “Get up now and help this woman, do you understand me?” And they did.
My mom says I’m a lot like Grandma. She was building the Kingdom that day. When she stood up and spoke up for a good lady who couldn’t speak through her tears.