Religious Fundamentalism: How “They” Tell “Your” Story Better Than “You”

   The politics of the Center is either dead, or wide open, depending on the myth you follow. A Conservative Action group routinely grades the actions of each member of Congress. Each time, for years now, the most conservative Democrat ranks far to the Left of the most liberal Republican. There is simply no one in place to build a bridge. Goodness, there is no one in place to shout a friendly greeting across the chasm.

   The Center in religious life still exists as a political force but it scarcely gets a hearing. Among national convention baptists, no Moderate-Liberal can get a hearing. In states like Texas, the Fundamentalist-Conservatives were forced to form their own convention to have a voice. There are no more smoke-filled back prayer rooms where groups come together for the good of the whole. The current climate is winner take all. The winners need to win and they need the losers to feel their loss viscerally.

   Internationally, the rise of Islamic Fundamentalism has been/is being/will be mirrored by Fundamentalism of the Left, as militant atheists argue for the abolition of all religion by international law. The world, one feels, needs a time-out.

   To roll back the rising tide of Fundamentalism will require a compelling story communicated by a vibrant voice. The Center must make a case for itself. Frankly, the current religious leadership seems as unable to make a case for the Center as the POTUS is unable to get bills through Congress, even armed with a (once) super-majority. 

   When the animating source of each side is to disable the other side (and wallow in the spoils of power), the great danger is more of the same nothing. Nothing viable comes out of Washington, let alone out of Nashville or Dallas (for those baptist Christians among my readers; you know who you are).

   When the Center does not act, the default position is Fundamentalism, of the Right or Left. The deep cultural roots of Fundamentalism (explained in previous posts) and its strong story (the meta-narrative) carry the day. The world awaits the coming collapse of the whole.

    We are at that point in history where Fundamentalism can be reversed only by a middle-class commercial revolution. This is particularly viable in the religious sector. When a meaningful portion of the religious population no longer buys the product, a change will come almost immediately.

   The Religious Center needs a compelling story, told by a vibrant voice. Try this story.

   Imagine a religious sector where healthy ministers, supported by a peer group of colleagues, tells the unvarnished truth to local congregations where the ministers are called to serve. No undue obeisance is required to some elastic, amorphous denominational apparatus. Real ministers, men and women, get meaningful training from experienced mentors, who themselves benefit from exposure to younger persons, wired to the world and energetic but lacking in the wisdom of age and the depth of love that (hopefully) comes with wrinkles.

   Imagine an organization met to analyze, train and support ministers, so that the truth can be told to local congregations without fear of career suicide. Imagine a partnership with seminaries and universities to enable to academic training ministers do need as generalists in an age of specialization. Imagine a missions formulation that ends the practice of keeping up to 75% of all receipts with the administration and dribbling less money each year into the field. 

   Imagine one level of bureaucracy, rather than three or four, all needing to be fed, all tied to a constituency, each informed by a shadow government, less effective and more costly by the year. If you are a fiscal conservative (and a liberal giver), you probably fantasize about less expensive government and more local control. 

   You are the Center.

   You have a story. Tell it.

Opinions expressed here are my own, not those of the church I serve or any other person.


5 thoughts on “Religious Fundamentalism: How “They” Tell “Your” Story Better Than “You””

  1. Hmmmm, I am stuggling here with the notion of a new organization which has all the potential becoming such an effective and effiecient handler of church request and inquiry and inter-mission activity that it soon be forced to employ an assistant to handle all the extras and return phone calls and letters and attend outlying seminars. ?!

  2. “In states like Texas, the Fundamentalist-Conservatives were forced to form their own convention to have a voice.”
    Forced? D.L. Lowrie and James Semple put guns to their heads? Isn’t it more likely that the Fundamental-Conservatives didn’t get their way, picked up their toys, and went home?
    More seriously, where was the center? Was it halfway between the Fundamental-Conservatives and the Moderate-Conservatives? (OK. I’m using the old Baptist Standard terminology. I like it.) Or was it halfway between the average of the BGCT and the average of the various liberal denominations in America? If we are looking for the center of an organization, it’s likely the former. If we are looking for the center of the faith, it’s likely the latter, and the two centers are far apart. On what basis do we choose?
    Thanks for allowing comments. May God bless your continued service.

  3. Well, let me say, I served on the Theological Education Sub-Committee which proved the tipping point, and no more tendentious bloc ever existed, myself included.
    On the other hand, I am trying to be nice, and see both sides. I admit it is  a stretch for me, as you know, but I am trying, in my old age. In truth, Semple and Lowrie played only a small part in the dissolution of the now defunct BGCT but I feel some sympathy for the ones who got pushed out in Texas as I want sympathy for the ones who got pushed out of the old SBC. 
    I could say, as well, that I personally watched one inexcusable gaffe after another by the moderate leadership after the theological education flap. The ham-handed Wade Administration was a poor example of most things but excelled at making enemies out of friends and forcing the neutral to take another side just to protect themselves. Incompetence is, perhaps, a more laudable defense for one’s own actions than outright villiany but the end of either is pretty much the same.
    The Center is, I think, all who want some balance, in their world and in their church. LIberation will likely have to come before balance but we are nowhere near either one.

  4. Were you saying this dream world has seminaries(Imagine an organization met to analyze, train and support ministers, so that the truth can be told to local congregations without fear of career suicide. Imagine a partnership with seminaries and universities to enable to academic training ministers do need as generalists in an age of specialization.)or at least a guild for training and protecting minister/pastors but that the training of the membership was totally handled then by the guilded pastor? How big would this dream world church be? Or rather, would there be no need to delegate work to minister/members, and how would the membership know that the pastor/minister was carrying the standard appropriately, and would the membership need to rely on the pastor’s knowledge of mission needs, and if even in this Dream world there happened to be an interim period for reasons of say life of pastor was transferred to Heaven, would all things stop in waiting and expectation of the next Guilded Pastor, or could the membership not establish a group of membership/ministers who could by training received(from whence) or inspiration(HUHHH!this is an inhaling sound usually followed by ‘oh no!’) lead in the various ministries of the church.
    I know our little church is struggling and it seems to be because they, as you have so well noted about the population in general, do not care for umbrella organizations, and so we are forever experimenting with someone’s idea(hopefully inspired by God) of what ought to be done, until they grow tired of leadership or were not leaders at all, or move on somewhere less frought with struggle–
    Is it not a good thing anymore to have at hand at least some reading material that gives a displaced person the sense that they are in the right building?
    Many questions and lots of expectations!8~)

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