Wednesday, September 06, 2006
My family doesn't believe they're fundamentalists
Apparently there's a church in the neighborhood that's been becoming popular and they refuse to go, because those people are fundamentalists. And, they probably are. But that doesn't mean my family isn't as well. They're just not as rigid as other sects are. Frankly, Southern Baptist by definition are fundamentalists.
I've got a lot of problem with the SB church -- as anyone whose read here knows. Some people interpret that to mean I'm hostile to Christianity. I'm not, necessarily. I do oppose certain forms of the religion because I believe it does a great deal of harm. Of course, I'm also opposed to certain forms of other religions for the same reason. Any belief system that tells it's adherents it's okay to hurt others is not an okay system. It's not okay to feel justified in inflicting emotional, social or physical harm on another human being because your god told you it was ok. Any belief system that is predicated on the idea that humans are unworthy, broken creatures is not ok. Any belief system that denies the inherent dignity of humanity is no ok.
I take issue with reading any holy book as literal and inerrant. To do that is to raise the book, which was written and edited by human beings, to the level of diety. And, no matter how much I adore the written word, it's not on the same level with god. It's become a tenent of the SB church that the Bible is literal and inerrant -- which breaks the commandment not to create any idols. Because by elevating the Bible to such a level -- isn't the only perfect truth supposed to be God? -- they're turning it into an idol, placing it on equal footing with god. Which is a no-no by their own teachings.
Futhermore, this insistance on literal meaning strips layers of meaning and history from any text. It dumbs down the population and kills critical thinking skills. A literal understanding is a surface understanding, its the sort of understanding you'd expect from a child who hasn't developed more nuanced reasoning skills yet. For a child, that's fine. A child is going to grow and develop and obtain the ability to reason and think critically. But for adults to reject any nuanced reading of a text in favor of a strictly literal one? That's madness.
It suggest to me a weak faith. How strong can your faith be if you must have everything literal? You're setting yourself up for a huge fall -- and cause thinking people to reject you out of hand. Plus, you're creating a very, very fragile basket for your faith. If Jesus has to literally be born of a virgin, what happens to your faith when someone comes along and proves it didn't happen? Or not even prove it, but just gives you enough alternate possiblities that you doubt it? If there has to be a literal, physical ressurection, what are you going to do if someone finds Jesus' bones?
A literal faith doesn't have room to grow or expand. It's trapped by the box it's built in. It's also more likely to be suffocated by collapsing under its own weight. The belief that everything in the Bible has to be literally true -- or it's all false -- makes no sense to me. Why? We don't expect that of anything else in our lives. If we have a best friend who is honest and trustworthy, but one time -- one time -- they tell us a lie, we don't assume that everything they've ever said to us was false. If your child does something out of line, you don't assume that everything they've ever done was equally out of line, do you? It doesn't make any sense to do that, because we understand that one event does not necessarily reflect badly (or well) on any other event, unless those events are specifically related.
When I stop and think about it -- when I'm not pissed off by something they've said or done -- I genuinely feel sorry for people bound in this type of thinking. How much of their lives are bounded off because they insist upon literal, black-n-white meaning? How much of the nuances and colors of life to they miss out on? I'm sure they don't want my sympathy and doubtlessly think I'm lost and hopeless, but the further away from this sort of thinking I stay, the happier and saner I am.