That year had it’s ups and downs. We had hosted our very first Exchange Student, a Catholic girl who was more Christian than we ever thought possible. She attended our Southern Baptist Church with us every Wednesday, Sunday, and miscellaneous event – she was one of us in every way. But the terms of her stay was for one school year, and so all too soon, the months flew by and one day she boarded a plane for home.
Shortly thereafter, our church hired a real youth pastor (+ his wife who assisted him for free) to replace the one I had known, a well-respected teacher that worked at the local high school (whose wife was a certified pharmacy technician.) These were the ‘Bible Studies’ that I remember from about that time: Kent Hovind’s Dinosaurs and the Bible, The Purpose-Driven Life, and The Truth Project; there were others – I just plain forgot them.
It was then that the tiny cracks began to widen into a big impassable gap. For one, the church was in a christian college town and had no college-aged regular attendees other than the ones that had grown up in the church. All of the college-age regular attendees that grew up in the church actually were from the same area – a town about ten miles away. They were close friends outside of church. One Sunday, the pastor talked about how mixing theology was like suicide – the drink made from mixing different kinds of pop together to get a unique and different flavor – and that was like committing yourself to a spiritual death because you didn’t have the truth because you chose to fill up your cup with a lie. Everybody knows, he said, that rat poison is 99% good food and 1% poison – the parallel is that having mixed theology (suicide) is just like that, only you have less and less good truth and more and more bad lies. His conclusion was that if you didn’t believe a + b + c exactly as the church teaches from scripture, then you were a heretic and everybody knows that heretics don’t go to heaven.
This greatly troubled the older youth, that meant that the Catholic girl wouldn’t go to heaven, and they knew for sure that she was more Christian than they were. They had agreed among themselves that the only thing you need is to believe that Jesus is your savior. Together, they met and agreed on a course of action. They stopped going to their church. I was just younger than they were and caught in-between of the whole conflict. At first I was unaware of the nature of the problem. My parents were also at conflict with some of the adult teachings that were pushing the church in a backwards direction. Finally, I left the church at their Summer picnic, my drink of choice? Suicide.
We were a perfect example of a traditional christian family. Our church was a perfect example of a Southern Baptist Church, quite typical, as I have discovered in it’s theology and administration. Somehow, God showed us that the ‘surface’ of the church was perfect, but the ‘substance’ of the church was deeply flawed. About a year later, we ran into a few of our friends – the teacher that was my youth pastor – and he talked about what had happened. The pastor had appointed himself as a member of each committee. He found a reason to disqualify all the women from serving in all but the cleaning and nursery ministries. He carefully chose a few elders to be his support team, ‘yes men’ to help him move the church in the direction he wanted. By the time the older members realized that something was wrong, it was too late. One day, they gathered in the teacher’s living room saying “I want my church back.” The problem was, their church was ‘gone’ the day the pastor gave his first sermon.
That’s why I pick on the Southern Baptist Church, they are the largest denomination out there and they are taking some of the biggest steps backwards. Worse yet, there are a number of movements within Christianity that seem to want to help them get there faster:
The idea that Christians are losing this country to non-Christians is pretty terrifying to people used to our majority say. Not getting things going in our favor has eroded traditional values. To combat this, parents can chose to raise up a Godly army of children to be their arrows to thwart Satan’s plans for our country by being civil servants with an eye for political interests and (hopefully) one day grow up to be president. In this movement, having lots and lots and lots of kids is seen as the ideal goal. They must be raised up to be Christian from birth because if you let them choose, they might have their own opinions and not become president and all that homeschooling would be useless.
Another movement says that much of America is already ‘lost’ to unbelievers, so the best that people can hope to do is to is to move out into the emptier (and colder) parts of the Northwestern U.S.A – places like Idaho and Montana to live off of the land. By separating from the ‘lost’ regions America, they can create a haven sort of like heaven on earth but not quite. Isolation, cold, and Christianity, what could go wrong?
Yet another movement says that the real problem is that we’re just not traditional enough. We need to go back to the Bible and just do what it says. The real solution to fix our unhappy marriages is for women to cover their heads and for men to … well, they don’t talk about what men should do. This will tell the angels that you’re committed to your husband so that the angels behave themselves.
Talk about mixed-up theology … people have found all sorts of things in the Bible and taken them to extremes. Let’s put Jesus to the side for a moment and ask the tough questions:
Will having lots of kids to use a weapons against my enemy save me? Will moving out in the middle of nowhere to live off of the land save me? Will having a cloth on my head save me? Will being a republican save me? Will being a day-age creationist save me? will being a cessationalist save me? Will Jesus alone be my eternal salvation?
Hopefully all but the last question was a resounding ‘no’ and the last question was a ‘yes, amen.’ As a Christian outsider, I can’t be certain of what’s going on in these and other fundamentalist Christian movements. As an outsider, it looks like to me elements of racism, sexism, and elitism are a driving force in what’s going on. People are getting hurt, marginalized, spiritually destroyed, abused in every way, shape, and form, in the name of a religious idea that seems to have nothing to do with Jesus other than using Him to fear and intimidate people so that they can be controlled – worse yet, it’s done in Jesus’ name.
People – that’s anything but Christianity. Christianity … Christ, as in the anointed one, Jesus and Jesus alone. You know that guy that was crucified alongside Jesus? All he had was Jesus and he went to heaven … that’s all we need.