Fundamentalism – not FUN

“I must admit that my distaste for fundamentalism comes from a deeper well than an intellectual disagreement about the Bible. I do not have the constitution a person needs in order to be a fundamentalist; the literalism and absolutism of fundamentalism run against the grain of my stature. I seem to have been born with a need to look at both sides of the question: fundamentalism is dead set against giving me permission to satisfy this need. I certainly know fundamentalist who display richer grace and stronger love than I do. Their God is my God, their Savior is my Savior. And yet, I would not invite any of them to join me on a six-day fishing trip. I embrace fundamentalists as my brothers and sisters in faith, but we are not likely to become the closest of friends” ~ Lewis Smedes (emphasis mine, pp. 141-142, My God and I: A Spiritual Memoir)

I needed to get this out of my system. I wish I could vanish when I meet some people. I sometimes hope that I never need to deal with others. I need to keep stuff as general as possible … I hear the internet is dangerous!

But yesterday was a strange day … after some mini-conversations with a couple of people not from BLC, I really don’t like somethings breeding in the wider Christian community in Malaysia and we’re only 9-11% of the populations depending on how you want to count the stats.

What do you say to someone who’s played a part in helping you come back to a faith journey in Christ but who insists on telling you what to do and not listening? (e.g. just keep on saying your wife is “a good thing” and your marriage will blossom … hey! my wife is not a thing she’s human. Or there’s always these whatever non-sensical but good-sounding formula for money woes to family feuds dished out for our cosnsumption)

What do you do when you hear the same problem of so-called sincere people insisting their own ways that fragment the church ministries rather than integrate everyone in one common vision? (e.g. the best resources or the most energetic ones must all be chanelled into this one “solve-it-all” programme or area and the rest must just fall in line, hey what happened to the big picture?)

What do you do with those who want to live according to their own rules and ignores the rest of the leadership body? (e.g. one or two get special treatment because of some title in front of their names and the rest of the lot has to slog through the normal proper and right process – which is actually more beneficial)

What do you do when you see trends and patterns certain so called Christian businesses operate (usually in the name of GOD and mission) that some how smells more like it’s about money and power and possibly fame? (e.g. they just want to keep on expanding and expanding with no regards of how it affects the people whom are working in their so called establishment … tell me how much time can one have to think, reflect and get re-connected with GOD is you’re arriving for work before some of us get up for work and leaving when most of us would be having dinner … we’re not counting KL traffic time for you to get home!)

There’s a lot more … but I’ve already watered down my tone on these matters. But seriously and honestly, I was comforted by what Smedes wrote. I felt I was not alone. Smedes always had a way to put into words what I felt and how I could respond (or affirm my present resonse to matters like this).

In Malaysia, there are times we pride ourselves as conservative against the liberals in the west. But, the lines are not that easily drawn. a lot of us are more like “fundamentalist” than we think we are (I’m warning myself here), and this is not just a religious thing. I’ve come across people who are fundamenlist in other areas as well ranging from views in dieting to their career.

More and more, my once “innocent-I-think-I can-relate-to everyone mindset” has accepted the fact that I too (like Smedes) “embrace fundamentist (in whatever shapes and sizes -whether religous or secular) as fellow humans or even brothers and sisters in the faith, but we are not likely to become the closest of friends”. And I won’t likely invite any of them to join me on something that close friends do together. I used to feel guilty and even shameful about this. Now, I just need to move on and grow up.

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