The Little Foxes

Like most spiritual ideas in fundyland, the Little Foxes Theory begins by yanking a couple of verse from the surrounding passage and doing them no small amount of violence. Apparently the best way to understand this bit of Scripture is that in the middle of writing out some spicy love poetry, the author suddenly takes a break to write a brief essay on why little sins like not tucking in your shirt lead to bigger ones like not wearing a shirt at all. It certainly makes perfect sense that right after penning the words “let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely” that the time is ripe for a bit of moralistic guilt-tripping.

Watever its questionable exegetical roots, there is no question that the “little foxes” concept has taken firm root in fundyland and then grown into quite a warped and twisted shape. For the way this principle is often taught is that as long as one takes care to obsess over the minutia of life then the larger sins will never even be a temptation. If you dress right, listen to the right music, never say “golly,” or watch The Simpsons on TV then there’s almost no chance at all of you smoking pot or getting your girlfriend pregnant. Almost.

This idea of keeping the little things in order to thwart the larger sins also informs the sermon habits of many fundyland pastors who honestly believe that as long as they are keeping kids from running in the hallways and keeping their parents from reading the NIV that they have nothing to fear from the sins of lust, and greed, and pride. It’s a very tidy notion that is not at all bothered by its complete disconnection from reality.

The real tragedy here is that oftentimes people in fundyland are led to believe that if they cannot “win” over the temptation to listen to rock n’ roll or wear more than one earring per ear that they might as well give up and live a life of debauchery. After all, what’s the difference? The little foxes are going to get you. It’s only a matter of time.

It’s just like Solomon says in the very next verse: “My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies.” I know it sounds a lot like more love poetry but I’m sure that is somehow related to the topic at hand. You just have to know how to look.

99 thoughts on “The Little Foxes”

    1. That’s why we have the M-O-g standing in the gap making up the hedge so that those little foxes don’t get in. Besides we know it’s those little foxes who dress like harlots that are to blame for all the sexual sin in the fundy camp. I mean just look at all the problem one little fifteen yr old fox can cause the entire movement.

      If you tell the lie big enough often enough then it will become “truth” to the hearer. Of course this verse would have nothing to do with dealing with all the little things in a relationship that can spoil the moment and cause relational problems. No, no, no, no, no… that would mean all those fundie godfathers who have preached thousands of sermons on the “little foxes” being about heading off BIG sin would have preached their religious moralism in vain.

    1. Stop doing this, please. The point of comments is to enhance the discourse. What about “First” would ever enhance any discussion?

      1. It’s a meme. And not all comments enhance the discourse. Yours, for example, seemed to be more of a complaint with little to do with our discussion of the topic. ๐Ÿ˜‰ (And that’s totally OK, of course. Not everything we do is 100% always edifying and perfect and all that.) If you want to end the contest, consider trying to be the first poster with an actual comment. Like Eric did. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

      2. It’s easy: First responder gets their very own Butt Cushion! Stuffed with real Butt Dust! And Bragging Rights for the rest of the thread. Who wouldn’t want that? ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜›

  1. This is a great post for the SFL critics to read.

    I wonder who (in their mind) will face a greater judgement: 1) fundamentalist preachers who completely obliterate and retool Scripture to make it fit into their Christ-less, gospel-less, law-obsessed mold, or 2) Darrell for calling them out for it?

      1. You’re just asking for it aren’t you??

        “Darell, you have been weighed (by the fundie scales of KJB standards) and found wanting. Do you have anything to say before the Court of Fundie opinion begins to slap you with a smelly trout?” ๐Ÿ˜ˆ

      2. Only to inform you that you’re probably going to need more than one trout if you’re going to do it justice.

        1. No worries mate, they will follow-up by bludgeoning you “Dark, Red, White, Green and Gold” with the “Witness Stick!” :mrgreen:

  2. Since I’ve never heard anything preached from Song of Solomon, I can’t comment on what Fundy preachers might say. I’m just surprised a Fundy preacher WOULD preach from Song of Solomon. I mean, people might actually read their Bibles and think about s-e-x in church. Gasp!

    1. I mean, people might actually read their Bibles and think about s-e-x in church. Gasp!

      You mean read their Bibles on their own and think for themselves??? In a Fundie Church??? Are you some sort of Revolutionary Liberal ๐Ÿ˜ฏ ??

      Secondly, thinking about s-e-x in church… I’m sure it happens, but not from the way fundies preach about the Cantacles(S-o-S) ๐Ÿ˜‰

      1. I have always been a Revolutionary Liberal. I have never believed that not wearing a shirt is a sin.

    2. Many years ago, Bill Pennell preached as a guest in HAC chapel on SofS. The crowd went wild. He did not address it as a relationship between Christ and the church until the very end. No, he dwelt lovingly and longingly on each romantic passage, claiming that, in those days before cameras, lovers had to pain word pictures to remember the absent loved one. The crowd of listeners went berserk. Some time later, he was removed from ministry due to some scandal or another. Another faculty member told me that was what he g, for thinking SofS was about lust. ๐Ÿ˜ฏ ๐Ÿ™„

  3. I preached my first “sermon” in a high school preaching contest on that verse. I’m sure I did some pretty serious violence to the text, but I did win the contest.

    1. You forget sometimes how weird our lives are/used to be – a high school preaching competition????? ๐Ÿ™„

    2. I’m suprised they even allowed a passage from SoS.

      Its funny because through college at FundyU I started actually reading the context of the verses they were shoving down our thoats to prove their points. Stuff started not lining up. . . . Now when I preach I’ll take twice as long to prepare as I need to just to make sure I am contextualizing properly. The last thing I want to do is use the same MO of the people I excaped from.

  4. I once attended a women’s retreat whose theme for the entire retreat was this verse, in this interpretation. Oh, the stories I could tell.

      1. “Vapid” is a kindness. In the years I was trapped behind fundy lines, I detested women’s seminars, their silly “newspaper,” and worse yet, conversation with the “newspaper’s” founder or any of its “columnists.” To ๐Ÿ™„ attend or read anything that came from the standpoint that I needed o be old how to smell pretty, speak sweetly, and iron my man’s shirts correctly was about as demeaning as it gets. Looking at the Bible, I see females like Deborah, Jael, Ruth, Esther, etc. Not a spineless ninny in the bunch. But unless I BECAME a spineless ninny, I was a rebel. Vapid to the max.

  5. Come to think of it I don’t remember hearing the Song of Solomon ever preached on except for a marriage conference in which they used several verses. But I don’t remember this verse about little foxes at all.

  6. I don’t remember any fundy sermons in which this verse played a central part, but the concept is giving me strong deja vu, so I must have heard it somewhere.

  7. My husband tucks in his shirt ALL the time, and I tease him about it. He told me now he sees what I’m trying to do. Thanks a lot. ๐Ÿ˜•

  8. I think little foxes are cute. Its my WoodBadge Totem. If anyone is involved with Boy Scouts you will understand that. :mrgreen:

    Seriously I vaguely remember sermons preached on this but I can’t remember anything about them…must not have left that much of an impression.

  9. I just want to say that the Bette Davis movie “The Little Foxes” (a frame of which appears above) is well worth watching. It’s one of the better examples of the Hollywood melodramas of that era. Lillian Hellman wrote the screenplay (based on her earlier stage play), and William Wyler directed, so the whole thing has an excellent pedigree.

    1. At first I honestly thought Darryl was going to sell us on the notion that fundies love Lillian Hellman. Phew!

  10. “The real tragedy here is that oftentimes people in fundyland are led to believe that if they cannot ‘win’ over the temptation to listen to rock nโ€™ roll or wear more than one earring per ear that they might as well give up and life a life of debauchery.”

    I’ve seen this happen many times. People who were raised Fundy believe they are already lost if they commit any of the myriad Fundy “sins,” so they give up on faith altogether.

    1. It’s the incredible black/white thinking that says if I’m not fully one thing, in this case Fundie, then I’ll be fully the other: murderous, thieving, perverted, violent, debaucher, etc. etc. There is no maturity in that thinking. There is no acknowledgement that life is complex and there are many shades of gray.

    2. this one time at winter camp, the youth pastor told me and my friend we needed to go forward and give up our “rock music” – when in fact it was his advice that had urged us to listen to it. When he told us that Steve Green, et. al. in the CCM movement were “just as bad” and that if we were going to “put our toe across the line” we may as well just jump in all the way. This is how we discovered the wonders of Dire Straits, Duran Duran, Metallica, Blues Traveler, and of course the Squirrel Nut Zippers.

      Now, following this epiphany of sorts, we both began to violate every sacred cow of the fundy variety, but did not manage to destroy our lives through wine, women, or song, in fact we now are some of the strongest and most mature of those who came out of that youth group. By rejecting the little foxes, we were able to learn about how loving God and His Word leads to real grace filled godly living, not just gnostic asceticism with a little Jesus talk wrapped around it.

        1. ” By rejecting the little foxes, we were able to learn about how loving God and His Word leads to real grace filled godly living, not just gnostic asceticism with a little Jesus talk wrapped around it.”
          THAT is the BEST take on this, ever. Love it. โ—

  11. I confess that this is what happened to me. I listened some bad music and then I went on to uphold every portion of fundamentalist dogma (I was a pharisee of the pharisees).

    My pastor, on the other hand, avoided this evil music and had multiple affairs and killed himself. Little foxes, it seems, only seem to attack the minions of fundamentalism.

    1. Very sad.
      If you ask me, I think the mogs ought to be more worried about the wolves that have the drop on *them*…or, worse, the wolves within their own hearts.
      But then, of course, they never consult anyone with common sense, so fire away then at the wee Vulpes vulpes. ๐Ÿ™„

    2. I hesitated posting this because it is so serious, but I had three friends from high school kill themselves for this very reason. Never felt like they could be good enough.

      1. So heartbreaking. They needed grace and love and the Gospel, not legalism and pressure to perform to prove their worth.

  12. Huh. SFL is the first place I’ve heard of the little foxes theory. No one preached from Song of Solomon at my church except to mention that it was a beautiful allegory of salvation in Christ. ๐Ÿ™„

    The verse I heard more often that reminds me of this concept is the one in I or II Corinthians about bringing every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

  13. I’ve definitely heard messages on little foxes just as Darrell describes. Basically, it allowed the pastor to go on a diatribe about his personal opinions and preferences and how we should avoid them or our lives would be destroyed.

    It certainly illustrates how many fundies overemphasize nitpicky details. They love focusing on motes.

    1. Hyles had a whole sermon on those little foxes. He pulled it out once or twice a year to cover all those things we might have been tempted to do that would ruin our testimony and ultimately our lives.

      1. In fact, I have only EVER heard little foxes preached by Jack Hyles. He may even be the megalomaniac who gave it that spin in the first place, and now all of his acolytes do the same. ๐Ÿ‘ฟ

  14. I heard this verse preached on many times. One of our regular evangelists liked this verse a lot. In fact, he liked it so much he preached the exact same sermon from it two years in a row.
    I think fundie preachers like this verse because they can then start listing what they think are the little foxes and who are you to question the mog’s wisdom?

    I just did a quick Google search on little foxes. After I recovered from my twitching attack and got up off the floor I read a couple of them.

    A 5-second search and several sites chosen at random. Here are the little foxes:

    1. Smoking.
    2. Discouragement.
    3. Bitterness.
    4. Correcting your husband in front of other people. (The gist seems to be that this will make him cheat on you and that will be totally your fault. In fact, you had it coming)
    5. Complaining.
    6. Gossip.
    7. Compromise with the world.
    8. An entire sermon: Little Folly, Little Leaven, Little Tongue, Little Gratitude, Little Faith, Little Wisdom and Little Laziness.
    9. Disunity over how to raise your kids.
    10. Buying nice things like sports cars.

    Apparently this is a fundy favorite because it lets them riff on whatever bugs them. It is also a good springboard for just plain making stuff up.

    Here is a good example of this from a fundy church:

    I only glanced at a few pages at random. Apparently, this stuff is out there clogging up the internet. I blame fundies for my computer running slow! :mrgreen:

    1. My favorite fundy quote from the sermon I linked:

      “A momentโ€™s mischief by this little fox of foolish laxness can undo years of hard work, and take many years to repair. You and I can destroy our reputations, and tarnish Godโ€™s reputation virtually overnight.”

      1. I do believe in living with temperance and wisdom, but teaching like the sort you describe would seem to me to produce only fear and a relutance to do ANYTHING. It’s so stifling to live under fear and guilt.

      2. tarnish.. wha??? Wow. That is the problem of tying God to man the way americanized Christianity does. It makes God look so…. human. Poor little god of the fundie mind and heart. A pitiful little creature that is so dependent on his creation that he sits around wringing his hands hoping that someone will say the right thing to someone else so that he will be chosen to be asked into their life. Then this poor little anemic deity has to worry whether his creation is going to tarnish his reputation or not.
        I do so loathe the god-in-a-box mentality of the IFB.

        *Dang Apathetic, you really touched off a trigger for me there with that quote. *twitch*

  15. “…thereโ€™s almost no chance at all of you smoking pot or getting your girlfriend pregnant. Almost.”

    Is there such a condition as almost pregnant?

    1. Well, I guess it would be along the lines of “Hot Summer Night, Passions are High… and parent’s car is heard in driveway”

    2. Wait a second. (I know this isn’t about the joke, which was funny, yadda yadda.) So technically, wouldn’t the period between fertilization and implantation be kind of like “almost” pregnant? Because you’re not technically pregnant until implantation, and yes it is a pretty binary thing, but especially if you’re TTC I imagine a fertilized egg would be considered pretty nearly pregnant by many people.

  16. This is “building a fence around the Torah,” isn’t it? It’s a matter of making religious law to avoid doing the little things that might lead to breaking the big commandments. Jesus didn’t have much good to say about the Pharisees; why to Fundy men-o-gawd love them so?

    1. And I was just reading today: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” (james 2:10)

      No little foxes or big foxes here. (Or romantic poetry!)

      Yes, I did just use the KJV so as not to cause a stumblingblock ๐Ÿ˜†

  17. During one of these messages, I started reading the S of S and started seeing the phrase “his banner over me his love.”

    After I read and understood what that actually meant, I could never sing the kid’s song the same way again. If I hear kid’s singing it today, I just can’t help but chuckle.

  18. @ Darrell – An interesting topic might be ‘Least Likely to be Preached’ in an IFB church. I submit ‘Gluttony’ and ‘The Pharisees Love of the Law’ as my #1 and #2. My wild card might be ‘Song of Solomon in Context.’ Meaning in the context of a guy who had 900 women on call anytime he wanted to have sex.

    1. Honestly, I’d say any passage strictly in context (and not filtered through the IFB lens) would be a stretch for any IFB pastor. After visiting some of the mainline denominations, I’ve determined there’s very little actual biblical study going on in the IFB world.

  19. Itโ€™s a very tidy notion that is not at all bothered by its complete disconnection from reality.

    You know, you could use this sentence in pretty much every Fundy topic you address here at SFL.

  20. Whenever we endured a sermon on those verses, I would read through SoS during the sermon feeling excited and guilty at the same time. It was scandalous! ๐Ÿ˜†

  21. I wonder if one of the “Founding Fundies” snuck into a movie theater one night to see the latest Bette Davis picture and stumbled across the perfect verse to justify all his pet peeves.

  22. Most of fundamentalist christian education is based on this misuse of this verse and taking liberties with other scriptures simply to proof-text fundamentalist, conservative church traditions and it is driving the currently generation away in droves!

  23. I know Bob Jones Jr loved a little brandy every night before bed. Bet that doesn’t get a lot of airtme at ol’ BJU.

    1. I remember Dr. Bob Jr. preaching in chapel and mentioning that he knew he wasn’t an alcoholic and that he would be free to drink a glass of wine with his dinner – but he didn’t because of hurting a weaker brother who might be offended, but he clearly said that the glass of wine itself was not a sin. I think I always remembered it because it was a shocking thing for a teetotalling Baptist girl like me to hear.

      There were glimmers of things like this now and then – even at BJU – that helped me start to think outside the box.

      1. Some of my instructors at BJU also helped me to begin my escape, and I am glad for my time there.
        I should add a bit of a disclaimer, I guess. I was a Towny who had already been married for 3 years, as well as a Trade Student who weaseled into Regular University classes to fill in for credits transferred from another Fundy U, which has since been labeled liberal.

  24. Aw, I thought the picture was from the classic movie, “Our Vines Have Tender Grapes.”
    Also way better than a fundy sermon.

    1. Eh, calling them “foxes” seems to me to be uncomfortably sexualizing those little girls. I would rather just call them toddlers, since that’s pretty much what they are. Just because you put adult makeup or clothing styles on them doesn’t make them anything but toddlers.

  25. Little foxes on the hillside,
    Little foxes all the same,
    There’s a pink one, and a green one,
    And a blue one and a yellow one…

    Just free-associating at this point. ๐Ÿ˜†

  26. I thought this site was going to be humorous, but it’s just sad.

    1. Why are we downgrading other Christians? If you don’t agree with them, don’t be like them.
    2. This “little foxes” concept is of course out of literary context.
    3. The principle, however, is true. Small mistakes often compound into bigger problems. Ever heard “nip it in the bud?”
    4. No one should try to live someone else’s Christian life for them. No one has the liberty to apply Biblical principles specifically for someone else. That is the Holy Spirit’s job, and he does it well.
    5. Those who “fundie bash” are judging just as much as those they attack. Can we just leave each other alone and work toward a common purpose: spreading the gospel?

  27. @Sam – #5 Yeah, you can start us all off by leaving US alone.

    @JustCurious – I was told that by one of his grandchildren who I was friends with for 15 years. So I can’t say I saw it with my eyes, but I believe it to be true. And it would be in line with what he said about being able to, but not doing it because he didn’t want to cause anyone to stumble.

  28. Got to admit, when I first saw the post title and image I thought we wre gonna talk some mewithoutYou.
    But yeah. I have to be flat-out honest here – I’d forgotten that verse was from Song of Solomon! AUGH! That freaks me out! That I forgot where it was from I mean. I don’t want to lose the context. It’s terrifying.
    Man, going through this site for the past hour is making me realise just how much of my early life was definitely fundie-influenced. I didn’t realise it was to this extent. How did I turn out a liberal Christian? How did my folks – who dragged me to all of this fundie stuff, and put me into a tiny Christian school, etc. – end up being liberal Christians, themselves? (Thank the Lord they did, and I did, and so many fundie survivors did).

Comments are closed.