How It All Began


In the beginning were fundamentalists and they were very good. We know they were very good because they’ve told us so. And their word is God’s own truth.

For when it came to pass that the forces of Baby-baptizers and Bible-changers and Beer-drinkers were threatening to destroy the very Church that Christ himself promised would not fail, then were published a series of writings known as The Fundamentals. And certain of leaders of the congregation who knew a golden opportunity when they saw it, seized upon the chance to use these writings to draw a line between Us and Them. And upon that line they built a Wall of Separation, and in front of the wall they dug the Moat of Standards, and then they forbade any of those within their congregation to get within spitting distance of the wall lest they be tempted to peek around and see the wonders of the world outside.

And there behind that wall the people lived for many years and had many children and even more grandchildren. There they built for themselves good solid fundamentalist churches, and perfect fundamentalist homes for their families, and fundamentalist schools and colleges for their children. They read the right books, and listened to the right music, and watched only the right movies and shows. And if they were not strictly speaking “happy” then at least they were content that they were safe.

Their leaders also were good men, strong and brave who often told them stories of the world outside the Wall of Separation and the horrors that they had seen there. And the leaders warned the people that they should never go outside the wall alone but only in groups of two or three and only such as were strong enough to go on the weekly rescue missions to save dying souls outside. For outside the wall was godlessness and debauchery and music with an unnatural anapestic beat to snare the unwary into the lust of the flesh.

To avoid these evils outside the wall the people also were given many new rules to follow each week depending on what mood their leader was in that day. They were told where they could go and what they could do there and who they could do it with. They were told what to read and what to believe and who to love and to hate. And they were told that true freedom was a thing to be feared most of all.

​And so it came to pass that after many years of isolation from all the evils of the world, that it was discovered that the leaders who so many were trusted were not at all what they had seemed. Many were the stories of their treachery and how that they had used and abused the people for their own gain and exploited the weak and preyed on the helpless. For it seemed that these men were the very monsters that they had always warned the people about and the safety behind the wall was nothing but a sham.

​​​Some of the people refused to believe these stories, of course, choosing rather to claim that the victims were all liars and that the leaders were good, godly men who could never be guilty of such sin. But there were a few souls who with heavy hearts looked at the Wall of Separation and though that it could hardly be worse to live with the evil outside the wall than remain with the evil within it. And so they left. And as they came limping with slow steps out of that guarded realm which had been their home for so many years, a wondrous and unexpected thing occurred: they found beauty and laughter and freedom such has they had never known.

And those who had fled from behind the Wall of Separation and had crossed the Moat of Standards, stood beckoning to those who still lived under the shadow of fear and the oppression of their leaders. “Come and join us!” they called. “It’s so much better out here! There is music and dancing and so many wonderful things!” But those behind the wall turned their backs on the site of this celebration as their leaders screamed even louder warnings not listen to those who were enjoying the milk and honey of the lands beyond the wall. And those behind the wall trembled with fear.

But no matter how loud the men screamed or ordered the people to ignore the things happening outside the wall, the music of that distant celebration would still be sometimes heard. And once in a while in a quiet moment or while pausing from their busy schedules, one or two would wonder if maybe there could be life beyond the supposed safety of their separation and standards. And they tried to imagine what it would be like to live a life that was unafraid.

124 thoughts on “How It All Began”

  1. Sometimes it’s easier to live with the fear of the known than the fear of the unknown. I admire all of you who have thrown off the chains of fundamentalism for true freedom in Christ.

  2. “Come and join us!” they called. “It’s so much better out here! There is music and dancing and so many wonderful things!”

    Awesome.

  3. Uh, make that “we THOUGHT we had thrown off the chains…”

    It has been over thirty years since I left and I STILL discover a chain here and a chain there…

    Reformata semper reformanda

    1. When Charles Wesley wrote, “My chains fell off, my heart was free,” he didn’t say anything about exchanging old chains for new chains.

    1. Wow! Darrell, I think this is going to be a FB post for it’s awesomeness and truth. Well written and so accurate to what many of us have seen in Fundyland.

        1. Not yet publicly, but some questions, in private messages. Nothing unkind, just an assurance that I have made the “mistake” of judging all fundies by Jack Hyles’ example. I have not responded. This was from a man whose wife and daughter only wear skirts, and uually, yes, that ubiquitous denim blob. 🙁

        2. Ah, yes. “We’re not all bad like that ONE guy over there.”

          They don’t realize that their legalism IS what is bad because it clouds out Christ and puts the focus on my own efforts.

  4. A few years ago my son made me sit down and watch “The Village”. (I know ‘m behind the times.) Anyway, when it ended my eyes were opened, he looked at me, smiled and one of us said, “We’ve been there!”

      1. *I* wonder if he plagiarized Haddix’s book, RUNNING OUT OF TIME. The accusations were made at the time of the film, and Haddix is a very popular author here in our library. The similarities are startling, to say the least.

        1. I hadn’t heard of the controversy when I saw the movie. Sometime after I’d seen the movie, I read “Running Out of Time” because I liked Haddix’s “Hidden Children” series, and I was struck by the similarities!

    1. When I saw this I thought first of the ending to Aeon Flux, and then I thought of The Village. In the ending to Aeon Flux, she crashes a ship into the wall, and people begin to curiously look outside while she and Trevor walk boldy out to a world teeming with beatiful plants and life.

    2. I also thought of “The Village” while reading this. I shared it with my psychiatrist in effort to explain my upbringing. I’m not sure if he believed me.

    3. I gave myself some homework. I have never seen “The Village” so I watched it. That was worth about 5 yrs of sermons on many levels. Thanks

  5. Their wall of separation is nothing more than a prison to keep people locked inside. They certainly do make up rules as they go along and then say if you disobey them you disobey God since they are God’s appointed authority over you. It’s hard to break away since there are always doubts as to whether you’re doing the right thing or not. What if they’re right and you leave and God is no longer with you because He’s in that group and nowhere else? 😕 But you keep hearing of people who are not in that group having more joy in the Lord than you have. They have their prayers answered. Is it true that God is not only in the Fundy church? So you take a chance and leave and find out it’s true. You don’t have to be a Fundy to have God in your life. :mrgreen: Isn’t it great to be free? 😆

    1. Yes, yes, YES it is!! Beautifully written post, Darrell!! I love the “mote of standards” or was it moat? Anyway, it is wonderful to be out. 😎

  6. Most of us can identify with this to a greater or lesser degree. It is very well written. You could (and should) write a book based on this story; it’s somewhat reminiscent of Nels F.S. Ferre’s parable “The Sun and the Umbrella” (which is anathema to fundamentalists — Ferre was a universalist).

  7. I want to know the ending of the story. I am hoping it ends with the Wall of Separation crashing around the ears of the leaders, and the rubble filling in the Moat of Standards, and all the imprisoned fearful souls looking around and seeing that they had been missing so much. Then they chop the leaders into itty bitty pieces, and throw the pieces into the moat, too.

    Hey, I never said I am not bloodthirsty. 😎

        1. YES! However, he is so full of Bee Ess, I predict he will sink with a thud. And even the bottom-feeders will reject him.

        2. So, what exactly is the difference between “Bee Ess” and “BS”? If you’re going to say it, just say it.

          Just sayin’ 🙂

        3. Thank you. I will bear it in mind. Do you know the joke which has for its punchline, “How nice”? You could look it up. Just saying. 🙂

        4. ah, it wasn’t on the site that had the “Punchlines of the 100 most offensive jokes of all time” By the time I was done with that site I forgot what I was looking for and why. Thanks, Seen Enough.

        5. Speaking of accents, do you still have that Kennedy Compound accent I loved so much in when we were in college?

        6. I have never sounded like a New Englander, O Sims. East Coast, yes, but farther down. When I am back there, now, I am told I don’t sound right anymore. But, after twenty-plus years in my current state, they still know I am “not from around here.” 😉

        7. You ALWAYS sounded like a New Englander to me. And I do remember many study times spent with you trying to explain to me the difference. With your accent thoroughly getting in the way and me rolling on the floor laughing at your inability to say “Pahk the cah in the Hahbah” correctly. Ohhh I am so glad to see you haven’t changed at all!!! (Even if your neighbors find your accent suspicious, I always found it charming.) 😉

        8. Sims, Dear, have you had your meds today? No one in my family or circle leaves out their R’s, and where I am from, we make fun of the Pahk the Cah in the Hahbah crowd also. Trust me, Philadelphia is NOT Boston, nor is it Brooklyn, though people from foreign parts do tend to think we all sound like Gilda Radner in her best Brooklyn Roseanne Rosanna-Danna voice. You have me mixed up with someone else, though for the life of me, I remember no one from New England in our circle, at that time… What I DID pronounce differently can best be exemplified in these three words: Mary, marry, and merry. Where I am from, they sound DISTINCTLY different from each other. Not anywhere else, though. And it is that word “marry,” and the way my people drawl out that “a,” that has you confusing me with Boston.

    1. The story will continue generation after generation until the momentum dwindles enough to make it no longer worthwhile for the leaders to continue. Unfortunately as a group people really don’t change much, and there is never a shortage of blind sheep. But happily, individuals sometimes do change and grow and resist and often can escape from it all.

    2. Unfortunately, I do not think the Citadel of Fear will ever fall.

      There is too much money to be made from scaring people.

      And too many people prefer safety over freedom. (This is my current take on original sin.)

  8. any time I think of fundamentalism I think of the village. I think about unbearable red white and blue ties. I think of a girl in the third grade being paddled hard enough that both the strokes of the paddle and her cries could be heard from the girls bathroom into the noisy gym during lunch. all because she was sent to school with a scooby doo lunch box. I am thankful that my mom who was in college at the time gained enough intelligence to stop drinking the kool-ade. I left the cultish school and never looked back. I went to an inner city public school and I saw less bullying less violence and felt more accepted in public school than I ever did at cult baptist academy. If these cultist want kjv I say we give it to them lets get old testament on their asses and stone them in the public square for teaching false doctrine.

    1. They beat you with a paddle for having an unapproved lunchbox???
      😯
      That’s a freakin’ crime against humanity. I’ve got to believe whoever did that is burning in hell by now, or at the bottom of the ocean with a millstone tied to their neck(s).

      1. One can only hope. I do believe in the law of sowing and reaping, so I like to think that the perp has gotten his/her hiney good and LIT UP by this time. 👿

        1. Now that I have children of my own, I can hardly IMAGINE how a parent would allow the treatment that we got as kids. I know my parents were unaware of most of it, but still… It sickens my heart to see what happens to the frightened innocents who have had the misfortune to be caught in this trap.

  9. Yesterday I learnt a new word, “adiaphorism” It was like settling down in a comfy chair by a log fire while the wind howls beyond the window.
    Adiaphorism is my new doctrine, a doctrine that in John Frith already has a martyr to prove that moderation is worth dying for.

    1. So, being a dictionary freak, I had to find that, and I am so glad you shared!
      “a tolerance of conduct or beliefs not specifically forbidden in the Scriptures.”
      Yup! 😎

  10. This is beautiful. Absolutely devine. And so true. I got the vision of a Pilgrim’s Tale going through my head. As in I was imagining the huge sack of weight on your back waiting for it to be lifted by the freedom outside. But your tale is equally touching.

  11. I think part two should be about the few brave ones who escaped, still living in fear and carrying the burdens they were handed by their fellow prisoners/prison-keepers. 😥

  12. Oh, I have another chapter (maybe not a chapter, maybe a post script}

    But among the ranks of those who had escaped from behind the wall was a brave and intelligent young man named Darrell. He had great skills and humor and used his knowledge and powers to point out the holes and weak spots in the walls that had been built.
    Soon others who had escaped from behind the walls took a break from their music and dancing and laughter to revisit the walls that had once held them captive. From this new perspective the walls were not nearly so intimidating as they had been from the other side. The escapees in their new found freedom found the walls to be somewhat amusing especially when it was pointed out how poorly built and ridiculous they actually were. The people on the free side of the wall would gather each morning to hear what their beloved Darrell would have to say and then would spend hours discussing it and getting to know one another forming a band of voluntary outcasts
    (Hey, what a great name for a band! Voluntary Outcasts)
    Anyway,
    As they got to know one another better it became apparant that many of these individuals had been badly hurt. As the band of survivors became stronger, they were able to share their wounds with one another and slowly they began to heal and with God’s grace became whole again. The daily visits to the wall became times of laughter and happiness as the old wounds began to heal.
    Occasionally someone from behind the wall would hear the merriment and would throw bricks at them. Since they were blind and weak the bricks would never come close to doing any damage to those who were enjoying their light and freedom, but it did serve to remind the survivors of what they had once been like. Often someone from behind the walls would sneak to the site where the merriment occurred and would longingly wish for the day when he too could be so free.
    (I am not too good at conclusions, so someone else needs to take it from here)

    1. What the people defending the walls didn’t realize was that taking bricks from the wall to throw at those who had escaped only made the holes in the walls bigger and the walls weaker.

    2. And the LORD did grin and the people of SFL did feast upon the lambs and sloths and carp and anchovies and orangutans and breakfast cereals, and fruit bats and large chu…

    3. I liked this, Sims. And Big Gary had a great last line!

      Your term – Voluntary Outcasts – reminded me of Kerrie Roberts’ song “Outcasts.” Some of the lines say, “I’m not good enough. I’m not what they want
      But let me tell you what: I know who I am! So just throw me out for not fitting in. I will stand my ground and be an outcast.”

      Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfJ2-N5EGRY

  13. This was very well written. I remember the grief I got when I went to the other side. Some still give it. The first time I went to church and there was liturgy, and the sermon was not a verse by verse – here is what this means and this is what you must do – but here is how to apply this passage to your life and how to live in the world.

    To this day I hate the phrase, in the world but not of it.

    When one learns about the symbolism in the Church, it becomes very meaningful to me. Just as understanding the meaning of sacrament, made baptism and holy communion a meaningful experience. We should make all the funds kneel and take communion, oh wait, can’t do that – it requires humility.

    1. Great post, SW. I have been attending an Anglican church for about six weeks now ,and am loving the liturgy, the sacraments, the EMPHASIS on CHRIST and the DE-emphasis (is that a word?) on the personality of the person leading the service. Yes, humility is the key difference, and I am loving it! 😀

      1. I remember when I asked why we could have candles in the windows at Christmas and not on the “Lord’s Table”. “That’s catholic!”

  14. “And if they were not strictly speaking “happy” then at least they were content that they were safe.”

    Sad but true. While we saw that we didn’t exactly have the joyful and abundant life described in Scripture, at least we could reassure ourselves that we were pleasing God and He would bless us.

      1. True! They like to think if they just follow their list of rules then God will protect them from bad things, but that’s not how the Bible says life happens.

        1. Well, and if bad things did happen, that was always a good time to examine your life and figure out what you might have done to deserve it. Since we are all human, there is always a very good chance we will find SOMETHING we can pin it onto.

  15. On your way out you see that the “Moat of Standards” is actually a dried up wasteland with pockets of sludge and an occasional cess pool. As you pass the last checkpoint to freedom you are branded by the bunker dwellers as 1 John 2:19, and to them you are now persona non grata.

    Looking back you no longer see the shiny, pristine model of perfection that you once did with the help of the fundie kool-aid. Now you see the concentration camp and the words over the gates, Arbeit macht frei.

  16. “And they tried to imagine what it would be like to live a life that was unafraid.”

    No fear exists where his love is. Rather, perfect love gets rid of fear, because fear involves punishment. The person who lives in fear doesn’t have perfect love. We love because God loved us first. Whoever says, “I love God,” but hates another believer is a liar. People who don’t love other believers, whom they have seen, can’t love God, whom they have not seen.

    – 1 John 4:18-19

    If Fundies ever really began to understand God’s love, they wouldn’t be able to tear the walls down fast enough!

    1. “Better to be the poor servant of a poor master, and to endure anything, rather than think as they do and live after their manner?

      Yes, he said, I think that he would rather suffer anything than entertain these false notions and live in this miserable manner.”

      And when I got to THAT point, I got out of fundy-dum. Nice, Don. Thanks for that. 🙂

      1. When I read it for the first time I was shocked at the similarities with the IFB bunker mentality. This went a long way to my finally kicking the kool-aid habit and getting the IFB monkey off my back.

  17. Great post. I don’t mean this in a condescending way, but I always wondered if little voices in their head were going off whenever they read about the “Whited Sepulchres” Jesus despised in the NT.

  18. I read today’s post to my husband. Something he said made me think that another part to this story could be what really happened to the leaders behind the wall when they stood before the Maker. 😕

  19. “And those behind the wall trembled with fear.” “And they tried to imagine what it would be like to live a life that was unafraid.”

    My favorite lines. It was frightening at first to break free, but not as frightening as continuing to live in bondage.

  20. Thanks Darrell, Great stuff! Been reading for a while, first time reply. Thanks to Sims for the perfect name. Been out here in the big bad world for over 27 years and still am losing chains and dodging bricks.

    1. I LOVE your name! So now we have to be BESTEST friends!!! (Except of course for Seen Enough who won’t mind at all just so long as we include her!)Oh, and WELCOME! (I have been out for around the same number of years. Just a few more, but yeah, still shaking off old rusty chains I didn’t even know I had and also still getting really good at dodging bricks.)

      1. I do not get bothered by things like that. If I feel excluded ,I just toss my head and said, “HARRUMPH! YOUR LOSS!” so you see how things like that never bother me….
        It IS a great name, though, VO! I have been out about 18 years, and always think I am free of it all, till something sneaks up on me… But I try to focus on how great it is to be free, not the shreds still clinging. It is what works for me.

  21. I recognise that wall; is it in York?
    One of the things that I like about England is the way the old gets incorporated into the new. Roman bricks in the church wall; pagan imagery on its tower. I look at the largest stone in our house and wonder if it was once part of the ‘priory for leprous maydens’
    It’s a parable, the rubble of the wall can be built into something new.

  22. While I appreciate knowing how SFL started in this parable form, and completely being in sympathy with the man-made rules and regulations that so-called “men of God” have laid upon Christians, I most strongly disagree that there should be no separation – the New Testament is full of commands to be holy, be separate, to deny worldliness.

    If we want to honor God, we must live the way He tells us to live, and He most certainly speaks of separation.

    1. Separation <> Isolation

      Standards <> Holiness

      Not understanding the difference is what makes fundamentalists what they are.

  23. Would that we could practice the baptist distinctive of “Individual Soul Liberty.” If believers could just get that one thing: that each individual’s relationship with God is their own, that they alone answer to God for the stewardship of the life which they have been given, so much evil could be conquered.

    Wonderful post, Darrell. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

    1. You do realize how many IFB Pastors this thinking would put out of business don’t you? If such an idea really caught on these men and their families will be out on the streets, unemployed, destitute, and starving. Oh the humanity of it! It’s all these men know and you want to kick them to the curb and destroy their ministries. 😉 🙄
      Jealous because I didn’t think of it first… 😆

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