Right now I’m in the process of putting together a short e-book with a compilation of writings from SFL organized by topic. My working title is “Fundamental Flaws: Seven Things Baptist Fundamentalists Get Wrong (And How To Fix Them).”
Some of the new material I’m writing comes in the first section of the book which I’ve entitled simply “Church”
Communion Isn’t Optional.
The bread. The cup. The Gospel.
For millennia the Eucharist and the Scriptures were the focus of the Christian service as the pageantry of Christ’s sacrifice and the truth of his earthly teachings were played out in both word and ceremony. But fundamentalism has largely stripped from the church the sacredness of the Lord’s Supper, claiming perversely that to remember Christ’s sacrifice too often would somehow make it trivial or trite. A few celebrate the holy meal monthly but many consign it as infrequent as twice a year.
If you can believe that praying a blessing over every meal (including the nachos you had during a ball game) is a meaningful act of thanksgiving but also believe that taking of communion every week makes it somehow an empty ritual then would probably make a good fundamentalist.
Here’s a bit of life-changing news for fundamentalists: Communion Shouldn’t Scare You. It’s about grace not law. It’s about mercy not judgment. Some fundamentalist pastors have actually told me that the infrequency of the Lord’s Table is for our own protection. After all, God kills people who drink the cup unworthily or flippantly and we are all unworthy creatures full of hidden sin and craven desires. Why take the risk of divine judgment more often than absolutely necessary?
With that they turn Christ’s body and blood into the clenched fist of law not the loving hand of grace. That’s tragic. It’s as if they’re shouting “Sew back again the temple veil and don’t approach the dreaded Mercy Seat if you are not good enough. And you will never be good enough!”
The Gospel Isn’t Optional
The Gospel has met a similar fate to communion in fundamentalism. Perhaps it’s that Christ’s teachings of neighbor-love and self-sacrifice are just too easy to understand without pastoral embellishment. Perhaps there just weren’t enough rules found in the red letters of the Bible to suit the masochistic urges of the perpetual legalists in the pews. Perhaps the pastors just felt like re-telling the old, old story just wasn’t doing enough to fill the pews (or the offering plates). Whatever the case, the fundamentalists sermons got longer, the texts got shorter, and the Gospel itself all but disappeared, in favor of by self-righteous rants, amusing anecdotes, and various calls to moral action.
“Sin and Why I’m Against It” is now the topic of choice in most fundamentalist pulpits because yelling loudly takes little thought or planning. Wherever the Scriptures happen to be found they mainly serve only as a springboard for the pastor to launch into a litany of his favorite political, cultural, and personal gripes. Badmouthing those not present becomes par for the course. Guilt trips to inspire trips down to the “old-fashioned altar” are the mainstay of the service.
Jesus Isn’t Optional
Travel to a fundamentalist church this Sunday and you’ll like as not find a Christianity that has all but forgotten about its Christ. Jesus is not there in sermons. He is barely there in the songs. A survey of whatever religious art and architecture remains in those steel-frame and store-front churches will find Him having completely vanished altogether. A person not familiar with the story of Christianity might sit in such a church and listen to such a service and never really know who Jesus was or what He did.
Jesus has left the building but He is not completely gone. If they would but only listen they would hear Him just outside the door as He whispers in. “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”
Perhaps someday they will notice He is no longer there and go to look for him.