When talking about leaving fundamentalism there are two movies that people reference more than any others. One is The Village which I still have not watched since I’ve already had it spoiled for me by people eager to tell me that at the end of the movie you find that after discovering the half-buried Statue of Liberty, Luke’s father can see dead people. So rather than spoil it for you too, I’m going to talk about the other one.
The other movie is, of course, The Matrix. After spending years living in a computer simulated world, our hero awakens to find out that in the real world humanity is enslaved to machines. Then he learns kung fu and bullet dodging. There’s some other stuff that happens but those are the really important bits.
There is an incidental plot line in the movie, however, involving a relatively minor character who, although he has been awakened to reality, cannot stand the ugliness that he sees in the real world. Eventually, he betrays his comrades for the promise that the machines will put him back to sleep and he will be able to enjoy the fake world blissfully unaware that it’s all a sham.
In scene of his betrayal he sits at a table eating a steak and proclaims that “ignorance is bliss.” The movie paints him as weak and despicable but if I’m being honest, I have to say that I know how he feels. Sometimes I wish I could forget too. Even though I love my freedom and know the truth of the emotional and spiritual slavery that exist back where I used to live, there are sometimes when I wish I didn’t know.
Those moments of nostalgia and longing can hit you when you least expect it, even years after you depart from fundyland. I had lunch with an old friend this week, someone I had known from missions camp and hadn’t seen in a dozen years. She talked with my wife and I about raising kids and the various trials and blessings of the last decade. She and her husband are still fundamental Baptists although a decidedly saner strain than most. They’re in full time ministry now but she’s still gracious enough to be my friend even though I’m the SFL guy. We all talked smiled and invoked the half-forgotten names of people and places that I haven’t thought of since another lifetime. It was hard not to wish in some part of my soul that I could go back to those days again.
Back there I know the culture and the people. I know how to fake it with the best of them and be as publicly pious as anybody. I know how to read the Scriptures that affirm my superiority and ignore the ones that don’t. If I went back I could have friends again, and maybe two or one of them would actually be what they seem. I could have a church again, at least as long as I walked the line. Most of all I could have the certainty of knowing exactly where my place was in the world and the assurance that all was well as long as I did as I was told.
But I can’t do that. I can’t go back there again if I want to keep my soul. There’s no way to un-see or un-hear the things that I’ve shared here over the past years. I know the truth and no matter how much I pine for the leeks and garlic of Egypt that truth will force me to be free. But I’ll beg your pardon if for a moment I grieve for days gone by for friendships made and lost and death of the life that I once knew. I’ll ask for your understanding if I should shed a tear or two for distant dreams that life has killed.
But though I grieve I cannot ever go back. The steak is a lie.
135 thoughts on “Pining for the Leeks and Garlic”
I can’t say that I miss much of it – after years of being ground down because I was not worthy to hang around because I didn’t go “soul-winning”, I don’t miss it at all.
Part of it may be that I am still in a pretty fundamental church; it just doesn’t have the man-worship and performance-based Christianity.
There are some people I miss; not many – most of them shunned me.
If one of my family got ill, it was because I, as head of the family, wasn’t “sold out” to God (that is, didn’t go soul-winning 25 hours a day). People would “pray for us”, but like the poster above, no one would actually help us because they might be contaminated.
Miss it? Not at all. Now surrounded by people who show the love of Jesus to people who can’t do anything for them.
Actually for my room sophomore year at Bible College, our movie choice was Michael Bay’s “The Island”. 😀
I don’t miss that world. I never long for it. It’s hard for me to even remember. I like not obsessing over every action I take.
There are plenty of people who are able to jettison that lifestyle and move on to become fairly normal people. Except maybe for one thing: we can’t find anyone who can believe or understand what that world was like. So we come to blogs and bulletin boards where former fundies hang out.
Has anyone ever suggested The Shawshank Redemption as the most movie metaphor?
*most appropriate movie metaphor, that is. For leaving a prison of any kind.
Absolutely. It is poignant.
I was raised in “the pastor/preachers”home, and I actually bought all the crap that everyone was putting out there as real! For the record The Matrix fits! I have been out of the IFB world (sort of, my dad is an IFB preacher) for years and I am still finding out about “great spiritual warriors” who are being found out to be sex feinds of some kind or another. The biggest shock for me was finding out that while I was ding my best to walk the straight and narrow, andfailing miserably, everyone around me who was judging me, wasn’t even trying! It was all fake! All those years of feeling like I didn’t measure up, like was a failure, all the gilt, all the nights of begging God to forgive me for something or other that some preacher or youth minister decided was a sin! Thank you no… I wish I had know the truth from the beginning! But I do see your point. At the same time I feel sorry for those who I grew up with who are still in and think either I’m not saved because I don’t do thus and so. More so for the ones who saw through the lies and manipulation and turned their backs on their faith all together.
I feel the same way as Elijah Craig. It’s hard for me to remember, even 1.5 years out. I’m glad I don’t live obsessing over every little thing. The challenge now is just explaining to normal people what the hell I was doing for the past 10 years of my life…
It’s been over a year since I left my fundy church. Sometimes I’ll see my former friends post pictures of outings and get togethers. For about a split second, I’ll really miss being there. I’ll miss their friendships, miss being able to always have a group to do things with. Miss having the structure and knowing exactly what I was doing every Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and Saturday morning. I’ll think back to the YEARS invested in friendships that barely exist.
But then I look closer and I notice the little details. The fact that everyone looks exactly the same – same haircuts, same khaki pants, same knee or ankle length skirts, same safe smiles. I notice all these things, and it reminds me of all the reasons I left. And I remember that I’m having the best time of my life without church.
Freedom is not without its challenges, but somehow I’ve made it work, and I never regret leaving for a second.
I’m very sorry for all that you went through, and angered at the people who caused it.
I’m sorry that you have forsaken the church that Jesus purchased with His own blood (as the Good Book says).
I second the first part of your comment. However, it seems strange to be grieving that someone else views church differently than you do. I think it’s OK to keep those feelings to yourself. It’s a bit passive aggressive otherwise; not even all Christians believe the same way as you do about the physical church.
Thanks, Naomi! 😉
Guilt Ridden has every right to express his grievance. Just as I have every right to not listen or care…
Thanks Darrell. Presently puffing a cigarette and remembering the cute Fundy girls who didn’t turn out to be God’s will.
Permission granted to grieve, Dar-El. It’s still raw with me. I think it will be for a long time. I think, if i just put my head down, if I just pretend, I could go back to faking it again, and I would have a home and a safe place, as long as I keep my opinions to myself…
And then I remember the shallow, bitter fruit of a life of hypocrisy, and the pompous cruelty brought on by self-excusing, self-congratulating religiosity, and I can’t bring myself to do it.
Posts like this (and the comments) make me feel INCREDIBLY lucky to have not been involved in churches/circles that engage in shunning. I may not be a baptist, but my friends still are awesome. PCC was by far the worst experience as far as the ridiculous legalism & anti-intellectualism that makes up so much of fundamentalism.
shucks..i thought this was a cooking thread
I’m an ex-evangelical missionary kid, and this post perfectly captures how I feel, especially the last two paragraphs. Whenever things get tough for me here, in the host country that I’ve decided to stay in, I’m reminded that I could go back if I really wanted to. I could pretend to be an evangelical again, I could do a year or two at DTS and rely on family connections to get a job somewhere in the ministry. I could *belong* to that community again, and be supported by it and in it.
I’d just have to give up the freedom I currently enjoy – living in a culture where no-one really cares what I believe, where I can follow my conscience without being ‘accountable’ to domineering pastors and hawkish relatives.
Isn’t this precisely what Exodus 16:3 is all about? That and the other points where the Israelites pine away for slavery in Egypt, “when we sat by the fleshpots and ate bread to the full,” when confronted by freedom in the desert. The challenges of freedom can make slavery look good, but you need freedom, and courage, and God, to reach the promised land.
I didn’t grow up IFB; I grew up Roman Catholic. Sometimes I miss the culture and the beauty of Roman Catholic liturgy at its very best, but the memories of too many years of bad liturgy, too many years of being loaded down with Catholic guilt, too many years of rules that made no sense (no one ever gave me a reasonable explanation for prohibiting eating meat on Fridays, for instance), too many years of feeling like a second-class subhuman citizen for being gay are always there. And the embedded, widespread, institutional hypocrisy of the RCC in the scandal of pedophilia and the church’s treatment of victims versus the shell-game shuffling of offenders can no longer be ignored. This is one case in which one really can’t go home, because “home” really isn’t there.
David: I was thinking the same thing about Catholicism, a religious system I left nearly 35 years ago, when I came across your post! That church is so saturated with sensual “hooks,” the incense, candles, stained glass, artwork, idols…something to entice and retain just about everyone. Not to mention the mental, emotional, and spiritual, I would add, non-biblical, hooks. Although I became a Christian in my early twenties, I completely get the nostalgia for the “better times” and the people one knew in “Egypt,” as it were. But over time, some of the power of that emotional grab fades. I guess we just need to ride it out, pray for others to gain freedom, and stay close to the Lord. And these blogs and comment threads really help. It’s like leaving a bad marriage: the good times still tug at the heart, but the reality confirms the necessity of the choice and then healing can begin.
I love how memories can be pleasant or awful depending on your mood. It’s like if you are in a certain mood your mind only attracts certain kinds of memories, a certain kind of feeling, while it skips over or avoids others that don’t go along with your search.