Because of their emphasis on separation, the body of approved source material for fundamentalists is a very small and often changing list. Quite often when a fundamentalist goes to look for a book or sermon on a given topic there just isn’t one by one of the three fundamentalist leaders he’s still on good terms with. This problem has created an extensive taxonomy of disclaimers as fundamentalists attempt to quote experts while maintaining a proper separated distance.
The Anonymous Quote The easiest way to avoid being pinned down to supporting a particular person is just not to name them at all. Pastors use this one all the time. “Someone once wrote…”
The Parenthetical You can slip the warning right into the middle: “I’d like to read this quote by John MacArthur — now we know that John MacArthur is a Calvinist and that you just can’t trust anything he says about salvation, the gospel, or witnessing but I’d like to read this anyway…”
The Vague Warning This is the catch-all warning for when a speaker just doesn’t want to get into it: “Unlike the books written by fundamentalists, you need to read this book with a lot of discernment but there is this one good sentence which reads…”
The Book Label “The contents of this book are not necessarily endorsed by [insert institution name here]. In fact this book may be complete heresy but we keep it in our library anyway in case there is something that really fits well into a sermon illustration someday.”
When you’re separated from everyone it sure does make using a good quote tricky. Imagine a fundamentalist pastor repeating something he read on this blog for example…
Many modern preachers have discontinued the use of a pulpit, preferring instead to roam the stage freely sporting headset mics and using slide presentations. Fundamentalists, however, remain big fans of the old-fashioned pulpit and continue to put flowers in front of it and bestow upon it the title of the “sacred desk.”
The pulpit itself is no mere common piece of furniture for it has countless uses to the fundamentalist preacher. Among these are…
- Holder for the microphone for those churches where holding the mic in one’s hands is forbidden as a Freudian no-no.
- Resting spot for the ubiquitous cup of water that sits on it in testament to the fact that the preacher is no lightweight who will only be preaching for twenty minutes. He plans to preach until he is dry then preach some more.
- Place for the speaker to set his wide margin preaching Bible (KJV), his watch (a completely pointless gesture), his ream of sermon notes (if he is of the note-using school), and all of his source material (consisting of a single volume of Sword of the Lord illustrations and a book of Great Poems For Sermons.)
- Solid surface on which to pound while making dubious points. The rule is the thinner the argument the louder the preacher must yell and pound.
- Line of demarcation between an official speaker and someone just giving a talk. Women or divorced men, for example may be asked to speak from the floor instead of from the place of authority lest they profane that hallowed spot.
So synonymous is this wooden box with the pastor himself that the search for a new pastor is carried out by a “pulpit committee.” Beware to those who would handle it carelessly lest they be struck down.
A good fundamentalist is in church every time the doors are open, no matter how often that may be. (Hint: it’s often).
Whether it’s Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night prayer meeting, Friday night Youth Group, or a myriad of special events, attendance is not optional. To a fundy, to miss a service is to miss out on the very blessing of God. And you don’t want to miss a blessing do you? Well do you? I didn’t think so.
Some fundy preachers take pride in reminding everyone of the time that they were sick with the bubonic plague, had their car stolen, broke both legs, and had just gotten off a shift at the salt mines where they had worked 73 straight hours nonstop, BUT HE STILL CAME TO BIBLE STUDY ANYWAY! So don’t even bother trying to use the excuse that you have the sniffles and didn’t want to give them to everyone else or that you’re just too tired after work to make prayer meeting. That sort of lily-livered tale is only for sissy’s and compromisers.
The postal service may still prevail through rain, sleet, and dark of night but the fundamentalist isn’t even deterred by hurricanes, wildfires, or the church being full of fresh paint fumes. Open the doors and see all the people.
For fundamentalists, their “day of rest” begins promptly at 6:00 a.m. with mom and dad rousting the five children out of bed, feeding them breakfast, and hunting all over the house for various articles of children’s clothing that they could have sworn were hanging in the closet just last night. Then with everyone bathed, fed, and dressed, it’s off to the bus ministry and an hour and a half of driving around town picking up children and getting them to church.
Then it’s time to get the babies to the nursery, the children deposited at Sunday school, and making sure that there are coffee and doughnuts for the adult Sunday school class. After that it’s time for the main service where Dad watches the older kids while mom volunteers in the nursery since the youngest kid is teething and she’ll probably end up in there for half the service anyway.
Sometime later, the service concludes and it’s time to get the bus kids back to their respective homes just in time to rush to the monthly nursing home ministry which Dad happens to be speaking at this week and it turns out that the normal pianist is sick so mom fills in for that as well. After that it’s a quick lunch at a drive-through, then back to the church for children’s choir practice and Men’s meeting before the evening service. Evening service this week is followed by a lengthy business meeting which mom and dad take part in while the older kids play freeze tag in the parking lot. Finally, long after darkness has fallen, it’s time go home.
On the drive home, the eight-year-old looks out of the car window and exclaims “look, there’s a fair going on! People are riding the rides and playing games!”
“Those people should know better than that!”, says Dad piously “Sunday is a day for rest.” But in his heart he’s rather relieved that tomorrow is Monday when all he has to do is go to work. This much resting could be deadly in large doses.
No fundamentalist sermon would be complete without illustrations. In fact, by sheer volume, illustrations appear to be the most important part of the message. The ability to tell compelling stories is what separates mere speakers from the masters of the preaching craft. When this really becomes important is when the topic turns to teenage rebellion. These are the cream of the illustration crop.
The most important thing about the “rebellious teen” illustration is that it must end badly. It must end so badly that no teen in their right mind will ever, ever, ever go out and do whatever it was that the kids in the story did. Nothing is off limits here. Decapitation, electrocution, cannibalism, accidentally killing ones whole family, small children being eaten by animals…the more gore the better to drive the point home and scare the teens straight.
It’s a miracle that any non-fundamentalist teen makes it to adulthood. It’s a regular bloodbath out there. Ignore the warnings at your own peril.