Category Archives: Public Life

SFL Flashback: A Small World

This post was originally featured on SFL in February of 2011.

Although Baptist fundamentalists make up less than 1% of the overall population of America, you’d never know it to hear them talk. How many pastors have we heard introduced as “one of the most influential men in America”? How many times have we been told that some church of 300 or 500 people is at the forefront of the battle to bring the entire nation back to God? Yet somehow with all this influence, the powerful fundy church with its amazing pastor can’t even manage to get the liquor store down the street to go out of business.

The accolades of power and prestige that both fundy churches and pastors heap to themselves range from the ridiculous to the outright hilarious.

– “Adviser to the Governor and State Legislature” (He met them once at a fundraiser along with 632 other members of the clergy.)

– “Books and Tracts have influenced Christianity greatly” (Except that nobody who doesn’t shop at the church bookstore has ever bought a copy of any of them. The missionaries who received complementary copies in lieu of Christmas presents have long since used them for kindling.)

– “One of the most dynamic and powerful churches on the West Coast.” (Also one of the most oblong and unceremonious. I mean if we’re just going to throw around meaningless adjectives let’s go for broke.)

– “Reclaiming their town for Christ.” (And they’re doing it one zoning board battle at a time. Take that, heathen politicians!)

Most fundamentalists just seem to have no clue that the average non-fundy has never heard of their church, its pastor, his alma mater, and their preacher’s fellowship. And as long as they are refusing to have any meaningful relationship with non-fundamentalists, it’s going to stay that way in perpetuity. Delusions of grandeur would seem to be a requirement to be a somebody in fundyland.

Debts of Grace

Many of you know that the last couple years have been very difficult for my family with health and financial woes aplenty. But where hardship did abound there did generosity and kindness much more abound. So many people have taken it upon themselves to lend a helping hand in ways both small and large as we continue to struggle through this time in our lives. We are as humbled as we are thankful.

Living through the charity of others, however, has revealed to me a twisting in my thoughts and a weight upon my soul that I had not realized I still bore from fundamentalism. The lesson that I learned there was simple: “Grace is debt. Blessings are debt. Kindness is debt.” Nothing in fundamentalism is free. Everything from the saving of your soul to the nourishing of your body must be repaid in full.

Who among us has not heard this charge laid to those who have left their fundamentalist church? We did so much for you! Remember when we helped your family with their electric bill? Have you forgotten those times we showed you kindness and love? Have you no shame to leave without repaying us what you owe?

So even today as my heart overflows with thankfulness for those encouraging words, that check in the mail, or those groceries given with a smile, my inner man is busy with his ledger adding credits of guilt to each debit of grace. I owe. I owe so much to so many. How can I ever hope to repay it all? I could work a lifetime and never come close.

But in my awakening soul I sometimes now can dimly see that kindness is not debt but joy. This is no ledger but only a journal, a history of thanksgiving. Here too is grace. Wonderful. Amazing. Free.

Being Different (In Ways That Look the Same)

This just in: we are all irrelevant.

Have enough conversations with those fundamentalists who read SFL today and you’ll hear that we here are all firmly rooted in the past. All these things written and discussed may have been true three decades ago but today’s Independent Baptists are much more sophisticated — except for when they aren’t. This blog, we’re told, is nothing but an echo chamber for malcontents.

We’re bitter. We’re angry. We don’t realize that their camp of fundamentalism has nothing like the things written here. Except, of course, the things that are. But most of the time they’re nothing like the fringe lunatics featured here. You know, those crazies from the likes of BJU, PCC, Hyles, Fairhaven, Crown, WCBC, Sword of the Lord, that institute run by Ruckman are all just on the fringes. Sure, they have groups in from all those colleges, and they read their newsletters, and they buy those textbooks for their schools but they’re nothing like them. Nothing at all. Mainstream fundamentalism apparently consists of “my church.”

Even these detractors will admit that maybe once in a while something said here in a post or comment does hit home for their church or school. This only serves to prove that SFL is out of material to discuss if they’ve left poking fun at the crazy fundamentalists and are now attacking perfectly reasonable, well-balanced, and not at all insane churches full of people who may look like those other people, and hold to the same standards, and speak at the same conferences, and glorify the same heroes but are NOT AT ALL like those fringe fundies you read about here every week.

Denial is a beautiful thing.

Refusing Help From Those Who Aren’t Just Like Us

Former missionary and Fellowship Tract League representative Tom Patterson tells an apocryphal story from Myanmar while speaking at Solid Rock Independent Baptist Church.

I can’t imagine having my children starve and then having the arrogance to refuse help from another Christian organization simply because they weren’t in lock step with my beliefs. This is not Christianity. I don’t know what this is.

Discussion question: exactly how many Burmese Bible translations are there?


Whatever else they may be, fundamentalists on the whole are very, very tired people. They’re told that they must rise before the dawn to do lengthy devotions and commit themselves to prayer. The men must go to their jobs early and stay late in order to be pleasing to their masters while the women are busy cooking, cleaning, teaching, sewing, organizing, and serving.

Then there are church duties to be maintained; church work days to attend; church projects to complete. Soul-winning and bus ministry are hours out of each week even when there aren’t one countless special services, conferences, and revivals that go on through the year. Even brief vacations carry the requirement of finding a church to attend.

So when the weary fundamentalist finally reaches that day of rest and gladness on Sunday and drags himself into his pew he will find there no more rest for his soul than he has had rest for his body. For all his labor will not be enough to sate the son of a horseleach who stands in the pulpit and screams “Give! Give!” as if the people in the pew have are not already fully spent. And so those hapless souls repair once again to their grindstones to see if they can appease the angry god who’s yoke and burden are heavy indeed.

There may be no rest for the wicked but the ultra-righteous would seem also to find little respite for their bodies and souls.