Why do they stay at these churches and schools? Why don’t they just leave?
Why don’t they just leave their family ties and life-long friendships?
Why don’t they just leave the college degrees that are only valued in one of these “ministries”?
Why don’t they just leave their community?
Why don’t they just leave their livelihood?
Why don’t they just leave the cultural comfort of having the world make sense?
Why don’t they just leave their certainty for doubt?
Why don’t they just leave the time and money they have invested?
Why don’t they just leave their children to fearful futures outside the center of “God’s perfect will.”
Why don’t they just leave to go and live as strangers in a strange land?
I think the real surprise is that so many have managed to leave at all.
Fundamentalists ain’t what they used to be. Fundamentalism is exactly the same as it has always been.
Once upon a time, fundamentalism as a movement embraced a wide-flung and surprisingly diverse group of people. While standards and holiness (especially involving alcohol) were a big deal, they were not by far the biggest deal. In the days before the fundamentalist college was ubiquitous, many leaders were educated by Methodists or Presbyterians and these denominations were generally acknowledged to have at least some orthodoxy left in them. Bible Version debates were unheard of and the broader Christian culture often lined up with the fundamentalist ideals making the fundamentalist not so far outside the mainstream.
But here’s what happens…
Meet Pastor Joe. Pastor Joe is (at least comparatively) a fairly reasonable and well-spoken fundamentalist. As his camp in fundyland lurches to the fringe, he tries to speak out in a reasonable fashion against the growing craziness of standards and separation he sees around him. Of course, other fundamentalists mark him as an apostate and separate from him. Joe doesn’t want to completely abandon his theological roots so he leaves to become a Southern Baptist or Non-Denominational pastor with baptistic leanings.
This has two effects. 1)Fundamentalism loses a voice of reason and ends up a little crazier and more perverse as a whole 2)Whatever movement Pastor Joe joins gains a very right-leaning member and becomes a little more fundamentalist.
Inevitably, those who Joe left behind in fundamentalism attack even more of their own and those victims too decide to follow brother Joe into greener pastures.
Repeat the process a few thousand times and you end up with a fundamentalist movement where the lunatics are demonstrably running the asylum. You also end up with elements in the SBC and elsewhere that are increasingly voicing familiar old fundamentalist themes.
Meet the new Baptists, same as the old Baptists.