Tag Archives: Standards

Guest Post: The Fence vs. The Ambulance

Today we are blessed to have a word from Bro. KindofBored. Be sure to visit his book table in the back after the message.

As a youngster, I often heard the “Fence or Ambulance” poem as a cautionary tale against getting too close to the cliff of sin. The moral was that it’s far better to stay as far away as you could from sin, as an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure (a fence on the cliff is better than an ambulance down in the valley to spirit the careless and clumsy to the hospital). Doesn’t sound too bad, right? If your property is bounded by a busy highway, you don’t encourage your children to play on the curb.

As with many misguided fundyisms, though, a sensible concept has been taken and run with all the way out yonder past the Back Porch of Rational Thought and into the Briar Patch of Lunacy. Let’s follow the progression from sensible to nonsensical: Unless you’re a properly equipped BASE jumper, falling from cliffs is bad. Got it. To prevent this bad thing from happening, boundaries at the tops of cliffs can keep folks from slipping over the edge. So far, so good.

Here’s where it goes haywire:

1. The fundy leader gets to decide what constitutes a cliff.
2. One cliff-size fits all.
3. The fundy leader decides where the fence goes.

Ah. This is where the fun starts, as the fundy managawd has some serious leeway here. If he determines that the cliff is rock music, then the fence may be a prohibition on listening to anything that’s not a hymn. Or, it may be a demonization of guitars and drums. Or, that satanic alternate third beat may get tossed out the window.

If the cliff is alcoholism, then the fence will be the banning of all alcoholic beverages (and, if they really want to set a good fence, they’ll ban IBC root beer, what with the salaciously shaped bottles that just scream at you to drink beer).

If the cliff is immodest attire on women, then the fence is no pants, skirts-below-the-knees, no visible collarbone, nylons at all times, etc.

If the cliff is shameful long hair on men, then the fence is to have Mrs. Deaconswife taper the men and boys’ hair at least an inch above the ear and seven inches above the collar.

If the cliff is taking a brother before the law, then the fence is to make the victim of his sexual lust take responsibility for the rape and apologize to the church and his wife (and maybe move her out of state). Oh, wait — that doesn’t make sense. How did that get there?

You see, if you set the fence waaaaaaaaayyyyyyy away from cliff, then you’re fulfilling the mandates to “come out from among them and be separate” and “touch not the unclean thing” and “remove not the ancient landmark” and “a stitch in time saves nine” and “wait an hour after eating before swimming.” Such a testimony you’ll have with your community as your family parades around town in July with every square inch of your women’s bodies covered in a burqua — I mean, with long sleeves, long hemlines and high collars as the males proudly display their sunburned whitewalls.

Don’t agree with the fence that your managawd has erected in your living room? Think that he’s making a cliff where the Bible is silent (like that ever happens)? That brings us to the next point:

4. If you disagree, then there’s sin in your heart.

You see, in fundyland, there’s no room for Christian liberty. There’s only the slippery slope leading from the backside of the fence to the cliff’s edge. It doesn’t matter if the managawd sees fit to move the fences from time to time or if he sets a fence at differing distances for different people, as he’s still right with each placement; you’d understand if you prayed more or something. You’d better get your heart right, brother or sister, and bring yourself back into compliance with the pastor’s teaching on this vital subject. After all, becoming a shipwreck is a cliff, so get on the safe side of the fence by listening to your leadership and believing every little thing that falls out of their faces.

Note: if you try to use the concept of fences and ambulances to say that hard-core fundyism is a cliff well, then, brother, I’m scraping the dust off of my sandals as we speak. I might even hit you with a fence post.

Standards for Ministry Staff

Welcome to our ministry staff! We think you’ll find this a great place to work and won’t it just be lovely to work around Christians all day long instead of having to rub elbows with those worldly people and their terrible language and stories about drinking? Oh, by the way, staff devotions are at 7:00 sharp, be sure to bring your list of prayer requests!

Why here at Heartbeat Of America Baptist Bible School you’ll never have to worry about someone cursing in front of you or telling an off-color joke and you’ll know that everyone is doing their very best because not only is the boss watching but Jesus is too! The boss, however, will be the one writing people up for having verse screen savers in the wrong version. You’ll find that on page 107 of the staff handbook…

Oh, have you gotten a copy of the staff handbook? Yes, the size of it can be a little intimidating but it’s all really quite necessary. We don’t want people to have to go through the pain of deciding for what to do themselves so we try to include rules for every possible situation. This way you’ll never have to worry.

What’s that? Page 86? Ah, yes a lot of people ask about that one. Well, let’s just say that you happened to be home at night and there was a fire and you had to quickly run out of your house wearing a pair of pants. Some firefighter might see you and know you worked for us and everyone’s testimony would suffer. So it’s just better for all of us if you let us decide what you wear at home as well as work, don’t you think?

Oh, yes, page 87 is quite a popular one too. Now we’re not really saying that watching PG movies is wrong for everyone but we want the people in our ministry to be part of a HIGHER STANDARD. You know, after all, that being in a ministry makes you even more accountable to God than being a normal person. So we just put those rules in place make sure nobody every mistakes you for being normal.

Well, let me show you where you’ll be working. We do have to keep the air conditioning turned up to 93 in order to save on power bills, I’m sure you understand it’s all part of being a good steward. And you’ll want to make sure you ask your supervisor permission before going to the bathroom because we do try to make sure that everyone honors the Lord with their diligence. Starting tomorrow you’ll also need to bring in your own paper towels.

Welcome! We’re so glad that you’re here.

Silent Change

Everything changes — even fundamentalists. But much like any other organization that claims for itself absolute and final authority on, well, pretty much everything, fundamentalists are loath to admit that sometimes they do in fact re-think their stances on things.

One day you’re hearing Steve Green’s music being decried as having crawled from the ninth circle of the underworld. Then suddenly, without warning, your choir is blasting out “Find us Faithful” as if it had been written at least a hundred years ago. The trick here is that nobody in leadership will ever actually come out and say “Hey, guess what? We were wrong about that Steve guy. His music is actually ok.”

Ladies, that skirt had better be down to your ankles…or below the knee…or “at” the knee…or at least at the knee while leaning slightly forward and holding your breath. And if you’re paying enough attention to realize that something is definitely up with fundamentalist hemlines, I’d advise you to also have better sense than to mention it where they can hear you.

And of course, the fundamentalist can absolutely defend every single new nuance of standards directly from the unchanging Word of God. It would seem that even travelers on the old paths have to put up with a certain amount of construction.

Asking “Why?” instead of “Why not?”

“Christians should never watch movies rated PG-13”, intones the fundamentalist.

“Why not?” asks his companion. “I don’t see any reason why this movie is so bad.”

“You’re asking the wrong question,” says the fundamentalist sternly. “Asking ‘why not?’ is the trick of rebellious children and compromisers. What you need to be asking is ‘why do you want to do it?’ — and if the answer you come up with isn’t either something super spiritual or agreed upon by at least two popular evangelists you have to admit I’m right.”

“Uh….” stammers his friend.

“I win!” yells the fundamentalist gleefully.

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of this conversation, chances are you have been in the presence of a fundamentalist.

One has to wonder if a fundamentalist can also come up with super spiritual reasons for their choice of breakfast cereal. I’ll bet they can.