How Reasonable Christianity becomes Fundamentalism

1. Encounter new ideas, which threaten old beliefs and structures (and money)

2. Rather than engage with/integrate ideas, resolve situation through power by:

a) identifying new ideas as heresies

b) identifying previous beliefs as orthodoxy 

c) assigning punishments to those who believe wrong views (excommunication, loss of job, hell)

d) put money into organizations designed to protect old ideas

3. Create situations where information is controlled (homeschool, churches-that-don’t-communicate-with-broader-theological-community-because-only-they-have-the-answers, unaccredited Bible schools, parachuting organizations & publishing houses controlled by said churches)

4. When children raised in this system find out that the message “if you pursue free thought/science you will agree with us,” was a lie,

a) hopefully they are trapped by a pay check and a social circle. So they have to keep preaching it or be jobless and friendless in midlife. 

b) …if they do dare to get outside that bubble, remember to remove, exclude, excommunicate, fire, and purge them from the system

c) quote, “if they left us they were never a part of us” invalidate their entire Christian experience 

d) create fictional tales of the woes of those who leave (many of these “woes” were caused by the unhealthy messages of the religious group, the pressure of trying to live a double life, and the pain of being abandoned or actively attacked on the way out)

5. Double down. The problem was always too much free thought. 

a) create longer and longer lists of approved and unapproved doctrines 

b) purge all leadership positions of those who don’t agree

c) paint all those who left as dangerous heretics and apostates 

6. When “apostates” call out problems, identify these as heresy. Go back to step one and repeat, thus drawing the circle tighter and tighter. 

…sing to Jesus and say “amen”…

How reasonable Christianity becomes fundamentalism:

1. Encounter new ideas, which threaten old beliefs and structures (and money)

2. Rather than engage with/integrate ideas, resolve situation through power by:

a) identifying ideas as heresies

b) identifying previous beliefs as orthodoxy 

c) assigning punishments to those who believe wrong views (excommunication, loss if job, hell)

d) put money into organizations designed to protect old ideas

3. Create situations where information is controlled (homeschool, churches-that-don’t-communicate-with-broader-theological-community-because-only-they-have-the-answers, unaccredited Bible schools set up by said churches, parachuting organizations & publishing houses controlled by said churches)

4. When children raised in this system find out that the message “if you pursue free thought/science you will agree with us,” was a lie,

a) hopefully they are trapped by a pay check. So they have to keep preaching it or be jobless with kids in midlife. 

b) if they dare to get outside that bubble, remember to remove, exclude, excommunicate, fire, and purge them from the system

c) quote, “if they left us they were never a part of us”

d) create fictional tales of the woes of those who leave (many of these “woes” were caused by the unhealthy messages of the religious group, the pressure of trying to live a double life, and the pain of being abandoned or actively attacked on the way out)

5. Double down. The problem was always too much free thought. 

a) create longer and longer lists of approved and unapproved doctrines 

b) purge all leadership positions of those who don’t agree

c) paint all those who left as dangerous heretics and apostates 

6. When “apostates” call out problems, identify these as heretical thoughts. Go back to step one and repeat…

…sing to Jesus and say “amen”…

What would a reasonable Christianity look like?

Well, here’s a start…

1) A humble attitude towards knowledge. Leaders should be known for their generous and kind spirit, sense of wonder, and emotional health. Not their ability to memorize the previous generation’s list of heresies/orthodoxies)

2) Science should be welcomed. NOT as a new kind if religion, but AS SCIENCE. Real scientists ask questions, admit when their theories are incomplete but “the best I have right now,” and change their minds when presented with new information

3) Emotional health should be prioritized. Vital relationships maintained with secular mental health experts in the community. 

4) VERY. MINIMAL. CONTROL. STRUCTURES. Membership is completely voluntary. Leaders are not there to control the lives of members and certainly not to police thoughts. 

5) Know for active engagement in the community. Caring for the metaphorical “widows and orphans,” those who are marginalized and ignored in local community.

6) Very minimal infrastructure. NOT a huge heated building that has to be maintained 7 days a week for a few hours on Sunday. Not putting all of the energy if the religious community into making this service amazing. But rather, putting that energy into truly helping people.