Sunday, February 10, 2013

Fundamentalists

I don't really know how to address this topic without being... honest about my past. At the same time, I wish to be careful because the current dialogue about Pagan Fundamentalism has very little – aside from the word “fundamentalism” – to do with my life experiences. This is compounded by the fact that I hate discussing the period of my life that I'm about to, even if I do it briefly.

So, fourteen years ago I went – almost overnight – from being expected to one day be a Pastor, to being a persona non-grata in the Church I was being raised in. This event forced me to confront the religion of my childhood, my own life experiences, and to change my ways somewhat drastically.

What happened was that a young girl I loved, very dearly, hung herself on accident in the shower. A Church Elder and Youth Minister from my Southern Baptist Convention-aligned church came over to my house and told me that she went to Hell, and then backed it up with Biblical passages condemning suicide. I was warned that I ought to love God more than I had the young, now dead, girl.

And, so, I snapped on him. I almost physically assaulted the man. This culminated in the Church Elders requesting that I leave, and preferably never return.* The individual who had inspired all of this would later be thrown out of the Church as well, however his crime was having sex with a seventeen year old.**

And so I became a heretic. I was positive that the God worshiped by my former church was real. I was also absolutely convinced, in an almost Gnostic fashion, that he was pure evil. These days I am far more lenient in my outlook, but I still have quite a bit of distaste for those who purport themselves to be holy and police others while hiding their own terrible habits, practices, and thoughts as if they don't exist.

The churches I was raised in existed in a range between liberal and extremely conservative, but the one that kicked me out was – at the time – fairly liberal. It was, however, influenced by a number of Fundamentalist voices that we hear transmitted across the radio and broadband frequencies daily. The Church Elders were also largely conservative, and their thoughts were very much in line with the thoughts expressed by the Southern Baptist Coalitions ranking members.

So, when I got older I made it a point to begin looking into the history of the church of my youth – and of those factions like the Anabaptists (who I've brought up before) – to see what had transpired to create such a ghastly blend of madness and public policing of morality. What I discovered was that around 1979, the SBC was rent by a series of abusive exchanges between the moderate Quietists and liberals in the Church and the Fundamentalist evangelicals. The Quietists and liberals were expelled and replaced with Fundamentalists, eventually leading to the Christian Right using the SBC as a vehicle for their political machinations.

In other words, the leaders of the denomination that created the hostile environment I eventually found myself steadfastly against had not always been the leaders of the church but represented just one of many “Right/Left” pendulum shifts that tend to occur naturally in the lifespan of many religious bodies.

So it was with great interest that I recently came across this article, written by the BBC's Adam Curtis, entitled Who Would God Vote For? It compares the rise of the Christian Right in America, lead by the televangelists, to the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran and the events that eventually lead to the “regenerative Christianity” of America to be allied with Khomeini in Iran, culminating in the Iran-Contra Affair.

But the part that interests me is that both sets of powers were shifting into high gear in 1979, at the same time the SBC was undergoing a political coup of sorts. It was certainly not a coincidence, and so seeing the motives of the undertaking pinned down is especially enlightening.

The point I would make here is this:
The danger of “Fundamentalism,” particularly when it comes to religious groups, is their ability (now sacrosanct in America, apparently) to enforce their views on the populace at large. This danger does not presently exist in neo-Pagan and polytheistic circles except in minority cases. Tim Alexander and the various Nazitru groups come to mind. However: they are not and have never been particularly powerful, and while they are worth discussing, those discussions require specifics and specific statements that need to be assessed. A number of hard polytheists have been rather annoyed to see their perspectives compared to – and dismissed – as fundamentalism when they are not, in fact, fundamentalists.

Furthermore I have yet to see a single person discuss – as Ananael recently did – the “sanctity/degredation” axis of moral reasoning and how it comes into play with Fundamentalists. This is one of the major points to pay attention to, and the reason I mentioned Tim Alexander. If you've ever seen that guy rant about anything, it was probably about keeping out “degredation” from his would-be State Religion.

I am not, and I will never be, a reconstructionist. In fact, I've made my thoughts in the State religion of the classical Empires quite clear. However, I do think it's extremely disingenuous to to discuss the issue of Fundamentalism the way I've seen it approached. I say this as someone who sought to escape it, and actually managed to mostly do so.***

If you're going to discuss the subject, you can't simply limit it to “foundational mythologies” the way I've seen recently. It is certainly involved, but hardly the only player. Nor is it the most dangerous player on the field of the discussion.

Finally, there is a difference between elitism and fundamentalism.

* I understand that I was later excommunicated.
** I totally don't have residual issues with authority figures due to the events. Not at all. Heh.
*** Okay, so my perspective can be downright traditionalist at times. However, that doesn't make me a fundamentalist.

[Note: Quietism should be pietism. Although, in retrospect, I was taught a number of ideas that came from the Quietist school of thought, such as that all of your actions ought to be mediated by the Holy Spirit, which would inform you of God's plan (or something) through constant prayer. The state of sinlessness thought to be achieved by many Quietists, however, was never really regarded as possible by anyone I spoke with. They all stressed that this should be done because we, and the world, were sinful. These individuals were also a minority compared to the much larger Morality Police.]

No comments: