SO not a fundie, kthanx.

What does it mean to be a Christian, to you and to the people around you? How do you find a balance between what you believe and what people think you believe,  between your understanding versus  their mental associations with your faith? What do you do if your personal beliefs are drastically different from the primary tenants of what, in reality, is a small (and crazy) faction of Christianity – but one that the majority of the world fails to distinguish from the rest of your religion? How do you overcome people’s animosity toward the Christian faith as a whole when, pound for pound,  the majority of the religion’s ignorant crazies are part of the loudest and most media-focused faction of American Christianity – the Fundamentalist Christian community?

That’s been my conundrum recently. See, I find myself with this odd amalgam of beliefs in which God is central (not Christ, necessarily, but I’ll get back to that in another blog post), and I don’t buy into a lot of what most Christians consider to be fundamental beliefs one must hold to in order to be considered part of the club. Inclusion into this very exclusive club was never something I really wanted, since upon examination of the members’ handbook, they seem to tack on tons of rules and responsibilities with no tangible benefits whatsoever. In fact, doesn’t the Bible actually promise toil without reward and separation from the majority of society as a result of following God through Christ? Sure, Christians are promised eternal life, but I have yet to meet anyone who’s actually been paid out on that. All in all it seems like a pretty crappy deal, sometimes. Honestly though,  I’m still willing to explore it, but there’s still that pesky problem of these asshole fundies.

"Howdy! Come to church! You're welcome to come as you are, whether you're straight and Republican, or Republican and straight!"

“Howdy! Come to church! You’re welcome to come as you are, whether you’re straight and Republican, or Republican and straight!”

What can be said about fundies here that hasn’t already been said? They’re loud, they’re ignorant, they spout whatever crazy hate from whatever crazy verse in the Bible they want to at any given moment. Then they do stupid shit, like putting that loud, ignorant hate on loud, ignorant placards. Then people take pictures of them so we can all laugh and shake our heads.  People like me roll their eyes and say, “Thank God there’s another type of Christianity”. The rest of the world shakes its head, rolls its eyes and says ,“Christians.”

And therein lies my problem.

How do you counter that? How do you even begin a discussion about God with people who think that all Christianity looks like that? You hear your friend, neighbor, or coworker is going through some raw shit. They talk to you about it and you, wanting to be helpful but having nothing else to offer, say something like, “I’ll pray for you”.  Instantly the person you’re talking to is thinking of all the things they’ve said or done that you’re secretly judging them for. If not that, then they’re thinking of  the things they feel or believe that they’ll never tell you because they’re automatically filing you away under the mental file of, “Christian: crazy”.

Honestly, it’s enough to make a girl renounce her faith.

Well not quite, but the lack of any sort of accountability for the things fundamentalists say and do in the media  bothers me tremendously. By itself that wouldn’t be enough to make me doubt if the whole thing was worth it, but if you add to that quandary my ongoing struggle with believing in the Bible, the end result is a person who’s looking at the vast majority of Christianity going, “. . .I’m not sure I actually believe the same things these people believe.  Does that mean I can’t continue to call myself a Christian?”

So that puts me in an uncomfortable position. Neither my call to morality nor my faith in God are in question. I can never again believe that God does not exist (though I can be mad at him, which is another blog post as well). However, when I sit down and look at all the points of dissension between myself and fundamentalist Christians, and then I add to that how blatantly and proudly off-target fundies seem to have gotten from whatever it was Christ was actually trying to teach us . . . I just find it really hard to swallow the idea of being in any way associated with them.

"Thanks for paying attention, idiots."

“Thanks for paying attention, idiots.”

Does that mean I want to give up my faith? Previous suggestions to the contrary, no, I don’t think so. My faith is more than what people think of me, or how other people act out beliefs that are similar to mine. Faith is very personal. That said, I fight with this regularly, because it’s hard for me to separate what I believe from what people think I believe. In a world where image and brand are paramount, how separate can those two things really be? I know I’m not a prejudiced asshole – have other issues, certainly, but exclusion isn’t one of them. But if everyone else in the world thinks I am a prejudiced asshole, and I’m reacted to and treated accordingly, does it matter what I really am?

I doubt I’m the only one with this issue. I think that until we, the reasonable and rational Christians, stand up and get as loud (though not as ignorant, please) as the people who are damaging the whole of Christianity’s brand (while making the devil laugh and dance with every word), we will continue to lose my generation. If we don’t find some way to reclaim ourselves and our image as people of love and charity, there are tons of people who are making the decision I didn’t, and join the ranks of “the nones”. If you haven’t yet heard about “the nones”, you can do so here – and you might want to, because that’s the future the church is facing if we continue our current course.

On behalf of all of the people struggling with the issues I’m struggling with, and I’d put money on the fact that there are thousands. . .  Christians, we have to do better. We have to; we have no choice. I don’t know what that means, but we can’t keep letting the ignorant, narcissistic assholes in our community separate us forever from people who would make wonderful Christians if they could only see we weren’t all hate-filled monsters like Marc Monte.

So, long story short, I don’t know what to do. Do we give up entirely and make up some new faith that allows us to separate ourselves from that tarnished image forever? Do we make our own placards and signs, organize our own rallies and try to beat those Westboro Baptist Church douche bags at their own game? I don’t know. I don’t have the answers. I’m sure I’m far from the only budding Christian who’s ever wondered what the hell they were doing being associated with these crazy people. I don’t have the answers for this query, except that I know that something needs be done, and Christians. . . I’m sorry, but I’m afraid the responsibility to hold our own people accountable to a higher standard falls on us. If we don’t do it, someone else will do it, but in passing the buck we do more damage to our image.  If ongoing scandals within the Catholic Church show us anything, it’s that people are very unforgiving when it comes to large, powerful organizations that don’t police their own for misconduct. The world needs to see that we’re not all crazy, and that we’re willing to call out our own when they are.

What do you think? Is there more that we, as a community, can do to take accountability for the hatred and ignorance within our ranks? Do your non-Christian associates think less of you because of the tarnished “brand” your faith has earned?


About Brandi Mitchell

30 responses to “SO not a fundie, kthanx.

  • melissa sutton

    Sure, I have encountered folks who have had a bad taste in their mouths towards Christians. But I like being the one who proves them wrong. Sometimes people can tell in your demeanor (in a good way) you are a Christian. That’s what it’s about. Being that Christ like person so that people are like “wow, that’s a Christian!”. I am not a republican and despise how many so called Christians flaunt themselves and are generally hypocrites. They are like modern day Pharisees. And they are grown up children who know nothing of the meat that is the Word. They live off of tainted milk. It is Satan fooling them. He is sneaky like that.

    • Brandi Mitchell

      You and I know this, but how do we take that to people who think we’re all crazy?

      That’s my big question, really. I remember when the idea of associating myself with Christianity was a disgusting and scary thought, and all because that’s all I was aware was out there.

  • visitingmissouri

    I don’t think beating them at their own game is an option. I think Christianity is a very slow and whispering way of living. Your strength and compassion (compassion squared, I don’t know where that button is) should do most of the trick. After all, Jesus came to earth once, to trust His legacy into the hands of twelve grown-ups who write about themselves as if they were just toddlers. If that’s the Lord’s strategy, I think I’ll join him in that. Whatever He’s doing today, His hands and feet are rarely the screamers or moralists. I believe it’s those who visit their neighbors and spread love in the circle that makes the most impact. Also, I believe you can be a christian on television and make that compassion so much more overwhelming than any other trait.

    • Jennwith2ns

      Great questions, Brandi (sorrythatsallihavetosayaboutthat), and Bas! So well-stated!

    • Brandi Mitchell

      Well I think you have a point, and maybe a subtle approach is the only way we CAN work, but I feel like the subtle approach isn’t really working.

      Maybe its my legendary impatience getting the better of me, and maybe I just need to slow down and trust God, it just bugs me that people think that’s how I roll.

      • visitingmissouri

        Don’t let my comment make you think that I don’t get frustrated either. I get mad at anyone who wants to ‘sell’ Christianity in a way that is a quick fix, mainly because it is accompanied by shouting or empty promises. At the other hand, I sometimes am tricked into thinking that shouting or polishing up the truth will get results faster. I know that I believe that christianity is a marathon, not a sprint and that people get convinced bit by bit and that they’re more impressed by people they look up to than amazing statements made by Thomas Aquinos, but sometimes I want to win arguments. I want to punch the people that shout an offensive religion in the faces of people who only get more defensive in their reaction.

        It is in those impatient moments that I remember how Jesus walked through the country, telling people the same stories over and over and impressing them with who he was for three years. He sparked a world by walking it (if that’s not slow, I don’t know what is) and enabled those around him to take it from there. I think they did a neat job, after all.

      • Brandi Mitchell

        Well said, man 🙂

        Punching people is my default reaction so…. I have to be kinda careful giving into that.

        I want to find a better way, and subtle is usually better, but I get so impatient.

        All in all I’m a mess. That said, I think you’re right. Plus, proving people wrong is a fun pastime for me.

  • Darren Beem

    More and more and more I find myself totally unable to identify for much of what passes for American Christian religion, including those parts you point out.

    It’s almost as if we’re talking about a totally different Jesus.

    As a result, I’ve taken to referring myself as a Jesus follower.

    • Brandi Mitchell

      I completely know how you feel.

      Ultimately I don’t know that calling ourselves something else is enough to get the message to the rest of the world that were founded in love, community and relationships, not prejudiced, exclusive, and judgemental.

      Just pondering. 🙂

  • melissa sutton

    VM’s comments are great. There are indeed a lot of people who have a bad opinion of Christians because of a few bad apples. There are always a few bad apples in the bunch. I believe we cannot do much besides live the truth ourselves and let them see us- that that is how it should be done.

    • Brandi Mitchell

      So, if I’m understanding correctly the underlying theme of these comments, you guys feel that while these types of people ARE doing things that are damaging our brand, calling them out without ALSO damaging our brand is almost impossible. The only way to beat them is to quietly keep doing what were supposed to and let the example of our behaviors shine for us?

      That sounds ideal. God help me have the patience not to cause too much destruction of my own in my impatience. I don’t want to be the bad taste in anyone’s mouth. Help me resist punching for the long game.

      • melissa sutton

        It is good to call out someone in an honest manner. They need to know they are doing wrong. Christ did it. Called a hypocrite a hypocrite and flung some tables. Righteous anger is part of our package! It’s simply about how it is done. It can be effective.

  • Peter Benedict

    I think Christ is a good model for life, generally speaking. He interacted with a lot of religious hypocrites, and I think any of us in church will do the same. It’s amazing how much this is an issue in America, and how much it’s an issue in Zambia, and how much it’s an issue in Mexico. It’s probably an issue everywhere.

    The most helpful thoughts I’ve encountered on this topic are in Tim Keller’s “The Prodigal God.” A suggestion for you, Brandi: If you like to read, read it. If you don’t, get the audiobook and play it while you drive to work and back. Both are probably at the library, or you could use the RHV library loan program we’ve invented.

    Either way: Christ engaged directly with the religious hypocrites in a variety of ways. He taught directly to them, as part of the crowds following him around. He engaged them directly, challenging them to love and softer judgment. He taught crowds not to be like them, but He did so in a way that made it clear that the listeners were called to love and help those who need it. It wasn’t just denunciation, it was denunciation with a call to greater sacrificial love. So maybe the comments here are making a great, Christ-like point: The answer to religious hypocrisy is service.

  • Veronica M. Surges (@jurisdoctorette)

    I’ve been really meaning to respond to this because I went to church last week at a very white, very rich, very – in my ever so humble and christlike opinion – naive congregation. It was very fundamentalist. I found myself becoming extremely bitter against these people, and prayed that God would change my heart because I know that bitterness is not what he wants – for me or for the people in that church.

    My bitterness didn’t immediately go away in a shower of rainbows and unicorns, but I did get the deep and abiding conviction that the only way I could show the truth of God’s overarching, powerful love to these people was to love THEM. And as I looked around during the vanilla-flavored worship music and the orchestrated prayers, I started to notice different things. The special needs woman crying with joy and leaning against a pillow. The pastor sitting by himself and praying. People with arms raised, eyes closed, clearly moved by the music that I considered so boring. And I decided that my only choice was to love these fundamentalist, anti-gay, anti-abortion, etc. folks, just as they are.

    This kind of mirrors this dude Peter Benedict’s point, but I swear I didn’t steal it 🙂 Thanks for the honesty as always, Brandi!

    • Daniel Mitchell

      You were asking about a church to attend? Brandi and I have started attending the church where Pete pastors. It’s not close to anything, but worth the drive. Plus it has a noon service!!! 😀

    • Peter Benedict

      I second Daniel’s church visitation suggestion… just a few sermons ago I mentioned that the environment isn’t always rainbows and ponies and unicorns, and here you are talking about showers of rainbows and unicorns, so we’re clearly soulmates.

      Or we’re both savvy with teh intarwebs, and I’m just trying to meet you in person 🙂

      • Veronica M. Surges (@jurisdoctorette)

        Dan and Peter – awesome. I haven’t been to church in five years (long story, some spiritual abuse involved with a dude that strongly discouraged church attendance) but used to go to Hillside up in Duluth with Ryan. I’m finally moving back to Minnesota in a few weeks and honestly, finding a good church is probably what my boyfriend and I are most excited about. I’ll definitely check it out!

        If I were savvy enough with teh intarwebs, I’d post a picture here of a nyan cat with a unicorn horn, but for now you’ll just have to imagine that glorious picture yourself.

      • Daniel Mitchell

        Wait a minute. Isn’t your boyfriend agnostic? This is Sexy NASA Matt, right? (His name IS Matt, right?)

      • Daniel Mitchell

        Veronica (we just call her “V”) is coolness personified. We met over the blog, then Brandi and I had coffee with her ONCE and it felt like we had been BFFF forever. I’m crazy-psyched she’s moving back to the Cities.

  • Veronica M. Surges (@jurisdoctorette)

    Sexy NASA Agnostic Matt is now Sexy NASA Matt 😀 We started reading the Bible together and praying together and discussing religion over the past year and God slowly just kind of…worked His magic! 😀 😀 😀 😀 <— many happy smiley faces

    Re me being cool: it takes one to know one! or…something. Either way, I'm SUPER excited to be living close to you and Brandi. I have built-in friends waiting for me!

    • Veronica M. Surges (@jurisdoctorette)

      Matt is trying to move here within the next year, too! I can’t wait for you guys to meet.

      • Brandi Mitchell

        V! I’m super psyched to get to hang with you and sexy NASA matt on a more full time (or at least more active part time) basis!

        You should totes attend river heights with us! Pete is way cooler than the nerdy pictures daniel might find of him seem to imply. ❤

        Also the church does some pretty awesome shit to try to love and impact their communities. I can get behind that. I dig action.

        So yeah! We have to get together and do things! Hooray!

    • rosenkov

      It’s an incredibly small thing, but one I think is worth saying from an agnostic. Now that Sexy NASA Matt has found God, can we either call him Sexy Christian NASA Matt? Because going from Sexy Agnostic NASA Matt to Sexy NASA Matt somehow suggests a state of being that is somehow improved by his removal of agnosticism.
      And I know this isn’t that kind of blog.
      Semantics? Yes. But anyone who knows me will say that I believe that language is the foundation of greater understanding, and is therefore important.

      • Daniel Mitchell

        Well, given the theme of the blog post this comment stems from, I think it best that we let Sexy ——— NASA Matt fill in the blank. He, like Brandi, might not be entirely comfortable being called a Christian. We could accurately call him Sexy Theist NASA Matt, but that is a bit dry, don’t you think?

      • Brandi Mitchell

        Sometimes I wish I could like comments…. maybe I’m on Facebook too much.

  • rosenkov

    I for one am in favour of a Stalinist revision in which he was always only ever called Sexy NASA Matt. After all, what’s more awesome than being sexy and a part of NASA?

    • Daniel Mitchell

      I’ll tell you what’s more sexy: Joseph Stalin. Seriously. Google “young Joseph Stalin.” Then join a dating site, use his picture on your profile, and see what happens.

      • Veronica M. Surges (@jurisdoctorette)

        Oooh, and young Vladimir Putin! He looks like a hotter Draco Malfoy! Something feels a bit….illegal about saying that, being that Draco Malfoy is supposed to be in high school. Whatever.

        I am in favor of the Sexy NASA Matt revision. I suppose I could ask him, but he might just be confused, because Sexy and NASA don’t always go together (I visited the space flight center so I can say that with a fair amount of confidence).

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