Friday, August 16, 2013

Words of caution for the recovering "Cultural Fundamentalist"...

I know Northland students know what "Cultural Fundamentalism" means, but I don't know if it's a well known description outside of Northland.  So...allow me to explain before I continue.

Cultural Fundamentalism is the conservative culture of Christianity that has come out of the Fundamentalist movement.  The Fundamentalist movement was good...it caused the church to return to the Word of God as the compass for every part of their life.  Those who were a part of it were marked by a zeal for the Word of God and a commitment to follow it.  However, out of that movement there were created a lot of ideas that are not found in the Bible.  The idea that the KJV is the inspired word of God in the English language, movie theaters are bad, dancing is bad, any kind of music that had drums was bad, girls must wear long skirts down to their ankles and have long hair, Christians should only homeschool or Christian school their kids...etc.  I think you get the idea.

There were many people who followed these ideas to varying degrees.  Some held them more strictly than others.  For my family I often felt like we were swept along by these ideas at times (although we were never KJV only) and we didn't really know why.  So...over time we began to stretch these "rules" because we didn't have a good explanation as to why they were bad...but we kept our "rebellion" quiet, because we didn't want to be judged by people from the church.  While my upbringing might have been more "laxed"...I know many people who grew up in homes where these ideas created a tremendously oppressive home-life.  Many people I know fled Christianity completely when they got out of the house, because they figured if their upbringing was what Christianity was about, they didn't want it.

While my upbringing might have been more laxed, I still had a lot of these ideas etched into my life.  When I went to college I began to discover that there was more freedom in Christ than I realized there was.  Nowhere in the Bible did it say that movie theaters were bad...while modesty was important, it did not mean that we had to reject fashion...while there are some kinds of dancing that are bad, it's not all bad...etc.  I discovered that 1 Thess. 5:22 had been grossly misused (this is one of the only verses we were given to back up why we avoided all the things we did).  This verse says in the KJV, "avoid all appearance of evil"...a command that is nearly impossible to follow because there will always be people who think you're doing evil...this verse is more accurately translated in the ESV as "Abstain from every form of evil" (emphasis mine).

These discoveries made me feel free!  I began to know joy in Christ that I never knew.  I searched the scriptures to find out what it truly taught instead of believing all these things I had been taught.  Overtime, however, I began to realize that there some pitfalls that I fell into because of this discovery...and I've taken all of this post to build up to this...so I would like to discuss these pitfalls and caution others who are in the same place as I am.

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
(Galatians 5:13-15, ESV)

We must not, as this verse above presents, use our freedom for an opportunity for the flesh.  We can dangerously flirt with a rebellious attitude.  We might start indulging in things that are not wise to indulge in just for the sake of the fact that we can...because the Bible does not explicitly tells us to not do them.  We can flirt too closely with sinful things because it "feels good" to be close to them.  Just because the Bible doesn't say, "thou shalt not drink alcohol" doesn't mean it's wise for us to do so.  While the Bible doesn't say we shouldn't drink it...it doesn't have much good to say about it...there are far more passages that say bad things about it than there are that say good things about it.  If one can drink it and not be tempted to drink to excess, by all means...but we need to be wise.  This idea can apply to lots of things.  We do have freedom, but we need to be careful.

Another caution I have is that we can allow our new found freedom to cause us to have a haughty attitude toward those who are still clinging to cultural fundamentalist ideas.  Many of us may have parents and pastors who hold to these ideas...we must show them the respect that God commands us to show them.  As this passage above calls us to do...we must love them.  When we look down on them, and treat them with disdain...we are in danger of biting and devouring one another, as the verse above also states.  If we try to forcibly get them to see things the way we see them, they're probably going to dig in their heels and fight back.  We must present our ideas with grace, and show them by our life that even if we have looser standards than them, we are just as committed to living for God's glory, if not more than before.  We need to pray for them and ask God to work in their lives.  God is going to be the one who affects the change in them...just as God was the one who affected the change in us.

Ultimately recovering cultural fundamentalists need to be humbly committed to following the Word of God and showing Christlike love to those around us.  Serving in our churches in a God honoring way...submitting to our authorities and loving our God more supremely than anything or anyone else.

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