Good-guy vs. Bad-guy Scenario: A Fundamentalist Primer
going to be easy, but I think that theists and non-theists need to stop
employing the good guy vs. bad guy scenario as frequently as we do whenever we
discuss matters of concern between ourselves. Seems like we prefer to gravitate
towards several “Godfather-type” solutions like “Going to the
mattresses” or “Make them an offer that they can’t refuse” that only
exasperate relations...we as a society need to mature!
I for one
don’t think that the faithful are anywhere near as bad as many of my fellow
non-theists make them out to be. I have publicly acknowledged this fact though
Common Good page! If you think I am exaggerating then I challenge
anyone to name at least ONE other non-theist website upon the entire web
that sincerely recognizes the faithful’s contributions to society! Perhaps
then you will understand why an article like this coming from a secular
perspective is long overdue!
me wrong here; there are enough bad guys to go around like embezzlers, clergy
pedophiles, theocrats and other hate mongering bigots that betray the virtues of
religion. Shame upon those institutions that cover for them, you have sacrificed
your credibility in the process!
fair to say though that the “bad apples” therein spoil the whole bunch; this
simplistic analogy isn’t accurate nor is it reasonable. Frankly, I’d say
that the rank and file of the faithful give much more to those in need then
non-theists do! What else would one expect? Jesus’ instructions to give are
routinely followed by the faithful while non-theists see little to no reason to
follow Jesus’ admonition to give.
As most of
you know, I abandoned my walk of faith after a 23-year tour to eventually adopt
a secular humanist approach towards living. Remnants of Jesus’ admonitions
(especially love and compassion) still register with me although I cannot see
any reason to elevate a book of literature (such as the Bible) to divine status,
nor should we have any obligation to its dictates. I have relatively no problems
with pure religion; it is the religion that has been pushed toward the right
(fundamentalism) that I take issue with!
is a fundamentalist?
the difference between a nominal practitioner and a fundamentalist. It is
largely a matter of degree. You start to suspect fundamentalism when an
individual crosses the imaginary line of “lifestyle
evangelism” to the point of being pushy, divisive or forcing their belief
system. Fundamentalist can be of the non-theist persuasion as well. Non-theists
have reason while believers have the “Holy Spirit”; those that push the
action beyond these two agents of persuasion are fundamentalists.
A good one-word definition for a fundamentalist is…pushy!
the basic “fundamentals” of the faith doesn’t necessarily make one a
fundamentalist. Fundamentalist cannot take “no” or “I am not interested”
for an answer; they insist that you partake of what they are into! They get
frustrated whenever you resist and will want revenge when you reject them.
Perhaps it is a personality disorder, the way they carry themselves, or they are
trying to present a flawed position that others find so annoying. Their
“truth” trumps manners and diplomacy. They are the obnoxious salesmen that
you try so hard to avoid. They are bullies that you cannot relax around; you
have to stand up to them and put them in their place if you want peace!
Progressive Primer…How to recognize the subtle tactic of being pushed to
Bear with me
as I share a personal episode to help illumine how this tactic works. I was
reared in the fundamentalist religious right; perhaps I should say I was
schooled! The infant stages of recognizing a fundamentalist’s tactics can be
near subliminal to detect unless you know what to look for. Fundamentalists
desire to take/pressure you into a more extreme, divisive, often self-centered
direction then what you may personally want to venture.
graduating from Tennessee Temple University in 1990 with my Bachelor in Pastoral
Studies, I was quickly offered a position on the staff of First Baptist Church
in Seaside, California. I was more interested in church-planting though and they
were happy to keep me there until I was prepared to accept the offer of a small
mission board called Baptist Church Planting West run by Harvey Seidel. Although
Seidel initially showed enthusiasm and support, he kept his disdain for my alma
mater and for accepting that staff position in Seaside to himself for some time.
Although I was a fundamentalist…I wasn’t fundamental enough!
Seidel had made promises and I had found a conducive part-time job with Sears; I
moved from Seaside to Lodi, California to position and move ahead for the church
plant. I was advised by my long time friend Donald Domelle to work with Seidel
because many churches wanted to see an Independent Baptist brand of church be
successful in Lodi (others had failed). Seidel’s board would be able to get me
what was needed….but there was a hidden catch involved that was exposed after
I had reached my most vulnerable point.
Here is how
Seidel used the push to the right tactic on me. New church plants are rarely in
the position to bring in well-known speakers such as Evangelist
Tim Lee was in 1990. Lee was a friend of the church/pastor whom ordained me
into the ministry. Lee was also a regional vice president of the super
fundamentalist Trinity Baptist College where I had once attended. Tim Lee was a
US Marine war hero that had his legs blown off while stepping on a landmine
during combat and lived through it. Lee preaches fire and brimstone from the
pulpit in a wheelchair!
casually asked me if I would have Lee speak in my pulpit (keep in mind…the
church wasn’t even started yet!) if I were able to get him to come. I said
Harvey, Tim Lee is an excellent preacher but I wouldn’t bring anybody in to
speak until the church could properly financially compensate them for coming.
That was a great answer…so I thought. Lee wasn’t “far enough” to
the right for Seidel and he let me know about it!
”Harvey you asked me a hypothetical question, which I gave you an honest
answer for.” Seidel proceeded to tell me that he couldn’t work with anyone
who would have Evangelist Tim Lee speak at their church in reality or
hypothetically. Seidel dropped me because he couldn’t push me further to
the right. Seidel was basically a “drill sergeant” that shakes
“casual” fundamentalists out of the family tree!
That is an
example of how it works within fundamentalism folks. Money, hanging with the
“in” crowd, accolades and support follows those who go with the flow!
Some don’t need the push to go to
the right though. Their ego or desires for popularity and/or financial rewards
are incentive enough for them. I sense that more are pushed towards the right
rather than going there upon their own volition. The majority of these younger
guys soften as they grow older and mature.
one thinks about it, this pattern applies and is consistent with human nature of
any extreme position. Excuse the theological term, but this is basically the
“selling of your soul question” that comes into focus here. This happens in
virtually every walk of life. Do you want to do good, be loving and work towards
the common good or to be divisive by selling out and taking an extreme position
upon the right or left? Yes, I’m afraid that the “big question” in life is
frequently a theological question!
recognize the tactic, ask yourself who benefits and who suffers if you comply?
Unadulterated, pure religion concerns itself with meeting the needs of the poor
and needy and emphasizes character (James 1:27). With a few exceptions, churches
aligned to the right don’t do that much for the poor.
Sure they have missionaries, but their work is centered upon building the
kingdom rather than being humanitarian sensitive. When you contrast
fundamentalist missionaries with liberal/moderate churches’ missionaries
(which are largely humanitarian focused) you are more likely to see their
agendas. Missionaries are commonly associated with imperialism,
which is a tactic of the right. Within religious circles, the left usually
aligns with need, while the right with greed. It isn’t a stretch to say that
the push towards the right is a veiled war on the poor.
As we know,
the “push to the left/right” produces polarization of our society, which
eventually leads to conflict. The benefactors of polarization are commonly to
those upon either extreme. The common (middle class) man doesn’t benefit!
I’m asking you to recognize the game for what it is and to do the right thing!
What is the right thing? Once again, humanity would benefit if we followed the
admonition of Phillipians 4:8.
brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever
things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely,
whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be
any praise, think on these things.
shouldn’t spook anyone to see a non-theist “cherry pick” positive
guidelines, principles or statements from the scriptures. In fact, I think it
would serve secular interests well to sing the praises of the good within the
book along with pointing out the absurdities therein. Sure, we don’t
believe….but why should we be against good principles that are elegantly
& the Good-guy vs. Bad-guy Scenario
has been deja-vu all over again for me since 2003 when I started Ex-Minister
because I have chosen not to follow the rather large crowd that aggressively
pushes non-theists to the right. Ex-Minister is upon an island it seems, many
non-theists don’t want to have any association with me because I won’t parrot
the divisive party line. I have discovered that the push to the right is just as
evident in non-theism circles as it was in Christian fundamentalist circles!
Does this surprise you? The party line in non-theism is a push towards the right
Atheism is a
very divisive proposition in society due to an improper naming of their concept
and the fundamentalists within their ranks. The fundamental atheists within
would just claim that they are enthusiastic and or more assertive than what a
secular humanist might be. Fundamental atheism’s self-perception is deluded
because they aren’t bright enough or human enough to understand the
differences between being intentionally rude or divisive and merely being
assertive with their views.
is a pirates domain
I will give
atheism credit for being clever though. They have mastered the art of pirating
techniques, which few within non-theistic circles seem to recognize although
they happen in broad daylight. If atheism doesn’t care for theism then they
shouldn’t pirate the faithful’s theism identity like they do when they call
themselves aTHEISTs. They do a similar pirating technique with the position of
humanism. Prominent atheists like Richard Dawkins and Ron Lindsey should be true
to their atheist position and not be allowed to get away with pirating
humanism’s unique identity in my opinion. Both guys are key figures within
large humanist organizations.
atheists think that religion is the primary cause of problems in our world,
which is very divisive. Fundamentalists are troublesome, but the majority of
theists are good people! Theists are concerned and actively working to confront
what I see as the root causes of the world’s problems such as the love of
money (greed), pride, and vanity; yet the atheists make the faithful out to be
the “bad guys”. Something is
drastically wrong with that picture! If we could “unplug” from the
gamesmanship and unnecessary uses of the good-guy vs. bad-guy scenario then we
could focus upon what is really important in society.
Properly Identify and Kick out the “bad guys”
Now that we
have learned to recognize the problem; what should we do about it?
Answer: we need to resist and to kick the bums out! This is why
Ex-Minister engages Christian/Atheistic fundamentalism (bad guy), yet warms up
to progressive Christianity (good guy). There
is nothing contradictory with this stance for those whom can distinguish between
the real good guys and the real bad guys.
entertains no illusions of reforming either extremist side of theism’s
fundamentalists. One cannot make progress with deluded folks who only want to
argue and divide society. While they profit, humanity suffers at their expense.
Perhaps 2010 will be the year when someone steps-up and financially supports
Ex-Minister to enable us to address some of the religiously charged issues that
divide American society.
has just dropped its linkage to several “bad-guys” within the “reason
movement” because frankly, they aren’t that reasonable! Polarization of
humanity isn’t a virtuous quality from my viewpoint. I will briefly comment
upon a few that the website has parted ways with…
probably always agree with most any atheist about the contradictions, errors and
absurdity of what some of the faithful foolishly proclaim. But I have real
problems with the manner in which some atheists conduct their “transactions”
with those whom see things differently. Take for example Sam Harris’ “Hall
of Shame” upon the Reason Project
aforementioned fundy tactics and look at how the RP handled reasonable peace
seeking folks such as Philip Ball, Michael Ruse, Karen Armstrong and Jimmy
Carter. What was the crime of these progressive individuals? While they all
sought reasonable solutions…Sam doesn’t seem to like that they don’t go to
a “far enough extreme”
and belittle and alienate the faithful. I know a fundamentalist when I see one,
I look at
Dawkins and marvel at the power of a great PR machine. I had just recently
re-read the eight chapter of his ”The God Delusion” entitled “What’s
Wrong With Religion”, “Why Be So Hostile” and was so under whelmed that he
didn’t prove the thesis of the chapter. I’d agree with what he said here if
he would have simply stated that it is the fundamentalists causing the
problems….but he broad brushed all of the faithful with the same stroke.
Racists do the same sort of thing!
points (Ch. 8) are weak and I sense that he inwardly recognizes the same because
he refuses to debate selected folks. He is somewhat like “Humpty Dumpty” who
has been placed high upon the wall by the PR machines and is afraid to fall...or
be pushed. Frankly, I think he is “in over his head” whenever he steps
outside of scientific disciplines into the theological arena. To me, he is a man
whom has burned his winning lottery ticket.
for Secular Humanism (CSH)
times have changed. I had once reached out to CSH desiring to work with them
largely due to the positive societal influence they had under Paul Kurtz’s
leadership. Now it appears that the non-theist fundamentalists have taken hold
of the organization. The blasphemy i.e. hate contest was confirmation enough for
me to know that they intend to sail in a different direction then the normal
understanding of what the secular humanist position has been.
noticed any official acknowledgement that the new regime has discovered the
error of their ways. Seems that they want to downplay and hold on to see if they
can weather the storm they started. I hope that those within CSH will fight to
get the organization that Paul Kurtz built from the ground up back towards their
previous path. I don’t see this happening unless all of the troublemakers are
kicked out. I’m sure my dropping them will hurt (partial sarcasm), but
Ex-Minister doesn’t want to align with organizations that are combative or
disrespectful to the good people of faith.
vs. Right….Politically speaking
problem all along has been that we were “pinning the tail on the donkey”
rather than “pinning the tail on the elephant”! I hope you caught the subtle
political right and the religious right are practically the same group that has
commandeered the Republican party within America. One of their favorite divisive
maneuvers is to bang the “liberal” war drum loudly to demonize
afundamentalist people of faith. I hope you caught the subtle mean here as well
and recognize the tactic. If you didn’t, anyone who isn’t a fundamentalist
is a pussyfooter, compromiser or a liberal deserving of slander.
What is a
liberal anyway? Within religion, liberals are those that are smart enough to
know that many things within the Bible were not meant to be taken literally!
Fundamentalists have a low wattage light bulb and cannot see this. Being branded
as a religious liberal is a backhanded “fundamentalist compliment” hurled
towards siblings smarter then themselves with the intent to insult that
frequently transcends into political significance for those upon the right if it
goes unchecked. Few “liberals” know how to properly handle loathsome fundies
and it costs them dearly!
that we are in an ice cream shop and you ask for a “liberal” scoop. The
person at the counter knows that this means that you want a larger scoop than
normal. The only person offended with an occasional request like this might be
the owner (liberalism cost money). I’m simply saying that economic/theological
struggles can be disguised as philosophical/political questions that we fail to
recognize and thus foolishly argue about issues that cannot be solved unless
they are first understood!
isn’t a good business decision for those inclined towards greed. In a rich
man’s world, caring and compassionate people get labeled as “bleeding
hearts”. Jesus gave people fishes and loaves; liberals proclaiming what Jesus
taught concerning human need are constantly being badgered by fundamentalist.
Caring and compassion is something honorable; the “bleeding heart” smear
shouldn’t be able to stick to those whom understand how the game is
played...but you must counter the charge! Non-theists should be wise towards
this game and understand who truly deserves the “bad guy” label and take
corrective action rather than being sucked into it! Sad to say, but many current
day non-theists have fallen into the trap and are pawns in this game.
anger and disappointments usually play a part in many of our past experiences to
the propelling point where we finally decide to do something about it. It is a
rare occasion for me to share from my personal experiences about details of my
fundamentalist past. My life has been filled with frequent twists and turns that
have resulted with someone “pulling the rug” out from underneath of me for
not pumping the divisive party line. While some might call this rebellion or
stubbornness, I have always viewed others complicity to the convenient path to
be suckers for “fools gold!” The world is full of folks who will buy the
“shallow promises” for temporal earthly comfort or attention only to find
depression and discontent when the ether wears off. Love is what changes
individuals and if there is to be any hope for the world….it will be because
of the power of love to transform us.