We all know fundamentalists, but most of us would never admit to being one.
Truth is, I’m a recovering fundie. I was baptized in a particularly conservative church and believed that somehow I’d been fortunate enough to be baptized into a congregation that was right about everything—lucky me.
Someone recently asked me to define the word “Fundamentalist” because they’d heard it used so often, but she’d never heard a good definition. I came up with this:
Fundamentalists reduce the complexity of life into an overly simplistic equation based on an unswerving commitment to truths they’ve been taught and never bothered to question.
When I get into discussions with fundamentalists about the gospels, there are five things about Jesus I’m always surprised we disagree on:
1. Jesus conflicted with people who thought they knew it all
I sat in a church service a short time ago where a visiting pastor casually dropped the words “retards” and “homos” during his passionate homily against sinners (and liberals). My eyes welled up with hot, angry tears during this “sermon.”
In discussing it with him later, he assured me that, not only was his fervor acceptable, he was following Jesus’ example. “Didn’t Jesus turn over tables? Didn’t Jesus call out woes upon individuals who were in the wrong?”
I guess you can say that. But we need to remember that when he did it was in conflict with a religious culture that:
- spared no expense or effort in proselytizing but only churned out more unspiritual hypocrites (Matt. 23:15)
- focused on the letter of the law but ignored mercy, justice, and faithfulness (Matt. 23:23)
- excelled in appearing religious while having hearts that were far from God (Matt. 23:25)
- adored the perks that came with their positions (Luke 11:43)
I think the self-righteous posture displayed by many in today’s religious community mirror the very attitudes that Jesus raged against. You can’t invoke Jesus’s flipping of tables in the temple if you’re a money changer,
2. Jesus was gracious to a fault with sinners
There was a scandal of grace that surrounded Jesus. The kingdom he ushered in was one that was infinitely too inclusive for the Pharisees’ taste. Not only did he tell crazy stories where the heroes were people the Jews hated (Luke 10:30–37), he treated women from those cultures with greater kindness and respect than Pharisees even showed their own women (John 4:7–26).
Jesus came to be known as a friend of sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes, and the religious community tried to discredit him by calling him a drunk and a glutton (Luke 7:33–34).
If I learn anything from Jesus it’s this, you aren’t made more righteous by your hatred of people you define as “sinners”—quite the opposite.
3. Jesus made service the standard for his followers
“The kingdom of heaven is at hand!”