Christian Fundamentalism is Mutating
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19-01-2017, 08:48 AM
Christian Fundamentalism is Mutating
We generally assume when confronted with someone spouting fundamentalist rhetoric in this space, that they believe in certain things, such as eternal perdition.

However, I was brought up short in the past year in debates with conservative believers as well as by what I have read in the press, to find that while these assumptions still mostly hold, there seems to be a sea change going on. I'm starting to see the influence of Universal Reconciliation being more common / tolerated among evangelicals, for example.

In hindsight these developments seem inevitable, and I wanted to mention it here and argue for a little caution in probing for exactly where a poster is actually coming from. For example if they believe in some version of Universal Reconciliation then you are wasting your time decrying the concept of hell, and certain aspects of the doctrine of sin. These are easy pickings, and the very fact that they are easy pickings is causing the fundamentalists memes to evolve to adjust.

Back in my theist salad days I attended the now-defunct Grand Rapids School of Bible and Music, a non-accredited institution known generically as a "bible institute", the best-known of these undoubtedly being Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. GRSBM went tits up for one primary reason: the dogged insistence of its founder not to seek government accreditation so that the credits GRSBM issued could be transferred in and out of most other institutions of higher learning. The basis for his aversion was largely that this would require at least pro forma teaching of the theory of evolution and the demotion of YEC to something far less dignified-seeming to believers.

But just up the road, Baptist Bible College (now Cornerstone College) or Calvin College would also make a pastor or minister of music out of you, while providing transferable credits and the flexibility and prestige that goes with them. Long story short, when the founder became too decrepit to hold onto running GRSBM, his successor made a half-hearted attempt at accreditation but it was too late: enrollment continued to plummet and the school shuttered about a decade after I left it, in the mid 1980s -- other than its bush pilot school for missionaries.

This was handwriting on the wall: social forces and supply and demand were rendering significant fundamentalist shibboleths economically untenable. This forces change. The changes are painful and controversial and schismatic, but necessary.

Grand Rapids, MI is a hotbed of fundamentalism, now home to three religious colleges, various media ministries and other para-church organizations, and the wellspring of various Christian movements and counter-movements, well-known and obscure.

Today, reading an article in The Nation exploring the background of the nitwit who will probably be our next Secretary of Education, Betsy De Vos, I was struck by her religious connections and how they have evolved in directions I could not have guessed at in the mid 1970s. She is for example a member of Mars Hill Church, a megachurch which was founded in the late 1990s, long after my departure from the area. The founding pastor taught a form of universal reconciliation (UR). He was eventually forced out of the church by enraged theologians, and went on to success as a best-selling author.

Another sea change that happened just after my time at GRSBM was the unholy alliance of Christian Fundamentalism with GOP politics to form the Religious Right. In my day, politics had been considered a worldly pursuit; but soon with the founding of Falwell's Moral Majority it became a Christian duty.

De Vos has been simmering in all this her entire life, mixing it with crony capitalism and family wealth. Now she hopes to take her dream of de-funding and privatizing public education into the limelight. Her ignorance of educational issues and terminology is no barrier; she has money, ideology, and god's mandate on her side. Her ignorance of the concerns of those of other faiths, or of secularists, or of atheists, are of no concern; she has RIGHT on her side.

At any rate, given the concrete harms and toxicity of fundamentalist ideology, I wanted to put it out there for your consideration that this ideology is morphing, and we need to be aware of it.

To take UR as an example, increasing numbers of conservative Christians are softening on the notion that people will burn in a literal hell forever. UR is the notion that god will eventually reconcile all to himself. That sooner or later even we wicked atheists will have no choice but to see the error of our ways and bow before god almighty and acknowledge his supremacy over all things, and his wisdom. The motivation to convert is less to avoid ultimate punishment than to achieve high-status glory in heaven more quickly and painlessly.

A side effect of this is that some people embracing UR have come up with a new theodicy for the POE, that throws omnibenevolence under the bus. One UR adherent told me that god alone can practice the dreaded situational ethics. He alone knows the ultimate knock-on effects of any intervention. He alone can do evil that good may come of it. That is why god sometimes afflicts good people with horrible things; down the road, more good than bad will come of it. It is a variation on "Mysterious Ways". Implications for arguments we typically make: it guards against our usual "god is a homicidal maniac" gambit by frankly embracing it with a sort of "crazy like a fox" argument.

I'm tossing this out for discussion for what it's worth. Has anyone else encountered unusual variants of fundamentalist "thinking" and how have you adapted to it?
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19-01-2017, 09:21 AM
RE: Christian Fundamentalism is Mutating
Regarding fundamentalism ---

I could always get what they meant by the "mental" part -- -but never could quite understand what was supposed to be "fun" about it......


heh

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19-01-2017, 09:52 AM
RE: Christian Fundamentalism is Mutating
(19-01-2017 09:21 AM)onlinebiker Wrote:  Regarding fundamentalism ---

I could always get what they meant by the "mental" part -- -but never could quite understand what was supposed to be "fun" about it......


heh
Yes, and in a way what I am talking about is a lame effort to put some "fun" into (not back into) fundamentalism. It's an increasingly hard sell to young people. Most young people have to get a college degree to compete in society, and fundamentalism loses them in droves sometime during their undergrad career. Fundamentalism has to be less "mental" in order to improve retention. Ditching eternal perdition is one move that would lean into that goal. Reduced authoritarianism in general would be another. Joel Osteen's megachurch is an example of that, putting more of a feelgood emphasis on things -- the love of god over the wrath of god -- while not going so far as to overtly deny any doctrine that would get him branded as an outright heretic.

ID is another manifestation of this. It is superficially less nutty and specific than standard young-earth creationism.
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19-01-2017, 12:20 PM
RE: Christian Fundamentalism is Mutating
That's interesting. All of the fundamentalists I know believe firmly in hell and don't just disdain people who preach UR, they call them false Christians (Osteen would be considered a false Christian by the fundamentalists that I know). However, I have noticed big changes in fundamentalism over the past 30 years or so, too.

A big change is the amount of existential threat fundamentalists see coming from American culture. When I was a kid and teenager, although I wasn't allowed to date or go to dances or watch M*A*S*H on TV, as these were all opportunities for the devil to get his hooks into my soul, I was still allowed to go to a public school and spend a lot of time on my own and have friends who weren't Baptists and attend a secular college.

Instead of tweaking their theology, the fundamentalists I know have adopted a bunker mentality. They homeschool/send their kids to religious school--public school is unthinkable. They don't let their kids socialize with nonbelievers. They vote for politicians who promise laws aimed to produce a society where dangerous/worldly ideas are not expressed (or are expressed dismissively) and where persons who don't conform to Christian male/female roles are kept out of sight. They hope that these laws will make a world where their kids will be safe from ideas or people who could turn them away from God and into the path of eternal damnation. The fear of hell for their kids and other loved ones drives everything.

Many fundamentalists admit that their god is beyond benevolence, at least as far as humans would understand the concept. I think you are right that that idea is more widespread now than it was previously.
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19-01-2017, 03:13 PM
RE: Christian Fundamentalism is Mutating
(19-01-2017 08:48 AM)mordant Wrote:  To take UR as an example, increasing numbers of conservative Christians are softening on the notion that people will burn in a literal hell forever. UR is the notion that god will eventually reconcile all to himself. That sooner or later even we wicked atheists will have no choice but to see the error of our ways and bow before god almighty and acknowledge his supremacy over all things, and his wisdom. The motivation to convert is less to avoid ultimate punishment than to achieve high-status glory in heaven more quickly and painlessly.

Yeah, I've noticed this too, their view of hell has softened, but the concept is like trying to nail jello to the wall, one sect will believe on thing another will believe another thing about it, but I would say the popular evangelists like Osteen are in the UR camp. If you compare that to the early 1900's, it was all about fire and brimstone back then.

(19-01-2017 08:48 AM)mordant Wrote:  A side effect of this is that some people embracing UR have come up with a new theodicy for the POE, that throws omnibenevolence under the bus. One UR adherent told me that god alone can practice the dreaded situational ethics. He alone knows the ultimate knock-on effects of any intervention. He alone can do evil that good may come of it. That is why god sometimes afflicts good people with horrible things; down the road, more good than bad will come of it. It is a variation on "Mysterious Ways". Implications for arguments we typically make: it guards against our usual "god is a homicidal maniac" gambit by frankly embracing it with a sort of "crazy like a fox" argument.

This is a tantamount surrender to the problem of evil, of course they're opening up a number of other serious theological problems for themselves. They create a god that is indistinguishable from the devil. Rolleyes

Gods derive their power from post-hoc rationalizations. -The Inquisition

Using the supernatural to explain events in your life is a failure of the intellect to comprehend the world around you. -The Inquisition
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19-01-2017, 03:28 PM
RE: Christian Fundamentalism is Mutating
What I find ridiculous is all this "prosperity gospel" crap. I mean, really?
That shit seems completely inconsistent with Christian orthodoxy
Whatever happened to the "first shall be last and the last shall be first", "blessed are the meek", give away all your possessions to the poor,
"easier for a camel to pass through eye of the needle than for a rich man to get into heaven", etc.

I mean, it's all crap, but how do you justify a message that is exactly the opposite of 9/10ths of your holy text?
I just can't even.

“The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”
― Bertrand Russell
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19-01-2017, 04:31 PM
RE: Christian Fundamentalism is Mutating
(19-01-2017 12:20 PM)julep Wrote:  Instead of tweaking their theology, the fundamentalists I know have adopted a bunker mentality.
That is certainly an alternative response, and there's a lot of that going on, particularly in smaller and more rural congregations. The less defensive ones are from megachurches and urban churches. Even in my day, I found that fundamentalists forced to deal with inner-city realities, particularly in poor neighborhoods -- widespread drug addiction and crime situations -- are forced to "become street" rather quickly or they utterly fail.

One of my two surviving brothers is still an active fundamentalist but he also attends an inner city church, has a hispanic son-in-law who pastors a small, poor fundamentalist inner city church, and is a Section 8 slum -- er, landlord who deals with drug busts and poverty on a daily basis. I have found him no less conservative personally but far less threatened by dissent from his views; he's not even particularly perturbed by my own apostasy, and limits his disapproval to "that's too bad".
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19-01-2017, 04:34 PM
RE: Christian Fundamentalism is Mutating
(19-01-2017 03:28 PM)Reducetarian Wrote:  What I find ridiculous is all this "prosperity gospel" crap. I mean, really?
That shit seems completely inconsistent with Christian orthodoxy
Whatever happened to the "first shall be last and the last shall be first", "blessed are the meek", give away all your possessions to the poor,
"easier for a camel to pass through eye of the needle than for a rich man to get into heaven", etc.

I mean, it's all crap, but how do you justify a message that is exactly the opposite of 9/10ths of your holy text?
I just can't even.
Prosperity gospel has its roots in pentecostalism, though it's not strictly limited to that. It is an extension of pentecostalism's raison d'etre, which is the notion that fundamentalism is joyless and should not be, and that god still intervenes overtly in human affairs and we should expect and yearn for this and will be rewarded with "signs and wonders". It's not much of a leap from leg-lengthening to account-feathering. Also, of course, it's a great "hook" for televangelists and pastors to appeal to their marks through their need and/or greed.
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19-01-2017, 04:36 PM (This post was last modified: 19-01-2017 04:41 PM by mordant.)
RE: Christian Fundamentalism is Mutating
(19-01-2017 03:13 PM)TheInquisition Wrote:  This is a tantamount surrender to the problem of evil, of course they're opening up a number of other serious theological problems for themselves. They create a god that is indistinguishable from the devil. Rolleyes
Yes, like everything else they solve one problem and create at least two new ones for themselves. I am mostly just arguing for making fewer assumptions about fundamentalist-sounding people and not wasting time on arguing against things like eternal damnation that they may not even believe in.

I also keep forgetting that JWs don't believe in eternal perdition, they are annihilationists. So objections to hellfire don't apply there either.
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19-01-2017, 04:38 PM
RE: Christian Fundamentalism is Mutating
duplicate post
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