Someone needs to hear this: God is love and God loves you.
Some of you were taught otherwise and it shows. The myopic view of God as a spiteful, rage-filled deity has discouraged many from seeking God.
Many of us grew up in faith communities that spoke bounteously about God’s punitive justice (abatement of evil) and sparingly about God’s reparative justice (restoration of good(s) lost in the sinful state).
And God’s justice is not punitive alone as many of you have been taught to believe. (Hellfire and brimstone preaching, anyone?)
Here is Timothy Keller on Herman Bavinck’s interpretation of divine justice:
“In his magisterial work on God’s attributes, Herman Bavinck argues that in the Bible, God’s justice is both retributive and reparative. It not only punishes evildoing, but it restores those who are victims of injustice. Yet interestingly, “God’s remunerative [restorative] justice is far more prominent in Scripture than his retributive justice.” God stands against “perverting the justice due the poor… slaying the innocent and righteous… accepting bribes…. oppressing the alien, the widow, and the orphan…” God “raises them to a position of honor and well-being… Doing justice with an eye to the needy becomes an act [also] of grace and mercy.” And therefore, God’s restorative justice “is not, like his anger, opposed to his steadfast love but is closely akin and synonymous with it.” His justice is “simultaneously the manifestation of his grace (Psalm 97:11-12; 112:3-6; 116:5; 118:15-19).”
One of the reasons why some of us hold hostile notions toward organized religion and suspicious sentiments toward communities of faith is because our understanding of God’s love and justice was twisted by nescient individuals within these institutions whose goal was to enslave us, not liberate us with the gospel message.
Our receptivity of God’s love for us is either amplified by a healthy understanding of God and His word or crushed by men (and women) who improperly use that same word to control people.
God reassures us that justice is a great thing. Especially when that justice is meted out to thwart and abate evil. God’s justice is also reparative in the sense that it is necessary to restore dilapidated souls, relationships, families, and communities.
God is not only in the business of neutralizing evil in the human heart. It is just of Him to stop evil. We need God to stop evil ‘out there’ in the world, physical and metaphysical, and, His grace allowing, ‘in here’ in reference to our community and also to the human heart.
God is love and this love demands that justice must exist and that it must be effective in a fallen world. We’re taught that sin breeds evil and that sin is entrenched in every heart thus postulating that every person has the propensity for evil.
Justice demands that sin be excised and abolished because its ramifications if left unchecked, spreads in the heart of the individual and in his community thus producing sinful structures.
Sin is destructive to the self and it creates systemic evils.
God’s punitive justice demands the sin in us be abolished but that sin is so engraved in our nature that to destroy sin God would have to destroy us. That’s normally what many of us know about the gospel and about redemption. Outside of the substitution of the cross, we are left on this earth as the receptacles of the full weight of God’s punitive justice; deservedly so.
That’s all some of us know. That’s all some of us were ever taught.
Divine Justice = Punishment.
Divine Justice = Punishment.
Divine Justice = Punishment.
Learning about God must entail we learn as much as has been made available to us about God, meaning, learning more about divine justice being both retributive and reparative.
Meaning, God’s justice is set in motion not only to confront evil, which is actually an amazing thing, but also to restore that which was lost, stolen, hijacked, kidnapped, and ruined in us by sin.
Imagine a court is set in motion to hold criminals accountable for their crimes, which is a necessary aspect of a civilized society. But we must also remember that the judicial system exists to restore that which was stolen, pay back that which was sifted, repair that which was broken, remunerate where and when possible in accordance with the law.
Our earthly courts have demonstrated just how problematic it can be to only exhibit one form of justice whilst ignoring the other.
Take, for example, an innocent man wrongly convicted and forced to serve a twenty-year sentence for a crime he did not commit. Someone falsely accused him of something, his public defender was too over-encumbered with other cases to take him seriously, he was offered a plea deal to lighten the time spent behind bars, evidence was falsified against him by law enforcement, and the jury was biased against him because of the color of his skin.
Imagine fifteen years into his sentence he is exonerated. His name is cleared by his initial accuser, who still walks about free. The court does not apologize for its missteps. His public defender abandoned him years earlier. The police officers who falsified his confession have since retired with hearty pensions, without consequence. And this exonerated soul is set free into a different world from the one he left once he was incarcerated and he has no money or land to his name.
The courts did right by punishing evil (or at least it thought it did by punishing someone for a crime) but it failed to restore and repair that which was broken once the truth came out.
Justice must punish wrongdoing and at the same time, it must repair the breach the initial wrong caused.
Divine Justice is equally retributive and reparative.
What would make this case end on a brighter note is to imagine the man exonerated, his accusers jailed and tried for falsifying evidence, statements, perjury, and fraud. And also, that the court apologizes for its initial mistake and then repays the man the millions and millions of dollars owed to him for the harms he suffered behind bars all those years and as a means by which he can restart his life with something rather than nothing to his name.
The police officers involved must then lose their pensions for falsifying evidence. This seems extreme but perjury is a crime that deserves a consequence.
Justice is set in motion to hold wrongdoing accountable and deliver the victim of these wrongs into a place, a state of being, an identification of being restored by the systems set in place to restore righteousness to the land.
Justice is righteous, you know.
The cross is where punitive and reparative justice intersects to benefit us spiritually and physically.
Christ is punished for our sins and Christ is also the avenue by which we are restored not only to God but also to one another.
“Behold, I am making all things new.” Revelations 21:5 is not indicative of just the new heavens and the new earth, but of a new people, transformed into the likeness of Jesus, living, breathing, operating, and working to live as He did on earth.
So, in light of this renewal, this indwelling, this transformative Person guiding us through life, we must walk as He did, restoring, repairing, and restituting wherever possible.
This is hope-inspiring for victims of abuse, mistreatment, violence, terror, and all categories of wrongs. It is refreshing to know that God is bent toward justice and He seeks not only to obstruct evil but also the infrastructure created by sin on which evil travels.
God’s justice abates evil and repairs brokenness.
If you are a victim, a destitute soul who has been harmed by a sinful world, seek God’s justice, not just in this life but the next.
To rectify wrongs and heal wounds.
Thank God we can seek both.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. – Proverbs 31:8 NLT
What am I to you, World, but a passing stranger? A vagabond hitchhiking through your darkest corridors, going about shining the light of my Master. What have I to offer you World? A corpse. That’s all. Have I brought gifts; absolutely. Invitations really, to the greatest of all festivities, the grandest of all banquets; yes, even the largest supper you’ve ever witnessed, dear World. But, the truth is you will not accept this invitation from above, no, you will willingly crumble under the sins of past and present; oh yes, even the sins yet to be committed. Tell you what, soon to be destroyed World, the Lord is gracious and has promised to make you new as well. Did you really think the Creator would only focus on us humans? Absolutely not! Yes, your hopes are up even though you endure intense pains. Despair not World, for as a flower is crushed a perfume is made. With your death and destruction, a new place will be made and you will be new just like in the beginning. I cannot wait to meet you then and enjoy your beauty.
I launched this blog one year ago today. It began as a medium by which to better understand a craft, understand how I think and how those thoughts come out on paper (or on-screen), to better develop my prose, and practice just enough to the point where I don’t feel miserable when writing my first book.
By the way, I’m almost halfway through that first book. More to come about that in the future.
Looking back I am so happy that I started this page. It helps me think and perhaps it confuses me even more. Tackling history, church history, theology, faith, and relationships often lead the inquirer to more questions than answers.
And from time to time, that’s okay.
We were never to have all the answers all to ourselves. We learn best in a community and we grow better in a healthy community. And this blog is one of many communities.
I hope to improve my craft not only for myself but for you, dear reader, as well. Stories shape us. Great stories encourage and inspire us. I hope to inspire not just you but my girls. So that one day, when they decide to read their dad’s shenanigans they can understand the man I am, the man I was, and the man I aspire to be, through my writings.
108 posts down. Here are some of my favorite ones since Olivet Theory officially launched one year ago today!
The “Gospel+” Movement: Why Simplicity Matters
“The simpler the gospel becomes the closer we are to it. Whenever we add an idea, belief systems, a depraved ideology or rules by which to attain that which Christ has already accomplished we are lightyears away from the truth.”
MTD vs Christianity Proper
“MTD isn’t a religion, like Islam or Judaism. It is more of a disintegration of one particular faith, namely Christianity, that melts into ideals that have been spiritualized and inculcated into American religious circles.”
Marital Advice for the Uninitiated
“Far too many problems arise in marriage because people want so much to live like, behave like, be empowered by, attain the same level of status like, promote a sense of stability like and be unimaginatively in love like power couples they see on social media or in their community.”
How “Policy Over Character” Destroys Our Christian Witness
“White evangelicals within the United States have lost their witness to the world by voting for a vile and abusive bully who paid a porn star hush money to keep his affair a secret.”
Avoiding Extremes: A Word of Caution From a Former Fundamentalist
“Therefore, an extreme effort was undertaken by the male-led authoritarian ministers’ caste to shame, denounce, vilify, and destroy people into submission to modes and methods to separate the church from the world.”
Giftedness vs Fruitfulness: The Hidden Dangers of Following Gifted Church Leaders
“Check and see if what you seek, who you follow, and what you promote is reflective of the biblical Christ or if it is but a dim and dreary shadow of our savior poorly illustrated by gifted leaders.”
My Top Ten Rules for Girl Dads
“Love, be patient, listen, play, and yes, mess up from time to time so that she can see that dad is human and that dad knows how to humble himself enough and apologize for his mistakes.”
“We cannot allow truth to die in darkness for fear of losing influence and money. That was lost the day we decided to trust in the influence and giftedness of man over the eternally restorative and transformative power of Christ.”
A Painful Rediscovery: A Look Into Where My Heart & Mind Are Today
“Mumbling some sort of prayer up to God, not sure if I asked for forgiveness for my feelings, my words, my rage, or if what I felt was a fear of these words making their way on to the screens of the very people who had hurt me. In my fear I wanted to avoid offending them, for having offended me.”
The Burden of History & The Curse of Heritage
“It is easier to remove a commandment from the law of God than it is to distance Southern Baptists from their southern heritage of racism, hate, and evil.”
Olivet Theory’s Bad Advice Series: Chapter 3 – How to Talk About Race and Racism
“Disregard those notions. Go ahead and say what you have to say however you want to say it. Interrupt their conversation and speak as loud as possible. Do it all without the slightest urge to listen to anything they might have to add to this discussion.”
I Am A Neo-Evangelical
“I am a neo-evangelical and God has rescued me from fundamentalism and delivered me from stagnant middle-stance, middle-class centric Christianity that accomplishes much while it accomplishes nothing in mainline evangelicalism.”
Here Is Why We Left Mill Creek Christian Assembly
“t would be foolish to think that racism was the sole reason behind my family leaving a white church. It was a lack of compassion that led me to an irrevocable decision. A decision that brought me angst.”
Here’s to another year of blogging, story-telling, craft-development, book reviewing, and trouble-making!
Growing up in a Brazilian offshoot of the Assemblies of God taught me so much about the Bible, Biblical characters, faith, prayer, church community, developed in me a fervency for social reform, the temperance movement (anti-alcohol consumption), the holiness movement (high ethical standards and separation from what is deemed sacrilegious), the pentecostal movement (continuationist belief of spiritual gifts such as, speaking in tongues [glossolalia], new revelation [prophecies], interpretation of tongues, healings, miracles, signs, wonders, gift of discernment and etc.).
I grew up in a church of diverse people groups, both wealthy and impoverished, white and black, mixed, even. Former drug and alcohol abusers and users. Former sex trafficking victims. Former wife beaters. Former battered wives. Abuse survivors, really. Former drug kingpins and cartel leaders (some from within my family). I grew up listening to the story of one of my family members exchanging gunfire with police officers, surviving the firefight, although not unscathed as some of them would show me bullet wounds. One family member still has bullets lodged in his body, deemed non removable by surgeons lest they risk his life mid-operation.
Many of the drug users and criminals within my family became laypeople. Some went on to become clergy, holding pastoral roles after kicking the drugs and crime, the life of substance abuse and homicide (probably), to become emancipators and heralds of the gospel. Reaching their impoverished and crime-ridden communities for Christ. Feeding the poor and preaching a message of holiness, hope, and societal change.
I witnessed various transformations in my family and it was a sure reminder that what we believed was what everyone believed. Or at least what everyone else should have believed. Who wouldn’t want drug addicts to kick drugs after attending Christian para-ministry-funded halfway homes and rehabilitation centers? Who wouldn’t want criminals to ditch the life of drug peddling and then take on honest work to support their families? Who wouldn’t want to see a community focused on caring for the poor, gifting children with toys, homes with food, and families with sustenance?
We were part of a movement that promoted pastors into politics and politicians to the pulpit. There was no divide. Pastor so-and-so would preach at our church on Sunday and after the sermon, we would give him an offering to help his political campaign. Next Sunday we would host a politician who had a Christian bark but an adulterous bite. Men who wanted votes would sweat on stage to deliver barely substantive Christian messages of hope, love, and political party lines, for the sake of political dominance in our municipality.
Honestly, it felt as if we had monopolized morality, politics, and social work. In a way, we had. At least in my mind, we had. We looked down at Baptist denominations as spiritually dead churches. We thought of the ‘Four Square’ denominations as culturally errant because they did not dress as modest as we did. We thought Presbyterians were theologically compromised because they sipped whiskey, drank beer by the barrel, and smoked Cuban cigars or any make of cigars they could get their hands on. Little mention was made of Methodist/Wesleyan and Episcopalian denominations because our beef was primarily with interdenominational Pentecostals and majority protestant groups, namely, Baptists and Presbies. Baptists because they called us heretics for speaking in tongues and beef with Presbies because they also called us heretics for speaking in tongues but they were drunk when they did so.
We chided Catholics, priests, and nuns as non-Christians because they hailed Mary, worshipped saints, and shunned the Holy Spirit’s spiritual gifts. Not just that, but because they were Catholic and were by definition a morally depraved collective for following every beck and call of the Pope and allowing the Papacy to exist for as long as it did.
We were at war with a culture that perhaps didn’t even know the church, our church, had declared war against it in the first place. Brazil at that time was predominantly religious, most adherents attributing their faith to Catholicism and later Pentecostalism, primarily to the Assemblies of God.
Hate was never named from the pulpit but it was definitely disseminated to anyone who failed to fall in line with our perception of Christianity and holiness standards.
Granted, what the Assemblies of God had in doctrinal prowess and social reform it lacked in clarity of theological thought, compassion, and common sense. I thank this denomination for existing and evangelizing Brazil at the start of the 1900s. White men coming from the North to preach Jesus to Catholics and disenfranchised addicts and impoverished blacks in the Americas. What could go wrong with a Eurocentric theology in a predominantly colored South America?
Anywho, the Assemblies of God espoused love for God, doctrine, holiness standards, and literature. Well, as long as the literature in question was not antithetical to the Bible. Our ministry, as part of the Assemblies of God, was called Assembleia de Deus, Ministerio Belém. Assembly of God, Bethlehem Ministry.
This is where I spent most of my church life. Where I studied scripture, I met pastors who wore the robes of politicians and politicians who covered themselves in sheeps wool to pass as pastors. This is where I developed a love for theology, unaware of what kind of theology it was I was falling in love with, but, nevertheless, a love for God. Here is where I met church friends who made up most if not all of my social circles for years to come.
‘Murica – We Ventured North
Once we immigrated to the United States and settled in Florida, we began to attend church six nights a week. It was community forming and community building. People helping each other out. We spoke Portuguese only because the community was made up of Brazilians with a few scattered Latinos and the rare white American soul who ventured into the building. These Anglophonic individuals came either out of curiosity produced from the loud music we played or because they were dating one of our church members.
Either way, Brazilians in America were opening up churches and ministries for Brazilians. And, the same assiduity that was so fervent in Brazil for doctrinal purity, denominational clarity, focus on spiritual gifts of glossolalia and prophecy, and holiness standards were present in the Brazilian Assemblies of God in the United States.
The small and budding community of the Brazilian Assembly of God, Bethlehem Ministry teams were spreading like wildfire in Florida, Massachusetts, California, and beyond. (As of today, there are Bethlehem Ministry churches in Dallas, Atlanta, Jacksonville, Charlotte, Pittsburg, Columbus, and more spread throughout the United States of America. In the Pacific, there are churches in Honolulu, Kanalui, Wahiawa, Christchurch, Queenstown, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Rockhampton. In the European continent they can be found in Madrid, Almeria, Barcelona, Paris, Orleans, Geneva, Lausanne, Bern, Zurich, Basel, Munich, Nuremberg, Hamburg, Berlin, Cologne, Rome, Bristol, Cardiff, and London. Just to name a few spots. And in the African continent, Mozambique.) Wherever Brazilian immigrants or tourists land, there, in that city, we would open a church and rotate ministers through them so as not to develop independent churches. But the pastor rotation rodeo situation a whole different post.
But in America, (North America), we did not see as many disenfranchised souls as we did in Brazil. In the US., everyone was hyper-individualistic, unlike the community-centric vibe found in the motherland. We could not see the impoverished because we rarely ventured out of the church to evangelize and minister to our communities. And ‘evangelism’ in America simply meant reaching Brazilians in America. Not white Americans. That wasn’t our focus just yet. We wanted nothing more than to grow the Bethlehem Ministry brand by finding and dragging (nicely) as many Brazilians in Orlando, Ft. Myers, Miami, Lighthouse Point, Ft. Lauderdale, Pompano, Vero Beach, Sarasota, Kissimmee, and beyond into our churches as possible.
And we did.
Churches blossomed and swelled from ten to twenty adherents in some parts and in the hundreds and hundreds of members, yes, not just attendees and participants, but members in other parts.
My family first moved to Orlando from Campinas, São Paulo. Well, my dad first moved to Boston with a pastor/politician guy to help the ministry start a church there. When the call to restart a ministry in Orlando, Florida was made, this pastor/politician fellow decided to take my multi-talented instrumentalist dad down to Florida with him. And it is here where we are to arrive to meet up with my dad. In Orlando, we partook in a ministry that grew well and because the ministry was fond of rotating pastors from one church to another they then opened another church in Naples, Florida and that’s where we went next.
The pastor/politician fella didn’t last long in this ministry and was later moved to another church, for reasons unknown or unmentioned, I don’t know because much of it was hush-hush, as is the status quo in churches these days. But my family settled in delightful old Naples, Florida and it is there where we spent most of our time in the US.
Again, evangelistic outreach was an attempt to reach Brazilians in America (North America) for Christ. English-speaking Americans were handed little pamphlets outside of bars, clubs, and large buffets where they would later use them to wipe their nose or just throw them away. We weren’t sure what to do with English speakers other than inviting them to sit through simultaneously translated sermons. Not many members of our church community were able to wield the English language well enough to bring English speakers into our community so we didn’t focus on them that much or at all. This would change but not yet. They would show up, hang out, watch our singers sing, then our worship bands worship, in Portuguese, of course. And towards the end of the service, they would sit through a poorly translated sermon where the minister half-spoke in tongues and half-ministered about hellfire and brimstone. After service, we would have our comes e bebes (coffee, tea, food, and treats; it was a fraternization period) where English speakers were adored, welcomed, and greeted, but few were the church members who actually spent time with them or time getting to know them because we barely spoke their language and they didn’t know a lick of Portuguese. There are Americans we’re talking about here. They barely spoke English well enough.
And remember, this was initially a Brazilian pentecostal ministry in America (North America) with the sole focus of evangelizing unchurched Brazilians and heresy plagued Brazilians who had run off to worship God in pagan centers like Baptist churches.
We wanted nothing but Brazilians and that’s what we got.
Again, in Brazil, evangelism was primarily focused on the poor, disenfranchised, destitute, addicts, and socially oppressed but in North America, we saw abundance, wealth, and lucre. Of course, impoverished families were everywhere but not as visibly so as in Brazil so we had to change our strategies.
As we adapted our youth (myself included) to the culture, assimilating and learning the language, the ministry began to build up new leaders to lead and pastor bilingual church services.
Our initial success paled in comparison with this second wave of evangelistic outreach as our predominantly Brazilian-led services took on Colombian, Venezuelan, Mexican, Argentine, Bolivian, Honduran, Costa Rican, Puerto Rican clergy to lead services in both Spanish and in Portuguese. Because we lived in Florida you can imagine how our Latin American ministry blew up.
The more we integrated with the surrounding culture the more people we managed to bring into the church.
But nowhere was there a higher shift in our evangelistic outreach and ministerial identity than when we focused on the American culture surrounding our churches.
It was here that the fundamentalist aspect of our ministry peaked its head high and above the rest.
You see, American Evangelicalism, in its matured stage in the 1990s and early 2000s had become hyper-political with the rise and prominence of the Moral Majority and the religious Right. Ronald Reagan, Billy Graham, Bob Jones University, Jerry Falwell Sr., Liberty University, Fox News, and a plethora of conservative white evangelicals led us to believe that as we reached out to English-speaking North Americans we ought also to join in the culture wars of the land.
Mind you, we were already involved in political power struggles in Brazil, hosting and supporting political candidates from the pulpit. But in the US, in the land of the American Dream, culture wars were nefarious, dangerously close, impending doom was imminent, and the end of our Christian witness and religious liberty was on assault on the daily, causing us to battle Leftist Liberals and theological liberalism anywhere we could.
We weren’t just attacking Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Catholics, Baptists, drunk Presbies, and backsliding Pentecostals. No. Now were bent on explaining to our churches (which consisted of undocumented immigrants with lapsed visas, living in the country illegally, or having entered and remained in the country illegally) that we should fight the culture wars of America.
I can recall seeing three to four flags flailing from our pulpits every single Sunday. The star-spangled banner flag was almost always center stage. Some pastors joked that if immigration officers burst through the back doors with deportation orders in hand and saw our predominantly illegal immigrant group praising the American flag then they’d turn away and leave us alone. Besides that flag, we would have the evangelical flag-waving about freely. I would later see January 6 insurrectionists bull-rushing the US Capitol waving this same flag. Little did I know, that flag was more about Christian Nationalist ideals than Christian virtues and ethics. Either way, we also carried the flag of Israel with the star of David in the middle. Being a fundamentalist meant you loved everything about Israel and hated everything Arab or Muslim. And lastly, we had the Brazilian flag. We were a Brazilian ministry in the United States of America.
Our evangelistic outreach moved from the disenfranchised people groups to political culture wars.
My evangelical development began as a neo-fundamentalist evangelical. And I was oblivious to it.
You must understand that these religious movements operate in complete invisibility to their adherents and work in frameworks that make everything outside of them or opposed to them satanic, devilish, godless, pagan, spiritually oppressive, occultic, evil, and more. This mindset in its fundamentalist rage would later help elect Donald J. Trump to office in the United States of America because he promised evangelicals religious liberty and freedom, the destruction of abortion rights, exclusive privilege in the White House, and favor toward the nation of Israel against Arab nations and Palestine. He told them he loved and served God. It was near orgasmic for North American evangelicals when Trump actually won. And also a reason for suicidal ideations when he lost. Some still think he won the 2020 election.
This same neo-fundamentalist segment of our church mentality helped the far-right Trump of the tropics, Jair Bolsonario, become the president of Brazil. He ran on the same ticket as did Trump. Hate for left and left-leaning Brazilians, he loved evangelicals and even prayed in public, attended church services. His vitriol against political opponents was unhinged in parts, making Trump sound domesticated. The man was a military lifer turned politician turned religious right hero turned president of a 211 million inhabitants nation. His downfall came through his misogynistic tropes, his islamophobia in equating Arabs with ISIS, and his disdain for liberal politics, his vitriol, and yes, just as with Trump, Covid-19. Jair Bolsonario questioned the validity of vaccines and thought they altered human DNA/mRNA thus postponing Brazil’s access to life-saving vaccines. Now that Brazil has reached well over 400,000 covid complications-related deaths, his popularity, as did Trumps, has faltered.
But how did I come to understand that I was once part of neo-fundamentalist evangelicalism?
We spent a great deal of time with the Assembly of God, Bethlehem Ministry, but once we received a recalcitrant, malcontent failed former lawyer turned pastor as a pastor of our member bleeding church, something clicked and then broke in me when the man would not stop bashing other pastors from our very denomination. Remember, bashing outsiders and apostates was acceptable but our own? It was too much even for my pharisaical heart. He had a knack for calling them monges (monks) because monks, according to him, were religious hypocrites.
He did this so often that during one of his diatribes at one of our weeknight bible studies I stopped him mid-sentence to ask him to desist from such nonsense.
I don’t believe a man of his stature and prominence had ever been confronted by a church member before. Less so a black one who was not clergy but mere laity and part-time voluntary treasurer for the ministry.
The man lambasted me for being ignorant, young, foolish, and a dunce. This all happened in front of the church. I then called him morally corrupt, immature, disqualified from ministry until he could seek reparation and reconciliation with the people he hated.
His son was present and his son said his father, the then pastor, had trouble controlling his words and tone. This poor man, the pastor’s son, even admitted that he tried time and again to correct his father’s problematic ways for years but to no avail.
This waltz of verbal assault and abuse between me and this pastor went back and forth for weeks. Every interaction we had, in front of anyone and everyone, he would call me a pejorative name and I would reciprocate. Never. Never had I had more disdain for a religious leader than I had for that man. Not because of his conduct which is normal for an unrepentant and impenitent man, but for a pastor of a holiness movement, holiness standard church to behave that way was way off for me.
Eventually, my family decided to leave the Assembly of God, Bethlehem Ministry we helped found, build, and advance in Naples, Florida.
We then joined the Assembly of God, The Vine Ministry, just a few hundred meters down the road.
Our leaving that ministry went without issue. The pastor in question and I shook hands, hugged, and said our pleasantries before parting. Whether he saw me as just another monk or not I do not know but that’s not the case here. We left as Christian brothers who knew we could not serve God in the same building anymore.
After that, none of the ministers and leaders from the Bethlehem Ministry that we had come to love, adore, and they love us and adore us ever reached out to us again.
We simply disappeared from their radar. It took nearly ten years for some of us to visit my parents place and some of them had also left the ministry.
What you have to understand is that it’s just a natural thing within the neo-fundamentalist evangelical circle to ostracize anyone who abandons not Christianity or Pentecostalism, but those who dare leave our particular ministry. Outsiders and backsliders who venture out of this Bethlehem Ministry.
So outside of this, we met new friends with The Vine Ministry, rebuilt lost or broken friendships with other Brazilian friends who had also fled the Bethlehem Ministry years earlier. People who had been traumatized by our authoritarian structure and fled for their lives. They escaped years of spiritual abuse. God bless them.
It was great to worship God and serve one another at The Vine Ministry but then my wife and I moved to Canada in search of financial stability and a future for our family.
Canada – Land of Apologies and Snow
In Canada, we joined a Slavic-Canadian pentecostal church that was stuck between modernity and early 1900s Communist Ukraine.
Having recently joined the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada the church had to shift its services from their regular hybrid of Ukrainian-Russian speaking services to English-speaking services only. This was great because I wanted to understand what in the world they were singing about in their songs.
This church, being outside of the Brazilian paradigm of poverty and social issues and outside of North American hyper-capitalist, hyper-individualistic, and culture wars framework was primarily focused on religious consistency and discipleship, more than anything else. Minor struggles and disagreements surrounded what style of worship songs we should sing, whether we should stick to hymns or play to the tune of Hillsong, Planetshakers, Jesus Culture, or Elevation music. Some members dawned jeans and t-shirts while others, the Slavic grandmas in particular, dawned head coverings and skirts from their motherland.
Evangelism here was inner-centric. More about preaching Jesus to former communists and people who had survived communism as Christians but still struggled with legalist understanding of the gospel.
We wanted to teach the bad Christianity out of ignorant Christians. And it was working. Our community grew. Our youth group developed from a bunch of kids who were at first scared to ask tough questions to a group of Christianized hooligans willing to think for themselves. They went on to lead worship and lead services, participate in plays, mission trips (not on my part but still, awesome incentive on their part), pursue baptism, get married, and more.
Because this Slavic community was so removed from the neo-fundamentalist evangelicalism I was raised within in Brazil and in America (North America) I was able to see my faith a little clearer.
But before we proceed on how I went from neo-fundamentalist evangelicalism to neo-evangelicalism I must define and categorize evangelicalism as understood through the North American perspective. And because I’m not a scholar I will allow a scholar named Michael Graham, a writer for As In Heaven and the executive pastor at Orlando Grace Church to explain these categories for you.
In writing for Mere Orthodoxy, Graham states that there are six iterations or rather categories of evangelicalism so far. Here is Graham:
“The 6 Categories
As I have surveyed the evangelical landscape and discussed with pastors all around the country, evangelicalism seems to be fracturing into at least 6 different subgroups. Three of those groups (#s1-3) still have at least some connectivity to evangelicalism and the other three have cut ties (#s 4-6):
Neo-Fundamentalist Evangelical– Neo-fundamentalists are those who have deep concerns about both political and theological liberalism. There is some overlap and co-belligerency with Christian Nationalism (a syncretism of right wing nationalism and Christianity) but neo-fundamentalists do so with more theological vocabulary and rationality. Concerning threats within the church, they have deep worries with the church’s drift towards liberalism and the ways secular ideologies are finding homes in the church. Outside the church, they are concerned by the culture’s increasing hostility to Christianity, most prominently from mass media, social media, and the government.
Mainstream Evangelical – Historically this term has been Protestants who hold to the Bebbington Quadrilateral of conversionism, activism, biblicism, and crucicentrism. The emphasis for this group is on the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Concerning threats within the church, they share some concern for the secular right’s influence on Christinaity, including the destructive pull of Christian Nationalism, but are far more concerned by the secular left’s influence and the desire to assimilate since the world still remains so hostile. Outside the church, they are likely uncomfortable with the rhetoric Trump and other conservatives use but view this direction as the lesser of two evils.
Neo-Evangelical – People who would see themselves as “global evangelicals” and are doctrinally “Evangelicals” (w/ some philosophy of ministry differences) but no longer use the term “evangelical” in some circumstances in the American context as the term as an identifier has evolved to be more political than theological. Within the church, they are highly concerned by conservative Christianity’s acceptance of Trump and failure to engage on topics of race and sexuality in helpful ways, but they have not totally abandoned evangelical identification and likely still labor in churches with the broadest spectrum of these groups. Outside of the church, this group feels largely homeless in today’s world. There is equal concern, or slightly more either way depending on the person, at the threat the left and the right pose to Christians seeking to live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness.
Post-Evangelical – People who have fully left evangelicalism from a self-identification standpoint and reject the “evangelical” label yet are still churched and likely still agree with the Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed. They are more deconstructed than neo-evangelicals and they are more vocal in their critiques of 1s and 2s than 3s would be. Some remain firmly in Protestant circles and others have crossed over to mainline, catholic, or orthodox traditions while still holding to the basic creeds. Concerning threats within the church, they are focused on abuse, corruption, hypocrisy, Christian nationalism, and the secular right. Outside the church, they are primarily concerned with the matters of injustice, inequity, the secular right, and to a lesser extent the radical secular left. Many 4s are 4s also because their experiences with predominantly white evangelicalism have been so difficult and strained that physical distance seemed to be the only conclusion.
Note – there is likely a halfway point between 4 and 5 known as ex-vangelicals that don’t neatly fit either 4 or 5. This group is difficult to parse as the meaning that this group has taken on has evolved even this year. We did not want to exclude the group from this typology but given the evolving nature were hesitant to pin it down too precisely at this juncture. Some of these folks have actually dechurched, some have deconverted, yet some remain in the faith but are quite vocal on their critiques of the movement. In time this category might evolve and/or swallow up category 5 below or it might fizzle like other labels.
Dechurched (but with some Jesus) – People who have left the church but still hold to at least some orthodox Christian beliefs.
Dechurched and Deconverted – People who have left the church and are completely deconverted with no vestigial Christian beliefs.”
I transitioned out of neo-fundamentalist evangelicalism in Brazil and later in the United States of America thanks to distance but I moved away from mainline evangelicalism in this Slavic community due to racism and anti-intellectualism. What do I mean? The racism I experienced in this church setting was new to me, because, remember, the Brazilian church was very racially diverse. It was ethnically one but racially, we had white ministers, black ministers, ministers with Japanese ancestry, and Latino ministers, ministers from the African continent, and so on. Racism wasn’t acceptable in our racially diverse neo-fundamentalist evangelical churches.
But racism in this mainline evangelical Slavic church? Well, what did you think would happen when a black man walked into a Euro-centric church ministry that operated in Canada… of all places?
Anywho. The racism part I am still writing about and discovering as I am still dealing with it to this day. My experiences with racism in America came from outside the church. My experience with racism in Canada came from within the church. But I’ll write more about that later.
But the anti-intellectual aspect here, and by anti-intellectual I refer to historian Mark A. Noll’s work, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind delves into a group that is hyper-aware of intellectual works concerning construction and other vocational works but when it comes to Christian intellectual works they are limited. Quite limited. The exploration of theology, expositional preaching, exegesis, Christian church history, doctrinal history, and social issues were all lacking. Knowledge surrounding biology, archeology, anthropology, anatomy, physiology, psychology, philosophy, psychiatry, and science, in general, was lacking. No wonder there is a hyper-resistance toward vaccines and virology in the Slavic-Germanic mainline evangelical community here in Canada. Much love for God and holiness standards but a hell of a lot of ignorance surrounding the world around them. The very world God created.
During my last few weeks in membership with this mainline evangelical church, I witnessed an uptick in members spewing their support for Donald Trump. I mean, we’re in Canada, people. Canadians are too nice to support an orange man like Donald Trump. But our Slavic community tossed all brain and heart out the window and promoted pro-Trump rhetoric against immigrants, racial justice, and any issues pertaining to brown people. The irony was there but the masks had come off. I saw some of them for what they were. Racist Christians. The Christian part of their identity was debatable but their racism consumed the air around them. Around me.
It was no wonder that whenever the Black Lives Matter movement took shape in the political sphere and some accused it of Marxist ideologies our Slavic church shut its doors down on the topic. Period. There was no talking about race, racism, or harms done against black people and people of color because the unresolved trauma of Marxism was looming high and mightily in their repressed subconscious. If BLM was Marxist then everything they talked about or fought for was atheistic and diabolic. They were unwilling to consider that the fight for black equity spanned back hundreds of years. But fear triumphs over reason and they capitulated their witness on the altar of ignorance.
And short of my exit I picked up this book by professor Noll and devoured it. Strange thing is that I pulled this book from the church’s library, which no one ever frequented. I could have stolen the book and I don’t believe anyone would have noticed. But I read it, made notes, made connections between the idiocy in evangelical history to the idiocy I witnessed in my church, yes, my church because I was part of it too. And I was broken. I left not long after when the racism became too painful to deal with and far too many higher-ups from the church were spewing it for me to confront it alone.
Being one of two black people in the church stymies one’s aspirations for change, you know.
A short conversation with the pastor, an honest one, revealed just how intellectually and socially limited this environment had become or perhaps had always been.
We left and what was left behind was in fact my mainline evangelical faith.
I was comfortable there until I realized that racism and religious-political syncretism was still very much alive and well there, just not as angry as that within the neo-fundamentalist evangelical circle of my earlier years but it was still there.
I’ve since progressed to a neo-evangelical landmark. I’ve reached the precipice of evangelicalism. Behind me is a horrid trail of trauma and a history of evangelical evils and issues. And before me lies a pit of tenebrous open-theistic worldviews that have robbed Christ of His Deity.
I’m comfortable as a neo-evangelical because I’ve realized that my faith supersedes denominational lines. I can learn so much more about different philosophies without being guilted into thinking I’m a heretic for simply studying different thinkers. I appreciate the social ramifications of liberation theology and I love the fine-tuned nature of big-God/near-God orthodox theology. I love my transcendent Lord but He is also an eminent God. He strengthens my heart out of religiosity that damns the intellect and He pushes me into a wholesome religion that loves God and neighbor. I’m hostile to the idea of marrying religion and political ideologies. I hate poor theology but I love and am patient with people who are ignorant of good theology. They’re teachable you know. My most biting words are reserved for my friends who are still stuck in neo-fundamentalist evangelicalism. I’m patient with my friends who are on the wall between mainline and fundamentalist evangelicalism. You shout too loud and they’ll become extremists and if you whisper too much they’ll forever stagnate in mainline circles.
I’m comfortable being labeled a ‘global evangelical’ as I worship and serve Christ wherever I go. I’m not limited to national superpowers like the United States of America or Israel. Today I’m comfortable condemning Israeli terrorism against Palestinians. Before I would have spat at the mention of these poor souls. Today I favor a democratic society that espouses a higher ethic that values the civil rights of all people, not just Christians.
My views about abortion are the same. I’m pro-life through and through, not just pro-birth. But even there, I fall and lean on pastor Skye Jethani’s idea, preferring a world where abortion is legal but morally wrong and unwanted than a world where we repress laws and allow for the fruition of back-alley abortions to persist. A world where people risk death to seek out an abortion because birthing the child will be the end of their lives and that of the baby.
I prefer to look to the root causes in society leading women to believe they need an abortion. What leads them to that state of mind? We’re so focused on the clinical procedure, which is horrific and barbaric, but seldom do we focus on the social, financial, and mental issues that precede this decision. I’m in favor of leading a whole nation to destroy the structures that make women think they have to end their pregnancies to work, pay rent, buy groceries, be financially stable, get a job and keep it, graduate from school, apply for school, and have medical care.
Like… why aren’t pro-lifers, mainly pro-birthers from neo-fundamentalist evangelicals tackling those issues as well? They’re more in favor of a big military instead of big health care. I’ve figured that it’s because the left and left-leaning churches and groups are focusing on these issues, therefore, by affiliation, these things are wrong to even consider.
As a neo-evangelical, I still believe in the Bebbington Quadrilateral definition of evangelicalism, namely, biblicism, crucicentrism, conversionsim, and activism by which to spread the first three.
But in my biblicism, I am no longer a biblical literalist. I read the Bible with wisdom, with new tools by which to help me investigate the text, the author’s meaning, his intent, his audience, the culture it was written within, the principles, laws, and religious rules and laws of the time of writing. I consider the geo-political struggles of the time of writing, surrounding nations and their writers and philosophers. I understand metaphors, historical narrative, prophetic literature, poetic literature, wisdom literature, apocalyptic or eschatological writings, pastoral epistles, and the gospels. I rely on the Holy Spirit for clarity and trust Him when I’m told to use the many tools of study available to me. Outside of these tools, I would be a literalist and an idiot. Like the idiot I was in neo-fundamentalist evangelicalism thinking America was at the top of the world and everything around us was the Mark of the Beast and the antichrist. Putin, Hussein, Osama, North Korean dictators, and whatnot. One of them was bound to be the antichrist, I guessed.
I cursed homosexuals and chided Muslims. I damned atheists to hell and mocked them. I understood little of the difference between theistic satanism and atheistic satanism and thought they were both one and the same. This ignorance and arrogance stunted my approachability.
I’ve condemned friends to hell. I’ve ostracized friends by referencing dreams of them wallowing in hell-fire and their immediate need to convert otherwise they would be doomed for eternity. This is how conversations about faith, Jesus, and the Bible went between teenage me and my teenage friends.
I was relentless in assuming everyone’s eternal condition after five minutes of debating them online or in person. Why would I leave any room for doubt when I knew more about them than God did?
Either way, the extremist ways of neo-fundamentalist evangelicalism destroyed my intellect, heightened my fear of non-Assembly of God Bethlehem Ministry Pentecostals, and ruined so many of my friendships thus tarnishing my witness of Christ.
Mainline evangelicalism taught me that so many believers can worship Jesus with their hearts, accept Him into their soul, worship Him and pray to Him in their quiet place, and then live morally duplicitous racist lives in the church and outside the church. Even the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke against moderate mainline believers who spoke so highly of Christ but turned a blind eye to Christ’s creation, namely, black people during the Civil Rights era.
But in neo-evangelicalism, I can seek Christ, preach about the cross, about death, about resurrection, about sin and redemption, and the next advent of my Lord. And in neo-evangelicalism, I can confront the plight of my neighbor, assist them in their troubles, challenge structures and systems that have been set up to oppress instead of emancipate. I can challenge local bodies, both religious and secular entities, to work together, ecumenically, to help everyone everywhere.
But if you think I’m naturally progressing through Graham’s stages of evangelicalism toward post-evangelicalism or apostasy, be assured, I am not.
I have escaped neo-fundamentalist evangelicalism and walked out of mainline evangelicalism, by God’s grace, but I am nowhere close nor am I attracted to post-evangelicalism.
I follow websites and threads written by exvangelicals, post-evangelicals, and former Christians, and depending on their motivation to deconstruct evangelicalism I have found that their results are bleak. They end up destroying their faith instead of deconstructing the cultural colonization of their Christianity. It’s sad to watch people punch holes in the boat that’ll carry them across the lake. They ought to fix their sails, not tear them to shreds. Their faith compass needs recalibration but many of them are shutting their airs and trusting fate to guide them to safer shores. Some have jumped ship altogether, having lost faith in the boat’s ability to keep them above water. And this without a safety vest.
At times I have found more people leaving evangelicalism out of hurt and trauma and in other instances because they prefer to live within an antinomian framework. A framework sapped of moral attitudes and ethics. They want Christ as God of the world but not as Lord of their lives. Meaning, everything goes as far as sinful patterns inasmuch as they can read their bibles to conform it to their momentary pleasures.
In that case, I’d say some of them have moved from monotheism in Christianity to therapeutic moralistic deism. It feels good, must be right, and God or gods is out there, in the ether, somewhere, maybe watching.
Post-evangelicalism can work if one deconstructs not from faith and Christ but from cultural Christianity. Namely, Brazilian-centric or United States of America-centric Christianity. White Christianity. Euro-centric Christianity. Pan-African Christianity. Etcetera.
But if you’re moving away from biblicism, crucicentrism, conversionsim, and activism, then what are you moving towards? I ask myself that same question from time to time. If I abandon the word, the cross, regeneration, and the work that goes into disseminating this message, then what am I moving into? What have I moved away from?
Is this not the gospel? Does the gospel supersede the Bebbington Quadrilateral of evangelicalism?
But does the gospel have to be post-evangelical? It can be. It was before the term was even coined and its meaning as we understand it today solidified.
But I am comfortable utilizing my brain, my soul, God’s Holy Spirit, His Word, the beauty and horror of the cross, and my giving up of myself for my family and my community.
And listen, that community is not and does not have to be a believing community.
Loving God with all my heart, soul, and mind, and my neighbor as myself does not mean that my neighbor needs to be a conservative Right-leaning Christian for me to love, serve, and possibly even die in service for them.
I Am A…
I am a neo-evangelical and God has rescued me from fundamentalism and delivered me from stagnant middle-stance, middle-class centric Christianity that accomplishes much while it accomplishes nothing in mainline evangelicalism.
I am not out of the clear until I reach heaven and that’s why from time to time I converse with my pastor, interacting with him about ideas, what comes next for evangelicals, what ideas, good or bad, will be sucked into the vacuum created by the absence of evangelicalism in our cultural sphere.
What happens when we remove Eurocentric theology from our schools and vernacular? What happens when we burn slave-holding Christian theology to ash? What happens when we begin to listen to the voices that have taken a backseat in literature and theology for the last five hundred years? Who are these voices? Are they white, male, wealthy, and western? Are they French, German, English, Swedish, Scottish, Irish, Dutch, or Swiss?
Are these voices evangelical at all?
These thoughts and questions plague my mind every time I venture to read scripture for my personal development and the development of my church community.
I am comforted by the continual presence of this voice of inquiry because it was absent for most of my life. I thank God for the inquisitive pull in my heart. Not the cynic and skeptic. My faith is firm and sound on the Rock of Christ but the in-betweens that have dimmed my understanding for so long are still to be discovered and challenged.
I need these thoughts and questions to dominate my headspace otherwise I’ll recrudesce to fundamentalist fearmongering and that’ll be the death of my intellect.
This cannot happen.
I am too conservative for my liberal friends and too liberal for my conservative friends. I’m politically homeless. A political vagabond moving from one political railroad car to the next, exploring the goods, acknowledging them, sharing them, and then leaving it for the next. Wherever I find errors and wrongs I attempt to address them with Christic love and when that fails I’m booted forward or backward into another car. Whither this train travels I know not but that it travels forward is without question.
The final station is of less importance to me because no matter where this train of political ideology stops it is still flawed and filled with holes, carrying broken people from one place to another, ever full and ever empty.
I love my Lord, I love my wife, I love our girls, and I love the Church of Christ. The Catholic (universal) Church of Jesus is not held nor constrained by walls and windows and doors. Nor denominational lines.
Are you not sure where you fall on this spectrum and you want to take a quick quiz to find out, hit this link. Towards the end of the page you will find the Evangelical Assessment Tool. Share your findings!
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. – Proverbs 31:8 NLT
I cannot emphasize this enough therefore I will allow the words of the King to re-emphasize it for me: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31
Fox News opinion casters have been re-demonizing Muslims and Christians from Afghanistan because there’s an unfounded theory that undocumented brown refugees will begin to flood into the United States of America because of this Taliban crisis.
Most of the people who watch Fox News adhere to some form of a Christian or Judeo-Christian moral framework where they believe that God exists, Jesus walked this earth, that we should live by high ethical standards, sexual standards, and respect our neighbors.
Something like that.
But at the same time, these same viewers will swallow a building-sized gnat of hatred that Fox News spews against, you named it, immigrants.
And the darker their complexion the spicier the vitriol gets.
I don’t care if you watch Fox News to further numb the dead or dying heart inside of you. I don’t mind if your soul is so dark that the only thing that brings you warmth is watching millionaires discuss their hatred for the disenfranchised, poor, colored, and immigrants but if that’s the case I hope you’re not at the same time ascribing to a worldview that espouses love, kindness, redemption, and holiness.
The crisis in Afghanistan is so complicated and the United States of America’s participation in the formation and the financial backing of the Taliban in previous proxy wars has only made things worse. The United States does not walk out of this situation with clean hands.
I understand that this crisis is more complicated than we dare admit, collectively speaking. Some of us will blame Muslims for the bloodshed. Others will blame Russia. Others yet will blame Americans. And Americans will blame the Afghani people for not developing quickly enough to defend themselves against an insurgency like the Taliban.
The blame game works itself into a wheel spin that is hard to slow down once it’s in full steam. I’m concerned with the catalysts, yes, I’m concerned about the agencies that led this nation and its surrounding communities to such dire straits. Insurgents only become insurgents because every other way of life has been taken from them by bombs dropped by other insurgencies or government agencies.
American ones included.
It’s perfectly fine to feel overwhelmed by not knowing what to do or how to do what needs to be done in a situation as problematic as this.
We’re all on the same boat when it comes to this stalemate, this uncertainty surrounding Afghani lives still in Afghanistan, who, at any moment, might be massacred for whatever reason by Taliban foot soldiers.
We’re in agreement there! We’re all worried about these vulnerable people.
But what disturbs me greatly is the ever virulent diatribe that ebbs and flows from Fox News and like-minded news stations about these unfortunate souls.
If 30 million (the actual number is somewhere around 2.5 million) Americans watch Fox News every day and they believe half of the stuff that spews out of that channel then we have 30 million Americans who have little to no compassion for immigrants seeking refuge in America, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, Turkey, and so on.
We begin to see people as animals and from there we then view them as insects. It isn’t far fetched to then believe that their decimation and massacre at the hands of Taliban terrorists is equal to that of cockroaches under our boots.
The rhetoric surrounding immigrants, especially brown immigrants coming out of Fox News, Newsmax and One America News pundits or whatever other hyper-nationalist news stations are is a rhetoric of hate.
Hate the immigrant. Say you’re sorry for their demise. Tell them they’re not welcome in your country and then smack their backside as they move on to another humanitarian crisis camp that you will call dirty, filthy, and deserving of the people who settle there.
And then go on about your life telling everyone how much your country needs Jesus because Jesus is love, kind, just, merciful, and holy.
People, for the love of God, love one another.
Love the men who are fleeing for their lives so they don’t fall under gunfire or the sword. Love the women fleeing for their lives so they do not become breeders for a terrorist organization and their sex-deprived lunatic foot soldiers. Pray for the children, boys, and girls, who are petrified and will possibly be traumatized for life because of it.
Love them. Love them because they are people.
Instead of complaining about immigrants coming into your country to take your jobs look at them, not through them, as extended family members who need rescue and help.
Canada is a nation large enough to possibly fit the population of the planet in it twice over. Just don’t send people to the North West Territories because there’s nothing up there but land, bears, moose, and the occasional horror story stalker.
But fill Canada with people who need help. The United States of America, too.
Why we’ve come to think of them as undeserving of our resources because they were not born here is insane and cruel. I understand nations have national sovereignty and borders but we’re all on the same planet, sharing the same air, eating the same foods, and drinking the same water, albeit, cleaner water in some places than others.
We’re all one race stemming from one place. People with an intrinsic value whose worth supersedes international and national borders and laws.
We need to love our neighbors and help them in their time of need. Not because one day we’ll need them; because we might, but because it’s the right thing to do.
We cannot settle for news stations whose personas non grata proclaim faith, liberty, freedom, the pursuit of happiness, humanity, love, and yes, supposedly, a Christian faith, but then say and report everything contrary to it.
Love your neighbor.
Be on the side of compassion and empathy. Gun powder and sword are great at making soldiers of children but love and compassion are better at making people of character, principle, and morals.
If we want to see fewer insurgencies then we might try and start by extending a friendly hand to our neighbors.
Even when that love isn’t reciprocated, we love them. We love them well.
I’ve placed a few photos of Afghanistan in this post. Bucolic settings, breathing taking ones, just to remind the reader that there’s more to a land when it is not constantly bombarded with terror attacks. More to it when it isn’t portrayed as a forgotten wasteland occupied by dirty brown immigrants who worship a different god. (I’m talking about you, Fox News).
Afghanistan is an extension of our land and our land an extension of theirs. Same planet, beautifully full and fully beautiful in all of its parts.
An argument can be made that there is an unhealthy level of hypocrisy in the pro-life movement concerning its response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Now, to our western mind the portmanteau pro-life means that the person values life from conception all the way through to the grave. Conception through birth, through life, and so on.
And there’s disagreement on why some of the most adamant pro-lifers fail to appreciate life as much once the person is struggling to pay bills, find lodging, facing eviction notices, in need of healthcare, education, unemployment assistance, and whatnot.
That’s not my argument here. That hypocrisy is evident in these areas and more before all. I needn’t argue the case there.
My beef is with pro-life American and Canadian Christians who use their faith and their freedoms during the COVID-19 pandemic to promote a lifestyle that is antithetical to a God and neighbor honoring ethic. They use their faith and rights to promote unwise habits which lead to the death of others.
“The Christian motive for hygiene and sanitation does not arise in self-preservation but in an ethic of service to our neighbor. We wish to care for the afflicted, which first and foremost means not infecting the healthy. Early Christians created the first hospitals in Europe as hygienic places to provide care during times of plague, on the understanding that negligence that spread disease further was, in fact, murder.”
Again, in his words, understanding that negligence that spread disease further was, in fact, murder.
I am shocked by every news article or tabloid post that informs the general public that another Covid denier, Anti-Vaxxer, and anti-establishment extremist with a Bible in one hand and the American constitution or the Canadian charter in the other has passed away from Covid related complications.
Stone, again, reminds us of just how far Christians and their Christ-centric ethics have come through the years whenever faced with moral or natural evil:
“During plague periods in the Roman Empire, Christians made a name for themselves. Historians have suggested that the terrible Antonine Plague of the 2nd century, which might have killed off a quarter of the Roman Empire, led to the spread of Christianity, as Christians cared for the sick and offered an spiritual model whereby plagues were not the work of angry and capricious deities but the product of a broken Creation in revolt against a loving God.
But the more famous epidemic is the Plague of Cyprian, named for a bishop who gave a colorful account of this disease in his sermons. Probably a disease related to Ebola, the Plague of Cyprian helped set off the Crisis of the Third Century in the Roman world. But it did something else, too: It triggered the explosive growth of Christianity. Cyprian’s sermons told Christians not to grieve for plague victims (who live in heaven), but to redouble efforts to care for the living. His fellow bishop Dionysius described how Christians, “Heedless of danger … took charge of the sick, attending to their every need.”
Christians have often been at the forefront of disaster without the push from government entities, without the assistance of political agencies, without funds from wealthy corporations and yet they ventured past the green zone and into the circle of death to assist those most vulnerable, motivated by nothing more than love of God and neighbor.
The history of altruism found within Christian communities is so imitable. Their love for the destitute, the sick, the broken, the diseased, without much care for their own well-being was quite the example to follow. This nonpareil altruistic movement is what attracted so many, to the faith to begin with.
The difference, however, is that something has shifted our Christian witness. We have gone from petitioning for the sanctity of life to petitioning for the rights and freedoms of selfish living, which, in turn, and as a direct consequence of, has caused the spread of the coronavirus in so many communities that could have gone without it if we had been more Christ-like to begin with.
In ancient Israel, in the book of Leviticus in particular, the Jews required anyone with an infectious disease to quarantine away from the camp for seven days or more. Some, having a very infectious disease, would live outside the camp indefinitely so as to preserve the wellbeing and life of both parties.
And somehow, somewhere along with the development of the western Christian mind, this altruistic selflessness has gone out the window, and with it, compassion and empathy for neighbors.
Modern medicine has shown us how diseases work, how they spread, how they affect the body, disrupt certain bodily functions, and from there, how some of them can lead to death. We now know chemists can develop antibodies in the form of a vaccine to counteract the spread of diseases or the damage these pathogens wreak on society.
And one of the mechanisms we have developed over time and learned how to use better is the victimless tool of quarantine; which helps reduce the rate a pathogen transfers from one person to another by isolating and caring for the sick. On top of that, we have been blessed with access to masks, which have also proven to reduce the transmissibility of infectious diseases.
Social distancing and masks.
These are the two crosses we have been asked to bear by our society and even these have become steps on which we tread to cause the death of others.
Distance and face coverings are too heavy a burden for us to carry.
How does that make any sense?
In the onset of Christian monasticism, in the era in which Christian converts would disappear into the desert to seek God, and once there they would form communities that would open their doors to assist and house outcasts. It was there that many relinquished so many rights and privileges just to help their neighbor.
They would give up wealth, give up status, give up work, and yes, even safety to wander through the unknown for days and nights to reach a place where trauma existed, where abused and bruised souls needed refuge, a place where so many had lost family and friends and found a new family and new friends.
Christians for years upon years had given so much from their lives and personal comfort even if it helped someone else just a little.
However, the tides have shifted and today we’re trying to take as much for ourselves and even the little that would have gone to our neighbor and their stability in life as possible.
Had we been asked to give blood, relinquish the rights to our bank accounts, leave our jobs, turn in our citizenship and residency, face deportation and exile for the sake of Christ and the betterment of life of our neighbor we would.
But a vaccine shot, social distancing, and masks are too many steps too far.
Our pro-life stance is only pro-life when it deals with the rights of the unborn but let us not be challenged to protect the life and well-being of our neighbors who are already here.
Apostle Paul asked the first-century church in Galatia a question that I ask of our generation today:
“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? […]” Galatians 3:1 NRSV
He confronted a church that began with the salvific gospel and ended up with traditional legalism. Paul was curious about where and who tricked them out of the gospel and seduced them into a religion of works.
I, too, ask the same question of our fellow western Christian minds today.
“You foolish Americans! You foolish Canadians! Who has bewitched you?”
Who has sapped your Christianity of empathy? Who has taught you to reduce your neighbor to a number on a board? Who has asked you to see dollar signs instead of the elderly? Who has robbed you of love for your neighbor and taught you to believe that minor inconveniences like social distancing and mask-wearing are persecutory aspects of a democratic society?
You’re living with a persecution complex in a hedonist society. You’re more in love with and entrapped by comfort and rights than you are with Christ’s character of selflessness.
If you’re asked to carry your brother’s burdens you not only refuse to lend him a hand but you castigate your brother for being in the predicament they’re in, to begin with. And, at times, you’re the direct cause of their troubles.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 NRSV
We see so many people pass away from Covid and much of that spread is due to our gross negligence of brotherly and sisterly love.
Christianity has thrived through thousands of years of strife, persecution, famine, war, social ostracism, pestilence, and plagues and we have shown outsiders time and again just how much love God has placed in our hearts as we care for our neighbors.
But something happened. Something went wrong somewhere and we’re too unbothered or too preoccupied or too distracted to stop and think about what and why went wrong.
Stone compares our gross negligence in spreading a pathogen we could have helped combat and stop a year ago, saving countless lives in the process, as gross negligence equal to murder!
And I agree!
There are pro-lifers committing murder. Either as direct agents of death or co-conspirators with it.
When we fail to help our world through a time like this… through a pandemic like this one… we help kill it.
A Review of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Racist History and Present Day Iconolatry of Slave Owners
“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. […] So you shall purge the evil (one) from your midst.” Deuteronomy 13:1-5b ESV
Why The Invective?
If you’re one of the readers who have kept up with my blog then you’re aware that I’m going through a rediscovery phase in my life. Much of my free time is spent on consuming literature that delves into Christian history, better informing myself about how Western Christianity was formed, meaning, the Christianity I was introduced to in Brazil as a child and matured through in Florida has shaped my orthodoxy or perhaps the fundamentalist heresy I have since denounced. This effort has caused me great pain as I have had to grapple with the reality that people who carried the canon of the gospel and sought to evangelize the heathen world whilst erasing cultures, committing genocide, enslaving the black race, and holding the global market hostage through capitalist greed all in the name of God.
I could not, in good faith, believe that the line of faith and orthodoxy that began with Christ two millennia ago would lead humans to commit such acts. Something went wrong somewhere otherwise my faith, my Christ, my Bible, and the worldview derived from these not only support atrocities but considered them divine privileges. In the first, second, third, and fourth crusades Europeans sought to recapture Jerusalem from Muslim rule, no matter the cost, no matter the collateral damage, no matter the level of depravity that these armies and soldiers would have to sink to, in order to recapture a city-state from Mohammedans. All this under the protection and incentive of the Church. In the same air, I cannot account for the fact that this faith would allow post-colonialists to whip the backs of my ancestors, placing them on the same level as dogs and swine, so as to keep them uneducated, enchained, and forced to live with the shame of the color of their skin for four hundred years all for the glory of God and the Doctrine of Discovery, Manifest Destiny, and the Munroe Doctrine.
Something went wrong somewhere and it is my ardent effort to discover where and why. And while on this journey I will share with you, my dear reader and critic, (welcome in, of course) my findings.
So today I want to share with you the tainted inception and history of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and how its current president, the honorable Dr. Albert Mohler and Board of Trustees continue to idolize the slave owners who brought this educational institution into existence and later maintained it through funds derived from slave labor. The school has faced multiple calls for repentance and change, but so far, all they have given us is more material and history by which to condemn its past and also its present unwillingness to change which is an omen against an institution whose motto is:
For the truth. For the church. For the world. For the glory of God
Before We Proceed: A Brief History of The Southern Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
The reason why this baptist convention and seminary exist is that they are a sign and result of their time. In the mid-1800s the United States of America was forced to confront its hypocritical doctrines of life, freedom, and liberty in its initial documents whilst they held and liberally traded hundreds of thousands of black people as if they were old rags. How could the nation that afforded our world the precious words of the Declaration of Independence, which state:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
But these same liberators and revolutionaries sought to keep in bondage the negroes within their borders and exploit the colored in central America, the Indigenous in ‘protected territories’, the Mexicans, Chinese, and so on.
Therefore, the tides of sentiments in the Southern states changed as the British Empire came to its senses regarding the evil of slavery in general but more precisely slavery in the American south. English, Scottish, Irish, and Canadian abolitionists sought to convince their American neighbors to cease and desist of all slave trade, to liberate their black citizens and treat them as equal citizens, affording them the freedom that had long been delayed. The British empire sought to disrupt the slave trade in the Atlantic even seizing ships from western Africa that had planned to dock in Brazil. The will to end this nefarious industry was in full swing all around the world, save the United States of America and Brazil.
Therefore, because abolitionists abroad and soft-abolitionists within began to stir trouble for already troubled minds, Christian baptists decided to take a stand against these evil disruptors of the peace and market to build for themselves conventions and institutions that would represent their industry-centered motives. Namely, the slave trade.
Thereby we have the Southern Baptist Convention. SBTS historians and committee members Dr. Curtis Wood, Dr. John Wilsey, Dr. Kevin Jones, Dr. Jarvis Williams, Dr. Matthew J. Hall, and Dr. Gregory Wills ventured to answer this conundrum in so few words concerning the inception of the convention:
“White southern Baptists established the Southern Baptist Convention in 1845 for the stated purpose of advancing the gospel. They vindicated their separation from northern Baptists on the premise that slaveholding was morally legitimate.”
As abolitionist sentiments permeated through the North, allowing for faith leaders, clergy, and seminarians to condemn the ills of slavery, in the south, however, Baptists sought to identify their gospel-centric purity and correct biblical hermeneutic by creating a convention that promoted, supported, sanctioned and blessed chattel slavery. The reason ‘southern’ is in the name of this convention is that it identified with its predilection for the slave trade.
Regarding the seminary, which was instituted a mere fourteen years later, the same historians state:
“When Southern Baptists established the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1859, the prevailing orthodoxy of its white clergy included commitment to the legitimacy of slavery.”
And regarding North Baptist sentiments toward slaveholding Baptists in the south they state:
“Although most white Baptists in the North did not hold that slavery was intrinsically immoral, they found slavery in practice sufficiently troubling that they countenanced the minority among them who had begun advocating abolition in the 1830s. The abolitionist Baptists argued that they could not hold communion with slaveholding Christians. White southern Baptists argued that they could not in good conscience cooperate with abolitionists who demanded their excommunication.”
From its inception, the Southern Baptist Convention functioned as the prime institution in the American south to promote the gospel, academic orthodoxy, and protect slavery as “an institution from heaven.” The very words of Iveson L. Brookes, a baptist minister from Rockingham County, N.C.
And the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the SBC’s clubfooted product of conception, a result of its deplorable wedding between poor hermeneutics, greed, and hyper-individualistic ideologies, operated as the most prominent arm of support for chattel slavery before the Civil War. It later became a strident supporter of the Confederate revisionist idea of the Lost Cause after the souths embarrassing loss.
Quoting the same historians regarding the seminary’s support for slavery before and during the war:
“James L. Reynold argued that slavery was in the best interest of the slaves themselves. Joseph E. Brown argued that slavery was no mere necessary evil but rather a God-ordained institution to be perpetuated.”
And they continue:
“Additionally, these voices not only defended slavery in theory, but in actual practice as well, denying that abuses, violence, assault, and rape were in any way commonplace or systemic. Instead, they thought these to be exceptions. Their perspective was undoubtedly veiled by their dependence on hired overseers who were charged with violent enforcement of the slave system.”
And regarding the seminary’s support of the Lost Cause and promotion of black inferiority after the war they state:
“They defended white rule and the disenfranchisement of blacks based upon the doctrine of white supremacy.”
One of the seminary’s founders, Basil Manly Jr., states that the presence of freed slaves in Greenville was an “incubus and plague.” And in an 1868 speech in a Baptists’ Home Mission Society, Manly again states that “We at the South do not recognize the social equality of the negro.”
Another of the seminary’s founders, John Broadus, said that the south was “a white man’s country.”
Seminary faculty did support higher learning for black students in the fervency of the Jim Crow south but refused to integrate their institution in view that the negro race was intellectual and genetic dunces incapable of rising above or matching the academic prowess of the white race.
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Edgar Young Mullins (1899-1928) concluded that “It is impossible and wrong to demand that negro civilization should be placed on par with white. This is fundamentally the issue.”
Thankfully, in 1944 the seminary celebrated its first black graduate, Garland Offutt, who earned a Th.M. Quite the name if you ask me. But with the same hand that it issued a gesture of kindness, it demonstrated its racially flawed sentiment toward the graduate student by prohibiting him from participating in the commencement exercise. Instead, he was awarded his degree in a chapel service elsewhere.
Even though the faculty later favored the civil rights efforts for blacks they also denounced the Civil Rights Movement, becoming suspicious of and “uncomfortable with Martin Luther King Jr.’s direct-action tactics.” Mind you, King wrote his Letter From Birmingham Jail no more than a five-hour car ride from where the seminary sat and his words echoed in the South as clergy and laity showed King nothing but cowardice or animosity in the face of a national crisis. In 1952, however, the school was not only advancing toward integrated classrooms and programs but also allowed three black students, B. J. Millers, Claude Taylor, and J. V. Bottoms to participate in an integrated graduation ceremony.
It was commendable of the seminary to integrate its programs, publicly acknowledge its black students, graduate them with an integrated group and finally invite King to speak and later, in 1986 it added the first black scholar to its faculty staff.
The Civil War came to a resounding close in 1865. It took this Christ-loving, gospel-centered, orthodoxy promoting, academically strict seminary one hundred and twenty-one years to grant a black qualified intellectual the position of scholar and professor within its institution.
On the Founding Fathers of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
The seminary was founded by four prominent and well-respected Baptist ministers. James P. Boyce, John A. Broadus, Basil Manly Jr., and William Williams. The historians, whose work to uncover and recover most of the materials I quote on this article state that these men owned at least fifty slaves between them.
The same historians found that the average price for a slave in 1860 was $900. Manly’s personal estate was valued at $43,700, of which $6,300 was the value of his slaves. Boyce was a businessman with a personal estate value of $330,000 sparsed between “stocks, bonds, silver, and jewelry, in addition to slaves.” And because of this diversified investment and continued ventures, loss of documents, and mismanagement of the same over time, it is difficult to ascertain just how many slaves Boyce owned. That he did, it is irrefutable.
Boyce was the only founding member who served in the confederate army, functioning “as chaplain in the 16th South Carolina Infantry.”
The other two founding members of the institution, Broadus and Williams, owned slaves as well, according to the Greenville District census. Broadus owned two while Williams owned five. All fully willing to defend the existence of slavery from the seat of power as founding members, as professors and ministers, as confederate insurrectionists and separatists. They were all willful participants and practitioners of the damned industry.
And in the year 1880, Joseph E. Brown, donor and chairman of the Board of Trustees, saved the school from “financial collapse” by donating to it a “gift of $50,000.” What Boyce, Manly, Broadus, and Williams knew then and what is irrefutable truth now, is that Brown made his wealth from his Dade coal mines, which functioned by taking in black men who had been falsely imprisoned for petty crimes or no crime at all (look up racist vagrancy laws of that era), not given due process, and relegated, by force, to work at Brown’s coal mines. Black men had been emancipated by the government but were forced back into slavery by government-sanctioned private companies like that of Joseph Brown. Prison-For-Profit is nothing new for black Americans because so many of them have lived through them while others died in their throes, forever unnamed, unheard, unjustified, and forgotten. And worse yet is that the SBTS gladly accepted this donation from this nefarious man whose coal mines were work camps long before the spawn of Nazi Germany version of the same, which were properly dubbed, death camps.
“Investigations of Brown’s Dade Coal operation concluded that ‘if there is a hell on earth, it is the Dade coal mines.’”
The Mohler Eruption
On October 12, 2020, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president and alumni, Albert Mohler, produced a lengthy letter titled The Burden of History & The Blessing of Heritage explaining to the Board of Trustees from the same institution that he had received several calls from students, faculty, and the public to remove the “name of James P. Boyce from the James P. Boyce Centennial Library and Boyce College, to remove the name of John A. Broadus from Broadus Chapel, to remove the name of Basil Manly Jr. from Manly Hall, and the name William Williams from Williams Hall.” To which he adds, “The full scope of their names throughout the institution does not end there, but these are the most public commemorations of their legacies.”
Mohler began his apologia for not removing these names of former slaveowners, slavery promotors, practitioners, and defenders with a verse from the Torah, found in Deuteronomy.
“And I prayed to the Lord, ‘O Lord God, do not destroy Your people and your heritage, whom you have redeemed through your greatness, whom you brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand.’” Deuteronomy 9:26
He goes on to explain the shifting tides in America as younger generations make “calls to revoke names from buildings, take down statues, and remove monuments that honor individuals known to have been complicit in American slavery and racial supremacy.” At this point, knowing Mohler’s gospel-centered compassionate heart I expected Mohler’s next words to echo a move for change, a step forward, away from a marred and atrocious past, in favor of promoting Christ and inclusion of all people in the name of Christian virtue. Mohler then adds.
“We must admit that this is not an easy demand to dismiss out of hand. We are responsible for choosing whom to honor and for making clear for what they are honored. We must admit that we have, for most of our history, just assumed that the answers to those questions are self-evident and sufficient. They are not.”
Mohler then makes a case for the validity in keeping these figures on the pedestal of memory and honor by citing a “secular perspective” from Rebecca Solnit who writes that “It would be impossible and unwise to erase all signs of ugliness of this country’s past; success would be a landscape lobotomy.”
He then shrinks to cite a Christian historian, Beth Barton Schweiger, who states “In history, the call to love one’s neighbor is extended to the dead. For the Christian, knowledge about the past, as any knowledge, should serve the ends of love.”
I believe, and this is my personal interjection into Mohler’s mind, that he sought to cite this last Christian historian because she suggests we offer grace to these dead malefactors who founded the institution. And I agree with Mohler if that is his effort here, that Christians should have a compassionate heart toward all sinners because we too share in their spiritual sickness. But what was absent in Mohler’s observation is the compassion for the fifty or more black souls these men owned. Poor and feeble blacks who were abused, violated, assaulted, and raped by the overseers contracted by these same men. That is if these men did not bed the female slaves themselves to produce their own half-blooded bastardized children. Whether any of the founders did sexually assault their slaves I do not know, whether there is evidence of that I cannot find it, but that these things happened elsewhere and happened often is irrefutable.
Mohler then spends the next several paragraphs expanding on the works, efforts, monumental accomplishments that came into existence at the hands of these four founders, elaborately specifying who did what and when.
He makes a sudden and all-too-common shift toward citing King David’s flaws in scripture as a means to excuse the flaws of other men in other times. This is a common tactic within evangelical circles as an attempt to downplay the gravity of a contemporarys’ flaws because biblical characters committed their fair share of wrongs, therefore, who are we to judge our friends? If the King did it and was remembered then we can remember these men too. Right? We seldom venture into what consequences David suffered as a result of his predatory assault on Bathsheba, how he murdered her husband, how his first child with the same woman died as a result of God’s judgment over his life, and later on, David’s pride cost the lives of thousands of people. We focus primarily on David’s flaw, jump quickly to his redemption, evading the cost of sin and the consequence of sin that stagnates in the water he drank in his misery whilst dealing with the ramifications of his harmful decisions.
He then begs the question of “why are we honoring anyone in any way? What are we commemorating?” To this, he answers, vividly so, respecting his current audience immediately by stating: “We must be clear: We are not honoring the Confederacy. We are not honoring the horrible institution of American slavery. We are not honoring any form of racial supremacist ideology – specifically, we are not honoring white supremacy. We must condemn any form of racism and racial supremacy and we must condemn the American institution of race-based chattel slavery as an abomination.”
And by all means, we all applaud this gesture and brevity of thought on the subject but it is recalcitrant toward his own conviction because it is contradictory to thought.
Say I hang a photo of Adolf Hitler on my doorway, display emblems and insignias of the Schutz-Staffel, the Gestapo, the Reich’s Wehrmacht, and Luftwaffe all around my room, ensuring that no symbol or image of that forlorn administration fails to make it on to my wall. I tattoo Hitler’s despised mustache onto my upper lip, name my children Eva Braun Oliveira, Adolf Eichmann Oliveira, Rudolf Hess Oliveira, Joseph Goebbels Oliveira, Joseph Mengele Oliveira, Heinrich Himmler Oliveira, Hermann Goering Oliveira, and so, should I have that many kids, and that many boys, but then state that “I’m no Nazi, nor am I in favor of Nazism. I am simply admiring Germany’s military might, the diversification of German names, showing honor to German organizational skills in the face of chaos, German scientific research, and medicine, German philosophy of war tactics, and rules of engagement. Yes, I do have Heil Hitler spray-painted on my doorposts but that does not mean I honor Hitler or Nazi Germany’s crimes against humanity in my home. I am willfully and painstakingly selecting which part of German history and people to honor and which to dismiss. That’s all.”
You would paint me a mad man and a mockable one as well.
If you were to visit Germany today you would not find a shred of Nazi Germany on public or private buildings or schools because these symbols and the progenitors of such stand for an evil so great nothing of it is worth redeeming. Unless its Operation Paperclip and you’re an American government official kidnapping former Nazi criminals to force them to work for your government by giving them freedoms in the USA, great jobs, scientific freedom and etc. Either way, Germans post-World War II found it in themselves, through the help and coercion of the Allied Forces, to endure the Denazification of their country and people. Nazism is found now in history books, museums, and in the stories of those who survived their atrocities and the children of the same.
But in Mohler’s perspective, we can pick and choose which side of slave-owning demoniacs of a time long past we honor and which we willfully brush off as merely, “history” that needs to be forgiven while honoring the same evil men.
Mohler later asks the question: “So, what now?”
To which black Baptists and the rest of America shouts: “Remove their names! Remove their statues! Remove their busts! Remove it all!”
And Mohler ignores their cries for change and goes on to relay to the Board of Trustees four steps of progress he would suggest they make for the school.
He states that the school should “express lament over the sinful dimensions of our legacy and pledge to be ever more faithful in serving the Body of Christ by the education of godly ministers.”
This sounds magnificent if you ask me. Christians in the face of error should follow the four steps of redemptive efforts: lament, confess, repent, and reconcile. Here Mohler pioneers the need for lamentation but falters shortly after by stating that the institution should be faithful to serving the Body of Christ with education. And don’t get me wrong, that’s amazing, but the Body of Christ and secular intellectuals are calling for the removal of these slave owners from this learning institution. Saying hello to Boyce before Philosophy 101 or Manly after Chemistry as a black or colored student can be and is traumatizing. You serve by listening to the Body and the Body of Christ is hurting, badly, for change. This is not enough effort, Mohler. I’m getting personal here because I ache for change too.
He plans to allocate $5,000,000 over the span of several years as “endowed and restricted funds to serve as an endowment for assistance to qualified Black students at Southern Seminary.” The name of this grant or endeavor is the “Garland Offutt Scholars Program” which if you recall is named after the first black graduate of the school.
This is a beautiful effort at restitution, but it is only in part. How they managed that number is beyond me and is it enough? You’d have to ask the black students who qualify. But the failure to address the removal of Boyce, Broadus, Manly, and Williams is still evident. To throw money at black students to appease their calls for change in hopes of silencing the disruption altogether is dismissive. What happens after the $5,000,000 has been spent? Will you find another “first-black-fill-in-the-blank” person to name the grant after? How much money are you willing to allocate to silencing justice? Silencing the calls for change?
Mohler makes the pledge to be a faithful storyteller, retelling the story of SBTS founders “with accuracy and biblical wholeness. This means contextualizing and it implies humility.”
I sincerely commend Mohler for this third point because he is aware that this topic will resurface in coming generations. We are asking these questions. Our children will ask and theirs after them. With that in mind, he makes mentions that their effort is to push for an effort to maintain the truth at the forefront of this conversation on history, which is a dedicated and honorable approach. Never should history be sugar-coated. Therefore we must bring forth the vileness of SBTS founders, their broken theological praxis (practice), and how much of their sentiments toward colored people was absolutely antithetical to the very message they proudly spoke of daily. We must be contextually accurate, as well, as so many theologians and ministers of their day also condemned their efforts, their prose, their ideas, and the industry they amassed wealth from but they willingly turned a blind eye to because they opted for mercantile greed instead of grace, mercy, and love. That’s the contextualized truth.
Lastly, Mohler makes a half-hearted attempt to challenge, condemn, and praise the $50,000 donation Joseph E. Brown made toward the seminary to preserve the financial stability of the institution in the late 1800s. Mohler struggles with the celebration and condemnation of this corrupt and morally bankrupt governor who solidified his wealth on the unjust jailing and slavering away of black prisoners. He suggests the Board of Trustees remove the chair position under Brown’s name from the school, which Mohler was honored to sit under for a time.
Mohler wants to distance the school from the broken character of Governor Brown but also celebrate the money received from the same. At this point, it is impossible to give the money back but it’s quite the effort on his part to venture away from Brown. He also half-heartedly suggests to the Board of Trustees that they ought to remove the Joseph Brown Chair from the seminary and replace it with something more innocuous, which, again, I agree but a more robust request would have been more admirable from the president of the seminary. But, I want you to pay close attention to Mohler’s choice of words and how he places them, delicately attempting not to harm his own image concerning his knowledge of Brown’s history.
“The challenge with Governor Brown is that he was controversial in his own day, due to his involvement in the convict labor system, widely described as a functional continuation of race-based slavery. Governor Brown’s name has been attached to our history as the oldest endowed chair in the Seminary’s history. In financial terms, there is no means at present of accounting for the status of all the funds in the Brown legacy through more than a century. Functionally, the question would be whether the chair should be occupied or unoccupied. I was very honored when the Board of Trustees elected me to this chair. It has been held, for example, by James P. Boyce and E. Y. Mullins as presidents.”
Now we’re coming to the more pressing and embarrassing part of Mohler’s iconophilia as it becomes impossible to deny.
“I did not know of the depth of Governor Brown’s role in the convict labor system, though I did know of his role in the Confederacy.”
I’m not sure which is worse. Southern Americans fighting for their right to own black people as a whole and continue to treat them and their children for generations to come as subhuman slaves, as chattel, like dung in the field, as women to rape and impregnate, and then enslave their offspring OR, as the greater evil in Mohler’s eyes, that post Civil War confederate degenerates would reimprison the negro population and force them to slave away on coal mines.
God damn it, Mohler!
Yes, it enrages me because he selects an evil that was perpetuated for hundreds of years as a lesser evil. He knew of Brown’s affiliation with the Confederacy but opted to shove that valuable piece of damnable information down the drain? And only thought of denouncing, albeit, very kindly, Brown’s participation in a new form of slavery? The question then becomes when did Mohler find out about Brown’s more nefarious sin? That is if being a Confederate was wrong in Mohler’s mind, to begin with?
Progressing now to Mohler’s humble request:
“There is a distinction between telling the history and honoring a name. With pain, I do advise the Board that in my view this name is problematic.”
Joseph E. Brown is the problem within the halls of seminary leaders, professors, and founding members who owned slaves. Just Brown?
SBTS Board of Trustees Vote Unanimously to Keep the Names Alive
I should have guessed that this would be the result of a Seminary whose very inception and fruition came about under the auspices of leaders who lived and were also willing to die for the industry of chattel slavery.
Mohler then turns his attention from the Board of Trustees to the members of the Southern Baptist Convention and students, faculty, and alumni of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in a different article.
“In the light of the burdens of history, some schools hasten to remove names, announce plans, and declare moral superiority. That is not what I intend to do, nor do I believe that to be what the Southern Baptist Convention or our Board of Trustees would have us to do.”
This unanimous vote took place late in the year 2020. I want to inform the reader if you’re still with me at this point, what the makeup of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Board of Trustees looked like that year.
Now read the demographic makeup of the same group. Mind you, out of the 41 listed state, local, and at-large members of the board, four of them could not be determined to be either white or black. What I could determine is listed below.
In view of this demographic I need you to ask yourself this: Was this vote fair?
2019 data pulled from the seminary’s website concerning the demographic makeup of its school is shocking to the uninitiated but to those who understand its history, it is just another day in the deep south.
In 2019, out of the 3,478 students enrolled in the school, only 135 are black.
Here is a more in-depth excerpt, again from their website.
“The enrolled student population at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is 77% White, 3.82% Asian, 3.26% Black or African American, 2.37% Hispanic or Latino, 0.266% American Indian or Alaska Native, 0.193% Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islanders, and 0.0483% Two or More Races. This includes both full-time and part-time students as well as graduate and undergraduates. By comparison, enrollment for all Special Focus Institutions is 44.8% White, 15.6% Hispanic or Latino, and 14.5% Black or African American.”
By their comparison, they’re willing to admit that there are more black people willing to die for the country than there are willing to enroll with their seminary.
Imagine if students had to vote over the Board of Trustees? Imagine if 100% of the black student body and 100% of the black presence within the Board of Trustees voted in favor of removing the names, statues, busts, and halls named after these confederates, slave owners, prison-for-profit promoters, even then it would not have mattered because the grand majority, the overwhelming majority of the school, staff, faculty, leadership, and board are all white.
Not only does the school lack awareness and empathy for the brokenhearted members in their midst but they lack the awareness of their overwhelming majority and how that sway is working against their fiber within Christendom.
Listen. Let me write it down plainly.
White Southern Baptists, in the word of the aforementioned historians, “The denomination that established it spoke distinctly in support of the morality of slaveholding and the justness of the Confederate effort to preserve it.”
And in 2020, an overwhelmingly white Southern Baptist Board of Trustees voted to retain the names, statues, busts, and halls named after these individuals?
Would it not be better to wipe the institution of everything pertaining to this horrific past and relegate it to a museum, as Germany did after the war with its Nazi past?
What is the point of leaving it all out in the air for all to see? For Neo-Confederates to boast about? For Neo-Nazis to glamour over? For Southern racists to find shelter within?
Because the black voices, and the white ones that have joined their cause, are calling for change but none, other than $5,000,000 thrown at blacks for a couple of years and the removal of Joseph Brown’s name from a seat that possibly should have never existed in the first place are given as righteous steps of restitution by leadership.
The voices have made their claim, their complaint, and yet, Mohler, the Board of Trustees, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and the Southern Baptist Convention have turned a blind eye to these voices?
Mohler began his letter titled The Burden of History & The Blessing of Heritage with a small passage from Deuteronomy. I’ll quote it again.
“And I prayed to the Lord, ‘O Lord God, do not destroy
Your people and your heritage, whom you have redeemed through your
greatness, whom you brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand.’”
And he finished his letter with these words:
“The burden of history and the blessing of heritage are our responsibility now. This is the duty of the living, the stewardship of the present moment. Other sincere and faithful believers might well make other decisions in fulfillment of this stewardship. We respect that fact and respect those faithful believers who may have decided the issues otherwise. I pray that our Lord will find us all faithful as we serve The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in these crucial days.”
R. Albert Mohler Jr., President
I began my post with a passage from Deuteronomy as well:
“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. […] So you shall purge the evil (one) from your midst.” Deuteronomy 13:1-5b ESV
And these are my final words.
Mohler, SBTS, SBC, and any other institution that waves the banner of Christianity, there is no heritage sacred or holy enough worth holding on to that matches the worth and value of our shared movement in and for Christ Jesus. This world and our traditions are worth dismissing and destroying a million times over so that the face of Christ shines through them. The people and heritage Moses spoke about were the Jews of antiquity, whose posterity is still walking this earth, to this day, because of God’s covenant with them. I’m certain Moses did not mean Americans, nevertheless Southern Americans, or the racist chattel slavery promoting heritage that some so proudly idolized in the past and still do today through the existence of your institution. It is easier to remove a commandment from the law of God than it is to distance Southern Baptists from their southern heritage of racism, hate, and evil.
And let it be known that if any man or woman arises among us and gives us signs, teachings, theologies, seminars, instructions, motives, and blessings, and all of these to our benefit and maturation in Christ, and should the same person ask that we go after other gods, say, those of racism, slavery, the Confederacy, Reconstruction Era prison-for-profit industries, Jim Crow, and beyond, do not follow them because God has sent them to test our hearts, to see if we truly love Him. Our duty, as per Moses and God’s instruction, is to purge the evil, and the evil ones, from our midst.
So, my Southern Baptist brothers and sisters, the time has come for you to purge the idols from your midst.
I’ll leave you with the enigmatic words of the German poet Marteria, from his work titled Elfenbein:
A window into my experience within Christian fundamentalism…
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:32
“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” – 1 Peter 2:16
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” – Galatians 5:13
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:35
I have always been one to question authority. One to question why suits and ties were a requirement for Sunday night worship services. Why was there a need for women to wear such long skirts? We were allowed to grow a mustache, not me, of course, because I was a child. But the men in the church were allowed to grow a mustache, but the moment they displayed a scruff that hugged their once shiny cheeks they were considered unsuitable for service. An embarrassment, really to the local body of believers.
Women who wore too much makeup were likened to sex workers and if their skirts weren’t long enough they would be asked to step down from their ministerial position for the day and return once they acquire some form of self-respect.
I remember my father telling me that he was relegated to church disciplinary action because he played his trumpet bluesy passion and a jazz induced melody, thus making church music sound like worldly music. Jazz. Jazz or anything close to it was considered worldly.
At one time, drum sets were cylindrical instruments of devil worship where every tap or bang would incur the presence of Satan in the church. So no jazz or drums allowed.
Movie theaters were out of the question as well. If one were caught attending a movie screening, no matter how innocuous or informative the film was, that person would be added to the discipline log, removed from ministerial duties, benched; which was evident to all and quite the shameful practice, and castigated, albeit passive-aggressively, by the minister the following Sunday as an example of poor Christian living standards and witness.
These minor infractions, minor now, were tantamount then, and if one were to accumulate enough of them at the time or challenge the authenticity of their weight and purpose, the individual and challenger would face ex-communication from the body of believers.
For the uninitiated, I must advise, that once someone is excommunicated from the local church community they are then considered absolutely depraved, a lost cause, and socially deceased. Anyone caught interacting with them outside of the church, whilst their excommunicated status was active, would be chastised and possibly added to the disciplinary list as well.
There was no winning. The shunned and shamed individual who may have at one point in time challenged the authority, the “god-in-church” persona, the minister and his caste, would have to return to the church and face further public humiliation as one who had “come to their senses” and acknowledge their wasteful thinking and combative nature as counter-god and counter-church.
I can list the ways people were treated when they left our churches or denominations to join other ones. If they exited our particular denomination, a large Pentecostal denomination in the Brazilian south-east, they were considered lost. By lost, I mean that person had forfeited their salvation by leaving our particular denomination. If they joined a Baptist denomination they were guilty of abandoning the holy spirit. If they joined a Methodist movement, they were considered depraved. If they joined the Catholic church they had apostatized and abandoned their faith. If they joined another Pentecostal denomination they were ostracized as spiritists whose subservience landed at the feet of the devil. With us they served God but with another denomination, they served the devil.
With us, they spoke in tongues but with that other church, they spoke for evil spirits. With us they sang and worshiped but with that other church, they offered sacrifices to demons. With us, they tithed unto the kingdom of God, a mandatory requirement of church membership, by the way, but if tithes or offerings were given elsewhere, the person was a thief, a crook, an embezzler, and their accounting practices and endeavors would eventually be audited by the local clergy treasury.
And you would expect an hour-long sermon on the virtues of tithing for the glory of God; and the fattening of the minister and his wallet.
If one announced their intellectual prowess with us they were considered gifted, but if their vision was expounded in a reformed church then that person was considered illiterate and anti-intellectual. Cerebral was a pejorative term used to deride and reduce thinkers who had left us for other churches. Thinkers who had abandoned the heart of God for the mind of man. Thinkers were bad.
Any challenge made to these norms, or rather, these edicts pronounced and deified by the local body of believers, was considered an affront to God, and not the local leadership. These ministers and presbyters had, by unwritten rules and unchecked power, become gods.
This religious upbring had such an effect on me that I can recall visiting a local baptist church, later in life, after I had been baptized, etcetera, anyhow, I visited a Baptist church and once the Lord’s supper was going around I denied the wafer and the cup. I took pride in this denial. My friends, the ones who had invited me to attend this baptist church with them took notice of my dejection of the cup and bread. They noticed this because they knew, well enough, that I was a person of faith and very much interested in the things of the Bible. After this service one of them approached me, curious as to what my motivation was for rejecting the Lord’s supper among brothers and sisters of the same tradition, so to speak. My response came in almost supercilious bellicosity, “Our church doesn’t consider your church’s supper holy or right, so I’m willfully abstaining from it. I won’t partake in your spiritless worship practices.”
That was me. A young fundamentalist in the making. Matter of fact, possibly a fundamentalist in maturation. Fundamentalism had been instilled in me from birth, and in my parents before me from their birth and their grandparents, and so on. But what has changed?
Ha. Well, a lot. Like, a whole lot, thank God for these changes. But today I want to give you a perspective on what fundamentalism is, why it spread, where it spread fastest, and how dangerous it is to the body of Christ and the church.
I will outright condemn fundamentalism and say that I have grown more in faith, grace, and knowledge of my Lord Jesus Christ apart from fundamentalism than I could ever have in it.
Before progressing onto the breakdown of fundamentalism, I want to inform the readers on who coined the term or perhaps pushed it into the spotlight for further consideration. Understanding the fundamentals of something is actually a practical and possibly life-saving effort. Understanding the fundamentals of civil engineering, medicine, and physics is effective in helping us understand our world. But the moment something becomes an end in and of itself, it distorts the world around it. Adding an -ism to a word helps us understand the concept, but it changes the meaning of that word.
I’m a human being who promotes humanitarian efforts but I would not find comfort in humanism. I believe observational science is crucial to our understanding of biology and other sciences to better understand our world but I’m not a strident follower of Scientism. So, with fundamentals, general or specific, we can all agree that they’re essential to our understanding of concepts, basics, foundations, and well, fundamentals.
In 1920, Baptist minister Curtis Lee Laws’ “definition of fundamentalism was deliberately broad, not divisively narrow. It required neither inerrancy nor dispensationalism-the growing shibboleths of anti-modernists. Fundamentalism, for Laws, was essentially an attempt to reaffirm theological orthodoxy and promote biblical Christianity.”
In Themelios, an online journal for students of theology and bible studies, Kevin T. Bauder reviews the book, Fundamentalism, written by Fisher Humphrys and Philip Wise. In this book review, Kevin breaks down the catalysts for a fundamentalist origin in the United States of America. He states (emphasis and notes added by me):
Fundamentalism is a tradition that reacts against modernity
They believe their faith and community are (constantly) under attack
They demonize their opponents
Follow authoritarian males
Idealize (idolize also) the past (they’re staunch traditionalists)
They draw careful boundaries to separate insiders from outsiders
They seek to control their society
He further states the reasons for the amplification of fundamentalist sentiments within the evangelical world as a reaction to modernity and change. Their militancy was spawned by a set of cultural, societal, and religious shift, such as:
Lost of cultural hegemony, control, and influence
And many prominent fundamentalist leaders ascended to power and influence over time. Kevin T. Bauder breaks this movement hyper-influential and vocal leaders into three phases:
In phase one, according to Kevin T. Bauder, we find:
Cultural discontent in the 1920s allowed for J. Gresham Machen, Bob Jones, and John R. Rice to lead the battle cry against modernity.
In phase two:
Rebranding via Evangelistic Outreach in the 1940s introduced the world to the renowned evangelist, Billy Graham. (Graham would later split from fundamentalists and consider himself an evangelical, instead. The term neo-evangelical or neo-orthodox was used pejoratively against Graham by Bob Jones and his contemporaries because Graham preferred a more ecumenical approach to evangelism and activism, whereas fundamentalists thrived from schisms.)
In phase three, which began in the 1970s, we are introduced to Fundamentalism Empowered and Politicized under the likes of strident evangelicals, as fundamentalists adapted and diluted their public animosity to retain and maintain political power, in hopes of recapturing cultural hegemony. This third wave of fundamentalism has found ground and weight in American conservatism, where it has become the new Right, or say, the silent moral majority.
Justin Taylor, executive vice president of book publishing and publisher for Crossway, and blogger for The Gospel Coalition identified four stages of fundamentalism from the late 1890s to now. He separates fundamentalism into four phases.
Irenic Phase (1893 – 1919)
Militant Phase (1920 – 1936)
Divisive Phase (1941 – 1960)
Separatist Phase (1960 to present times)
Irenic Phase (1893 – 1919)
One can imagine a Christian collective of higher thought and critique coming together in publications to better understand the modernization of theology in the backdrop of German, Dutch, and French enlightenment periods. The church was aware of how modernity was seeping into theology, interpretation of biblical texts, and the understanding or perhaps misunderstanding of the supernatural, and here a body of believers saw it fit to challenge these ideas. There was a mutual understanding among believers of varied denominations that a modernist approach to biblical texts, without a hermeneutical context and a healthy philosophy regarding God and people, would lead the church to a broken understanding of revelation and humanity.
Hostility toward anything from Germany because of the war led believers to quiver and recoil from anything Germanic in nature, be it German theology, German philosophy, and even German citizens. Nativist arguments coiled with post-war sentiments led to an all high disenfranchisement from all things German, especially German liberal theology.
So what began as a peaceful group effort to counter changing winds of doctrine and interpretation scripture would lead to a more sinister and possibly hostile environment for thought in later times.
Militant Phase (1920 – 1936)
Where we found a collective and peaceful higher thought approach to the challenge of modernity in the irenic phase of fundamentalism, here, however, we find a militancy from clergy, a struggle of sorts, to combat the changing tides of theological and cultural acceptance. Open evangelical sentiments died at the birth of militant fundamentalism, Taylor states.
Fundamentalists went on the advance against modernity by forming organizations and associations through which they could voice their disfavor, per se, of cultural modernity. Finger-pointing, name-calling, and dissociative sentiments began to flourish in circles where at one point one could find healthy and wholesome fraternization and openness of thought.
Whoever did not outright oppose modernity, German, Dutch, and French liberal theology, were not only deemed unfit for leadership but were also threatened with denominational abandonment. The “us vs them” mindset gained traction under militant fundamentalism that is still very much seen and experienced today.
Antagonism was the conventional method fundamentalists used to distinguish themselves from their more peaceable forerunners and to this day the world takes notice of this behavioral shift and the embarrassing ramifications thereof.
Divisive Phase (1941 – 1960)
So we see fundamentalism progress from an ecumenical endeavor to a militant name-calling bellicose front, and into an ugly schismatic feudalistic entity. The American Council of Christian Churches (A.C.C.C.) is formed to counter and condemn the modernity of the National Association of Evangelicals (N.A.E.) and vice versa. Each condemned the other of being more neo-evangelical (pejorative used to diminish the zeal of less combative and antagonistic compromising fundamentalists who ‘capitulated to cultural modernity’).
Later, an international arm of the A.C.C.C. would concretize the fundamentals of fundamentalism so as not to be grouped with what they deemed liberal and sacrilegious denominations that had sold their souls to the pagan gods of the modern age. The agreed-upon tenets of this new and larger organization, the International Council of Christian Churches (I.C.C.C.) were:
A belief in the fundamentals of the faith (inerrancy of scripture, virgin birth, miracles, the deity of Christ, substitutionary atonement, and the second advent of Christ)
A separatist impulse
A commitment to soul-winning (or conversionism)
A militant attitude toward liberalism
Neo-evangelicalism, later simplified as evangelicalism, would be adopted by the likes of Billy Graham and Charles Templeton as they prized the term to differentiate their branch of Christianity from fundamentalism.
The tenets of neo-evangelicalism were accepted and publicly shared like this:
The holiness of God
A revealing God
A creating, supernatural God
Man, created in God’s image
The sinfulness of man
The love of God
The death of Christ (crucifixion)
The new birth (born again)
Social action (civil rights and economic equity)
Return of Christ
Fundamentalism under the Divisive Phaseshared all of these tenets with neo-evangelicalism, except, and unsurprisingly, the socially active arm of this lineage. Fundamentalists would later criticize Billy Graham and his contemporaries for joining forces with the likes of the minister and activist Martin Luther King Jr. because the evangelical effort lost its way by focusing on social efforts instead of gospel efforts. To them, the racial integration of the church and the zeal for justice through gospel preaching and local ecumenical work was a liberal and modernist ploy to disintegrate the church. Graham gladly dissociated himself from his fundamentalist roots to become the accepted American archetype of evangelicalism.
Separatist Phase (the 1960s to present day)
This last front of fundamentalism is where much of my church family rose to prominence within the community and is still very much at work in our time. It is here that we find the rise of the sexual revolution, second-wave feminism, and civil rights activism at the helm of popular culture. As we have seen the fundamentalist church, at first, peacefully critique these sudden cultural shifts, then take a militant stance towards modernity within, later create schisms within, and now, in its final form, it creates an ugly schism between the church, private life, and public life, outside the church. Fundamentalist leaders were not content in creating subgroups and sub-denominations within Christianity, they wanted to separate Christianity from the culture altogether.
It is under the power and influence of the Separatist Phase of fundamentalism that we find a drastic shift in how congregants are controlled, isolated, indoctrinated, and set off to radicalize the world with militant, jihad-like, preaching. Ever heard a “hell-fire and brimstone” sermon? You’ve got a fundamentalist to thank for them.
In this final phase, we see legalistic tendencies take deeper roots within the church so as to separate the church, in aesthetics, from the world. As Taylor states, anyone who wore sideburns, long hair, beards, flare-bottom pants, boots, wire-rimmed glasses, or silk skirts were considered liberals and modernists bent on destroying the fundamentals of the church. Therefore, an extreme effort was undertaken by the male-led authoritarian ministers’ caste to shame, denounce, vilify, and destroy people into submission to modes and methods to separate the church from the world.
Behavior codes, regulations, personal grooming, fashion, music sense, instrument choice, genre, and unwritten rules became doctrines.
What a nightmare.
Ecclesiastical institutions and agencies were built by, funded by, and run by charismatic evangelical tyrants who wanted to maintain the fabric of their dominance and hegemony over uneducated and at times frightened adherents by sending them to schools and colleges that mirrored their newer doctrines. Everything that would mirror curriculum, mannerisms, attitudes, and the teachings of fundamentalist churches.
Fundamentalists would send their children to institutions they deemed godly, orthodox, and anti-liberal like these:
Bob Jones University
Clearwater Christian College
Maranatha Baptist Bible College
Pillsbury Baptist Bible College
And would condemn any of their congregants who dared attend the modernist, liberal, and ungodly evangelical and accredited institutions listed below:
Moody Bible Institute
Columbia Bible College
The goal of Separatist Fundamentalists was to maintain control of their adherents’ sex lives, worship lives, family rules, dress codes, upbringing, denominational choices, or lack thereof, intellectual make-up, spousal and conjugal choices, and intellectual opportunities and intellectual affinity.
Fundamentalists wanted to control a person from birth through childhood, adolescence, youth, marriage, collegiate phase, ministry in adulthood, and death. Their effort was to separate the believer from the guiles and chains of modernism and theological liberalism at all costs.
Fundamentalism, the devil’s highway into the church.
A cult, really.
Justin Taylor informs us that fundamentalism is neither static nor monolithic. It has changed from the 1890s to this day and chances are it may change again. It progressed from irenic and honorable efforts to militancy, to schisms, and so far, it rests or perhaps is resting for a greater effort under the separatist banner to become something more sinister and domineering.
(Handmaid’s Tale, anyone?)
Today, fundamentalists take pride in their avid extremes, but what they fail to see is that their fanaticism is cultic and their understanding of Christ, the gospel, and Christianity is skewed. The lens through which they view reality is blurred, dirty, and only understood, rather, misconstrued by American exceptionalism.
Even though I grew up in a Brazilian watered-down version of fundamentalism, at least there, we were allowed to read, though it took time for this allowance, works of great thinkers we disagreed with.
This liberty along with my parents’ nagging that we should invest our minds into the arts, literature, diversity, and more, assisted us in breaking free from the fundamentalist mold.
One of the more pivotally enlightening works of history that I have managed to get my hands on and consume is Mark A. Noll’s book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (for more, read my review of Mark’s book here). Mark, a historian by trade, is a Christian leader who delved into the timeline of intellectual deterioration within the church. He found that in evangelical turned fundamentalist turned evangelical fanatical circles, the pursuit of reactionary militancy toward modernity instead of a wholesome understanding of theology with its sister studies, philosophy, and observational science, led the Christian church back into the dark ages of intellectual immaturity and superstition.
I was glad to find and pinpoint where exactly my ecclesiological upbringing went wrong and why. This brought me peace, not fear because I always knew there was more to Jesus than dress codes, condemnation of tattoos, shunning of theaters, alcohol, science fiction novels, soccer, games, sports, women in pants, men with facial hair, and underdressed church attendees.
I’m sure Jesus wore a long dress, as was the custom for men to wear in his time. He may have had long hair and possibly a beard. The bible tells us soldiers would beat him and rip his beard with their bare hands. Telling. Jesus reached out to sinners. He forgave them. He condemned legalists and authoritarian men who willed people into submission and positions that they could not live in themselves. Jesus was a thinker, a reader, and a genius. His disciples and apostles would later pen letters that would be paragons of revelatory literature for centuries. Styles and forms that many attempted to replicate but failed miserably.
Jesus was, is, and will continue to be God, whereas we are just men and women.
I look back to the ways I treated people who disagreed with me and my ecclesiological makeup; how I condemned them, brought them shame, and found pride in how I was able to dismantle their liberalism.
Little did I know I was in fact a slave to a disease called fundamentalism.
I believe Jesus has healed me of it. Remnants of it remain within me still, at times trying and failing to regain control of my ardent faith and pursuit of Christ. But thanks be to God who calls me to kill my flesh, daily, and to pick up my cross and carry it, daily.
I find more comfort in listening to people I disagree with. Not to say that I listen to anyone who has something to say just because they’re angry or want to pick a fight. These people want nothing more than to create discord and schisms.
I’m not looking for that. Not within the church anymore. And less so outside the church.
I’ve progressed, or at least I hope I am progressing from this elementary schoolyard bully tactics mentality of mob rule and us vs them methods. I understand the body of Christ is diverse, rich in its diversity, allowing for groups of all sorts to accomplish the great commission on earth in its varied ways. The gospel, I have come to understand and accept and share, is centered on Christ’s efficacious and salvific work on the cross, but if it stops with individual conversion, not allowing me to focus on the wellbeing of my neighbor because he or she is not, say, Christian, then my understanding of the gospel is marred.
I admit, however, that my theology is still very much conservative, more so, orthodox than anything.
I very much believe in the Five Solas of Protestantism. My faith is held together…
By Scripture alone
By Faith alone
By Grace alone
In Christ alone
And all Glory is to God alone
And according to historian David Bebbington, I am very much an evangelical, because according to his observation, I too believe in biblicism, crucicentrism, conversionism, and activism. My faith focuses on the revealed word of God, the focal point of the bible which is the cross of Christ, on the great commission given to us by Christ, and finally, on wholesome activism that feeds both the soul and the body. Activism that liberates and severs the chains of bondage. That challenges corrupt systems that were set up to disadvantage one race, one people, one entire continent for the benefit of another. I stand, by the grace of Christ, to deliver this beautiful message of salvation, forgiveness, redemption, and hope beyond the grave, but whilst here, I also preach to condemn the actions of a fallen government and stand to represent the voiceless and the vulnerable.
But that is the definition by which I am considered an evangelical. For if we compare the moniker with what evangelicalism represents in the United States today, which is nothing more than a more accepted version of fundamentalism turned into a political force for the conservative Right, then no, I despise that form of evangelicalism the same way I disdain the fundamentalism I was raised in.
Historian David Bebbington continues, explaining to us what evangelicalism becomes when it is removed from its healthy theological sphere and reduced to a mere arm of fundamentalist political force: Christian nationalism, Christian tribalism, political moralism, and anti-statism.
A horrifying state religion.
If there is any consolation, be made aware that Christ’s heart is gentle and lowly and He is a forgiving God who erases our mistakes, our pride, our stupidity, and arrogance. He removes from us a heart of stone, of fundamentalist stone, and replaces it with a heart of flesh in which His Spirit can find a dwelling.
What a beautiful Jesus. Thank you, Jesus.
I’ve made it out, by the grace of God, and I believe you can too if you’re still there. I believe you can, too.
Questions to consider
According to this blog post, do you believe you were raised in a fundamentalist church? If so, are you still there? If yes, why?
Has your belief separated and isolated you? Are you able to question local church authority when you notice their many moral failings?
What modes or unwritten rules were you subjected to in your church? Say, long skirts, suits, no alcohol, no theater or sports?
Does your faith leave you riddled by guilt, shame, and fear of the after-life? Could it be that you have yet to meet Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins?
WARNING: This is a political, cultural, and religious post. Read at your own discretion.
*This mini-diatribe was written as a result of my watching avideo of American attorney, political commentator, and author, David French commenting on the state of American evangelical hypocrisy in voting for a candidate who not only misrepresents godly biblical character but tarnishes the name of Christ with impunity.*
Please watch his video for context.
David French, a voice of reason in the wilderness of our politically convoluted and criminally divisive culture extends an admonishment, a corrective response to Christians who willfully condemned moral failure in public office in 1998 but have soiled their witness in 2016 and will do so again in 2020 for a bowl of porridge.
The preservation of life and religious liberty notes are important factors but it is ludicrous to think one man and a few Supreme Court justices will reverse the tide of our times.
Christians, no, allow me to correct that moniker, otherwise, I sully the name of Christ.
White evangelicals within the United States have lost their witness to the world by voting for a vile and abusive bully who paid a porn star hush money to keep his affair a secret. This man is an incendiary dumpster fire of lies and for evangelicals to cast their hopes and dreams on his ballot is not only sacrilegious but in line with the religion of the people who vote him in.
Spoiler, it isn’t Christianity Proper.
Like the Christians of old who would praise God from high steeples come Sunday and later, on the same day, whip the backs of their slaves till the flesh was visible, are these evangelicals today?
Like the Christians of old who elected a chancellor into authoritarian rule over Germany in the name of national prosperity and ethnic preservation are these evangelicals who have sold their integrity for a bowl of capitalist comfort and peace porridge.
Whereas character superseded policy in 1998, today, policy supersedes character.
The days are gone, and perhaps this is a good thing, where people would approach an evangelical for honest work, integral judgment, transparent accounting, honorable effort, respectable circles of influence, meek and kind character, upstanding citizenry, patriotism that didn’t denounce or diminish foreigners, Christlike love of all men, women, and children, legal or illegal, law-abiding and preservers of the peace and moral framework of the society local and society as a whole.
Gone are those days.
Gone are the days where evangelicals could pull together, hold hands, and cross elbows to march against injustice everywhere. Where they would cross a bridge only to be met with batons and maul-ready police dogs. Where they would sit-in in silent protest against wrongs. Where they would decry injustice and discriminatory policies, politicians, statesmen, and ministers everywhere.
Gone is the evangelical witness because they have elected and look forward to re-electing a man who represents nothing of the Christ they so oft speak so kindly of.
If anyone were to ask where my allegiance on this political sphere lay I would tell them on neither of the candidates. I’m not condoning a world where I must accept one of two evils when I am in fact accepting an evil and am comfortable with that.
The difference is that in 2016 Trump was seen as a lesser of two evils by evangelicals and in a mere three, almost four years, he is a saint, a miracle worker, a pious, God-fearing, Christ-loving, bible holding a white man who wants nothing more than to bring Gods reign to earth.
How little is required for us to sell our soul in the name of policy?
Curious if Hitler were resurrected, forced onto a three-legged stool and forced to recite, “Pro-life and religious liberty!” If evangelicals would accept him.
I’m sure they would. “He has changed,” they say. “He’s for God and country now. He has my vote.”
If Pol Pot, Stalin, Idi Amin, Mussolini, or Castro were to stand on the plains of American evangelicalism and cite the same empty, pointless, and cyclical notes of modern-day evangelicals I am, without a shadow of a doubt, and to my great exasperation, ashamed to admit that white evangelicals would emphatically vote any if not all of them into an office and keep them there and maintain power and control of American politics until Christ’s return.
No wonder Christ, Himself, asked of his disciples, “When the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on earth?”
He will. But not faith in Him. Faith will be on a politician who is a new messiah for American evangelicals.
All in all, the defense of Trumpism in evangelical circles today is just as embarrassing as Christians defending their right to own slaves in the antebellum south.
Anti-intellectualism is alive and well within evangelical America and it shows by how and who they vote for.
“Historian David Bebbington’s influential four-part description of evangelical essentials (the ‘Bebbington Quadrilateral’) tilts toward the theological – biblicism, crucicentrism, conversionism, and activism in spreading the first three. But separate from theology, American white evangelical Christianity has a political character that also boils down to four essential elements – Christian nationalism, Christian tribalism, political moralism, and antistatism. Call this the white evangelical political quadrilateral.”
Christians in America and it would seem also in Canada, need to distance themselves from the “either/or” fallacy of either conservatism or liberalism mindset.
The virulent and counter-productive dogma that has permeated through the western church is that all things “conservative” are Christian-based and all things “liberal” are essentially evil. This manner of thinking is incontemptible with healthy analytical reasoning. The opposite is just as damnable.
For the unbeliever, he must see us, followers of Christ, as people who transcend borders, policies, governments, and political ideologies to demonstrate the redemptive and regenerative work of Jesus Christ on earth.
We are to be representatives of God’s Son. People who seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly before their God. People who love God with all of their heart, mind, and soul and love their neighbor as much as they love themselves.
When Christianity is prey to nationalism, tribalism, political party lines, and other “isms” that diminish the person of Christ only to elevate local, federal, national ideals, it is no longer Christianity. It becomes a pseudo-theocratic institution where politicians perform the assignments of priests, political parties become religious institutions and the president becomes their prophet. And time allowing, by the power, respect, and praise ascribed to that individual leader, he or she then becomes the god and savior of that theo-political-religious identity.
Lest we forget, it was prophet Jeremiah who attempted, time and again, to turn a wayward people from their destructive ways and their response was: ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.’
They believed God would never destroy their most holy temple and city, no matter how evil they became because they had a sacred institution to fall back on. Thus enter Nebuchadnezzar. God help us if we fall prey to the same mindset and say, “This is America! This is America! This is America!”