The Rabid Fundamentalist
John W. Cowart
CAUTION: the material you are about to read was written by a Rabid Fundamentalist.
You have been warned.
Don't stand too close to the cage and no poking through the bars. You can never tell what a fundamentalist Christian is likely to do or say.
Fundamentalist Christians come in all sizes, ages, colors and sexes. They are likely to be found in truck stops, prayer breakfasts, hospital waiting rooms, even churches.
They read Bibles.
Some drive pickup trucks.
The fundamentalist writing this column does not bounce along in a pickup truck. If the others had the prostate trouble I do, they wouldn't either.
The fundamentalist writing this column is a Cadillac-driving adult caucasian male who -- despite having once taken a college course -- actually believes that God created the world in seven 24-hour days, that God once sent bears to eat up 42 juvenile delinquents who sorely deserved eating up, that God once actually destroyed the world except for Noah's family with a flood, that God actually inspired the writers of the Bible, that God really expects people to love each other unconditionally, that God actually raised Jesus from the dead, that Jesus actually will come to earth again, and that the Dallas Cowboys ought to win the Superbowl this year.
OK. I'll grant that maybe the Cowboys will not win the Superbowl.
See, we fundamentalists are not as totally narrow-minded as you may have heard.
You mean you haven't heard about fundamentalists?
Here's the official scoop:
The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual, a sort of mini-bible for the liberal media and other newspaper types, says of the term fundamentalist, "The word gained usage in an early 20th Century fundamentalist-modernist controversy within Protestantism. In recent years, however, fundamentalist has to a large extent taken on pejorative connotations except when applied to groups that stress strict, literal interpretations of Scripture..."
The AP manual commands writers, "Do not use fundamentalist unless a group applies the word to itself."
Well, how about that!
I'll be a dirty word.
That's OK, AP; I forgive you.
See, we fundamentalists are too tolerant of others. Why, I even let my wife keep a vile disgusting cat!
In the house.
She even feeds the thing.
Perhaps, for me, cats are not a great example of fundamentalist broad-minded tolerance. I have diligently searched the Scripture (we fundamentalists do a lot of that) for any verse prohibiting cats. There is none. Must be an oversight on the part of the biblical writers.
OK. I've tipped my hand; maybe there is some foundation to the reputation we fundamentalists have of being a tad less that tolerant.
Well, prejudiced even.
I suppose it is possible for a person to be a God-loving, Bible-believing Christian and still like cats or still cheer for some lesser NFL team than the Dallas Cowboys. Those things appear inconsistent to me. They are hard for me to believe -- but they are possible.
God loves some mighty strange people -- even cat-lovers.
Now that is just my own opinion, you understand. And when it comes to matters of taste and opinion, I try to differentiate between my own opinion and what the Bible says about something.
I do seriously believe that the Bible is literally the Word of God. That's almost a brand on the forehead for us fundamentalists.
The other sign which ought to mark us even stronger than that is a combination of firm standards, love and tolerance.
People who believe that God has revealed absolute standards for us to live by and that tops on that list of commandments is love ... well, such people are likely to be tolerant about the strangest things.
You see, fundamentalist beliefs about God's absolute standards do throw a lot of outsiders off. A Commandment-Giving God does not sound like a fun guy when you first hear about him.
But Jesus said the greatest command is to love God and the second greatest is to love other people and the reason these two top the list is that God himself is love and because he is love, he issued commandments to keep us from getting hurt.
Does that make sense?
Using some of the simpler, less controversial commands first, here's how I think it works:
In the Bible, God says we should not steal. Why? What has he got to lose if I steal something? Does my stealing cause him any damage?
Not a bit. He stays God when I steal... But I become a thief. I'm the one who's hurt. He does not change at all; I do.
Same thing when I kill. Even that act does not harm God, but it makes me into a murderer. When I lie, I become a liar. When I commit adultery, I'm the one who becomes a cheater.
No matter what we do, God stays purer than Ivory Soap suds.
He absolutely commands certain things because he absolutely hates to see us get hurt.
I hope these thoughts put commandment giving into a little different light. It's like this:
If a loving God tells his children not to bathe the cat, It ain't because he's a cat-lover -- It's you he likes.
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