By Nate Labadorf
I want to say, thank you for your response to my earlier post. I certainly have benefited from the feedback I’ve received. I felt it might be necessary to add a few points that may easy some tensions.
First, why do I bring up segregation and racism so much? Do I think all rightwingers are racists? Do I think BJU is currently racist? The answer to these last two questions is no. Most rightwingers are not racist according to the old definition of racism. BJU has changed a lot since the 80s and 90s on this point. And they have denounced there previous racist status. So why bring it up? First, it is one of the areas between sociology and theology where I have done a fare bit of reading and research. Thus, it is one of the few areas I feel comfortable discussing. Second, the research that I did opened my eyes for the first time about how closely tied right-wing politics is to evangelicalism and fundamentalism. Did this unholy marriage start with segregation? No. Christ chided his own disciples about bringing worldly politics into his kingdom. And since Christ left the earth, we Christians have had a terrible time separating the two. So, this brings up my third reason, it is a recent example of how my particular niche of Christianity has failed in this regard. Reviewing the past and its theological arguments will help us become aware of the issues that we propagate today. I don’t intended blast everyone with the charge of racism. I rather desire to bring up an uncomfortable event that we need to examine in order to make better decisions now. If I had the time, I’d write a book on the subject. But this book will probably fall into my imaginary pile of books that I will never write.
Second, am I rejecting the doctrine of the church and rebuild everything? Also, no. Currently, my doctrinal positions on things haven’t changed much. Here is my poorly written doctrinal statement which I still hold too.
I don’t see the point of redoing all of Christianity and by and large hold to the traditional teachings of the church. I’ve wrestled through many of these doctrines in Masters and Doctoral level course work and have not found any particularly good reasons to reject these doctrinal positions. I reserve to right to update these things as I study Scripture more, but in general I intended to follow them.
Third, are politics the only reason I disagree with fundamentalism? No. I have others. Politics happens to be on the forefront of my mind these days. Another reason is that opinions on standards have been set at the level of Scripture. Alcohol, music, dress, worship, etc. have been pounded into my head from the earliest days of my life. Yet, when the arguments are laid out and the Scriptures is introduced, there is a surprising lack of support found in the Scriptures. Another reason is the narrative that fundamentalism is God’s last hope for a righteous people. I don’t think this overtly taught as much as it is implied. We talk about how churches across America are falling to the world. When, in reality, there are many strong and weak churches everywhere. We tell ourselves that if people really cared and studied the Bible as much as we do, then they would come up with the same positions as us. I’m not sure this is the case. This idea has led to, in some cases, an level of pride that I cannot stand by. Another reason is the anti-intellectualism that has become the norm. There is an inherent distrust of all critics. We are told to separate the sheep (scholars that agree with us) from the goats (critics who disagree with us). The reality is that we must have a level of discernment. The world is not black and white like that. Everyone is a mixture of truth and error. And many secular Bible scholars are great at exegesis. We do need to learn how to sift truth from error. But not in a way that simply labels them as good or bad as complete packages.
Finally, this journey is a personal matter. I don’t know if I have good reasons for everything. I have some good reasons for some statements, but not for others. I share my thoughts here as a way of working through some of these issues. I am well aware that many people are leaving fundamentalism for similar reasons. And I appreciate the feedback that I’ve been given as other people struggle though the same things as well. It’s a journey that I’m not sure I’ll end. But maybe we’ll all get a little closer to the truth.