Image via Vanity Fair

Turns out, I have much more in common with Katy Perry than I’m willing to admit. We both grew up in borderline fundamentalist “born-again” churches, never read any books other than the Bible as children, weren’t really supposed to listen to secular music, and we’ve both appeared near-naked on the cover of Vanity Fair.

Well, three out of four ain’t bad.

I was struck by these similarities this morning in light of the long and laborious comment chain on Sessions’ post from yesterday. Somehow, his assertion that nonpartisan language is actually hurting those with strong, liberal views turned into a close reading of David’s life and the motivations behind the change in his political views over the years.

Though I will continue to insist that the comment section of a blog is not the place to speculate about a writer’s personal life, some truth was brought to light in the midst of that exercise. Namely, when it comes to the politics and philosophy of any of us who call ourselves post-evangelical, personal biography is an important factor. Just as it is impossible to define postmodernism without an understanding of what modernism wrought, so too is it difficult to understand a post-evangelical perspective without understanding how growing up in fundamentalist Christian communities affects one’s eventual outlook on life.

What’s interesting, but not totally surprising, is the multitude of resultant lifestyles that a fundamentalist upbringing can lead to. The way I see it, you can remain in the cage of your rigid beliefs or reject them altogether. You can be like me, and spend the rest of your life wrestling with them, or, I suppose, you can set your beliefs aside for the time being and become famous by singing about kissing a girl.

Fear not young fundy friends, the world is your oyster.

About The Author

Jonathan D. Fitzgerald

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0 Responses to The Infinite Futures of a Fundamentalist Upbringing

  1. JMJ says:

    The wrestling is one of the many reasons that I come here.

    I personally am very comfortable in my “fundamentalism”, I suspect that I am not unlike many in my demographic (cynical evangelical): Inherently orthodox in my doctrine, but irreverently cynical of the accompanying culture, expected behavio(u)rs and party-lines.

    Go ahead, wrestle with your conscience on doctrine, politics, culture or whether or not to accept Vanity Fair’s offer.

    I’ve been a Patrol reader for less than a year. But even I have noticed a gradual decline in the quality of writing in this short time.

    It seems to me that the wrestlings are fewer, and the conclusions greater. Nothing wrong with conclusions, and of couse you can do what you will with your own little corner of the interwebs. But this site (at least to me) is becoming more and more of an “us vs them” site.

    I hope that I’m wrong. I hope that this impression is my own and one that I can overcome. Cause I enjoy being jostled from my own conclusions; I enjoy being challenged to think. But I don’t enjoy being a “them”.

    • Jason says:

      I think the wrestlings are fewer and the conclusions greater because that’s what happens over time. I started out as a conflicted youth who couldn’t reconcile the utter bullshit proceeding from my family church’s pulpit. Then I was an agnostic. Then I was an atheist. Then I was an agnostic. Now I’m an Episcopalian. This happened because I attended a local parish and literally exclaimed to my (now) wife, “Oh. My. God. Sane Christians. I didn’t think they existed.” I started out wrestling, drew conclusions, and now I can rectify faith and rational ethics. That there was ever a conflict should be a true cause for concern.

  2. Joshua Keel says:

    Yeah, I guess I’ll spend the rest of my life wrestling with my beliefs. I was talking with some friends the other day and was joking that “I think Bob Jones made me a liberal”. Not that I’m really a liberal. I’m not sure what I am anymore. But I think going to a fundamentalist university really shaped me. I think it gave me more understanding of and compassion for fundamentalists on the one hand, and more hatred of what they stand for on the other. Of course, I’m talking about a very narrow brand of fundamentalism. I probably qualify as a fundamentalist by some standards.

    • Jason says:

      I guess I’m a fundamentalist in that I agree with this every Mass:

      We believe in one God,
      the Father, the Almighty,
      maker of heaven and earth,
      of all that is, seen and unseen.
      We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
      the only Son of God,
      eternally begotten of the Father,
      God from God, Light from Light,
      true God from true God,
      begotten, not made,
      of one Being with the Father.
      Through him all things were made.
      For us and for our salvation
      he came down from heaven:
      by the power of the Holy Spirit
      he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
      and was made man.
      For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
      he suffered death and was buried.
      On the third day he rose again
      in accordance with the Scriptures;
      he ascended into heaven
      and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
      He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
      and his kingdom will have no end.

      We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
      who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
      With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
      He has spoken through the Prophets.
      We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
      We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
      We look for the resurrection of the dead,
      and the life of the world to come. Amen.

      Anything else is NOT fundamental.

  3. Dusty says:

    I completely appreciate how important one’s early-life experiences are, but Christ doesn’t call us to dwell on them. His call is to Truth and grace and peace and service. I spoke wit a missionary from my church recently who has served in Sudan and Ethiopia and he had some very interesting thoughts on the current “post-evangelical” and “social justice” scene in America. His comment was this:

    “People won’t die for the social gospel. People can’t build a worldview strong enough to withstand real, physical persecution from the disgruntled pieces of a broken evangelical childhood. People need Jesus and the unshakable doctrines of the Church.”

    I grew up in suburban, evangelical surroundings. I had my moments of frustration and rebellion earlier in life. But what brought me back to my Savior wasn’t eloquent words or time spent in coffee shops figuring out strategies to love people more or sour grapes about an over-dogmatic upbringing. It was the Gospel. It was the Ten Commandments (not the Chuck Heston movie). It was in-depth bible study and practical application of Scripture to my life. It was also a return to traditional values and ideas about marriage, sexuality, work, vocation, service, the local church, etc.

    Wrestling with ideas and your past is a wonderful exercise, but only if it moves you closer to Christ, His Word, and His Church.

  4. RA Murphy says:

    As someone who was similarly brought up, attended a conservative evangelical school (Liberty), and left to freely pursue the struggle of making sense of life, religion, and modernity, I am right with you. I feel like I have seen so many friends take one of three paths: stay put, foot in foot out, or run like hell towards something completely different. I’m in the middle, clinging to the last verse to really give me comfort: work out your own salvation through fear and trembling. When I am worried that I have fallen way off track, I literally visit the Gospel Coalition website (no offense to them) and remind my self why I am doing this in the first place.

    Anyway, I’m really glad I discovered this site. Its nice to not feel alone.

    Oh yea, good article!

  5. Joe M says:

    “a conflicted youth who couldn’t reconcile the utter bullshit proceeding from my family church’s pulpit. Then I was an agnostic. Then I was an atheist. Then I was an agnostic. Now I’m an Episcopalian.”

    Yes, this seems an accurate picture of PATROLs demographic. Although many would argue that Episcopalians are hardly sane (by Chesterton’s definition, just tasteful. Nothing wrong with the latter, it just isn’t enough.

  6. Randall van der Sterren says:

    Nobody grows up reading only the Bible and no other books. It never happens. Maybe there’s people who did back in the days before modern technology, but they must be long dead. Those who claim this as part of their “Fundy” background are making it up.

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