Saturday, May 1

Fundamentalists Anonymous:


Fundamentalists Anonymous: (Believe it or don't)
 

1. I realize that I had turned control of my mind over to another person or group, who had assumed power over my thinking.

The convert to fundamentalist Christianity must be convinced that his/her thinking is irreparably in error. The underlying message is: "You don't believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God because your mind has been occupied by Satan. This has happened principally because you are a human being, but also because you have made the enormous mistake of trying to think for yourself. Of course you think there are contradictions in the Bible because Satan controls your mind. If you surrender your mind to Jesus (actually to me/us/the enlightened flock of believers), you will understand that there are no contradictions in the Bible and that your life should be guided only by the Bible and nothing else. What you cannot now understand, you must take on faith, and more will be revealed to you later. It may not be revealed on this earth, but by accepting Christ as your personal savior and having faith, you will be guaranteed eternity in heaven where everything you never understood will be completely revealed to you."

Curiously, as stated in the definition of addiction above, under ancient Roman law, addiction was grounds for slavery. I found this detail particularly significant because obviously, addicted people are "enslaved" people

Any thinking person reading the Bible will discover dozens, if not hundreds, of contradictions. Moreover, any Bible student who also studies history will discover massive discrepancies regarding which books were chosen to be in the Bible and why. Studying that history reveals that the decision to incorporate certain books and exclude others was primarily a fourth-century political decision intended to strengthen the appeal of Christianity and prevent its demise in the face of Rome's attempts to extinguish the religion.

An excellent analysis of this controversy has been done by religious historian, Elaine Pagels in her book Beyond Belief. She explores the discoveries of the Nag Hammadi Library in Upper Egypt in 1945, which unearthed the existence of numerous gospels eliminated from the final canon of the New Testament. Both Pagels and another Biblical scholar, Marvin Meyer, have analyzed the Nag Hammadi writings and hypothesized the reasons for their exclusion. I particularly enjoyed reading Pagels' Beyond Belief, because not only does she analyze the controversy surrounding the exclusion of these Gnostic Gospels, but she openly shares her own intellectual process of discovering the significance of their exclusion and its impact on her own spirituality. Very UN-fundamentalist indeed.
 

Reading the research of Pagels and others makes clear the reality that the Bible is not and cannot be the inerrant, impeccably-written, divinely dictated Word of God that fundamentalist Christians claim it to be. Thus Step Two of Fundamentalists Anonymous states:

2. That person or group persuaded me of the inerrancy of the Bible, in spite of its many internal contradictions.

One of the most significant aspects of my abandonment of Christian fundamentalism was the awareness that born-again Christians worship the Bible and not God. They argue that the only way to know God is through the Bible. They are forced to believe this because if they concede that God might speak through an inner voice, through a tree, or through a particular life experience, their entire belief system is toast. When I realized that contrary to their much-touted Ten Commandments, Bible worship is nothing less than "having other gods before me", I finally realized the depth of the hypocrisy of their system. Part of my, and anyone's recovery from fundamentalism is a commitment to develop a relationship with a Higher Power-whatever that may be-and not with a book.  Step Three therefore states:

3. I became addicted to the Bible as the supreme focus of my faith, in spite of the commandment that God should come first.

Like the spiritual inventory of Alcoholics Anonymous and other Twelve-Step programs, Step Four asks the recovering fundamentalist to look at the damage one has done to oneself as a result of turning control of one's mind over to another person or group. Not a pretty picture in most cases, but certainly a huge relief when the whole truth is finally faced and spoken.

4. I admit to God, to myself and to another person the shortcomings of my belief in the unbelievable.

Fundamentalist Christianity is filled with false claims about the Bible. It has to be in order to keep its system intact and use the Bible to manipulate, control, and above all, gain converts. So as part of recovering from addiction to fundamentalism, one must examine the various false claims one has made about the Bible. Step Five states:

5. I have made an inventory of my false claims about
        the Bible.


Ouch! This could be very painful-and it could go on for years as one recalls all the times one may have used "the Bible says" to beat up oneself or someone else. But again, there can be profound liberation with truth-telling.

Could it get more painful than Steps Four and Five? Yes. How many minds have I whacked beside my own? Who have I manipulated, controlled, cajoled, or conned by using false claims-things I could never absolutely know or prove about the Bible?

6. I have made a list of those whom I led into confusion about the Bible.

All Twelve Step programs require "searching and fearless" inventories of oneself and one's actions while practicing one's addiction. Moreover, they demand accountability to one's Higher Power, oneself, and the persons harmed.

This could be excruciating! Admitting to someone that I may have led them astray with the Bible? As experienced Twelve-Steppers know, it may not be possible to make the amends in person or even by letter. Someone may be so hurt, so angry, so alienated that making contact with him/her is not feasible. Most important, however, is the admission to oneself.  Hence Step Seven:

7. I am willing to make amends to all those whom I may have led astray.

And now comes the payoff: sanity. Sanity is not a mental health term but rather a state of acceptance and release often attended by a sense of relief. After one has admitted turning one's mind over to another person or group and has faced the devastation the addiction has caused, and if possible, made amends to those harmed, it becomes possible to experience sanity. >

Step Eight, in offering the hope of sanity refers to searching Scripture for the truth. Notice the Step says "search Scripture." It doesn't say, "search the Scripture." One now has the freedom to search for one's own truth-wherever, whenever, however. Step Eight:

8. I realize that I have the inner power to restore sanity to my life and to search Scripture for the truth.

Having completed the first eight Steps, the recovering fundamentalist can begin authentic relationships with others regarding spirituality. No longer does one need to "be right", convert, admonish, exhort, or teach. The first eight Steps make it possible to share on a truly level playing field without right/wrong, either/or dichotomies. Step Nine:

9. I will reach out to friends who can help me clarify my thinking about the Bible, God and Jesus.

Reaching out to friends is not the same as dependence. It means information-gathering, exploring, dialoging, but most importantly, thinking for oneself.
 

Then brilliantly, Step Ten hastens to add that I do not need to figure it out all on my own; I can ask for help from a Higher Power. It humbly implies that I don't have all the answers. I have help, but it is with my own mind that I grasp the truth, not with someone else's.

         10. I confess that only with God's help can my mind
         grasp the truth.

How do I get help from a Higher Power? I practice Step Eleven which deals with conscious contact with that power. This may have nothing to do with reading the Bible or going to church. It may have nothing to do with meditating in a lotus posture or praying in the traditional sense. It may mean journaling, spending time in nature, painting, composing music or poetry. 

11. I will seek through prayer and meditation to improve my conscious contact with God, praying for knowledge of God's will for me and the power to carry that out.

One of the most profound aspects of recovering from any addiction is the compassion one experiences for others who are still ensnared in the addiction. One naturally wants to share the liberation, peace, and sense of well being that one has found with others who are suffering. What might be particularly challenging for the recovering fundamentalist, however, is to share the Twelve Steps of Fundamentalists Anonymous without falling back into one's addiction to proselytize and "being right." So Step Twelve must be practiced sensitively and compassionately.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these twelve steps, I will offer these steps to other former biblical fundamentalists.

Some may argue that I am being judgmental and lacking compassion in this article and my former article on Christian fundamentalism. However, I do not apologize for being uncompromising in my analysis. As with all addictions, compassion for the addict does not mean condoning addictive behavior. It means speaking the truth about the addiction to the addict him/herself, to the family and loved ones involved with the addict, or anyone else affected by his/her behavior. This is referred to in recovery circles as an intervention. Is it not appropriate for critically thinking individuals who desire to live in a diverse and open society to conduct "interventions" when those drunk on Dominionism and fundamentalist Christianity flagrantly attempt to construct a theocracy which requires everyone to be a born-again Christian in order to thrive in that society? Do we not have a moral obligation to confront destructive religious intoxication that tears apart families, communities, and nations? Hopefully, this article is an example of such an intervention.

 

 The mainstream media does not seem to comprehend the inherent danger of the religious right let alone report it accurately. All of us need to challenge the addictive tyranny of Christian fundamentalism at every turn-for the sake of our sanity and for the sake of our civil liberties. We don't allow street junkies into the halls of Congress, the Supreme Court, or the pulpits of America to admonish us how we should live and why we should demolish our Constitution. In fact, we confront the insanity and criminality of such individuals. Similarly, it's time to confront the domination drug for what it is-a grave and perverse spiritual and moral illness.

Carolyn Baker is recovering fundamentalist Christian and an adjunct professor of history and lives in Southern New Mexico. She can be contacted at: cbaker@nmsu.edu 

Copyright © Carolyn Baker All rights reserved. You may republish under the following conditions: An active link to the original publication must be provided. http://liberty.hypermart.net/voices/2005/print/The_Religious_Right_Pushing_A_Deadly_Addiction.htm  You must not alter, edit or remove any text within the article, including this copyright notice.

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