When I became a Christian my whole world changed.
I have one of those ‘dramatic conversion’ stories that are frequently deployed at evangelistic gatherings and written in books to give to your non-Christian family and friends. This is not to downplay or scorn my own story, it is to simply highlight that I had an encounter with God that changed my world.
And I was captivated.
I found a whole new life, new friendships, new passions. I immersed myself in this new faith, desiring to get involved in any and every church activity. Gone were my buddies, my drinking mates, my life before faith; this was a life I was no longer interested in.
And the evangelical church I was part of welcomed my enthusiasm and story with open arms. Indeed, I was wheeled out often to share my dramatic conversion with others.
Over the next couple of years I became a fully formed fundamentalist.
I was passionate and emotional about the eternal destiny of others, pleading with them to turn to Jesus or suffer an eternity of torment.
I read the Bible ferociously, seeking God to speak to me every time I opened it.
I believed natural disasters were judgements from God against idolatrous, sinful and perverted people.
I preached for the healing of homosexuals, a people otherwise destined to hell.
I believed God was full of wrath and unapproachable holiness, someone to be feared and fearfully loved.
I held to a strict morality code believing that the only way to be loved and accepted by God was to hold fast to the morality code Christianity I followed.
And I delighted in those times I was able to ‘preach the word’ and call people to repentance, to turn from their sin and worship God.
I remember times of deep pain and sorrow, of tears streaming down my face at the thought of family and friends spending an eternity in hell.
I remember the pain and anguish I felt over my own destiny, crying at my own sinful ugliness, wondering if I would ever be good enough for God.
And so with it came an unquenchable passion, a passion to read the Bible, to pray, to preach, to evangelise, all to make God proud of me, to be one of those ‘faithful servants’, to see God do more because I was doing more, to secure my own eternal destiny.
You see I could never be sure if God really loved me.
And do you want to hear the strange thing?
I kind of miss it.
Like my alcohol addiction, I have a sentimental longing for my fundamentalist days, a nostalgic looking back with fondness.
Those days create within me the paradoxical feelings of revulsion and warmth, remembering how fired up I was for this new faith I had entered into.
Back then there was no room for doubt or questioning the Bible. Everything could be answered.
I now live in a theological and philosophical world of colour where I question even my questions.
I suspect my longings for fundamentalism in part come from a culture of certainty, a desire to be sure of everything that pervades my Christian past and much of evangelical Christianity. To live within uncertainty and doubt can be a unsetlling place to dwell.
Fundamentalism was so much easier, a road that was simpler to tread and carries with it a strange allure I often find myself desiring to live in again.
You see, when we are confronted with Jesus, the Crucified One, we encounter suffering love, unlimited forgiveness for all, cries of forsakenness, the strangeness of death.
‘In a world where success is the measure and justification of all things, the figure of him who was sentenced and crucified remains a stranger.’ Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
The Crucified God unsettles us and calls us into a journey of vulnerability and Unconditionality.
My love affair with fundamentalism springs from a desire to resist the call into the Eternal Dance, a refusal to believe in this God of limitless grace, a God who has already forgiven before we could even conceive. A God who has crucified all concepts of violence, sacrifice and exchange. A God who is not a deus ex machina. A God who loves in totality, who is completely ‘for us’, not in any way against us.
This is a God whose posture towards us all is of outstretched arms, total embrace, never-ceasing love.
Now that is something not only to believe in, but to follow and live in.
It is no wonder that fundamentalism continues to appeal to me, as fundamentalism is easy in comparison, the broad and easy road of quick fixes and easy answers.
The Way of the Crucified One however, is the narrow path to freedom, the call to carry our cross daily. It is the beckoning in to Relationship with the Trinitarian Life, a ‘sharing in the divine nature’, a invitation to ‘know and be fully known’.
I have gone through another conversion experience, out of fundamentalism and into the Way of Jesus. It is a beautiful and unsettling thing, a love that I hope will break forth in and through me in ever increasing ways. And it is only this love that could rescue me from my fundamentalist days.