Saturday, January 19, 2013

Undercover Agnostic Update 3: The Sunday School Workbook

As I've talked about on the blog in the past, I am still somewhat in the closet about being an agnostic, which I feel is necessary for the time being (that will all change in about a year or so, I hope.)

Because of this, I've been in church recently, and I've been giving regular reports on the blog about what that is like, it's quite an experience. It's given me quite a bit of personal experience in refreshing my memory about fundamentalist beliefs and lifestyle.

In the churches of some denominations, including the one this church belongs to, they use materials from the Christian bookstore chain Lifeway for their Sunday School classes, especially one book series called Masterwork. There's a workbook for each season, and the one for winter 2012-13 is pictured on your left here.

They have material in the book for you to read, along with Bible verses they want you to read as well. Each day has it's own reading material in the book, with questions they want you to think about and write in your own answers. The questions/answers are about your own "spiritual walk", and your personal experiences as a Christian (if you are one still, unlike me).

Various ministers and authors write for this publication, and there are two authors/ themes for each book. One of the two authors for this season is Micheal Catt, pastor of Sherwood Baptist church in Albany Georgia. His church has become well known in fundamentalist circles for producing movies, such as Facing the Giants, about a high school football team.

I'm reading one of the lesson plans for the day, written by him, when I saw this on day three of their material for the week of January 13th (block quote text is the book. Normal text is my response):

"Surrender begins in the heart. Revival begins in the church. We cannot point fingers at the Devil's crowd because Jesus has given us everything necessary to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil"

Notice my emphasis on the words "Devil's crowd", though it may be hard to get a fundamentalist to admit it, most believe that anyone who is not one of them is working for the devil, whether they realize it or not.

Also, note the use of the term, "the world". In fundamentalist thinking, anyone or anything that is not part of their world is part of "the world", and the "the world" is against them, it is a corrupt sewer or a world, full of debauchery.

A catchphrase they often use as a warning to followers, especially young people not to be corrupted by the world around them is "Be in the world, but not of the world". Be different than everyone around you.

"We can not blame the secularists and humanists because they are just acting like themselves"

No, you really can't blame us, we are who we are. When we are promoting exploration of the world around us, and supporting schools in Uganda that not only educate students, but also feeds them as well, or expose dangerous people spreading ideas that would cause serious physical harm to autistic children, I mean, we can't help it, it's just who we are!

"If they had heard all of the Bible preaching and teaching mode we've heard, they likely would have repented by now"

Of course they would! I mean, I listened to sermons for years, read the Bible regularly, made public professions of faith, was baptized, knew all the arguments for the Bible, (and tried to convince other people that the Bible was true), and look at me now, I'm Mr. Perfect Christian!

Wait...... I gave it all up almost 4 years ago....

"We cannot blame all the forces arrayed against us. We can't blame the secular media and Hollywood. We have been told we are more than conquerors. Then why do we act as though defeat is our only option?"

Oh? So fundamentalism feels defeated? I can't figure out why. I mean after all, in the US, they own one half of the two party system that has a monopoly on political power in the US (the Republican party)

 Just the mere fact that in the 21st century, that only 9 states allow gay people that basic human right of marrying the person they love, and federal law allows states to refuse to recognize gay marriages preformed elsewhere shows that fundamentalism is far from dead or defeated.

Maybe fundamentalists are scared because people of my generation are leaving Christianity in large numbers, and so they feel the need to give out shameless "rally the troops" calls like this.

He carries on with this theme through the end of the paragraph:

"Look at the times --- it's no time to make excuses. The problem is apathy and self-justification, settling for  a form of religion without power. We are a Body with dry eyes and lukewarm hearts"

I do agree that self justification, and a holier than thou attitude is a big problem in fundamentalism, that's probably the only thing I agree with him about.


  1. Fundamentalists also lump evolution supporters, members of non-Christian religions, environmentalists, feminists, pro-choice people, and the LGBTQ comunity and its allies into the "Devil's crowd". Frankly, I'd rather be part of that crowd than the fundie crowd.

    I've heard many fundamentalists use "the world" as a perjorative term for anyone who isn't a fundamentalist, particularly at Christian events I've observed for my blog. It's telling that they have such a black-and-white view of society, in which everyone is either a fundamentalist or a member of some monolithic "world" that is out to get them.

    They really think that people reject their version of Christianity because they haven't heard ENOUGH teaching? Most non-believers I know reject it because they know TOO MUCH about it. Ugh.

    One last thing -- NPR has been doing a week-long series on young adults who have left their faiths. Since you brought up how people are leaving Christian churches in droves, have you seen it?

    1. If I am a part of the "Devil's crowd", I must be a disappointment to the Devil. Sure I have this blog, but my lifestyle really hasn't changed all that much. Fundies always think that if you leave their ranks and join "the world", you'll end up becoming a completely hedonistic person with no boundaries.

      Some people do end up like that for a while after leaving, but it's an over reaction to the new found freedom they have. After a while they calm down. Those people aren't actually the norm, though, of all the people I have known from my generation who left, they are living fairly normal lives by most anyone's standards.

      No I'm not familiar with that NPR special.

    2. Here's part of the week-long series.

  2. The black and white view that Fundamentalist cultivate of people may be rooted in human nature. We evolved as a tribal species. But, if so, that's one of the weaknesses of most religions, so far as I can see. They do little or nothing to encourage us to overcome the less desirable aspects of our nature. Instead, they tend to condone, justify, and even exploit for their own benefit, those aspects. After which, they tell us they have made us better humans!

    Here's another example of that -- in addition to the black and white thing mentioned above -- it has been argued by some scientists that rape is an instinctual behavior in humans. That is, it is a behavior so wide spread and ubiquitous at all times through history that we need to consider the possibility we are genetically predisposed to it. If that's indeed the case, how do religions deal with that aspect of human nature? Too many, in my opinion do not deal with it in a wise or humane way. Instead, they blame the victim ("Do not dress immodestly!") which, in some circumstances, can serve as a justification for rape! But of course, they then tell us we are better people for being religious.

    1. It is true that black and white thinking is indeed ingrained in us, just look at how people act in political debates.


No spam, proselytizing, or personal attacks, such comments will never see the light of day around here.

Disagreeing with me is fine (I encourage it), but have some decency when writing your comment