Grant’s Rants on Fundamentalism
Fundamentalists — be they Christian, Muslim or Jewish — tend to view God as a competitive warrior always jealous of rivals and determined to drive them into defeat and disgrace. A superficially exacting God demanding technical perfection while minimalizing deeper concerns over social justice. Exclusively loving those in-group and rejecting –perhaps even hating — all others.
Bible passages can and have been used to justify a lot of different things. And notwithstanding, the New Testament heralding the teachings of Jesus do differ greatly from the Old Testament. For example on the topic of how to treat our neighbors:
New Testament Christianity instructs us to love our neighbors, to do good to them, and never seek revenge against them, and even to suffer at their hands to set an example for them. (Mt. 5:44; Ro. 12:17-21; 1 Pet. 3:13-17)
On this same topic, verses from the Old Testament would seem to teach virtually the opposite! Hate them, joyfully throw their children against a rock (!) and basically destroy them utterly, and show them no mercy! (Ps 139:19; Ps 137:9; Deut. 7:1-6)
While some Old Testament passages do depict God as exacting, violent or exclusive etc., these scattered texts are not the last word on the character of God.
Unfortunately, all of us (not just “them”) are tempted to remake God into just about anything we like, perhaps one who hates the people we hate and likes whatever we like! And all the while believing that our view is “objective” and “true”, with no distortion at all!
What if the only way to gain a mature view of God is similar to how we as children go through stages in coming to understand our parents? And in maturing, we are constantly in a stage of learning that we have not arrived. There must be an understanding that there is a step up from where we used to be, but a step below where we could venture next. So some faith communities are in that sense comprised of 2nd-graders, some 6th-graders, some college sophomores.
Even Christianity as Jesus taught it was unfortunately recast to fit within the Greco-Roman mind. After years of persecution by the Romans, the Christian religion fell prey to the powerful syndrome whereby the former victims become victimizers. (Crushing pluralism, inquisitions, witch burnings, genocides, Crusades and religious wars, a depressing record of encountering people of other religions –even other brands of Christianity– plus segregation, apartheid, etc.)
Having said this, the Christian faith has invaluable Christian treasures, which remain redeemable. We thrive when we use the Bible to do good works in God’s world. And we languish when we use God’s Word as a weapon to threaten others, as a tool to intimidate others and prove them wrong, as a shortcut to being know-it-all’s, as a defense of the status quo.
For Christians, the Bible’s highest value is in revealing Jesus, who gives us the highest, deepest, and most mature view of the character of the living God. The New Testament explains that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God … For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in [Jesus]”. And “The Son is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His being”! (Colossians 1:15-20; Hebrews 1:1-3)
[Excerpts from “A New Kind of Christianity” by Brian D McLaren]
Grant Montgomery – Grant’s Rants on Fundamentalism