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Fundamentals of the faith

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It seems we’re all recovering from something.
Recovering drug addicts, recovering alcoholics - I’m a recovering nice person.

For about a year or so I’ve been reading a blog for recovering Christian fundamentalists, “Stuff Fundies Like,” at www.stufffundieslike.com.

The site often parodies a certain type of church and its people whom the author of the blog, Darrell Dow, describes as “evangelicals who are angry about something” and most often define themselves by what they’re against rather than what they’re for.

Darrell grew up in such a church and attended a college with the same angry/anti/legalistic philosophies. His readers, at least the ones who post comments, also came out of the same type of churches and schools and have both fond and not-so-fond memories of their years as “fundies.”

Not being a former or a current fundy, I’m fascinated by the discussions; I feel like I’m observing a foreign culture.

A recent discussion was about cheating, or skirting around the rules - not God’s rules, but the fundy churches’ own set of rules. I would add that non-fundies are not immune to doing this, so I’m not throwing stones.

Darrell wrote: “There is one truth of all legalists to which fundamentalists are no exception: they cheat. When people set for themselves the task of self-made sinless perfection, they begin to realize almost immediately exactly how heavy and constraining the yoke that they have taken.

“However, rather than acknowledge that they have been too ambitious in their personal standards, they merely attempt to make their lives at least somewhat tolerable by finding ways around their own rules.”

He continues: “Any good fundamentalist is strictly forbidden to love the things of the world and will ‘touch not and taste not and handle not’ those abominations that are tainted by unbelievers - if there’s anybody looking. ‘Thou shalt not get caught’ is the first fundamentalist commandment and every young fundy learns it at (or over) their parent’s knee.

“And the second commandment is like unto it: ‘Thou shalt have a really good plan for hiding your behavior and explaining it away if it should be discovered.’”

He said for every man-made law there’s a “man-made evasive tactic that allows every canny fundy to loophole without compromising his or her standards or the ability to judge others for not being as holy as himself. And nothing counts if no one catches you.”

Readers posted comments about hypocritical things they either observed, experienced or did themselves, such as watching their parents bicker viciously on the way to church then put on their prim and proper “church faces” as soon as they got out of the car.

Someone said her parents would wait until a movie went to VHS and they would watch it at home, thus they didn’t “go” to the movies. Others said they referred to movies as “films,” which seemed to make it more respectable.

One man wrote about the “women not allowed to wear pants” rule and not being allowed to go to the movies. He said, “My wife and I went to elaborate lengths to go to the movies - and for her to wear pants. We would go a couple of towns over, and the only time we were ever caught we walked into a theater and a deacon from our church was in line with his wife - who was wearing pants!

“Needless to say, Bro Deacon didn’t feel led to tattle on us. This is one of the things that made us question everything in Fundystan,” he wrote. “We knew that they were hypocrites, but so were we, and we got very tired of it.”

And Jesus wept.

I suppose most, if not all of us, try to live up to standards and rules that we think will make us holy - or holier than thou - but don’t.

Any holiness we have comes not from working to obtain it, but solely as a gift of grace.

The fancy theological term is “imputed righteousness.” We admit we’re losers at trying to be good and Jesus hugs us, gives us his record of holiness and sets us free.

It’s a little more detailed than that, but that’s the gist.

And because we’re set free, women can wear pants, a man and his wife can go see a movie, we can dance, even drink a beer now and then. We are forgiven and we are loved!

It’s that simple and that fundamental.

Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at( 352) 564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via email at nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.