“If you asked any Christian before the birth of the modern era and the Enlightenment, ‘what is the foundation of Christianity?’, they would say ‘Jesus Christ.’ If you asked many Christians that same question today in the post-Enlightenment world, they would respond, ‘the Bible.'” – Gungor
Perhaps you heard about the latest brouhaha over Gungor’s nonliteral reading of Genesis. (A Baptist church canceled an upcoming Gungor concert because Gungor does not believe in a literal six-day creation).
Yeah — that’s just one of the many things some fundamentalist Christians consider a hill to die on, while many other Christians consider it peripheral to the foundation of their faith.
The problem here is not our ‘literal’ versus ‘nonliteral’ reading of Scripture — that’s another post. The real problem is Christians’ response to dissenting voices.
I have written before about Christians’ fear-response to anything outside their box. [Christians, Why Are You Afraid of Gay Marriage?] Today I share Gungor’s thoughts on this, beautifully articulated in two parts on his blog [one and two].
…fundamentalists tend to huddle together out of fear. And in an attempt to shut the evil of the world out of these huddles, they also tend to shut out all of the good and true things that the world has discovered as well. These huddles tend to emphasize things that don’t really matter to anybody but those within the huddle. It’s a way of knowing who the other huddlers are. Those boundary markers can be things like “we don’t dance.” Or “we don’t play cards.” Or “we don’t drink alcohol.” Or “we believe that there was a literal naked couple in a garden 6,000 years ago.”
So what’s happening here is some people thought Gungor was in their huddle, and now we are displaying some signs that we might not be, and they are freaked out a little bit by it. We might be one of ‘them!’ And if we were one of the outsiders (the dangerous, worldly people who threaten to tear apart the huddle), how can they know they are safe?
But listen, huddle people… I’m for you. I really am. And I’m with you. I was raised in the huddle. Some of the best people I know are in the huddle. But you don’t need to be so afraid. You don’t need to repress your intellectual ability to ask questions and seek truth in order to stay in the shadow of the huddle. Because, let me tell you something, there is light outside. In fact, God is both inside and outside of your huddle. And you can still love God and love people and read those early Genesis stories as myth with some important things to teach us. Not all of you will be ready to do that, and that’s perfectly ok. But know that if you create these dichotomies where we force people to either fall into the camp of scientifically blind biblical literalism or a camp where they totally write off the Bible as a complete lie, you’re going to rob a lot of people of some of the richness that the Bible offers. You’re going to create a lot more jaded, cynical people that are completely anti-religion out there. And you are going to continue to repress the questions that lurk in the back of your own mind. And that’s just not healthy. That sort of thinking actually quashes and limits human thriving in the world. So that’s the danger of this sort of fundamentalist thinking.
If you believe that the foundation of your faith is the Bible, instead of Jesus Christ, then every issue, every item will come as a severe threat. You’ll be like a woman in abject poverty who pores over every receipt for any single overcharge, because every loss threatens her survival.
But if you truly believe in a God bigger than all creation who loves you tenderly like a nursing mother, then you can rest and stop focusing on defending your beliefs.
The religious rulers of the day asked Jesus to help them defend their beliefs by confirming which commands were critical — and his response to us today is the same as it was to them… Love God with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.
[To read more from Susan Cottrell, visit www.FreedHearts.org]
SUSAN COTTRELL is a national speaker, teacher, and counselor with years of Biblical study and discipleship experience. Her books include: Mom, I’m Gay – Loving Your LGBTQ Child Without Sacrificing Your Faith, as well as How Not to Lose Your Teen and The Marriage Renovation. Through her nonprofit organization – FreedHearts.org – Susan champions the LGBTQ community and families with her characteristic tender-heartedness, and she zealously challenges Christians who reject them with her wise insistence that “loving God and loving others” are the foundation of the rest of the scripture, just as Jesus said.
She is the Vice-President of PFLAG Austin, and her “Mom, I’m Gay” book has been endorsed by The Human Rights Campaign and others. Sharon Groves, PhD, HRC’s Religion & Faith Program Director says, “I often get asked by parents for resources that can address the struggles of raising LGBT sons and daughters without having to leave faith behind. Susan Cottrell’s book, Mom, I’m Gay, does just that. This is the kind of book that parents will love.”
She and her husband have been married more than 25 years and have five children – one of whom is in the LGBTQ community. She lives in Austin, Texas, and blogs at FreedHearts.org and here in IMPACT Magazine’s FreedHearts and Jesus Blog columns.