Unfundamentalist Christians

by John Shore on December 16, 2010 in · 186 comments

Unfundamentalist BugA while back I became frustrated because I couldn’t find a Christianity that I could really get on board with. To my mind, the Christianity on the left was too tenuous, while the one on the right was too … rabid. I didn’t want a Christ who was essentially an inspired social worker who got jumped by the authorities, and I sure didn’t want the one who had been twisted into serving the craven needs of bigoted, power-crazed, fear-mongering misogynist homophobes.

I was stuck! A Christian without a Christianity!

So I hunkered down for a month and wrote the document below. It expresses the Christianity that I have believed to be true since the moment of my conversion experience.

In February of 2012, I and a small group of people who had read and liked my mini-manifesto quietly started a Facebook page called Unfundamentalist Christians. We put my document under the page’s What We Believe tab, and then just … sat back to see what happened. I personally did almost nothing to promote that page, because I did not want to influence its growth. I didn’t care if it grew; I just wanted the theology available for people like me who might want it. But if it did grow, I wanted to make sure it did so organically.

As of this writing (May 16, 2013) the page has 12,500 members. The admin team of that page has done a phenomenal job with it. I’m as proud of what those guys do over there as I am of anything I’ve ever been part of.

I always had in the back of my mind that if the UC page ever grew to more than 10,000 members, I’d … do something with it, basically—if for no other reason than at that point I knew I’d be essentially morally obliged to. I never had any idea what I’d do, exactly. But I figured that, come the time, I’d know.

And sure enough, last week I thought, “Hey, it’s time for UC to become a group blog!” So I contacted a guy I e-know who works at Patheos.com, and asked him if Patheos would like to host that blog. He said they very much would.

Sweetness! So on June 24, Unfundamentalist Christians will be launching its new group blog on Patheos [update: here it is!], where we will run the best content that we can find about the best Christianity that we can imagine. I will have tons of fun with this endeavor, because it will essentially be an online magazine, with me as its editor. And back when the Internet was just a twitch in Al Gore’s eye, I spent ten years as a magazine editor, which I loved. So for me this work will be like coming home.

If you haven’t yet—or if it’s been a while—I invite you to read the Unfundamentalist Christian tenets below. Following the first version of the tenets are the same fiftteen points written in a style much more informal. If you like what you read (which of course isn’t the same as agreeing with its every point), we’d very much appreciate you “Liking” UC’s Facebook page.

Cool. Love it. Fun. Important. Onward. Upward. Also sometimes sideways, but whaddaya gonna do?

Here are our tenets:

Generally speaking (because do any two people anywhere believe the exact same things?) we here at UC hold that:

  1. Jesus Christ was God incarnate. He performed miracles; as a means of providing for the irrevocable reconciliation of humankind to God he sacrificed himself on the cross; he rose from the dead; he left behind for the benefit of all people the totality of himself in the form of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
  2. Following the word of God means taking into account the entirety of God’s words. The Bible itself tells us that it consists of songs, visions, histories, dreams, parables, commandments. It instructs Christians that New Testament moral directives supersede Old Testament moral directives. It asserts that moral principles supersede moral “rules.” The relevant context of any Bible passage is as integral to its meaning as the passage itself. It may be appropriate to give equal weight to each clause within a business contract or a game rulebook. But the Bible itself tells us that the Bible is not a uniform document, with each passage spelling out something clear and specific, and all passages having equal value. The Bible is not a rulebook for being Christian. Isolating a Bible passage from its context, and then claiming a sort of moral helplessness because “it’s in the Bible,” is failing to take the Bible either literally or seriously.
  3. Christianity is supposed to be all about nothing more (and nothing less!) than living a life of love, compassion, fairness, peace, and humility.
  4. The Biblical scholarship supporting the idea that Paul never wrote a word condemning natural homosexuality is more credible and persuasive than is the scholarship claiming that he did. Moreover, we remain mystified as to how any follower of Jesus could choose damning an entire population over obeying Jesus’ Great Commandment to love God and one’s neighbor as oneself.
  5. God does not want any woman “submitting” to any person.
  6. Using masculine pronouns to refer to God is strictly a matter of convention, a profoundly unfortunate necessity of the English language, which to date offers no satisfactory alternative. But God is neither male or female. God is both. God is all.
  7. The belief that throughout history God chose to introduce himself in different ways into different culture streams is more reasonable, respectful, and compassionate than is the conviction that there is only one correct way to understand and worship God.
  8. There is no support in the Bible for the morally repugnant idea that hell is an actual place to which God sentences people to spend eternity in mortal agony.
  9. God’s will and intention is to forgive and teach us, not to judge and punish us. [Tweet this.]
  10. Anyone desiring to mix Church and State has failed to understand the nature and proper role of either.
  11. God can handle converting people. Our job is to love people.
  12. An all-powerful God and the theory of evolution are not incompatible.
  13. Getting a divorce is painful, and if at all possible should certainly be avoided. But in and of itself divorce is not immoral.
  14. The single most telling indicator of a person’s moral character has nothing to do with how they define or worship God, and everything to do with how they treat others.©

© John Shore

{ 186 comments… read them below or add one }

GLENN December 12, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Hurrah for this interesting site. Would someone explain to me why fundamentalists bother having children? Since “narrow is the way that leads to life, and few are those who find it” why risk having offspring that may be hellbound? It seems totally selfish to have kids and not have a guarantee of their salvation. Logically it is incredibly stupid too. What would make more sense is for the fundamentalists to embrace sterilization of the entire human race, thus letting mankind die out and thus limit the amount of people bound for hell to the present population. Just think, having kids and risking them going to an eternal Auschwitz. Peace and love everybody.

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lorena October 13, 2013 at 1:30 pm

I still love this. It is my truth and allows others theirs. So awesome.

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John Shore October 13, 2013 at 6:38 pm

THANK YOU!!!

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Tasia July 17, 2013 at 10:24 am

I needed this. Thank you.

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sdparris January 25, 2013 at 6:33 pm

Warning! Warning! Warning!

Use of words of three or more syllables do not enhance the message you are trying to send, IF you don’t have a clue what they actually mean or the text in which they should be used.

For example, saying: “By scrolling to the gluteus maximus of the page” as which occured in your message, you rendered any seriousness of the nature of your message, null and void. The reader, if they make it that far in, will promptly expire from laughter.

It also helps to avoid using some auto-correct features, when sending important messages, as it has been well established, that using that feature without double checking, could cause your message to end up on the popular website “DamnYouAutocorrect.com”.

Thank you,

Your friendly neighborhood Grammar Nanny.

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Gregg DesElms September 4, 2012 at 10:55 pm

Excellent!

But if this is the “teen” version, where’s the other version? Just curious.

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Gregg DesElms September 4, 2012 at 10:57 pm

Oops. My bad: I just realized that it was a “didn’t scroll far enough” problem.

Please just ignore my immediately previous.

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natalie April 2, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Do you know how much i needed to read this? <:') Thank you! I've been going through a rough patch as of late and just now decided to start volunteering.

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mrl January 14, 2012 at 1:07 pm

God doesn’t get tired, Christine, He’s God.

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Amy January 21, 2012 at 7:01 pm

She didn’t say God got tired. She (more specifically, her pastor) said that God rested. Which even the Bible says.

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no fan January 13, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Jesus Christ ‘IS’ God incarnate, not ‘WAS’ God incarnate. So from your first statement your ignorance is apparent.

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no fan January 13, 2012 at 3:19 pm

So the Christianity that ‘makes sense’ to the author is one that calls teachings that he has trouble embracing, ‘mistaken’. Because if the author can’t understand those teachings or finds them difficult to accept, THEY must be wrong.

So you have fashioned ‘another gospel’. One palatible to you, but not the God-given one.

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Michelle M February 5, 2012 at 11:42 am

I used to think like you, no fan. For example, when I was in my emotionally abusive marriage (and one can’t divorce for emotional abuse, because it’s all in the wife’s mind and he didn’t actually stick his thingy in another woman), my parents would tell me I had to stick it out because “Sometimes God doesn’t make sense,” and “Sometimes God’s ways are hard and difficult to embrace,” and “The people telling you to leave your husband are just tickling your ears.”

This doesn’t just apply to abusive marriages, but to any situation where something horrible is happening and it doesn’t fit into the theology at hand. Like having a gay child and “God” telling you that you can’t love him/her unconditionally. Or a whole host of other painful things.

What I’ve come to realize is that God ALWAYS MAKES SENSE. Sorry to scream that at you. He ALWAYS makes sense, and his ways are NOT hard, and the people who tell me to follow love are NOT just tickling my ears, and his ways are NOT “difficult to embrace”.

I’ll tell you whose laws don’t make sense and are hard and difficult: man’s. And Satan’s, if you believe he exists.

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Christine McQueen January 13, 2012 at 11:43 am

“There were no dinosaurs on Noah’s ark; Jesus didn’t have a pet stegosaurus. An all-powerful God and the theory of evolution are not incompatible.”

Nearly fifty years ago, when I was about 12, the pastor with whom I was studying to become a member of our local church had what I still consider to be the best reply when one of the other students asked how he could believe in God as the Creator and still believe the scientists about evolution. He said, “God made the earth and all the things that were on it at that time, then He created evolution and put it into action so that His creation would change and grow as time went by. Evolution was God’s way of giving Himself time to rest after the work He’d done to create this beautiful planet. After He’d rested, He then created man to continue His work of caring for the earth.”

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Valerie January 18, 2012 at 2:44 pm

I like that answer! That preacher had a head on his shoulders!

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jennifer February 2, 2012 at 9:08 pm

That is messed up. The whole point of creating Earth is an answer to what’s called “The Angelic Conflict”, Satan’s trial phase…. not evolution, or let the human’s do whatever…. no, we have a purpose and called to witness!

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Christine McQueen February 5, 2012 at 12:41 pm

@jennifer: Are you saying you believe the only reason God created the earth and everything on it as some sort of “test”? To see how badly ‘Satan’ could screw it up? I’d really like to know where you come up with that notion. Could you give scripture verses explaining that?

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Joe bass Jr. August 26, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Wow! That actually makes sense….Remember many many years ago science and religion were partners…

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Holly January 12, 2012 at 1:25 pm

I needed to read this today. Thank you for articulating my heart so well. Having just left my ultra-fundamentalist, legalistic church of 7 years, I am on a new path to discover what it really is I’m in search of. What is that “itch” that I just can’t seem to find relief for? This. This is what I’m seeking. Thank you.

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CBlizz January 12, 2012 at 12:39 pm

I’m rather late to the game, but I’m enjoying this site and all of its content. Thank you SO MUCH, John, for being the voice of exactly how I’ve been feeling for a long, long time. I live in central Virginia and have been without a church home for several years now because I became fed up with the lack of love and the constant harping against homosexuality in the churches here. The ThruWay message is EXACTLY what I’ve been searching for – I just wish there were ANY church in this area that operated with this mindset. I’ll keep praying…

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Avi July 4, 2013 at 12:31 pm

CBlizz, I’d love to know where in Va you are and if you have (since Jan 2012) found a church. I live in Central/southwestern Va and am having the same issues. I long for Christian fellowship but just cant find that spot where I fit. One would think with all the “education” I have around me here there would be someone, some group that would be embracing a progressive Christianity. Go figure.

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Sally G. August 8, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Try your local United Church of Christ (not the same as the Church of Christ that does not use musical instruments in worship). Most UCC’s are “Open and Affirming” to LGBT folks, and endorse marriage equality as well. Whoever you are, Wherever you are on life’s journey, You are welcome here.

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