thecosmicdance ([personal profile] thecosmicdance) wrote2012-10-12 12:55 am

An Illustrated Guide to the Difference Between Evangelicals and Fundamentalists pt 3

With the way my life is going, it looks like these posts will usually show up about midweek. I'm just getting a lucky break today.

Response to Other Churches

The heart of evangelicalism is a belief that in order to get into Heaven, just being a baptized member of a Christian church and trying hard to be a reasonably good person is not enough. You have to consciously choose to become a Christian by praying to Jesus, confessing that you are a sinner, and “asking him into your heart”. Jesus forgives your debt of sin and you start again with a clean slate, which is supposed to mean that you have the capability of being a better person than you were before. The concept is referred to as being “born again”, and it’s based on a series of Bible verses, although the actual meaning of the phrase in question is debatable. Being born again is a totally personal decision that is no one else's business, except that other people often think they are the ones who get to determine whether or not you've done it.

Modern evangelicals have a tendency to think of this as some sort of magic spell that instantly places you under the protection of God, so no matter what happens after, you will go to Heaven. Very conservative evangelicals often portray being “born again” as something that will protect you from evil influence, curses, demons, even physical danger. But the majority simply believe that no matter what happens, if you’ve said the prayer, you become “saved” and will go to Heaven upon death. No other method that Christians have used in the past to initiate members and confirm belief is as important as this- baptism, Confirmation, membership classes, are all things you do after you’ve secured a spot in the line for Heaven.

So it’s very important that everyone in the world gets “saved” first, and then they can begin the process of actually changing their behavior to model Christ. Do it, and work out the details later. Because there. Is. No. Time. What if you stepped out your front door tomorrow and got hit by…THE HYPOTHETICAL BUS!


Fundamentalists believe exactly the same thing. Except they’re much more obsessed with the idea that the slightest little thing could cause you to lose your salvation and drag everyone else down with you. In fundamentalism, you are not just responsible for your own salvation, you're responsible for the souls of everyone in your social group. can *lose* your salvation? Yes and no. It's something everyone is still fighting over. But everyone agrees you can get it back by going through the salvation process again, because Christianity is all about second chances.

The first thing you need to know about fundamentalist theology is that it is a relatively recent phenomenon. Catholics, Orthodox, Coptic Christians, the denominations that have existed since the days of the Roman Empire, the ones that grew out of churches founded by the original followers of Jesus, are not thought of as “fundamentalist”. People may speak of theological “orthodoxy” but that just means what has traditionally been considered normal doctrine for mainstream Christians and/or the actual Orthodox denomination.
Fundamentalism is something entirely different. Frequently, their “traditional” doctrines are made up of beliefs that only appeared a century ago, or even fifty years ago, as a response to issues no one else cares about now.

haight-hippie_5463_zpsdec155a8 (he’s coming for your children, and will make them smoke the drugs and join the Soviet Union).

Even though those oldest denominations (Catholics, etc) have kept the same church architecture and décor for centuries, are extremely slow to update their music, liturgy and clerical vestments (and Catholics only stopped requiring Latin in mass when my mother was a teenager)they’re not considered fundamentalists. While they do have ultra conservative factions, fundamentalists do not consider even those people Real Christians. In fact, what makes someone an ultra conservative Catholic often goes totally against what a fundamentalist Protestant considers Christianity, period. Fundamentalists believe that the Pope is a false prophet and that Catholics worship a pantheon of pagan gods. In their eyes, being more traditionally Catholic just makes you worse.

Only fundamentalists are real Christians. They belong to a secret lineage of Christians who have always existed and always been persecuted by the false and “worldly” tools of Satan like Catholicism. Or the Southern Baptists. In fact, only a very small collection of church congregations can be trusted to truly be following the right path. They are quite blatant about believing that no one else holds the truth and no one else is getting into Heaven. Many fundamentalists will even bristle at the idea that they’re “Protestants” at all, because they claim their belief system predates Martin Luther and Henry the Eighth.

baptist-300x231_zpscd5054acfrom here

Conservative evangelicals (the only kind we’re really going to be talking about anyway) will pay lip service to the idea that it’s possible to be a true Christian without belonging to an evangelical style church. They believe that anyone can be saved, anywhere, anytime, in any church, as long as they’ve made a true commitment for Christ and consciously live for God. Or at least, that’s what they’ll tell you. In reality, that means you can belong to any evangelical Protestant style church you want.

Sometimes people who belong to other Protestant traditions can be “born again” but everyone knows mainlines don’t really care about that, so it’s rare to find a true born again Christian in those churches. They assume anyone who doesn’t announce that they’re saved, probably isn’t. If you attend a church where one’s personal relationship with Jesus is considered , well, personal, they will assume you’re not really saved. Unless you’ve prayed “The Sinner’s Prayer” in front of at least one witness and you can name the time and place, it didn’t happen, and if you don’t feel like discussing it with them, it didn’t happen. WHY ARE YOU ASHAMED OF JESUS?

Also, “true commitment to Christ” usually means agrees with me politically and theologically. Assume everyone you meet is unsaved, unless they indicate otherwise within a few minutes of meeting you and regard any claim they have to being saved with skepticism if their politics and theology aren’t enough in the ballpark of yours.