Friday, 27 January 2012

Resisting fundamentalism - a dreadful poster

This poster has gone viral on the internet today.  I find it to be utterly appalling. It makes me feel embarrassed to be an Episcopalian.

It is of course historically inaccurate on two counts.

First: We have not resisted fundamentalism since 1784.  Fundamentalism as a major factor in American Protestantism did not emerge until the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Second: The assertion that Jesus ”resisted the Pharisees” is a rather simplistic interpretation of scripture. What we see in the gospels is that Jesus had disagreements with some of the Pharisees.

 In fact his only encounter with a named Pharisee – Nicodemus – shows a Jesus who is gracious and thoughtful.  Never did he resist the Pharisee Nicodemus.

It is plain wrong to suggest that Jesus resisted the Pharisees -  what all of them!

What I find to be most objectionable about the poster is that it seeks to 

define the Episcopal Church on the basis of what we are against.  That’s a 

miserable “lowest common denominator” identity.  Is that the best we can 

offer in the name of the Lord Jesus?

I have two further caveats.

First: A blanket disparaging or disrespecting “one liner” about Pharisees ignores the fact that modern day rabbinical Judaism is deeply rooted in the teachings of Pharisees. Instead of dissing the Pharisees we could and should be rejoicing in the ways in which Judaism has kept alive the light and teaching of Torah.

Second: We are to be pitied if the best we can say about fundamentalists is that we resist them. It’s become almost a way of life in some of the Episcopal parishes which I know.  Typically the preacher or teacher will throw in a one-liner, a cheap shot against fundamentalism, evincing giggles and guffaws from congregants.  I confess that I have done this.  It feels good, but it does nothing to build up (edify) the people of God.

There are various reasons why I disagree with fundamentalism. I could outline them piece by piece. But God have mercy on my soul if in such a process I do little more than disrespecting my fundamentalist sisters and brothers.

Two final words:

I live in Sarasota FL and am filled with admiration for the ways in which the fundamentalist and evangelical Churches care for the poor.  I will not resist that!

Just south of here in Englewood FL a parishioner in an Episcopal parish there began to think about the poor and/or homeless folks in town. She began an ad-hoc ministry of feeding and clothing (and providing shelter in ultra cold nights -  yes we have a few of these in Florida).

This ministry developed and grew. As it did so the parish sought partners in the wider Christian community. Guess which church is the prime partner.  It is the Four Square Church, (Pentecostal).  That's irresistible!

Nuff said.

AS OF FEB 1st no further comments will be posted.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. "God, we thank you that we are not like other men. We have resisted fundamentalism since 1784. We do what Jesus did. We know Phariseeism when we see it."
    Lo, Wigan

  3. I also find the photos interesting: a female priest, apparently a gay couple with kids, and a guy with a cocktail glass. That's what characterizes TEC?

  4. I cannot adequately express how much this depresses me. Are they actively trying to drive any people with conservative views out of my church?

    1. "Are they actively trying to drive any people with conservative views out of my church?"


  5. I'm not Episcopalian, nor even Christian, so have an "outsider's" view of the Episcopal church: my impression is that historically, if not today, it's been the church of Mr. Chauncey Uppercrust, Esq.

    There's a story from long ago about a Virginia planter's agreeing that it may in fact be possible to enter heaven through the auspices of another church, but "certainly, no gentleman would avail himself of the opportunity."

  6. May the Lord Bless You and Keep You.
    May the Lord Make His Face Shine Upon You, and Be Gracious to You.
    May the Lord Lift Up His Countenance Upon You, and Give You Peace.

  7. I commend to your reading ALL that Michael Marshall wrote. His writings reflect the real church.

    In one of my churches--run now by a female priest and her gay friends--the gays ran us out, saying, "This is our church now." So much for inclusiveness.

  8. This sort of behavior is similar to what you find within Unitarian Universalist fellowships. The negative tribal definitions (we're not like those ...) Thank G-d we're not like that tax collector over there, you know? It irritates me when my Unitarian family members do this sort of thing, when I was in the TEC it irritated me to hear this coming from the pulpit. Besides being divisive speech, it serves no purpose other than to boost the ego of those others who define themselves as not-X. The secular world doesn't care who the TEC is in opposition to. Other Christians will notice the lack of desire of ecumenical relations with more conservative brethren.


  9. Could the poster be a hoax??

  10. One of their problems is that they can't see their own left-wing fundamentalism, only the fundamentalists on the right.

  11. To say that Jesus didn't resist the Pharisees (I'd prefer to say "oppose", but "resist" will do) is incredible. Just as examples: Mark 3:5 ("he looked around at them with anger"), Mark 7:6 ("you hypocrites"), Mark 14:15 ("beware of the yeast of the Pharisees"), Matthew 21:42-45 (they will be "crushed"), Luke 11:42 ("woe to you Pharisees"), Luke 16:15 ("you are the ones who justify yourselves . . . but God knows your heart"), etc., etc., etc.

    Even the example you cite, Nicodemus, hardly shows a warm affection by Jesus for the Pharisee. Jesus says to him "Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?"

    The Pharisees sought to reform Israel in one way, Jesus taught another way. Of course he opposed Pharisaism.

    It's your right to think that the modern Episcopal Church is too liberal or too modern or not fundamentalist enough, but you oughtn't to distort the scriptures to make your point.

  12. "Are they actively trying to drive any people with conservative views out of my church?"
    You've been asleep. They've been doing this for a long, long time.

  13. I've stopped adding comments as of today - since enough has been said.

    For the information of readers - I am a liberal Christian. My original post arose from my liberal convictions!

  14. I'll bet dollars to donuts the poster is a put-on.

  15. Father Povey,
    I hope you will consider adding my comment on your remarks on the spiritual ancestors of Judaism: Thank you!
    Rabbi Bill Siemers