5 Lingering Effects of Fundamentalism

People often talk about fundamentalism like it’s a geographical location, a place or environment where they experienced the dark ills of religiosity. “But thank God I walked away when I did,” they’ll often say. Or they’ll note, “that place was evil! Happy I’m not there.” How they talk about it seems to imply that walking away was all the remedy they needed.

Of course, talking about fundamentalism like it’s an experience one can easily separate themselves from is very normal, but it’s also naive. Nobody walks away from fundamentalism. We might walk away from a church or away from a cult or spiritual abusive situation. But upon leaving a toxic religious experience, we don’t leave unaffected or alone.

Surprising to many is that recovering from fundamentalism is not a simple journey. Healing is a far more complex path than what most of us anticipate. I think that’s because fundamentalism affects the deepest part of who we are, our souls. It infects our spiritual selves. It involves the core of our being, everything from what we believe to be true about the world and about God to who and how we pursue relationships with others. Fundamentalism is a lifestyle. I don’t think we realize that. But it is. Fundamentalism is not simply a creed that we memorized or a good thing gone wrong, it’s who we are. That sounds really dramatic, I know; but I think it’s true: We are the fundamentalism.

Certainly, how fundamentalism effects us after leaving varies according to the brand of fundamentalism we encountered, how long we encountered it, and whether or not our experience was first generation (meaning: we chose the path) or second or third generation (meaning: we were born into the lifestyle). Other factors that can alter the effects of spiritual abuse might include geography, church denomination, and whether or not, our experience included other abuses such as physical, verbal, or sexual abuses.

Today, I’m focusing on five lingering effects of fundamentalism. This isn’t an exhaustive list by no means. But these are five ways that fundamentalism has affected me as well as numerous others I’ve talked to over the years.

1) Approval Addiction: Fundamentalism breeds addiction to approval. Because most fundamentalist experiences involve high expectations, those of us who lasted for any length of time in a toxic church environment know that the joy of toxic belief involves the performance, the following of the rules/creed. When we get it right our treasures on earth is the approval and affirmation from people we admire, usually church leaders or respected peers. Over time, we unknowingly become controlled by how people perceive our behavior and whether or not they offer us praise. Upon leaving,  that approval we were receiving no longer exists. And we need it. The thing is, most of us don’t know why. At least, not at first. All we know is that when our bosses don’t praise us for a job well done the way we think they should we feel defeated. We get passive aggressive. We go to great lengths to get their approval. But therein is the catch. Since the approval of our bosses is rarely a “spiritual approval,” even when we receive the coveted “job well done” it doesn’t satisfy the void. Approval from family and friends doesn’t usually fill the need either. Spiritual approval is its own unique brand of affirmation, a kind that’s difficult to fulfill outside of a performance-oriented spiritual experience. To that end, a recovering fundamentalist will often jump into new church experiences quickly in hopes that they’ll find a fast fix for the approval their craving. Our addiction to people’s endorsements bleeds into other non-spiritual aspects of our lives, too. Our relationships, our marriages, our parenting, our personal health and wellness, much of our lives can turn into one big hunt for praise.

2) Disagree Impaired. Fundamentalism is built upon a foundation of agreement. The gathering moves forward, becomes bigger, gets popular because the group agrees with each other. That’s why fundamentalists almost always leave when there’s a disagreement with leadership. Heck, most of the time they run. Because a disagreement is not simply a differing of opinion among fundamentalists. Disagreements are a handicap for fundamentalist sects. They breed fear and distrust. But that’s because agreement is the source blood of a fundamentalist movement. Because of that, a dissenter of any kind quickly becomes an enemy of the movement’s assumed “greater good” or often an enemy of God. Which is why the dissenter usually runs or gets chased off because fundamentalists do not know how to disagree. Upon leaving, a recovering fundamentalist will be slow to discover his or her inability to disagree. “Agreement” becomes the goal in relationships, work environments, etc. They become masters of “proving their points,” and when agreement doesn’t seem possible, they run. Because to exist happily among a non unified gathering feels uncomfortable, wrong, otherworldly.

3) Paranoia. Fundamentalism breeds paranoia. Often an effect of the fear that a fundamentalist environment emotes, being paranoid is so common among faithful fundies, it’s like one of the gifts of the spirit. In some ways, perceiving the potential of evil in big and small situations is considered prophetic, a gift of discernment that’s very versatile, helpful foretelling what’s going to happen in the Middle East or imagining the true intentions of a president they didn’t vote for or becoming a useful commodity for understanding the “true” motives of church members, friends, spouses, kids, or pastors. Upon leaving, a recovering fundamentalist will often drive themselves crazy trying to predict, perceive, and control the world around them. While their obsession for world affairs and politics is still very much alive, the most crippling kind of paranoia involves how one interacts with people they see everyday. The “gift” that was considered so useful in a toxic church environment will become far less celebrated in the outside world. That’s because the “gift” begins to define how you interact with people. For instance, you’ll start to assume you know what people think about you. You’ll begin to assume what it means when you’re not included. You’ll assume that you know the true intentions of those whom you call your friends. Your assumptions will come with details, history, a narrative, and seem very convincing. Among fundamentalist cultures, paranoia is nearly invisible because it’s such an integral part of the experience. Everybody is paranoid to some degree! But once you’re in recovery, the habit will fill you up with anger, make it difficult for you to trust people, potentially cause you to make terrible choices, and overwhelm you with questions: What if so&so doesn’t like me? Why isn’t so&so returning my text messages? Where is so&so tonight and why didn’t they invite me? What often happens is that recovering fundamentalists will attempt to control, manipulate, and create environments that they feel safe inside. That might work for a while. But eventually the questions come back and the insecurity returns. Anxiety takes over because we’re not in control or we’re out of control, so we run. We find new friends. We start a clean slate. We start fresh with a good attitude! And that becomes a pattern that the paranoid former fundamentalist will repeat over and over and over again.

4) Passive Aggressive Behavior. Fundamentalists usually hate conflict. That hardly stops conflict from arising. But they will usually go to create lengths to put a stop to the conflict. Much like the inability to disagree, fundamentalists are terrible at arguing too. Whenever they do present their thoughts in a heated emotional fashion, they are silenced, put in their place, or shamed. Since the movement’s future depends on people getting along or “keeping the peace,” fundamentalists become very passive aggressive. In fact, in many ways, passive aggressiveness is almost a form of Christlike behavior because a passive aggressive person makes their point without rocking the boat. At least, in theory. But unless you’re an adult (usually a man) who is in a semi-leadership position of authority, the only way to handle your frustrations among fundamentalists is to do it passive aggressively. Upon leaving, that’s the only way you know how to interact with conflict, passively, only allowing your frustrations to come out in small portions, at the expense of others. To get mad feels ungodly. To be direct and express exactly what’s on your mind seems too hard, uncomfortable, or disrespectful. Passive aggressiveness is so common in society that those of us who are recovering fundamentalists rarely connect our tendencies to indirectly handle conflict with our fundamentalist roots. Healing comes only when we learn or relearn how to be angry, then learn how to not feel guilty becoming angry, then learn how to not run away after becoming angry, and then learn how to let go of that anger and move on. And that’s a long difficult journey that many of us do not want to endure.

5) Exhaustion. Fundamentalism affects people far more deeply than we realize. It seeps into areas of our lives that we didn’t expect or know about. The path toward recovery is long, difficult, cumbersome, often unforgiving, and absolutely exhausting. At some point, sometimes with and sometimes without faith intact, we quit. Because we become tired. We get tired of every choice we make to move away from our old way of thinking turning into a fight among friends and/or family. We get tired of having to explain and explain again why we feel broken. We get tired of fighting the pride we must overcome to be honest about our brokenness. We get tired of every step away being more difficult than we imagined, often creating more drama and more conflict than we thought possible. So we quit. Only to feel guilty about quitting and deciding to start again. But then we quit again. In many ways, that is what the path toward recovery from fundamentalism looks like. There’s no equation for the healing process, at least, not one that works for everybody. Churches don’t often offer a program for spiritual abuse recoverers. Most of the time they become a part of a new problem. Or you end up feeling like you’re the problem. Exhaustion hits you time and time again, often leading us to feel depressed, unmotivated, and alone. And I’m not gonna say “But you’re not alone” because that will just piss you off. Trust me, I get. The journey is indeed exhausting.

To be continued… (Next up, I’ll cover the five things recovering fundamentalists should never do.)

What other effects of fundamentalism have you experienced?

Comments

  1. ryanbrymer says

    MPT, I’m feeling so much of this and never really put it all together in the way you have here. I’m not 100% on every point, but the approval addiction, paranoia, and peacemaking aspects of passive agressiveness hit wayyy too close to home. Thanks.

  2. sillypilgrim says

    Wow. That hurts. To  be honest I have avoided things written about fundamentalists because I was afraid of the condemnation I would feel. Having it so fused to my walk with God and not wanting to throw God himself out slows the detachment process and confuses lots of things that I’d hope could be simple- like worship. I don’t think it helps that those who have been impacted the same way I have are often responding with as vicious an anger as those who defend fundamentalism.

    I don’t even know what fundamentalism is specifically, just that I grew up there and would be stoned from both sides if I were to share my process of thoughts on God.

    I am both relieved to realize God has been walking me away from that for a while, but also a little overwhelmed by how much is still ahead.
    Thank you for writing this. I also really appreciated your 38 thesis.

    (I’m having trouble posting this, so if I send it 15 times I totally apologize!!)

  3. sillypilgrim says

    Wow. That hurts. To  be honest I have avoided things written about fundamentalists because I was afraid of the condemnation I would feel. Having it so fused to my walk with God and not wanting to throw God himself out slows the detachment process and confuses lots of things that I’d hope could be simple- like worship. I don’t think it helps that those who have been impacted the same way I have are often responding with as vicious an anger as those who defend fundamentalism.

    I don’t even know what fundamentalism is specifically, just that I grew up there and would be stoned from both sides if I were to share my process of thoughts on God.

    I am both relieved to realize God has been walking me away from that for a while, but also a little overwhelmed by how much is still ahead.
    Thank you for writing this. I also really appreciated your 38 thesis.

    (I’m having trouble posting this, so if I send it 15 times I totally apologize!!)

  4. singingagain says

    Well said! Thank you for this great validation of a recovery process!  I’m a therapist in the deconstruction and recovery zone myself now, and I think PTSD and trauma recovery, have much in common with healing from fundamentalism, indeed they are often one-in-the same. The fight for freedom, and safety is hard won. Trauma victims (which most of us are to some degree) have to struggle to constantly feel safe in a multitude of ways.  It’s difficult to even articulate the unsafe feeling of fundamentalism to others in the church without being judged, minimized or punished hence increasing the feeling of un-safety around others, and of course God. The insidious nature of fundamentalism often makes for a longer, more complicated healing process (on top of abuse or neglect related to religion and/or just life). Thank you Matthew for your work, it’s really freeing for so many of us!

  5. AzierTheGray says

    This article is true in my experience. It’s both unsettling and freeing to look back on the last four years of my life and realize just how much these lingering effects affected everything I said and did. I honestly ended up becoming far more destructive in my relationships towards others post-fundamentalist than I ever was as a fundamentalist. Looking back now through the lens of these lingering effects, there’s an awful lot that makes more sense now, and it’s been very healing to come to understand why I acted the ways I did and be able to work through these issues.

  6. Vbailey77 says

    thanks so much for addressing this… it’s such a painful topic for me… and i have no doubt whatsoever that it plays a huge role in my life today… :( well, at least now i’m aware of this possible source of some of my really bad thought processes… good luck to everyone who has been touched by fundamentalism… xoxo

  7. Vbailey77 says

    thanks so much for addressing this… it’s such a painful topic for me… and i have no doubt whatsoever that it plays a huge role in my life today… :( well, at least now i’m aware of this possible source of some of my really bad thought processes… good luck to everyone who has been touched by fundamentalism… xoxo

  8. StephenPipkin says

    you’ve been there.  great analysis. physical disapproval, at one point lifethreatening, expedited my journey out of fundamentalism.
    in a sense, fundamentalist and all spiritual cults are “like the Mafia” or the “Hotel California”….you can check in anytime you like or they approve or receive you, but you can never really leave.  that’s a second generation fundy born into a fundamentalist leadership family.
    this is simply “programming” that all reactions have to deal with or replace.
    to get out of fundamentalism practically one must distinguish between one’s personal “Maker” and the Voices.  
    because to get out of fundamentalism is a Pilgrim’s Progress, as i once told my late Father.  but there is no “celestial city” and no destination point other than today’s walk.
    for me it has taken  50 years to undo the programming from conception…intense fundamentalism.
    getting out was getting into trouble in every area:  military, other spiritual cults, american business, government employment or relations, local Mobs with different “christian programming”.
    i achieved the best inner peace from Recognizing two facts about myself:
    1)i was not born a sinner but rather had been programmed to sin…by fundamentalists so that i had to take their remedy  so, just a scam, predatory scam.

    2)i wanted to be a good human being.  now they gave me “jesus” as an example of a good human being.  and i studied my Bible with that understanding.  letting go of all the “beliefs”.

    so today i’m happy, doing well overall, still conflicted sometimes, but seek only inner approval, spot the passive-aggressive games that are “Christian American Supremacist Materialist” necessities. 

    and opt out of anything that makes me feel bad.

    one day at a time.  practicing the Presence.  stuff i learned from their Bible but seldom saw practiced.  

    i do not judge THEM anymore.  they are sick.  so i now try to practice compassion where the Rages used to incapactate me.

    and, the “quitting”, is just a turn in the Path you’re on.  you give me Hope!  looking forward to reading more.

    this helps me today.  i hope you help many to just get down, get real, and try to be good human beings today.

    for The Earth and The Generations.

    Stephen E. W. Savage, legal name of Stephen Pipkin, only son of the late Lester E. Pipkin, founder of Appachian Bible Institute/Fellowship/College and my beloved father.  Now that i don’t need it, Dad approves of me, i’m sure!  haha.  goodhearts come around.  and there are many goodhearts in fundamentalism.  just trapped.  by their own choices, of course.  just as i became as an adult.  what they did to children they did to Jesus, according to the Scriptures.  so that’s for them to answer to.  i forgive.  LOVE and Best Wishes

  9. StephenPipkin says

    you’ve been there.  great analysis. physical disapproval, at one point lifethreatening, expedited my journey out of fundamentalism.
    in a sense, fundamentalist and all spiritual cults are “like the Mafia” or the “Hotel California”….you can check in anytime you like or they approve or receive you, but you can never really leave.  that’s a second generation fundy born into a fundamentalist leadership family.
    this is simply “programming” that all reactions have to deal with or replace.
    to get out of fundamentalism practically one must distinguish between one’s personal “Maker” and the Voices.  
    because to get out of fundamentalism is a Pilgrim’s Progress, as i once told my late Father.  but there is no “celestial city” and no destination point other than today’s walk.
    for me it has taken  50 years to undo the programming from conception…intense fundamentalism.
    getting out was getting into trouble in every area:  military, other spiritual cults, american business, government employment or relations, local Mobs with different “christian programming”.
    i achieved the best inner peace from Recognizing two facts about myself:
    1)i was not born a sinner but rather had been programmed to sin…by fundamentalists so that i had to take their remedy  so, just a scam, predatory scam.

    2)i wanted to be a good human being.  now they gave me “jesus” as an example of a good human being.  and i studied my Bible with that understanding.  letting go of all the “beliefs”.

    so today i’m happy, doing well overall, still conflicted sometimes, but seek only inner approval, spot the passive-aggressive games that are “Christian American Supremacist Materialist” necessities. 

    and opt out of anything that makes me feel bad.

    one day at a time.  practicing the Presence.  stuff i learned from their Bible but seldom saw practiced.  

    i do not judge THEM anymore.  they are sick.  so i now try to practice compassion where the Rages used to incapactate me.

    and, the “quitting”, is just a turn in the Path you’re on.  you give me Hope!  looking forward to reading more.

    this helps me today.  i hope you help many to just get down, get real, and try to be good human beings today.

    for The Earth and The Generations.

    Stephen E. W. Savage, legal name of Stephen Pipkin, only son of the late Lester E. Pipkin, founder of Appachian Bible Institute/Fellowship/College and my beloved father.  Now that i don’t need it, Dad approves of me, i’m sure!  haha.  goodhearts come around.  and there are many goodhearts in fundamentalism.  just trapped.  by their own choices, of course.  just as i became as an adult.  what they did to children they did to Jesus, according to the Scriptures.  so that’s for them to answer to.  i forgive.  LOVE and Best Wishes

  10. MoreCaffeineNow says

    Some of us ex-Fundamentalists went to the other extreme concerning approval and just forced ourselves to accept that it was never coming.

  11. MoreCaffeineNow says

    Some of us ex-Fundamentalists went the other way on the approval issue and just accepted that it would never come. As a result, I don’t feel forced to rush into new churches for myself. I don’t get any approval either, but then that’s been the story of my life. Unfortunately, I am married to a Fundamentalist-lite who does have that problem. I finally had to say we can’t go to the same churches anymore because he wants to stay where the cycles repeat themselves. I can’t do it anymore.

  12. LisaAlan says

    !!! How Dr.Ukaka Restore My Broken  Marriage And Bring Back My Lover !!!

    An amazing testimony on a spell caster who brought my wife back to me.. My name is Jessica Krall ,i live in United Kngdom,and I’m happily married to a lovely and caring wife,with two kids.A very big problem occurred in my family seven months ago,between me and my wife.so terrible that she took the case to court for a divorce.she said that she never wanted to stay with me again,and that she didn’t love me anymore.So she packed out of my house and made me and my children passed through severe pain. I tried all my possible means to get her back,after much begging,but all to no avail.and she confirmed it that she has made her decision,and she never wanted to see me again. So on one evening,as i was coming back from work,i met an old friend of mine who asked of my wife.So i explained every thing to her,so she told me that the only way i can get my wife back,is to visit a spell caster,because it has really worked for her too.So i never believed in spell,but i had no other choice,than to follow her advice. Then she gave me the email address of the spell caster whom she visited.{freedomlovespel@gmail.com}. So the next morning,i sent a mail to the address she gave to me,and the spell caster assured me that i will get my wife back the next day.What an amazing statement!! I never believed,so he spoke with me,and told me everything that i need to do. Then the next morning, So surprisingly, my wife who didn’t call me for the past seven {7}months,gave me a call to inform me that she was coming back.So Amazing!! So that was how she came back that same day,with lots of love and joy,and she apologized for her mistake,and for the pain she caused me and my children. Then from that day,our relationship was now stronger than how it were before,by the help of a spell caster. So, i will advice you out there to kindly visit the same website {freedomlovespel@gmail.com},if”>{freedomlovespel@gmail.com},if you are in any condition like this,or you have any problem related to “bringing your ex back. So thanks to the Dr Ukaka for bringing back my wife,and brought great joy to my family once again. {freedomlovespel@gmail.com}, Thanks.. also contact him on his web site: http://freedomlovespel.yolasite.com

  13. LisaAlan says

    StephenPipkin

    !!! How Dr.Ukaka Restore My Broken  Marriage And Bring Back My Lover !!!

    An amazing testimony on a spell caster who brought my wife back to me.. My name is Jessica Krall ,i live in United Kngdom,and I’m happily married to a lovely and caring wife,with two kids.A very big problem occurred in my family seven months ago,between me and my wife.so terrible that she took the case to court for a divorce.she said that she never wanted to stay with me again,and that she didn’t love me anymore.So she packed out of my house and made me and my children passed through severe pain. I tried all my possible means to get her back,after much begging,but all to no avail.and she confirmed it that she has made her decision,and she never wanted to see me again. So on one evening,as i was coming back from work,i met an old friend of mine who asked of my wife.So i explained every thing to her,so she told me that the only way i can get my wife back,is to visit a spell caster,because it has really worked for her too.So i never believed in spell,but i had no other choice,than to follow her advice. Then she gave me the email address of the spell caster whom she visited.{freedomlovespel@gmail.com}. So the next morning,i sent a mail to the address she gave to me,and the spell caster assured me that i will get my wife back the next day.What an amazing statement!! I never believed,so he spoke with me,and told me everything that i need to do. Then the next morning, So surprisingly, my wife who didn’t call me for the past seven {7}months,gave me a call to inform me that she was coming back.So Amazing!! So that was how she came back that same day,with lots of love and joy,and she apologized for her mistake,and for the pain she caused me and my children. Then from that day,our relationship was now stronger than how it were before,by the help of a spell caster. So, i will advice you out there to kindly visit the same website {freedomlovespel@gmail.com},if”>{freedomlovespel@gmail.com},if you are in any condition like this,or you have any problem related to “bringing your ex back. So thanks to the Dr Ukaka for bringing back my wife,and brought great joy to my family once again. {freedomlovespel@gmail.com}, Thanks.. also contact him on his web site: http://freedomlovespel.yolasite.com

  14. LisaAlan says

    singingagain

    !!! How Dr.Ukaka Restore My Broken  Marriage And Bring Back My Lover !!!

    An amazing testimony on a spell caster who brought my wife back to me.. My name is Jessica Krall ,i live in United Kngdom,and I’m happily married to a lovely and caring wife,with two kids.A very big problem occurred in my family seven months ago,between me and my wife.so terrible that she took the case to court for a divorce.she said that she never wanted to stay with me again,and that she didn’t love me anymore.So she packed out of my house and made me and my children passed through severe pain. I tried all my possible means to get her back,after much begging,but all to no avail.and she confirmed it that she has made her decision,and she never wanted to see me again. So on one evening,as i was coming back from work,i met an old friend of mine who asked of my wife.So i explained every thing to her,so she told me that the only way i can get my wife back,is to visit a spell caster,because it has really worked for her too.So i never believed in spell,but i had no other choice,than to follow her advice. Then she gave me the email address of the spell caster whom she visited.{freedomlovespel@gmail.com}. So the next morning,i sent a mail to the address she gave to me,and the spell caster assured me that i will get my wife back the next day.What an amazing statement!! I never believed,so he spoke with me,and told me everything that i need to do. Then the next morning, So surprisingly, my wife who didn’t call me for the past seven {7}months,gave me a call to inform me that she was coming back.So Amazing!! So that was how she came back that same day,with lots of love and joy,and she apologized for her mistake,and for the pain she caused me and my children. Then from that day,our relationship was now stronger than how it were before,by the help of a spell caster. So, i will advice you out there to kindly visit the same website {freedomlovespel@gmail.com},if”>{freedomlovespel@gmail.com},if you are in any condition like this,or you have any problem related to “bringing your ex back. So thanks to the Dr Ukaka for bringing back my wife,and brought great joy to my family once again. {freedomlovespel@gmail.com}, Thanks.. also contact him on his web site: http://freedomlovespel.yolasite.com

  15. LisaAlan says

    ryanbrymer

    !!! How Dr.Ukaka Restore My Broken  Marriage And Bring Back My Lover !!!

    An amazing testimony on a spell caster who brought my wife back to me.. My name is Jessica Krall ,i live in United Kngdom,and I’m happily married to a lovely and caring wife,with two kids.A very big problem occurred in my family seven months ago,between me and my wife.so terrible that she took the case to court for a divorce.she said that she never wanted to stay with me again,and that she didn’t love me anymore.So she packed out of my house and made me and my children passed through severe pain. I tried all my possible means to get her back,after much begging,but all to no avail.and she confirmed it that she has made her decision,and she never wanted to see me again. So on one evening,as i was coming back from work,i met an old friend of mine who asked of my wife.So i explained every thing to her,so she told me that the only way i can get my wife back,is to visit a spell caster,because it has really worked for her too.So i never believed in spell,but i had no other choice,than to follow her advice. Then she gave me the email address of the spell caster whom she visited.{freedomlovespel@gmail.com}. So the next morning,i sent a mail to the address she gave to me,and the spell caster assured me that i will get my wife back the next day.What an amazing statement!! I never believed,so he spoke with me,and told me everything that i need to do. Then the next morning, So surprisingly, my wife who didn’t call me for the past seven {7}months,gave me a call to inform me that she was coming back.So Amazing!! So that was how she came back that same day,with lots of love and joy,and she apologized for her mistake,and for the pain she caused me and my children. Then from that day,our relationship was now stronger than how it were before,by the help of a spell caster. So, i will advice you out there to kindly visit the same website {freedomlovespel@gmail.com},if”>{freedomlovespel@gmail.com},if you are in any condition like this,or you have any problem related to “bringing your ex back. So thanks to the Dr Ukaka for bringing back my wife,and brought great joy to my family once again. {freedomlovespel@gmail.com}, Thanks.. also contact him on his web site: http://freedomlovespel.yolasite.com

  16. says

    One effect I am experiencing is a sadness that the behavior of people who are striving to live out a their core beliefs has harmed others and driven them from being objective about what the “fundamentalists” are claiming as absolute truth. Even the labels put on them distract us. What are non-fundamentalists to be called? How ultimately will the true truth ever be shared and embraced by the masses if we are exhausted from fighting with each other instead of genuinely seeking God and His best for us together?

    It is easier for us to focus on behavior instead of the truth of how God would want us to be. Really sorting that out is hard work, requiring patience and love between us. We choose to rage against one another, judge, ridicule and reject. People can be very offensive. So can the Truth to those who reject it. 

    Jesus said He was the way, the truth and the life and that He is the path to the Father. If we know Him then we will know the truth. However, He is also misquoted and rejected by both the fundamentalists and non-fundamentalists. 

    I also can say that I am recovering from a fundamental upbringing and have felt the effects you listed.  I still believe what I was taught as a young person, and studied for myself later, but not in how it is presented and people are treated.

  17. says

    One effect I am experiencing is a sadness that the behavior of people who are striving to live out a their core beliefs has harmed others and driven them from being objective about what the “fundamentalists” are claiming as absolute truth. Even the labels put on them distract us. What are non-fundamentalists to be called? How ultimately will the true truth ever be shared and embraced by the masses if we are exhausted from fighting with each other instead of genuinely seeking God and His best for us together?

    It is easier for us to focus on behavior instead of the truth of how God would want us to be. Really sorting that out is hard work, requiring patience and love between us. We choose to rage against one another, judge, ridicule and reject. People can be very offensive. So can the Truth to those who reject it. 

    Jesus said He was the way, the truth and the life and that He is the path to the Father. If we know Him then we will know the truth. However, He is also misquoted and rejected by both the fundamentalists and non-fundamentalists. 

    I also can say that I am recovering from a fundamental upbringing and have felt the effects you listed.  I still believe what I was taught as a young person, and studied for myself later, but not in how it is presented and people are treated.

  18. dlj996 says

    I’m 2nd generation. I have been so abused by this religion. I knew there was something wrong, but i never dreamed I was in a cult. Even as a child I disagreed but only in my mind. I started asking my parents for clarification on certain things when I was about 15. They didn’t have the answers, they just obeyed. I stopped going to church25 years ago and have not been back. For several years I couldn’t pray I didn’t know how i felt about God separate from the church I’m Stoll trying to figure it out and hope I made the right choice lol! I have always thought IFB is a form of child abuse and I still believe it, especially for the girls. My family is still at the same church which puts a strain on our relationship I have tried to explain my story to a few people but they don’t have a clue. They had a normal family Still can’t go to church out of fear and still struggling with what’s a sin and not a sin, like missing church on Wednesday night because you don’t feel good. Is that a sin? It’s easier to just do nothing….

  19. dlj996 says

    I’m 2nd generation. I have been so abused by this religion. I knew there was something wrong, but i never dreamed I was in a cult. Even as a child I disagreed but only in my mind. I started asking my parents for clarification on certain things when I was about 15. They didn’t have the answers, they just obeyed. I stopped going to church25 years ago and have not been back. For several years I couldn’t pray I didn’t know how i felt about God separate from the church I’m Stoll trying to figure it out and hope I made the right choice lol! I have always thought IFB is a form of child abuse and I still believe it, especially for the girls. My family is still at the same church which puts a strain on our relationship I have tried to explain my story to a few people but they don’t have a clue. They had a normal family Still can’t go to church out of fear and still struggling with what’s a sin and not a sin, like missing church on Wednesday night because you don’t feel good. Is that a sin? It’s easier to just do nothing….

  20. says

    This really rang true in a lot of ways, especially #2 an #5. Disagreement was Open Rebellion against The Man-o’-Gawd, a lack faith and trust, and this was doubly true as a woman.
    The exhaustion is continual: trying to explain this to normal people who simply can’t fathom it is like explaining life in a different world, on another planet, in a galaxy far far away. It’s so foundational and all-encompassing, but it often sounds just. so. stupid. when it comes out of my mouth. Dealing with people from the fundie world is actually more relaxing: they just think I’ve got a demon.
    Thank you for writing this. It’ll be a help.

  21. says

    This really rang true in a lot of ways, especially #2 an #5. Disagreement was Open Rebellion against The Man-o’-Gawd, a lack faith and trust, and this was doubly true as a woman.
    The exhaustion is continual: trying to explain this to normal people who simply can’t fathom it is like explaining life in a different world, on another planet, in a galaxy far far away. It’s so foundational and all-encompassing, but it often sounds just. so. stupid. when it comes out of my mouth. Dealing with people from the fundie world is actually more relaxing: they just think I’ve got a demon.
    Thank you for writing this. It’ll be a help.

  22. beautyinhistime says

    This seriously made me tear up a bit. I’m a 27 year old recovering fundamentalist and you have described my life and current emotional state so perfectly, I’m almost in awe. 

    If you would like to read more of my store, you can do so here: http://beautifulinhistime.com/2014/08/20/guilt-inducing-hymns-the-try-hard-life-and-recovery/

  23. beautyinhistime says

    This seriously made me tear up a bit. I’m a 27 year old recovering fundamentalist and you have described my life and current emotional state so perfectly, I’m almost in awe. 

    If you would like to read more of my store, you can do so here: http://beautifulinhistime.com/2014/08/20/guilt-inducing-hymns-the-try-hard-life-and-recovery/

  24. bobintexas says

    Perhaps I’m an outlier, but I’m unaware of having experienced the issues described in your post.  Instead, the long, slow process of rejecting the fundamentalism into which I was born left me with a feeling of release and freedom, as if chains were unbound and I had emerged from the cave into the light.  I continue to feel a spiritual unburdening to this very day.

  25. bobintexas says

    Perhaps I’m an outlier, but I’m unaware of having experienced the issues described in your post.  Instead, the long, slow process of rejecting the fundamentalism into which I was born left me with a feeling of release and freedom, as if chains were unbound and I had emerged from the cave into the light.  I continue to feel a spiritual unburdening to this very day.

  26. AutumnsGentleRain says

    This is much needed.  Left a Fundamental group 8 years ago (2nd/3rd Generation), tried to be a part of a normal type church, just left that a couple of weeks ago.  Born and Raised in the fundamental group, stayed until I was 36.  Right now, I feel like I am just beginning recovery.

  27. AutumnsGentleRain says

    This is much needed.  Left a Fundamental group 8 years ago (2nd/3rd Generation), tried to be a part of a normal type church, just left that a couple of weeks ago.  Born and Raised in the fundamental group, stayed until I was 36.  Right now, I feel like I am just beginning recovery.

  28. Teachersquared says

    I can relate to everything in this.  When I left the Mormon Church I married a Church of Christ preacher.  When he stopped preaching we became members of the Acts29 Network, whose leaders promptly kicked us out via email for reasons still unknown to us.  So, as you can see, fundamentalism is the story of my entire life!  :)   Thank God (literally), we have learned about GRACE, and have landed in a UMC, where we are recovering.  We are discovering freedom in Christ each new day, but yes–I can relate to everything in this article.  Thank  you.

  29. Teachersquared says

    I can relate to everything in this.  When I left the Mormon Church I married a Church of Christ preacher.  When he stopped preaching we became members of the Acts29 Network, whose leaders promptly kicked us out via email for reasons still unknown to us.  So, as you can see, fundamentalism is the story of my entire life!  :)   Thank God (literally), we have learned about GRACE, and have landed in a UMC, where we are recovering.  We are discovering freedom in Christ each new day, but yes–I can relate to everything in this article.  Thank  you.

  30. JesHouk says

    I’d add experiencing guilt for any pleasure. Experiencing joy and pleasure outside to official worship experience in church or during ones ‘quiet time’ is suspect. Is it the flesh? Doesn’t matter what caused it- a great desert, sleeping in instead of getting up early to read My Bible or sexual pleasure-it is all to be questioned.

  31. JesHouk says

    I’d add experiencing guilt for any pleasure. Experiencing joy and pleasure outside to official worship experience in church or during ones ‘quiet time’ is suspect. Is it the flesh? Doesn’t matter what caused it- a great desert, sleeping in instead of getting up early to read My Bible or sexual pleasure-it is all to be questioned.

  32. Time and Motion says

    This resonates with me so much. Thank you for your work.
    Up until recently, I worked for a pastor at a church with strong fundamentalist leanings. His POV reinforced my own fundamentalist tendencies for 9 years. I did “all the things” and I asked few questions.
    After 5 years, I grew tired of the obvious lies from the leaders I thought I believed in. Their emphasis on performance and maintaining a spiritual façade became far too evident.
    About 4 years ago, I felt like I should remove myself from those negative influences – no more Fox News, I stopped listening to my boss/pastor on Sundays, etc. I began getting information from multiple (better) sources and started asking questions. I just couldn’t quit my job.
    This had the effect of shifting my whole political outlook and I found myself voting for the current president when I had so passionately voted against him before.
    I think what I’m saying is that I’m recovering but I still have to work for the same church. The secret is, my faith has been profoundly damaged by the same people with whom I once identified. My distrust has shaken me to my core.
    Any thoughts on how I can find my faith again?

  33. Time and Motion says

    This resonates with me so much. Thank you for your work.
    Up until recently, I worked for a pastor at a church with strong fundamentalist leanings. His POV reinforced my own fundamentalist tendencies for 9 years. I did “all the things” and I asked few questions.
    After 5 years, I grew tired of the obvious lies from the leaders I thought I believed in. Their emphasis on performance and maintaining a spiritual façade became far too evident.
    About 4 years ago, I felt like I should remove myself from those negative influences – no more Fox News, I stopped listening to my boss/pastor on Sundays, etc. I began getting information from multiple (better) sources and started asking questions. I just couldn’t quit my job.
    This had the effect of shifting my whole political outlook and I found myself voting for the current president when I had so passionately voted against him before.
    I think what I’m saying is that I’m recovering but I still have to work for the same church. The secret is, my faith has been profoundly damaged by the same people with whom I once identified. My distrust has shaken me to my core.
    Any thoughts on how I can find my faith again?

  34. TrenaJo says

    Time and Motion  I hear ya!  I worked in the office of a growing church as senior secretary to the senior pastor.  At first I bought it all, was gung ho, but after 4 years I thought I was going nuts.  I really did.  So I quit. Actually, I wasn’t going nuts (but as my dear hubby would say, “Who would know?”  LOL).  It was only poisoning from the purple kool-aid!   More seriously, re-think why you believe you still have to work for this church?  Need the paycheck?  Think again!   Blessings….

  35. TrenaJo says

    Time and Motion  I hear ya!  I worked in the office of a growing church as senior secretary to the senior pastor.  At first I bought it all, was gung ho, but after 4 years I thought I was going nuts.  I really did.  So I quit. Actually, I wasn’t going nuts (but as my dear hubby would say, “Who would know?”  LOL).  It was only poisoning from the purple kool-aid!   More seriously, re-think why you believe you still have to work for this church?  Need the paycheck?  Think again!   Blessings….

  36. JSDude1 says

    Time and Motion “By Grace you have been saved through faith (Eph2:8-9)” and 1 Cor. 13:5 “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”   Remember also what Paul wrote in Romans 5:8 “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
    Remember that Christianity, and a genuine faith in Christ is about Grace, not works.  This, IMO is the cure for a Fundamentalism that heaps a burden on people rather than bringing them to the Cross, we are sinners..and God cannot because of His justice and Holiness forget this, but He offers mercy, grace to those that turn to Christ.
    I did not change my political beliefs when I realized this (as God doesn’t change and certain things are always going to be right or wrong such as sexual morals, murder, etc.. though I am sure that Christians of good will can and do disagree on fiscal issues)..  What this did what change my relationship with God.  Remember Christ also exclaimed:
    Matthew 11:30 “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

    God Bless Sincerely,
    JJS.

  37. JSDude1 says

    Time and Motion “By Grace you have been saved through faith (Eph2:8-9)” and 1 Cor. 13:5 “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”   Remember also what Paul wrote in Romans 5:8 “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
    Remember that Christianity, and a genuine faith in Christ is about Grace, not works.  This, IMO is the cure for a Fundamentalism that heaps a burden on people rather than bringing them to the Cross, we are sinners..and God cannot because of His justice and Holiness forget this, but He offers mercy, grace to those that turn to Christ.
    I did not change my political beliefs when I realized this (as God doesn’t change and certain things are always going to be right or wrong such as sexual morals, murder, etc.. though I am sure that Christians of good will can and do disagree on fiscal issues)..  What this did what change my relationship with God.  Remember Christ also exclaimed:
    Matthew 11:30 “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

    God Bless Sincerely,
    JJS.

  38. JSDude1 says

    MoreCaffeineNow Just bring your husband back to the fact that Jesus is about Grace, not “following the rules” (which we cannot possibly do, nor could the Israelites in the OT, and frankly Jesus sought out the broken like the woman who was going to be stoned, but then turned to Him (Alone) for salvation)!
    God Bless.

  39. JSDude1 says

    MoreCaffeineNow Just bring your husband back to the fact that Jesus is about Grace, not “following the rules” (which we cannot possibly do, nor could the Israelites in the OT, and frankly Jesus sought out the broken like the woman who was going to be stoned, but then turned to Him (Alone) for salvation)!
    God Bless.

  40. Jerry kaifetz says

    I left Fundamentalism 25 years ago; in fact I was at the very heart of the movement for a number of years.  I never experienced any of these things.  Paul, you are doing a lot of projecting here.  I think some people will be helped, but thought you may not realize it, your piece carries that familiar authoritative tone, and  you cite no data,   no surveys, no polls, just your opinion.  Not saying anecdotal beliefs have to be wrong, but nothing you said hit the mark for me.  Jerry D. Kaifetz, Ph.D., (author of “Profaned Pulpit — the Jack Schaap Story.”)

  41. Jerry kaifetz says

    I left Fundamentalism 25 years ago; in fact I was at the very heart of the movement for a number of years.  I never experienced any of these things.  Paul, you are doing a lot of projecting here.  I think some people will be helped, but thought you may not realize it, your piece carries that familiar authoritative tone, and  you cite no data,   no surveys, no polls, just your opinion.  Not saying anecdotal beliefs have to be wrong, but nothing you said hit the mark for me.  Jerry D. Kaifetz, Ph.D., (author of “Profaned Pulpit — the Jack Schaap Story.”)

  42. Pam M Bos says

    I’ve been out of fundamentalism for a long time but still struggle with the temptation to want things to be black and white, for there to be a winner and a loser, a good guy and a bad guy in most controversial situations. Even though that is why I rejected it as an adult. I think that is just another facet of the need for agreement. A friend and I also talked about the tapes that run in our heads that get really annoying. For example, I can listen to an Obama speech or coverage of the Ferguson shooting and hear in my head the line for line rebuttals if conservative Christian GOP rhetoric to the point where I don’t assess the content and develop my own response.
    I’ve been out of fundamentalism for a long time but still struggle with the temptation to want things to be black and white, for there to be a winner and a loser, a good guy and a bad guy in most controversial situations. Even though that is why I rejected it as an adult. I think that is just another facet of the need for agreement. A friend and I also talked about the tapes that run in our heads that get really annoying. For example, I can listen to an Obama speech or coverage of the Ferguson shooting and hear in my head the line for line rebuttals if conservative Christian GOP rhetoric to the point where I don’t assess the content and develop my own response.

  43. Pam M Bos says

    I’ve been out of fundamentalism for a long time but still struggle with the temptation to want things to be black and white, for there to be a winner and a loser, a good guy and a bad guy in most controversial situations. Even though that is why I rejected it as an adult. I think that is just another facet of the need for agreement. A friend and I also talked about the tapes that run in our heads that get really annoying. For example, I can listen to an Obama speech or coverage of the Ferguson shooting and hear in my head the line for line rebuttals if conservative Christian GOP rhetoric to the point where I don’t assess the content and develop my own response.
    I’ve been out of fundamentalism for a long time but still struggle with the temptation to want things to be black and white, for there to be a winner and a loser, a good guy and a bad guy in most controversial situations. Even though that is why I rejected it as an adult. I think that is just another facet of the need for agreement. A friend and I also talked about the tapes that run in our heads that get really annoying. For example, I can listen to an Obama speech or coverage of the Ferguson shooting and hear in my head the line for line rebuttals if conservative Christian GOP rhetoric to the point where I don’t assess the content and develop my own response.

  44. says

    JesHouk I remember being so confused about this and thinking, “This is how Satan must have felt before he rebelled.” But whereas Satan gave in and reveled in extra-Godly pleasures (“extra” to mean “outside”), I would just feel guilty and hope that got me by.

  45. says

    JesHouk I remember being so confused about this and thinking, “This is how Satan must have felt before he rebelled.” But whereas Satan gave in and reveled in extra-Godly pleasures (“extra” to mean “outside”), I would just feel guilty and hope that got me by.

  46. Pam M Bos says

    Thank you; it definitely has faded with time but still crops up from time to time. I definitely have learned it is important for recovering fundamentalists to focus on what we now believe and what we are moving toward in addition to reacting to what drove us away. But that can take time.

  47. Pam M Bos says

    Thank you; it definitely has faded with time but still crops up from time to time. I definitely have learned it is important for recovering fundamentalists to focus on what we now believe and what we are moving toward in addition to reacting to what drove us away. But that can take time.

  48. fenixrisingucc says

    Thank you Matthew, 
    My faith of choice came out of Broken Arrow, Rhema Bible College in the early 80’s.   I was married, to a minister we were ordained as evangelists and traveled all over.  I became disabled which went against the healing prosperity message we preached.  I was not allowed to go with my husband then as I ended up in a wheel chair, He was told as head of the house he was responsible as some where we had opened a door to the devil. He eventually became abuse to me. To make matters worse, I fell from my wheel chair banging my head on the bath tub and began having seizures. The bible identified seizures as a manifestation of demon possession.  This only perpetuated the paranoia in him and in may.  I was so scared wondering what I did that God would allow this to happen to me.  Fast  forward. I divorced,  I am no longer in a wheel chair. I went back to school.  ( we were told secular school was of the devil)  So for me to go was a huge decision. For me it was running to the roar. And what I discovered was the exact opposite.  Wonderful people, All kinds of people with all kinds of views of Life and of God and how to be kind to others.  I received my  bachelor’s degree.     My live  has changed over the years I consider myself part of the emergent movement and I am a member of the  United Church of Christ Church.  . in 2009 I received my Master of Divinity at Andover Newton Theology School.  I am ordained in the United Church of Christ and I am a New Start Pastor in Haverhill Ma. Phoenix Rising UCC. http://www.Phoenixrisingucc.org.  

    Matthew,  for a long time there weren’t many people talking about this. I feel your Essay articulated in a very real way what many of us have had to pass through.  May many find your blog and may it become a path towards a right and true relationship with God. I look forward to hearing more of your insights.

  49. KeepOnAndCarryCalm says

    JesHouk Except for sports. There’s no guilt in sports. Watching or playing sports is a-okay. But God forbid you enjoy some fiction reading. The best part was when after all the arguing about whether or not [insert popular trend here] was evil, the classic final line was always “At the end of they day you have ask yourself if [insert popular trend here] is edifying and glorifying God.”

  50. KeepOnAndCarryCalm says

    janaleemiller I was warned that God would bring me back, and I may not like the things he’ll have to do to make want to return. It’s been years, and to this day, when anything hinting at a tragedy occurs, that thought still goes through my mind. Just recently, my father in his mid 60’s was diagnosed diabetic. My first thought was exactly this, then I remembered that he spent has his life making poor diet choices, and this is a common problem with that lifestyle and age. But the fear and pull is still that strong.

  51. jeriwho says

    The five symptoms you list occur across the entire population. I think Fundamentalism appeals to something far more basic than what you have constructed: human selfishness and pride. I think this is what frustrates former fundies: they have shucked the weird dress code; they have stopped condemning liberals, gays, and the poor; they want their offerings to go to feed the hungry instead of buying new buses. And yet they are still argumentative, combative, controlling, paranoid, etc. That’s because the core issue of pride within themselves is still something they have not confronted. Christian Fundamentalism appeals to our pride and helps us hedge in our pride and, well, be proud of it. Yes, we need to walk away from Fundamentalism, but we also need to see that flaws within ourselves kept us in Fundamentalism for as long as we were there. We leave Fundamentalism because Fundamentalism hurts us, but then we need to examine ourselves to see where we have hurt others because we traded off our own integrity and conscience for the approval and security of Fundamentalism.

  52. ntwrightfan says

    I feel the same way bobintexas. I left the fundamentalist regime about 8 years ago. I am now Anglican. I have never felt more free in my life. The author NT Wright has had a profound impact on my “renewal” process. I still have a few friends who are fundis, but strangely, over time these relationships are becoming more and more distant. I have left the Republican Party as I am truly a libertarian. The Christian life is not about “us vs. them.” The big temptation I now have to resist is staring down my nose at many of the same folks with whom I once rubbed elbows. I now view some of them as “simple” & quite “shallow.” We mustn’t forget that they are in dire need of God’s love and we must pray for them without ceasing.

  53. ntwrightfan says

    I feel the same way bobintexas. I left the fundamentalist regime about 8 years ago. I am now Anglican. I have never felt more free in my life. The author NT Wright has had a profound impact on my “renewal” process. I still have a few friends who are fundis, but strangely, over time these relationships are becoming more and more distant. I have left the Republican Party as I am truly a libertarian. The Christian life is not about “us vs. them.” The big temptation I now have to resist is staring down my nose at many of the same folks with whom I once rubbed elbows. I now view some of them as “simple” & quite “shallow.” We mustn’t forget that they are in dire need of God’s love and we must pray for them without ceasing.

  54. ELACEE says

    I read your piece about the problems you’ve experienced with Progressive Christianity.  I’ve now read a bit about the problems you experienced with Fundamentalism. I once read a story about two people who were going to live in a new town. The first person, on her way in, stopped to ask a man on the outskirts, “what can I hope to find in this new place?” He responded, “I will be happy to tell you, but first tell me about where you came from.” She went on to tell him about all the horrible people and horrible experiences in her old town. After she finished, he said, “I’m sorry to tell you this, but I’m afraid that you’ll find the same to be true about this new place.”
    Not long afterwards, the second person, seeing the same man, stopped to ask him, “What can I hope to find in this new place?” Again, he said, “I will tell you, but first tell me about where you came from.” She answered, “I found many lovely people there.” The man responded, “and you will find the same to be true about this new place.”
    This is not to discount people’s hurtful experiences. They happen to everyone in every place we find ourselves in this world. But self-focus and other-people-focus will not solve our problems. On the contrary, self and other focus are the problems. Peter was participating in a miraculous event until he took his eyes off of the one place they rightly belonged.

  55. JSDude1 says

    dlj996 Yes true Christianity is about Grace, not works. However it’s also true that we are all sinners and God’s justice because of His law/character is real.  We belong to death, but the WAY isn’t to “follow rules” as in much of fundamentalist thought, it is through realizing we cannot save ourselves, and through God’s mercy and Grace Christ has come to save us.  Do not try to gain His favor (because that’s impossible) simply look to what HE has done.
    If you lack clarity read The Bible.  I suggest to start in the Gospels and Romans.  -JS

  56. JSDude1 says

    dlj996 Yes true Christianity is about Grace, not works. However it’s also true that we are all sinners and God’s justice because of His law/character is real.  We belong to death, but the WAY isn’t to “follow rules” as in much of fundamentalist thought, it is through realizing we cannot save ourselves, and through God’s mercy and Grace Christ has come to save us.  Do not try to gain His favor (because that’s impossible) simply look to what HE has done.
    If you lack clarity read The Bible.  I suggest to start in the Gospels and Romans.  -JS

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