Growing up in the fundamentalist/evangelical world, I was told there were enemies “out there.” This would have been in the late 70’s and throughout the 80’s—even into the 90’s. Here were some of those “enemies”:
Rock music and hidden messages: We were told that rock music was intrinsically evil. In other words, even if the lyrics were “Christian” or even wholesome, it was still evil. The music style and drum beats were seen as animalistic, and even sexual in some way or another. It led to dancing, which led to beer, which led to…well, you get the idea. It led places. Bad places. It was the “Devil’s” music.
And we were told satanic messages were hidden in many of the songs—the whole “backmasking” idea (See here). Supposedly, if you listened to the record or tape backwards, you could hear these hidden messages. So, like many young evangelicals at the time, I destroyed my collection of rock & roll records.
Of course, this was just a focal point to further condemn the entire entertainment industry, Hollywood, R-rated movies, most television programming, and popular culture in general. It was all bad.
Another “enemy” was evolution—both the “theory” and those who believed it. As the “Bible clearly taught,” the earth was only 6000 years old and the six days of creation were literal 24-hour periods. This spawned an entire industry of “young-earth” creationists who wrote books, spoke at conferences, and started institutes. They spent decades debating both evolutionists and Christians who didn’t accept their literal reading of Genesis and thought evolution was compatible with the Judeo-Christian narrative. And, they are still with us (See here).
The other “enemy” I remember were the secular humanists (See here). These radical atheists wanted to take over America. They wanted to remove God from everything, schools, government, and the “public square.” They wanted to restrict religious liberty and persecute Christians. They had infiltrated academia, corporations, government (Democrats), and even some ecclesiastical institutions. It was obviously a conspiracy. Think Tim LaHaye (See here).
It was a very clear picture of good guys and bad guys, white hats and dark hats. It was simple. And our job was to point all this out, to preach against it, teach against it, and “take a stand.” This also meant registering as a Republican and “taking our country back.” We were angry. We were the only barrier keeping the unwashed pagan hoards from storming castle America and turning it into an unholy, libertine, dump.
Well, all this was mostly nonsense. To this day, I wish I had those records back. Unfortunately, not much has changed since I was a teen in the 70’s. I still see Christians shouting down similar, if not the very same, so-called “enemies.”
Part of my journey out of that nonsense is pictured in the story of Nathan the prophet and his confronting of King David over his infidelity (2 Samuel 12).
Nathan tells a story to King David that David thinks is about someone else, but it is really about him (I actually think much of the Biblical narrative is written in such a way).
All those years growing up, I was being told a story about someone else. It was their fault. They were bad. It was the entertainment industry, it was rock music, evolutionists, humanists, liberals, and atheists doing all this harm to our country and our faith. Like the “man” Nathan tells David about, they were stealing from us, taking what was ours. We were the poor whose faith was being attacked and we wanted our country back. As I listened to this story, I became more and more angry. I wanted to “do” something about it. Like David, I wanted to punish these people.
But something happened. Slowly, I began to see that this thing called fundamentalism/evangelicalism (me) was actually one pillar propping up a system doing the very thing I thought only “they” were doing. Many of the key problems in this country, like poverty, wealth imbalance, racism, sexism, environmental destruction, violence in general, and more had actually been underwritten and supported by certain interpretations of the Bible. And these interpretations were drawn from the fundamentalist/evangelical well. Thus, I was complicit.
Sudden realization: It wasn’t them, it was me. I felt it, like a voice, “You are the man.” Silence. Then the anger began to drain away. Next, shame, and then repentance. Now, still repenting (That should have been the title to this blog…or my life…).
This is the moment fundamentalism/evangelicalism still needs to have, as a movement. Such is one reason for this blog, for my writing.
However, the David moment, that moment we hear “You are the man (or woman)” isn’t a moment only fundamentalists or evangelicals need to have or hear.
The moment we realize it is us who needs to change before we worry about anyone else changing, is the day change becomes possible, regardless of what tradition we belong to or where we are on the journey—believer or otherwise.
“I am the man.” Not someone else. Me. You. Us.