THE FUNDAMENTALIST PLAGUE
By Allen C. Dexter
I just read a very good article that precipitated a great deal of thought. I had to conclude that this insightful article was “right on.” You can find and peruse the same article right here.
This mind infection or meme doesn’t just afflict Christianity. It has afflicted the world ever since the first tribal seer, seeress, shaman, etc. concocted the first fantastic tale to explain worldly happenstances and their causes and why existence existed, thus inventing the first gods and/or goddesses and setting himself or herself up as an authority. Over time, set theologies, “holy” books and religious systems developed.
I wish I could say it’s been uphill from there,
Christian orthodoxy and fundamentalism is just another in a long line of orthodoxies and fundamentalist phenomena that can be traced back through history. There is really nothing that is truly new.
Once a priestly and governmental aristocracy comes on the scene, it has to find some way to keep the subservient masses under control. The officials of the ruling religion and/or government can’t be everywhere at all times. But – all seeing, all knowing gods can!
Like mythical Santa Claus, they see you when you’re sleeping and see you when you’re awake, or so you are authoritatively assured. There is literally nowhere to hide. You either get in line or you’re toast – usually for all of a terrifyingly fictitious eternity.
Works beautifully on ornery little Johnny in the weeks before Christmas. Works rather well on big John too.
Just like the author of the article above, I was at one time a fundamentalist – a super-fundamentalist. When you’re adhering to the seventh-day sabbath and Bible holy days, clean and unclean meats, etc., I can’t label it anything but super-fundamentalism.
This statement resonated loudly with me: “As a fundamentalist you close your mind to anything but what ancient texts say. You only listen to certain things and filter everything through the lens of your chosen religion.”
I couldn’t state what happened to me in any clearer terms. I went from a skeptical teen-ager to a true believer basically overnight. It was like suddenly coming down with a virus. One moment healthy and vibrant, the next moment sick all over and feeling worse by the minute. I went from healthy skepticism to blatant unthinking fanaticism so fast that it took everyone, including me, by surprise.
This was no run of the mill virus I or people around me had developed defenses against. It was a new mutation! Cataclysmic viruses result when common viruses mutate and develop something new, like suddenly becoming pneumonic. British-Israelism, holy days, divine healing versus doctors and medicine, clean and unclean meats, etc., etc. I learned I shouldn’t even celebrate my birthday. It came upon me and overwhelmed me before I had a chance to really think.
Herbert Armstrong was a master at mutating the virus. He was also a master at keeping the old psychosis of fear dangling over our heads. He did away with the old “hell” and substituted an all consuming lake of fire that would probably vaporize even our ashes. He took away the hope of going to heaven and substituted becoming a literal son of God ruling over a coming perfect world. With a rod of iron, yet — not some little twiggy switch! That got the old adrenalin and testosterone flowing! Real macho message for really macho guys and gals who never before felt they had any real power! They could become GOD! That meant they could “call the shots” — for EVERYBODY!
Awesome! Or, as a particularly ridiculous verbal-ism that infected the group put it, “ghastly.” I have no idea where it originated, but I heard it first from the mouth of David Jon Hill when we went to see him off on the Queen Mary while we were stationed in New York. That was in 1961. Everything he saw that impressed him was labeled “ghastly,” which he pronounced somewhat British-like as “gawstly.”
Another statement I identify with states: “there is a certain thrill in suddenly ‘waking up’ and realizing you’ve been deluding yourself for many years.”
The thrill didn’t come on overnight. There was a period of confusion and bewilderment. It took a while to figure out just how deluded I had been. How deluded the whole damn world was! Despite there being obvious degrees of delusion, delusion is still delusion. Recovery involves a subtle, slow process, sort of like recovering from a serious infection. It takes a while.
How and why did this mind infection last so long – over twenty years in my case before I began to recover? Another statement gives a clue: “You slowly begin to grasp that the fundamentalist rituals you are using are designed solely to keep those delusions fresh and ever present in your mind so that you will quickly fall into line if you have doubts.”
We repulsed contrary thoughts by cliches and slogans we constantly heard and repeated. We were “in the truth,” contrary things were “abominations,” demons and demonic forces were everywhere and oh so powerful, questioning anything meant you were in “a bad attitude” or, horror of horrors, “unconverted.” The “world” was “Satan’s world” and we had to live in it but not be a part of it. The list could go on and on. We had a self-righteous, all-knowing answer for anything and everything. We walked around with that superior attitude and haughtiness I’ve since learned to recognize and abhor in other cultic and fundamentalist people.
This was reinforced by a constant round of listening to the World Tomorrow broadcast, reading the literature, compulsory attendance at weekly services and holy day observances where basically the same messages were hammered home and reinforced time after time. Every holy day, Herbert would ask the same question – “Brethren, why are we here?” and give the same answers, replicating and reinforcing the infection. We were constantly made to feel inadequate because there was no way to adhere to Herb’s formula of studying our Bibles an hour, meditating an hour and praying an hour. We were confident he did even though, if we had honestly thought about it, how in the world could he?
An aura surrounded Herbert Armstrong. An aura carefully created and nurtured by him and those worshipful sycophants who surrounded him. He was god-like in all our eyes. We all aspired to be as perfect and wise as he. That aura persists in thousands of spiritually diseased minds to this very day, in spite of all the salacious revelations that should have dispelled it long ago. The virus clouds their minds and doesn’t allow them to see what is so apparent.
How much of the original infection still remains is a good question. I’d like to believe that it has been totally eradicated. The disquieting thing is that the old virus is still back there sitting dormant in my mind and every once in a while, the old virus tape tries to play again. I have to bring myself up short and realize that I’ve thoroughly disproved all that nonsense.
It’s time to move forward.