Death, Inspiration, and Fundamentalism

by Rosemary Gray-Snelgrove

What We Long For

Jack’s funeral on Saturday, not particularly religious, rose to heights of emotional and spiritual inspiration with piercing images, over and over, of what we long for in our deeper, higher selves.  Generousity, caring, civil behaviour, concern for all: if this isn’t the acting out of the Golden Rule – found at the core of every faith – what is??  And it’s a vision for most of what we aspire to, from which come the behaviours we most admire.

It’s a long time since I’ve felt those ideals stirring – submerged for years in discouragement and world weariness.  As Lorraine Segato was singing, I remembered the summer of 1967 ringing with two refrains:  Bobby Gimbie’s “Ca-na-da”, and “All You Need Is Love”.  Sentimental but positive and encouraging when all kinds of people were humming the same tunes.  The Company of Young Canadians were out there all over the country, and Tom Berger was modeling a consultative respectful process of asking and listening to native groups across the north, seeking truth on which to base pipeline recommendation.  That era launched many of us into the work of trying to improve things. We inevitably ran into greed and hunger for power, and the old ideologies of encouraging the survival of the fittest.  And as these have gained ascendancy, in the inevitable pendulum swing, we got older.  And loss began to take a toll.

Not The Past but Into the Future

Put the past disappointments to rest.  Our kids need help to take up the storied torch.  Our sadness and scepticism has helped to dampen their zest.  Have we not contributed to it not being cool to make the leap, to step out, to act out the belief that the ‘bliss’ they seek can be found within working the collective?

This might be a fresh start, or a continuation of something that never ended.  That’s what Jack’s letter, and Stephen Lewis and the First Nations Chief, and everybody else lifted up on Saturday.   Love, Hope, Optimism.  A Manifesto, Steven Lewis called it.  Hallelujah, Rise Up and Everybody Get Together – and songs yet unwritten – can be our anthems as we look around and find others to step out with us.  (As Joy has done in getting the discussion going about social housing on Opening The Window).  That energy will be catching.

Politics and Religion Can Keep Gentle Company

As a Christian, I felt Christ there today.  In concert with all the true teachers of God’s truth.  Loving spirits of a living God.  And for those uncomfortable with naming the divine, the best of humanist values were there, in the panoply.  Love, Hope, Optimism.

Some of course feel completely differently.  A letter in the Globe today called the funeral “an NDP Rally” and of people being “manipulated”.  Useful to remember the width of the human continuum.

Theocracy: Religion and Politcs Fused and Confused

Regarding yesterday as a gathering in the spirit of love and hope was a counterpoint to my current pondering of the present theocratic movement in the U.S.A. and Canada.  The conservative arguments against separation of Church and State have been growing, as many Christians seek to legitimize not the inspiration to serve God and follow your religiously-formed conscience (nobody has been attacking that) but the implementing in policy of specific dictums of particular Christian sects.

Bible Driven Belief

On holiday I spent some hours with Tom, a friend I had encouraged years ago in his first steps toward becoming Christian.  The charismatic energy and certainty of the Toronto Airport Fellowship attracted him – he could perhaps now be termed a non-church affiliated Bible-centred pentacostal evangelical.  He exudes love and cheeriness, not his former depression.  He is a can-do guy – or rather, “God-can-do”. Without God’s personal direction, with signs, actions are fruitless.  Total faith is Tom’s salvation.

Many people of faith walk closely with God.  How is Tom’s mind-set different from theirs and mine?

I think it’s in the belief that the agenda has been set by God and laid out in the Bible. The fundamentals are that Jesus will return.  It will be, among other things, when Israel is wholly God’s land.  Obama’s efforts to assist inclusion of the Palestinians will continue the chaos and ultimately speed up the end.  What’s awaiting is The Rapture, the taking-up to God’s kingdom of all those who have been Born Again in the Spirit.  End-Times precede The Rapture and are upon us already. One sign is that God is drawing people out of the Churches, into a closer relationship with Himself.  This is all laid out and we’d best get with the program.

The Nature of the Leap or the Gap

The Machine Gun Preacher (his moniker in the area of Africa where he works) has turned up in the press.  An American and former military and gang member, he is Born Again and now rescues child soldiers and engages them in an “army for Christ”.  They are educated and cared for and prepared to kill if they must to defend their small Christian enclaves.  He and my friend Tom, on opposite continents, speak the same language.

Trying to understand their confidence and energy, I think of them as tapping into a connection, a level of brain activity, triggered by ritual and belief,  that truly informs them.  They believe this high-level energy to be God’s presence and that they are attuned to His will.  This may indeed be a connection to divine spirit.  Many of us have had such moments.  But there is a step further that the fundamentalist goes: God and the Bible speak directly to them and God becomes The Boss of Them.  We’re not meant then to work with God, talk with God, let his love infuse us.  We are to obey, guided by The Word.

As is the Religious Right.  Religion and politics are fused for them in the Bible and fuelled by The Word.  Hence the movement, seen as Holy, toward a Theocracy in the U.S. — which may never be fully in power but which is more and more significant in decision-making and direction.

Questions That Follow

I don’t think this is going to go away.  And I don’t think we can dismiss Theocrats as misguided loons.  Many questions arise.  Please help me with your perspectives!  Over time we’ll explore them.

  • Is there a significant difference in outlook between those who see Love as the core of God’s intention for us and those who emphasize the word of the Bible?
  • What is the nature of the Gap between those who keep incorporating our experience in the world into our faith and those who hold to The Word as eternal and not to be adjusted to ‘so-called’ reality?
  • Is Obedience to scripture the biggest stumbling block for how we regard God’s will?
  • How does human suffering and social justice seem to get short shrift by the religious right?
  • Some of us believe we’re meant to be God’s hands, feet, mind in the world.  Others say we’re wrong – that God will do what he wishes and we’re to wait on his direction.

What do you think?



Filed under A Bigger Circle, Rosemary's entries, Uncategorized

6 responses to “Death, Inspiration, and Fundamentalism

  1. Dan Cooperstock

    I think one of the best replies to anyone that thinks following the Bible fully should be the whole of the law and of how we should act, is the following:

  2. Fundamentalism works until you realize there is someone else in the room; someone who believes differently, thinks differently, who thinks that what they believe is as inerrant as what you believe.
    If the two of you are to survive, love will have to prevail. And whether the rationale for that love is based on the other’s faith or yours; love must prevail.
    Some of us believe in the inerrancy of scripture, that scripture is the real test of whether something’s true or not. But if that were true there would have been no reason for Jesus to resist the devil in the wilderness. After all, the devil was quoting scripture. He quoted more bible verses than Jesus did.
    So if inerrancy exists, it must be in something other than just the words. Interpretation matters, but application even more. And that’s the rub, because even two fundamentalists can’t agree on interpretation, let alone how to live it out.
    ‘The commandments … are summed up in this one rule: “love your neighbour as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law.’ Romans 13:9,10. Paraphrasing 1 John 3:18,19 ‘we know that we belong to the truth when we love not just with words but with actions.’
    The poignancy and truthfulness of what your friend Tom believes has little to do with how many verses he can quote. It has to do with whether he loves.
    For a day will come when Tom will be in the same room as his enemy. If Tom loves his enemy, as Christ loved his enemies, then fundamentalist or not, he’s got the application right, and that is all that really matters.
    I am biting my tongue as I write this, chomping to take issue with the camel sized holes in his eschatalogy, but I’ll say nothing more lest the next room I’m in is with Tom!

  3. Karen Thorpe

    Really enjoyed your blog all 1100 words of it.
    First the funeral – truly filled with the power and joy of the Spirit and yes I was inspired – in some new way that I can’t quite define yet. I have been so weary of politics and bored by the lack of vision, Here we saw a man who truly touched people’s hearts – I think he said that his actions were his worship and it turns out that they truly were.
    I am reading Jim Wallis’s book called Redisovering Values (A Moral Compass for the New Economy) – would quote the whole book here if I could.. He is such a clear and readable writer and thinker. Jim points out that our God now is the MARKET how can we sell our religion, our products, our services and ultimately our souls. Jack somehow crossed a boundary here ( although he did do a good job of selling the NDP in the last election). The territory that he arrived in was a kind of theocracy that rested in the “common good” where love prevails, where the reality of what is before us each and every moment and how we respond to this with hope, optimism and yes love tells the real story.
    Enjoyed both of the comments and had a good laugh at the inerrancy of some wild scriptures.

  4. So Christianity is king? What do I do with my Muslim, Hindu, Taoist friends. Shoot them. Convert them. Watch them be shoved aside by the right wing fundamentalists who believe the bible is it? Not me. I won’t join your gang.
    I pray that they will not get control of the states. And most definitely not Canada.
    Shooting for Jesus? Sounds like the inquisition to me.
    I can quote huge amounts of the bible and even more of Shakespeare. Doe’s that make ME the work of the devil? Your devil. Not mine.
    My devil is intolerance. I won’t get where I want to be through Christianity per see or any of the other religions. I live the best I can and don’t go to any church and don’t give a good damn whether other do or not.
    By their works you shall know them. That’s my posse. That’s where I live.
    Rosemary if this were the 17th century…. would you throw wood on my fire?
    Maybe like the death of Princess Diana, Jack’s death with change people for the better. That will be my prayer.

  5. In 1633 Cotton Mather a ‘good’ religious Puritan said of the American Indians, ” If they be not Christians, it were better they were dead”. Seems they did a good job.
    If the fundamentalists get a grip on the political situation in this or any other country, everyone suffers. All we have to do is look at history, Cromwell in Drogeda (massacre of the Irish Catholics), Inquisition, Taliban. Do you really think that now is going to be different?

  6. stan eaman

    Just returned from 4 days at my favorite Buddhist monastery with a quiet mind. On the way there I listened to the funeral of Jack. I was surprised at how moved I was and how many tears I shed- perhaps not just for the man but for the values he stood for.
    At the monastery I reread the first half of Under The Banner of Heaven. A very discouraging account of those who believe in the literalcy of their holy Word.
    Jesus didn’t preach Christianity nor did he write and the Buddha didn’t preach Buddhism and nothing of what he spoke was written down until around 300 years after he died.
    Mathew, Mark Luke and John never met Jesus and didn’t write until some time after his death.
    In both cases the teachers preached loving ones enemy, forgiveness and compassion- not what I see in those fundamentalists of today who divide the world into the good guys and bad guys. Then it’s ok to do whatever to those bad guys ( I guess it means females also) because they are the devil’s deciples.
    I think there is no dialogue possible here so it us up to us to manifest those values we believe in- however they came to us. When Ghandi was asked for a brief description of his message as he was bording a train he said
    “my life is my message”. So let us work for the oppressed, the downtrodden and the hungry and manifest our caring and compassion each day.
    Thanks Rosie for keeping the group focused on important issues.


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