Growing up Fundagelical in the Southern Baptist Church and the church-run private school, I was trained up as the Joshua Generation; I was indoctrinated into the culture wars. The culture war, by the way, is a manufactured war. It is a war between the “traditional” Christian culture America was supposedly founded on and the new modern culture of godless paganism. It can be best summarized as the transition between post-war 1950s America to Vietnam War era 1960s.
One key to being a culture warrior was training in apologetics. Christian apologetics is the defense of Christianity against objections. Starting in High School, we were trained to defend our faith. We took introductory philosophy courses, logic and reasoning courses, and critical thinking courses. We were trained to listen, think, analyze, and debate. I personally spent a great deal of time at speech meets and debate competitions.
You would think that all this training was good for me. In fact, it was. I recognize weak argumentation, I can use facts and statistics to dazzle an opponent, and I can pounce on a logical inconsistency like a tiger pounces on red meat. However, as a culture warrior, I was trained to argue for a predetermined truth. I was trained to demolish an opponent but never to examine my own claims of truth. Every argument was designed to lead an opponent to my way of thinking.
Reason, logic, and critical thinking are tools designed to help us search for the truth and test claims. In the culture warrior mindset, reason, logic, and critical thinking were defensive weapons designed to defend what we already knew was true. They were never to be used to examine our own beliefs. There was no need to examine what we believed we were right. God said it; I believe it; that settles it.
I was trained to question the validity of carbon 14 dating, the fossil record, and offer up alternative facts derived from Bible passages. I was trained to defend the inerrancy of the Bible, but I certainly wasn’t trained to recognize the circular reasoning of quoting the Bible to prove its own divine inspiration.
Like so many culture warriors before me, we all made the same mistake. We went out into the world, cocksure that we had the truth. We started evangelizing everyone. Amazingly, our pat arguments for predetermined truth didn’t stand up. Our beliefs were challenged and shaken. Our only fallback position was to label our opponent as worldly, secular, liberal, and going to hell.
The problem was that almost everyone outside our Fundagelical bubble was like that. They could also think and reason. They question our beliefs. Our analogy of finding a watch in the desert wasn’t the weapon of mass conversion we thought it was. Often times, we fell back on the fear of hell to try and convert unbelievers.
The other members of the Joshua Generation I grew up with were faced with a choice, retreat to the Fundagelical bubble and never ventured outside again, or examine the arguments we had been taught.
I lost a lot of my friends when I started questioning what I was taught. They decided to stay in the protected fortress of Fundagelical truth. I went AWOL. To my former friends, I am an apostate. I look at them and see them cringing in fear. They hide in their religious institutions. They see the world as a hostile place to their faith. They are still culture warriors. Except that most of them train by building straw man arguments, that supposed liberal theologians teach, and they quickly knock them down. They fight by voting according to the voting guides put out by Fundagelical organizations.
When you stop using the Bible to defend the Bible and actually start reading it when you read the Bible without a predetermined interpretation, an interesting thing happens; you start to see the Bible as a tool to connect to God rather than a weapon to mow down opponents.
The go-to verse for apologetics is 1 Peter 3:15. “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” Culture warriors take this verse to mean always be prepared to argue and win a debate. Those of us who have gone AWOL see this as telling our own stories. If you ask me why I am a Christian, I’ll tell you about how I left Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism and fell in love with a God who loves humanity and want me to love humanity too. It’s a story, not an argument. I gave up arguing for Lent and forgot to pick it back up. I don’t feel the need to destroy your beliefs to win you to mine. I prefer to tell you about my journey and invite you to travel with me. I’m heading toward becoming more like Jesus. I’ve taken lots of detours, but you can walk along with me if you like.
Thanks for reading, don’t forget to like the post and subscribe if you haven’t already. You can watch my vlog at Rev’s Reels on YouTube. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter. Join me and a bunch of other former Fundagelicals at Open Door Ministries in Westminster at the Westminster Mall.