What follows is a collection of some of the stuff I was taught to believe. If you were raised in a similar fundamentalist Christian environment, you will readily recognize the worldview. If you were not, well, perhaps this will help inform you or confirm what you knew already. Not by any means is it an exhaustive list. Instead, it's more like a sampling of a few of the more common beliefs of fundamentalist Christianity.
In the second part of this two-part series, I'll outline a few of the perspectives I hold today. I no longer call the things I believe "beliefs" because the word connotes too much rigidity and inflexibility to me. "Perspectives" feels a little softer, more pliable, as if there might actually be openness in me to a new way of understanding something. If either part of this two-part series is helpful to even one reader, for what more could I ask?
It is not my intention to stir a reaction, to debate with anyone, or to cast stones at a belief system or at those who may embrace it as I did once with much passion. I wish only to help those who have become disillusioned by a faith tradition or a belief system that no longer works for them. I wish only to help those who want to walk with God beyond the narrow path of understanding that they may have followed in their childhood and youth. My only desire is to show those who are open to it how they might embrace a faith, know God and themselves in a spiritually healthy fashion, as well as make room for those who hold to a different belief system or who may not believe in God at all. It is my hope to build bridges between people, religions and cultures. The Dalai Lama is right. "Until there is peace among the religions, there can be no peace in the world.
Both parts of this two-part series are taken from my book The Enoch Factor: The Sacred Art of Knowing God. I will add only a little commentary on a few of the beliefs listed below. My commentary is wrapped in parenthesis.
• The Christian religion is the correct religion. That is to say, all other religions are wrong and the people who believe in them need to be converted to Christianity or face the dire consequences that await them in eternity -- which means, of course, they will go to hell;
• Jesus is the Savior of the world, the only possible way to God. After all, he said himself, "I am the way ... no one comes to the Father but through me" (John 14:6). (While there is an alternative way to understand these words of Jesus that I'll discuss in Part Two, for most Christians this one is the deal breaker -- the one non-negotiable). All other paths may lead to some kind of spiritual experience, but they do not lead one to God. If you want to go to heaven when you die, you'll have to believe in Jesus;
• God's word is in the Bible. God's word is only found in the Bible. You should be suspect of anything that anyone else may call sacred scripture;
• Furthermore, the Bible is infallible (which means "without error"), at least in its "original manuscripts," referring to the actual parchments on which the Biblical writers wrote their words. (Although many fundamentalist Christians do not know this, the fact is, no original manuscripts have ever been found. So, to argue something that no one can prove or disprove is hardly credible. Furthermore, the earliest manuscripts we do have date from the second century and are distinguished by the innumerable discrepancies between them);
• The family God has ordained is made up of one man and one woman. A few other arrangements may be permitted, but they are hardly preferred. Furthermore, God made them Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. Homosexuality is a sin against nature and an abomination to God. Any more questions?
• The Creation Story in Genesis is an actual account of how the universe was created by God in six literal days of 24-hour duration. Evolution is suspect and those who accept it typically become materialistic, even atheistic.
• Abortion is murder. It's always murder. No exception. No debate. Next question;
• If America wishes to remain strong, it had better be on the side of Israel, no matter what. Israel is God's chosen nation. Again, no exception. No debate. Next question;
• The Second Coming of Jesus could occur at any moment. (Never mind the fact that Jesus said his return -- whatever that really means -- would occur only when people least expect it. Since most fundamentalist Christians are expecting Jesus' return at any moment, even praying for it, they are most likely unaware they are responsible for his delay);
• God is not finished with Israel. So the nation of Israel will play a pivotal role in a pre- or post-tribulation Rapture-of-the-church-view of the end of human history. (Many fundamentalist Christians believe in what's known as the premillennial view of history, a few believe in what is known as the post-millennial view and, fewer still, an a-millennial, meaning "no-millennium." It isn't important to go into detail here about the meaning of these different views of history but, if you're familiar with the Left Behind series of fictional books released a few years ago, you've met the most popular of these complicated apocryphal systems of thought. The series of novels themselves are based on the "pre-millennial" view of history, with its special devotion to the most suspect of all futuristic notions known as the "Rapture." If you're not familiar with this notion called the "Rapture," you are not alone. If fundamentalist Christians knew where this fairytale about the future actually originated -- which, of course, they do not -- they would repudiate it immediately);
• Christians will go to heaven; everyone else will go to hell. Hell is real, a place with fire where disbelievers burn for an eternity;
• God is not associated with any political party (but, everyone knows He's really a closet Republican. In fact, any God-fearing soul knows there's no way she would ever be a Democrat. Oops, did I just refer to God with the feminine pronoun "she"? An obvious slip of the pen! While fundamentalist Christians know God is neither male nor female, they are typically quick to remind women which of the two God created first).
Of course, there are many other beliefs common to fundamentalist Christians, but these are a few of the more common ones. If you're guessing that I've given up on most but not all of these, you've guessed correctly.
So, what do I believe? That's the subject of Part Two.