“What did you just say?”

I was talking to myself, but I almost wished I wasn’t. It was two years ago. One of my friends had posted something extremely derogatory about Christian faith in general and Christians in particular on Facebook. I don’t remember the post but I do recall my reaction. After I said “What did you just say?” to his imaginary face (appropriate, after all Facebook is an imaginary world, you know) I frowned and shook my head and went about my day.

But I couldn’t really shake it. This was more than just a “Sorry, but I don’t believe that” kind of post. This was close to downright vilifying those who believe in God. It was as close to hate speech as I’ve ever experienced, unless I count the number of times blacks have called me “honky” or “cracker.”  (Relax, I’m joking.) But the post really was quite hateful.

It bothered me–a lot–but I really didn’t have an answer or a comeback at the time. So I pushed it away, filed away for later action, set on the back burner. The problem is that similar posts, hostile to Christianity, keep showing up in my feed. These well-meaning liberals, intent on freeing minds from the burden of religion, have resorted to attacking religion, specifically Christian religion, in their quest to ridicule those who profess a set of beliefs.

I came to a conclusion: It’s also known as bullying.

And it occurred to me, yes, I am a Christian. But those posts were not about me, and never were. Those posts were actually directed toward a very small minority which unfortunately has become the unwitting poster people of Christian excess. I’ll identify them in just a moment.

Let’s go back, first. It’s important to realize, no matter what your background, that you don’t have a monopoly on virtue, on rightness, or correctness, or orthodoxy, intellect or achievement, I don’t care where you come from. You aren’t the best, you aren’t the greatest, you’re not the smartest, and you sure aren’t the only path to salvation, either spiritual or scientific. People are people, and there are a whole hell of a lot of us, no pun intended. The chance of you being the equivalent of a Jesus, a Mohammad, a Gandhi, an Einstein, a Russell, a Whitehead, or a Bach or Beethoven just isn’t very likely. So, understand this, if you aren’t all that, then neither am I. So take what I say with a grain of salt. I’m surely going to do the same for you.

Going back, faiths have splintered and broken and splintered again for as long as there have been faiths. Christianity includes Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Catholics, Church of Christ, Free Will churches and many, many, unconnected and unorthodox believers. And Christianity itself is a splinter of Judaism, don’t ever forget that. That is why the Old Testament is part of our Scriptures. Personally, I think we would do well to include a healthy dose of Hebrew studies and Talmud studies alongside the studies of Paul and Jesus.

The point is, there are many, many, many interpretations of the Christian faith. And that’s the rub. There are many of us. Some of us are liberal, and believe strongly in equal rights for all people, caring for the planet, helping those who are less fortunate, and so on. Some of us are of a more conservative stripe, with more emphasis on worship and piety. Others find themselves in-between, a solid mix of doing good, and spiritual communion.

And then there is Fundamentalism. Those who know me well, know I have little taste for nor patience with Fundamentalism. If you aren’t sure of the definition, I’ll provide a brief one: it is a belief system which depends upon extremely rigid doctrinal beliefs, with a central document such as the Bible as it’s authoritative source, The theology is often simplistic, and often uses verses of the Bible (or whatever book is central to it’s beliefs) out of context as opposed to in context in support of certain tenets of belief. Fundamentalists prefer to avoid the more difficult aspects of faith and stick to the basic fundamentals (the source of the name). There is an absolute belief in heaven and hell, and in God and Satan. The Fundamentalist belief system is in fact a duality belief system. For every positive, there is a negative. For God, there is Satan, for angels, demons, for Christians, heathen, for believers, non-believers. Its adherents often stress isolation from the material world, and listen to Christian music as opposed to popular music. They associate with other believers as opposed to non-believers. They stress devotion to the world above and disdain the world in front of them. This duality is almost mathematical in it’s purity, though I doubt this mathematical quality to faith is recognized by the believers. Another facet of the fundamentalist faith is that is an emotive faith as opposed to an active faith.

Let’s look at that. Emotion is the part of us that allows to experience fully what we are feeling. It lowers the guard to allow us access to feelings and emotions. In this, the Fundamentalists can shout, exhort, cry, and feel great excitement. Other faiths disdain this emotional excess. They don’t bother with the feeling aspect. They are much more concerned with doing. Thus they will spend a lot of time and energy raising money, sending folks on mission trips, and in general acting out their faith–action–to follow Jesus’ commands to help the least of these our brethren.

Jesus never struck me as a particular emotional fellow. Except when he got pissed off. He didn’t mind knocking tables over and kicking butts when the moneychangers were at the Temple. That aside, he seemed pretty level-headed for the most part. But intent on his mission, oh yes.

The point is, these Fundamentalists have cornered the market on emotive religion, and that is much to the chagrin of the rest of us. An emotional approach to faith allows one to speak his mind, and boy, do they. Over the years, the Fundamentalists, from Jerry Falwell, to Jim Bakker, to Oral Roberts and many, many others, have made so many pronouncements from their pulpits that make the rest of us cringe. Just a few days ago that Pat Robertson made another such gaffe, telling folks it was okay to marry your cousins as long as you don’t have “Mongoloid children.”

I was stunned when I read that, and then I suddenly had my answer.

No, all those posts on Facebook weren’t directed at me, a guy who quietly worships at a Lutheran church and feels no need to shout and stomp my feet when I do so. No, they aren’t talking about me. I don’t beat people up and demand they believe like I do or they will go to hell. I don’t point out there is only one possible way to interpret the Bible. And so on.

Those posts were directed at the Fundamentalist Christians, folks who are known for an emotionally rich but intellectually poor theology. Folks who are prone to select leaders who make outrageous pronouncements time and time again. Folks who insist theirs is the ONLY way to salvation, the ONLY truth, and if anyone tells you differently, they are from Satan!!!

You see the problem? This type of polemic is best reserved for schoolyard gang brawls, but somehow we’ve allowed it infect our most sacred institutions and as a result this loud, obnoxious and utterly spiteful brand of faith is allowed to flourish, giving rise to such intellectual giants as Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church ilk.

And I don’t need to point out something. Surely most of you are aware:  Fundamentalism isn’t limited to the Christian faith. Islamic Fundamentalists are the ones that brought down the World Trade Center. It amounts to an almost fanatical, unreasonable approach to faith, full of emotion, but no logic and no reason alongside it. One can holler and wave arms and Bibles and shout “Praise Jesus!”, or one can holler and wave AK-47’s and shout “Praise Allah!!” It’s all the same. It has nothing to do with the majority of Christians or Muslims.

The problem is those of you who insist on belittling Christian faith do so on the flimsiest of pretexts, claiming moral and intellectual superiority when in fact you are simply practicing what you accuse so many others of doing: bigotry. Intellectual superiority? Puh-lease. See above: you aren’t intellectually superior. Nor morally.

The fact is, if you’ve been belittling Christianity, most likely you are belittling the Fundamentalists, not the serious rank and file Christians who make up the majority of the denominations. If you have a serious enough question about faith, then you owe it to yourself and those you question to at least put your objection into a serious form.  Posting a pseudo-intellectual meme or bumper sticker on Facebook tells me you are quite serious about being the class clown, and not serious at all about an honest conversation of faith.

Look, I don’t care if you are an atheist, a Holy Roller, a devout mainstream Christian or whatever. You happy? Then good. I’m happy. But if you start posting things which show up on my news feed about how Christians have no intellect at all and are a bunch of idiots, I’m going to call you out for being the bully you are.

If you are pointing out something Westboro Baptist does, then great, say that. Or if you want to point out something Pat Robertson says or does, great, point it out. But don’t do so and say, “See, Christians are a bunch of idiots.”

We’re not. Trust me. We range from high school graduates to post-doctoral graduates. We have myriad approaches to faith, and your lumping all of us into one pot isn’t doing your argument any favors. If in fact, you are responding to comments made by Robertson or any others like him, just say instead, “See, Fundamentalists are a bunch of idiots.”  I’m not going to argue that point, I agree. Just don’t ever cast me or include me in the same grouping as them.

Rant over.