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Family and Friends is my everyday journal. Captain's Log is where I pontificate on religion and politics.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Descent into fundamentalism

Installment 3 on church.

When we moved back to Albuquerque from Farmington Mom was working for an insurance agent and met a snake oil salesman that pastored a church. He dangled the bait that the church needed an associate pastor and he was interested in Dad. That's when we started going to Fellowship Baptist Church, which was independent, not affiliated with the SBC. There were three such Albuquerque churches loosely linked to the Baptist Bible Colleges set up by Jay Frank Norris in the 1930 when he split with the SBC.
Almost half the families at the church were there because Brother Blue had promised them a shot at associate pastor. This was a very narrow minded group of people. They had this long list of no-no's. No dancing, smoking, drinking, mixed bathing (males and females in the same swimming pool), no card playing, dominoes, the list goes on and on.
Brother Blue would spend ten minutes or more with the congregation's head down after the sermon pressuring everyone to come down to the altar and pray. At my impressionable age it was affective. The man walked back and forth across the stage banging on the podium ranting and raving like the incarnation of Jonathan Edwards preaching Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.
We were there Sunday mornings and evenings as well as Wednesday prayer service. There wasn't much prayer to the prayer service it was another opportunity for a sermon.
Not everything about the three years we were members of this church was bad. We started singing in the choir. I was already playing the clarinet, but choir taught me to sing bass not just drop an octave lower than the melody. My first love I met at this church. It was puppy love, but very real to the puppy. She moved half way across the country and I was heartbroken.
For three summers Bruce and I attended the summer camp on the east side of Sandia Mountain. They were very intense experiences. Bruce related his surrendering to preach one summer at this camp. The next summer there was a series of morning lessons brought by Curtis Goldman, the pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Albuquerque. He related the biographies of Adiniram Judson, David Livingstone and William Carey. Three early missionaries and the impact of their lives on India, Burma and Africa. At age fifteen I surrendered to the mission field.
Bruce also relates how most of the end times beliefs were based on the notes in the Schofield Bible, but we were also getting literature in the mail from Ambassador College out of Riverside California. A group headed by Herbert W. Armstrong and then taken over by his son Garner Ted Armstrong. The literature was free (but most people sent money anyway). There was a monthly magazine entitled The World Tomorrow and various tracts. The one tract I remember was 1975 In Prophesy. I read it in 1967 at age 14. It was illustrated with all the bad things that were going to happen to all those left behind (hence the title of Tim LeHaye's series of books) after the rapture and going through Tribulation and Great Tribulation. I easily calculated that the world was going to come to an end when I would only be 22. Though I would be one of those raptured in "the twinkling of an eye" I still felt cheated and wondered why this had to happen in my lifetime.
To my parents credit they always taught Bruce and me to take what Herbie and Brother Blue said with a grain of salt, this world view filled me with a huge sense of dread. Add to the fact that Vietnam was in its escalation phase with a daily body count on the evening news, the civil rights riots and the six day war in the Middle East all going on, there was plenty to dread. My 8th grade year I made a few friends at school that pressured me into smoking. I never lit up a cigarette without feeling God's eyes looking down in sorrow. There was never any joy in smoking. We got caught smoking and I was suspended for three days. Mom made me read Pilgrims Progress by John Bunyan during those three days. I was relieved that this gave me a good reason to stop smoking and I've never lit up since. Had I continued to smoke I would never have earned a track scholarship which paid for my college education.
Bruce was given a Sunday school class of 5th grade boys to teach and I approached Brother Blue about teaching too. He gave me 3rd grade boys. I started with three students and by the end of the school year had nine and all nine made professions of faith that year. This added to our time spent at church as we also had to go out on Thursday visitation.
Bruce crossed swords with Brother Blue over the issues he discussed on his blog. I had my class taken away as well. It would take too much space to go into all of the things that happened at this church so suffice it to say when Brother Blue took our classes away we stopped attending that church. Bruce recounts this as his beginning steps to leaving fundamentalism. I was never that enthralled with it. It was much too restrictive for my taste. If there was a dance at school I went and did not feel like I was sinning. I never considered alcohol to be a sin, only drinking in excess. I've always had a pretty innate sense of understanding the spirit of the law and fundamentalism is all about the letter of the law.
I accepted premellinialism concerning the end times (eschatology), but only because I hadn't been exposed to opposing interpretations. In high school Hal Linday came out with his book The Late Great Planet Earth. He extended Herbie's deadline for mankind to 1988 -- a generation (40 years) after the founding of Israel. I still felt cheated that the end time was coming so soon.
Rejoining the SBC will be installment 4.


Yogi♪♪♪ said...

Great post.
I wasn't religious in the 60's but I though the world was going to end soon. The fighting in Vietnam brought to us every evening on the news made a huge impression on me as well as the rioting and drug use as the feel good 60's went to drugs.

We moved to Albuquerque in 1971 or so and the family quit going to church. For some reason my brother and I went to some independent church (I forget the name of it) and the youth group was taught by this very mild mannered but sincere man. We learned all about Hal Lindsey's book. It took me about 15 years to where I would go to church again.
These days I want questions to ponder, not pat answers, from my church.

I await installment 4.

P M Prescott said...

Thank so much for sharing your experiences. You came to Albuquerque just as I was going into exile in Texas for college.

Michael Manning said...

A Jehovah's Witness creep showed up on my elderly mother's doorstep and began asking her questions that were manipulative. I overheard the conversation while installing dry wall upstairs and rushed down the stairs. I told them we were not interested and shut the door. My mother was astonished. She was brought up that you answer everyone's questions. I told her that had she continued, they would have walked away with her mortgage!

P M Prescott said...

Michael, you've got that right. Sometimes economic self interest supersedes good manners.