Saturday, January 19, 2013

Fundamentalists – the people who took the fun out of... fun

I remember way back when, in the days when I first considered myself to be a Christian (which, I hasten to add, I no longer do), I became friends with some “born again”, fundamentalist Christians through my girlfriend at the time. These were very intelligent people; both, if I recall, were school teachers. Two stories come to mind from the time of my acquaintance with them.

The man – let’s call him “Tom” – spent a great deal of time studying the Bible. As with many fundamentalist Christians, this mostly meant the Old Testament. Perhaps this is simply because there is so much more of it to study than the New Testament. His particular fascination was with the genealogies in the book of Genesis. He spent a great deal of time studying these genealogies, making all kinds of calculations. Each time I saw him, he would enthusiastically report some new “fact” that he had discovered. Did I know, for instance, that Adam was still alive during the first few years of Lamech’s (Noah’s father) life? Did I realise that Methuselah, Noah’s 969 year old grandfather, died only seven days before the flood? No I didn’t know these things, before he told me. I didn’t know them afterwards, either. Because even then, in my early days as a Christian, I knew that this was bollocks. Well, let’s just say, that I did not think that we were meant to take these things literally. What I thought most of all, though, was how sad it was that someone could waste so much time and energy on such meaningless trivia, instead of, perhaps, gaining some insights from the collected wisdom that these writings might contain. (As an aside, I do not discount the possibility that the Bible may contain valuable insights into life, alongside the more questionable aspects.)

The second story also concerns Tom. Perhaps his wife was a little more grounded. Tom kept tropical fish. On one occasion some of these fish became mysteriously ill, so Tom decided to pray that God would heal these fish, and protect the others from this illness. Here comes one of my “Hmmmms”. Hmmmm. Perhaps, I suggested at the time, it might be wise to remove the infected fish, to protect the others. Unfortunately for the fish, Tom’s faith in God’s healing ability (and, apparently, His goodwill towards fish) was strong. If only Tom’s faith had been a little weaker, some of the fish may have been spared. It was not to be.

I’m sure most Christians, even fundamentalists, would agree that there are more useful things to be gleaned from the Bible than the fact that Methuselah was there to watch Noah build the ark, perhaps cheering him on. I’m also sure that even most fundamentalist Christians would concede that God may have better things to do than respond to someone’s ridiculously trivial intercession on behalf of a tank full of fish. Perhaps God might think He had done enough by giving us a brain.

Oh well. What would someone like me have to blog about if there weren’t intelligent, but stupid, people like Tom in the world.

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