At Least I’m Not A Fundamentalist (Barbara)

There was a time when I was instructed to mistrust anyone who called herself a Christian but did not attend the right kind of church; that is, our kind of church. The kind of church where more than sixty members was nearly unheard of, where the mourner’s bench was the most important facet of the church building, where old time religion was properly preached and preserved in generations of sweat, tears, and shouts. That time is over a decade past now, but I lived it for more than a decade. This tiny ‘denomination’ of sorts was certainly fundamentalist, but the label of “evangelical” does not quite fit; its members and leadership would shudder at the thought of being associated with any group besides their own.

I tell that story because it provides necessary context as to my sustained appreciation for the best evangelicalism has to offer. During my time at Flagship Evangelical College I certainly shared some of the misgivings expressed by fellow peers regarding the ugly side of evangelicalism. But those misgivings, while legitimate, seemed so very slight and at times downright trivial in comparison to my early church rearing. Had my family remained in that church, enrolling at Flagship would have been out of the question, if for no other reason than Billy Graham, the “liberal” evangelist, earned his degree there. Whereas to most of my college peers the pursuit of “integration of faith and learning” was a given, to me it was a novelty, a liberating force. In fact, my former church affiliation would not hesitate to ostracize even the most narrow-minded of evangelicals at Flagship.

I do not study charts and statistics and polls of evangelicals; somewhere around eleventh grade honors pre-cal I fell off the mathematics train. In other words, do not expect me to be throwing out percentages left and right in my blog posts. For now I am content with settling into my new life at seminary and observing the manifold stripes of evangelicalism and other ‘breeds’ of Christianity present in this context. And if in the process I happen to convert fellow seminarians to a great love for the thought of Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, then so be it. They can thank me later (or immediately, if they’re wise).

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