The other “f”-word

Anyways, it’s not that I actually want to run other people’s lives, but I so desperately want to tell them what I think they’re doing wrong.

It’s probably because I’m a classic problem-solver. I know some people who are okay with not understanding things – with not really analyzing the broken things in their lives and figuring out why those things broke and how to fix them. That kind of thing is absolutely baffling to me.

But instead of waiting for something to break, I want to preemptively solve problems. That seems prudent to me.

I’m not one hundred percent confident about everything, but I am about some things. I’ll never change my mind about those things, and it bothers me when so-called intellectuals denigrate such commitments. My refusal to coalesce or even waver is chalked up to fundamentalism – the dirtiest “f”-word in today’s culture. No one likes fundamentalists anymore. Except for one of my graduate tutors. He mentioned those ridiculous bumper stickers one sees all over the road these days. They look like this:


He said he thought that sticker really means, “Let’s all agree to not take our religions seriously.” I appreciated him saying that. My classmates were appalled.

It’s hard for me to not be a fundamentalist about certain things. To be otherwise would feel, at best, spineless. Worse, it would be dishonest.

Yet, when I see someone making choices that I am completely certain they will regret in the future, I rarely say anything. Who does?

Anyone who speaks up is called judgmental. It’s as though this ability of ours – this knack for accumulating all these observations and comparing them and sorting them and understanding the world around us – this desire for improvement and wisdom – this urge to kick against entropy – it’s as though all of that is so inherently offensive. When I speak what I know is the truth… YOU TWO SHOULD GET MARRIED… YOU ARE LYING TO ALL OF US… YOU DRINK TOO MUCH… YOU DON’T THINK ENOUGH… GET RID OF THAT PERSON!… YOU’RE ADDICTED… or whatever. When I say that – or, if I say that – what does that make me? Just a judger. A plankeye. But what if I already got my plank out? Doesn’t Jesus allow for that possibility? What if I’m honest about getting my plank out?

The problem with fundamentalists is that almost nobody wants to be one but almost everybody is one. Nobody is really open-minded. Everybody is convinced that he or she is doing everything right. Or wouldn’t a person change, if they thought they were wrong?

So then I remember that I can hardly think of a time when I spoke up to someone – told them what I really thought about what they were doing… how they were living – and actually made a difference. I mean a difference in the way I wanted to make one.

It’s hard to know.

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8 Responses to The other “f”-word

  1. Sheila says:

    When I think of the plank analogy I visualize taking out a splinter every so gently so as not to disturb the flesh that hasn’t been injured. One splinter at a time! How many splinters are in a plank?

  2. friendmouse says:

    In answer to your first (rhetorical?) question: your mother.
    Most who coach athletics are adherents to fundamentalism. Same goes for music teachers. If you’re going to excel, you must be sound in the fundamentals of the endeavor. Perhaps that helps explain the lack of excellence in so much of our world these days…no embracing of fundamentalism by the masses.
    “All times fundy!”

  3. I can’t help wondering… if the comment that the gentleman made pertained to the fact that we should all, simply, respect all religions without taking them so seriously to a point of battling against each other. Serious consideration of various religions, has so far, been the final excuse behind almost every war. I watched the prayer vigil on Sunday night, for those precious children and heroic teachers massacred in Newtown, CT and the first responders answering the call. I could not help sitting in pure awe, watching how warmly and united, all the various clergy came together to lead the community for a time of prayer. It felt so hopeful, watching how warmly all were accepted with such grace and appreciation.

    • I think I see your point, though I’m actually quite sure that my tutor meant the comment in a pejorative sense – as a criticism of those who won’t acknowledge the impossibility of embracing – in entirety – the messages of Islam, Wicca, Confucianism, Judaism, and Christianity. A person can not be a Christian and a Muslim: the foundation of Christianity is Jesus Christ the Son of God; Islam rejects that Christ was God’s son.
      So anyways, I think he was just criticizing the kind of “kumbayah” feel-good-ism that refuses to acknowledge any kind of disagreement.
      But I do think that you’ve pointed out something important with the clergy leading in love, encouragement, and prayer. And I would say that is essential for those who want to take the message of Christianity (of Christ) seriously. I think the more seriously we take Christianity, the more we’ll embrace Christ’s message of love as the central aspect of citizens in the Kingdom of God. (Conversely, my understanding of, say, Islam, is that to take it seriously means rejoicing in the slaughter of infidels.)
      And that brings me to the issue of my blog post. I don’t think love is simply feel-good stuff. I definitely think love can feel good. But I also think there is such a thing as “tough love.” I think Jesus’ love for God and for His fellow men compelled him to refuse to condemn the woman cast at His feet, who had been accused of adultery. But I think His love also compelled him to tell her “sin no more.” He had no animosity toward her, but he was also very serious and realistic about the fact that she had sinned, and she needed to stop doing that. I also think that Jesus’ incredibly harsh words toward the Pharisees were birthed out of love and a grave seriousness toward His mission.
      So “speaking the truth in love” is what I want to aim for. I confess I typically err on one side or the other: I either don’t speak the truth (because I remain silent), or I don’t speak it lovingly. But I want to find the union of truth and love in my speech.

  4. taylor says:

    “All time FUNDY”!!!!! LOL!!!!!!

  5. daddyball says:

    Enjoyed reading about the fodder… and the fundamentalism. Loved the quote about the bumper sticker. Speak the truth in love. I pray that you will be able to speak the truth and speak it in love. We are entering a frightful and wonderful time I believe when we will suffer greatly for speaking the truth. But the wonderful part will be that we were counted worthy to not only believe in Him but also to suffer for His sake.
    “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.” Press on!

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