Saturday, December 26, 2009

Frank Schaeffer's Patience With God--Fundamentalist Separation from Experience

On page xiii of Patience With God, Frank Schaeffer speaks of "the 'certainties' of the religious fundamentalists who claim their way is the only truth, which is another way to attack faith because it drives people away from experiencing God." To me, one of the most devastating consequences of fundamentalism is the way it cuts people off from their own experience. I was certainly cut off from my own experience in my fundamentalist days.

When you already know what God is like, you won't experience God. You already know, so what is there to experience? What you know determines your experience because there is absolutely no room for any divergent knowing in the fundamentalist system. Your experience of God MUST fit in with what you know of God as a fundamentalist. In other words, God is already determined and defined. Don't contradict what we already know about God with your experience!

I found this to create huge problems. As a Catholic child, I knew that God was male, witnessed everything that I did or said or thought, would send me to hell for eternity if I died with even one unconfessed mortal sin, and--oh, yes--this God loved me and I had better love this God back if I knew what was good for me. What a recipe for disaster! I experienced God as a cosmic tyrant whom I was commanded to love. I didn't trust God.

It wasn't until years later, after I had left fundamentalist beliefs behind, that I was able to hear how people from different belief systems experienced God and then to experience God on my own. I actually had to hear other ways of experiencing God before I was able to have my own experience. Then, I began to experience God as Mother as well as Father and as Opener of multiple perspectives.

Different perspectives, though, are absent from fundamentalism. Fundamentalism creates a homogeneous and monotonous world.

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